With all of the talk concerning a (possible) Ozzy reunion with Sabbath, I figured it was worth taking some time to cover the somewhat real one (not counting the Live Aid debacle) that occurred back in the late 90’s. I wasn’t really a a big Sabbath fan until hearing some live cuts from “Reunion”. Remember, this is a youthful IG here, not the metal-loving drug slave you see (read?) before you. Anywho, I picked up “Reunion” when it was released and have been a pretty big fan of it ever since. At this stage in the game, Ozzy could still perform live and Bill Ward had not gone through the health issues that brought down his game in the early 2000’s. “Reunion” was recorded in front of a hometown crowd in Birmingham, England and the energy of the place comes through strongly on the tunes. Plus, you get a few new (at the time) tracks. Bonus.
The outstanding versions of “Fairies wear boots”, “Into the void”, “Spiral architect”, and “Dirty woman” make this two-disc bitch worth owning. The classics like “War pigs”, “Paranoid”, and “NIB” all get excellent treatment as well, but it’s those three deeper, heavier cuts I always come back for. I love the original Sabbath albums, but “Reunion” brings a heavier sound and touch to the band’s already certified iconic style. Remember, this is the band that started all things metal. Ozzy’s voice holds up well except for a few faltering moments, and Tommy Iommi maintains his expected high level of guitar domination. When the sirens start going off and Ozzy begins to laugh/cackle/wheeze maliciously over the iconic opening of “War pigs” I get a little chubbs,: I can’t deny it. The crowd’s participation on that song, and the whole damn album, is also awesome.
It is easy to say that the quality and integrity of this record is due to the fact that Ozzy and all things related to him had not yet been deluded by “The Osbornes”, Ozzfest, and all the other wankery that has become associated with the former Prince of Darkness. But, you have to remember that Butler and Iommi never (and still haven’t) lost their touch. Just listen to the haunting intro to “Spiral architect” and you will know Iommi is as on point as ever. The studio tracks “Psycho man” and “Selling my soul” are nothing special, but who the fuck expects them to be? Both are heavy, slow, decent, and somewhat unnecessary. Ending disc two with “Children of the grave” and the rockin’ version of “Paranoid” would have been good enough.
I enjoyed the two times I saw OzzyBath headline Ozzfest, but this clearly was the time to see Ozzy and his mates reunited. “Into the void” just kills it and is my vote for Sabbath’s heaviest and best song. “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” also ranks up there. When Ozzy yells “Fill you’re head full of lies…You Bastard!!!” and fires up the crowd, it’s an ace moment; even though his voice does crack a few times during the song. You really can’t ask for a better setlist except for tossing “Symptom of the universe” in there somewhere. The band’s performance is excellent, and mid 90’s Ozzy could still hold a tune and fire up a crowd with the best of them. I am sure the old guard around here will dismiss this album and stick to the original studio shit, and that’s fine with me. “Reunion” has lasting power for me though because it not only was my real introduction to Sabbath’s catalogue beyond “War pigs”, “Paranoid”, and “Iron Man”, it was part of a larger movement in my tastes towards heavier music. Two points for nostalgia, and alot more for the fact that “Reunion” really is a good live album; not an essential piece of Sabbathary, but something I think both casual and hardcore fans will appreciate.