The Sleeping Village owes a substantial debt to Black Sabbath…& not just because we blatantly lifted our moniker from their plunder-worthy supply of deep cuts. According to one contemporary review, Sabbath peddled "discordant jams with bass and guitar reeling like velocitised speedfreaks all over each other's musical perimeters, yet never quite finding synch--just like Cream! But worse.” This critic was, obviously, misinformed. Because we love to give credit where credit is due, we dedicate every Sunday (give or take0 to recounting the history of their own discography, or to highlighting a lesser-known band carrying the mantle of Sabbathian legacy. Today, it's a case of the former, as we discuss one of Sabbath's most monumental albums. Welcome to Sabbath Sunday: A Vol. 4 Retrospective.
The weirdest thing about Black Sabbath’s appropriately (if unimaginatively) titled Vol. 4 isn't the music itself, but rather Tom Clark’s 1972 review in Rolling Stone. Likening "Wheel of Confusion/The Straightener" to “some giant prehistoric plant learning how to walk…right over your house,” he then refers to Iommi’s contribution on Tomorrow’s Dream as a “dyno chthonic zoomout riff.” And things only get weirder from there.As a piece of 70’s culture, it's an absolute gem. In terms of music journalism, it's an absolute mess. But let’s put Mr. Clark's ramblings on hold. It's time to honor our namesakes.
Following the commercial & artistic success of their multi-genre defining Master of Reality, Sabbath was faced with two challenges. The first was the general artistic pitfalls that arise when a band is consistently pushing boundaries. The second was a cocaine addiction that made Scarface’s snow-capped mountain look like nothing more than a molehill. Needless to say, the Vol. 4 studio sessions were wacky as hell. While we have the one-two punch of "Supernaut" & "Snowblind," the majority of the tracks took the down-tuned formula & added a bluesy, orchestral, or otherwise experimental bent.
Numerous acoustic interludes allow for an air of relaxation, while "FX"--a track that arose from the sound of Iommi’s crucifix banging into his guitar strings--has been sense referred to by the band as “a joke.” Piano & organ abounds, while Ozzy maintains a relaxed tone throughout. "Changes," a tribute to Bill Ward’s impending breakup, demonstrates a harrowing & melancholic side of Sabbath that seems, initially, at odds with their earth-shaking riffage & occult image. As an whole, however, Vol. 4 is a brilliant expression of emotional range. A required classic.
1. Wheels of Confusion (including The Straightener) - 8:02
2. Tomorrow's Dream - 3:12
3. Changes" - 4:45
4. FX - 1:44
5. Supernaut - 4:50
6. Snowblind - 5:33
7. Cornucopia - 3:55
8. Laguna Sunrise - 2:56
9. St. Vitus Dance - 2:30
10. Under the Sun (including Every Day Comes and Goes) - 5:53
Black Sabbath - Vol. 4 was released Sept. 1972 from Vertigo.
Providing thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy, and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a groggy-eyed, highfalutin peasantry.