Nobody is ever going to rank ‘Technical Ecstasy’ among their favourite Black Sabbath albums, and that’s hardly surprising given what came both before; ‘Paranoid’, ‘Master of Reality’, Vol 4 ’, to name just three of their colossal, early game changers, and after it; specifically, the brace of Dio-fronted albums ‘Heaven and Hell’ and ‘Mob Rules’. Taken on its own however, although far from an all out classic, it does have its charms.
The Birmingham purveyors of doom’s seventh, and the penultimate set from their original Ozzy Osbourne-fronted tenure, ‘Technical Ecstasy’ arrived in 1976, and judging by galloping opener 'Back Street Kids', you'd be forgiven for thinking that it was business as usual in the Sabbath camp. It wasn't. Weary from the legal troubles that peaked a year earlier around preceding album 'Sabotage' (which got its own Super Deluxe reissue earlier this year), the band struggled to find a direction, with only guitarist, riffmiester, and for the first time, producer Tony Iommi fully invested.
As such, it's a disjointed affair. With highlights from the aforementioned 'Back Street Kids', to the spooky Hammond-organs of 'You Won't Change Me' and the closing drive of 'Dirty Women' - a song the band dusted off for their 2013 and 2016 tours - it's still an unmistakable Sabbath album. Elsewhere though, the whimsical 'It's Alright' puts drummer Bill Ward front and centre, taking on lead vocals for a Beatles-lite ballad, while 'Rock 'n' Roll Doctor' sails just a little too close to boogie woogie territory.
Bolstered by a Steven Wilson remix on disc 2, the 2021 version sounds fresh, and adds depth to what was originally a somewhat flat mix. With Geezer Butler's basslines rising noticeably to the fore, and Ward's drums crisp and clear, it's a revelation. The addition of an a cappella outro to 'Dirty Women' meanwhile, is worth the price of the admission alone.
As well as a disc of unreleased outtakes and alternative mixes (which place Osbourne's vocals much higher in the mix - a joy to hear in his youthful prime!), a double live LP from their 1976-1977 tour in support of the album completes the set, with standouts including rare outings for 'All Moving Parts (Standing Still)' and 'Gypsy' - performed live only 21 and 34 times respectively, according to SetlistFM.
As has become the norm with these packages, it's all presented beautifully. A sturdy, ornate box houses an extensive hardback booklet featuring artwork, a detailed essay, liner notes and photos from the era; a replica tour programme; and a large colour poster. As it says on the hype sticker; it's the ultimate edition of the album.
Put simply, this is how you deliver a reissue. Another technical knock out.
Black Sabbath 'Technical Ecstasy - Super Deluxe Edition' is out now, via Warners. Click here to order.