OK, a lot’s been happening with Born Again this week. First the news came out on Apr 10 that it was being released on May 30th. Then on Apr 11th, I had an additional post with some track details and cover art. But there were still a few issues regarding this. Primarily whether or not this is the famed “proper mix” or a remaster, as the news didn’t say, and the formal press release (shown below) didn’t have info on it. I’ve started looking into a lot of the fiddly details regarding this release. A little background on all this first..
It’s been heavily rumored for some time now that Born Again was getting a little extra treatment. In the Universal “Deluxe Edition” series, they went from Heaven & Hell/Mob Rules/Live Evil to the release batch that had Seventh Star & Eternal Idol (Nov 2010). Then in Feb 2011, they did Dehumanizer. Born Again got skipped over. I was told earlier in 2010 that Born Again was going to be skipped (even before it’s turn in the original release order came up), because they were doing some extra work on it, hence the extra time, or “delay”. I later came to believe from a couple of sources that it was because it was finally getting the legendary “proper mix”. You’ve all heard the stories about Ian Gillan’s hearing the final mix and throwing up. Well, the rumors go that the 2011 release of the album would do away with Mr. Gillan’s propensity for vomiting in regards to the final mix.
When the news broke of what is going to be on the Born Again 2 CD Deluxe Edition a couple of days ago, I decided to look into the status of the original album’s representation in the package. Especially after I was sent the packaging and it said “Original Album” for Disc 1. Much to the disappointment of several people, I was told that the album was not remixed – it was just remastered. When I inquired why, I was told that they couldn’t find the original multi-track master tapes that would be needed to do a remix. This was the primary reason for the delay, that they kept trying to track down the multi-tracks to do a remix, but could not.
They couldn’t delay the release indefinitely, so instead, they opted for a completely new remaster. The only other time the album was remastered was in 1996 for the Castle Remaster series. There were two re-releases of the album again in 2004 and 2009, which some people mistake for a newer remaster, but in researching all this, I was told that the 04/09 versions are simply repackages of the 96 Castle remaster, no new “work” was done on it. This new remastering of Born Again for 2011 was done by Andy Pearce & Matt Wortham, who have done other remasterings in the current series of Deluxe Edition releases.
Back to the master tapes… Now I know a thing or two about master tape storage. I’ve been a fan of Doctor Who for a long time, and am well aware of the tribulations of keeping an archive of materials safe over long periods of time. Now I know the BBC & Doctor Who is a much larger cache of material than the Black Sabbath master tapes, but the situation is still pretty much the same. These things aren’t kept in a Fort Knox kind of place with armed guards, and proper coolant rooms and all that. Having said that, it’s not like it’s just “stashed in the attic in a Christmas tree box”, either. But I can’t say I’m surprised that this kind of thing happened. It’s disappointing yes, but all is not lost.
Tony Iommi’s manager did go on to say this..
The tapes have been held by a number of labels – Vertigo, Castle, Sanctuary, Universal, and moved around, which is why we still have hopes that they have simply been separated.
They haven’t completely given up hope on the “proper remix” project, which is good news. Once I get a review copy of the disc in, I’ll give my thoughts on what the full new remaster sounds like. It’ll be good to get a modern up to date version, one that takes advantage of more modern tech. I’m waiting for that to come in, but in the meantime, I did get a hold of two of the newly remastered tracks, and from my initial listen, it does sound better than the original mix. Will be able to quantify that once I get a proper CD in (mp3’s lose some of the sonic fidelity, so a full judgement will be held back until I receive the proper article).
Also, to date, this album still has NEVER been released domestically in the US on Compact Disc. You can get it as an import, yes, but it’s a bit surprising that 28 years later, we’re still waiting for it to be released over here. Never quite understood that one. I understand why this remaster is a European only thing (Warner vs Universal/Vertigo), but that’s a separate issue. Warner Brothers has never released Born Again (or Seventh Star for that matter) on Compact Disc domestically in the US.
One good bit of news I can announce. I did inquire about the other album in Black Sabbath’s history that’s had a long standing “issue” with the original mix. That’s 1995’s Forbidden. While a contract hasn’t yet been signed for the Tony Martin IRS albums, I’m told they will be released “in due course”, but.. The fun thing is that Tony Iommi is doing a new mix of the Forbidden album (they do have the tapes for that) inbetween some other projects. Forbidden is an album that usually ranks near the bottom of people’s favorite Sabbath album lists. While I don’t pretend it’s the best, it really deserves better than it’s long standing reputation has placed it. I’ll be VERY curious to see a new mix of that, and see what people might think of the songs then.
Look for Born Again be released on a 2 CD Deluxe Edition on May 30th. Below is the cover art, and if you click on the cover art, you can pre-order it through Amazon’s UK site.
Want to discuss this? Visit my forums here for a discussion thread on this topic.
Below is the formal press release from Universal for this album. Check it out:
2CD Deluxe Album: “Born Again”
Release Date: 30th May 2011
Following the departure of lead singer Ronnie James Dio and drummer Vinnie Appice after the studio mixing of the Live Evil album, Black Sabbath were once again on the lookout for yet another lead vocalist to fill the significant void left at stage front. The band turned to ex. Deep Purple lead singer Ian Gillan.
The resultant album and live touring certainly made for one of the more curious associations in the world of heavy metal. Much of this era of Black Sabbath has passed into rock folklore and was actually the source for much of the material used in the rockumentary movie, This Is Spinal Tap. From the replica stage production of Stonehenge which was too large for some of the venues on the world tour to the employment of a dwarf to dress-up and play the part of the ‘devil-baby’ from the LP front cover, the world of Black Sabbath took-on a distinct air of the surreal.
Whilst the well received Born Again album and live dates succeeded in stoking the embers and kept the Sabbath flames burning, this would ultimately be a marriage built more on friendship and respect as opposed to any long-standing and compatible musical association. After one tour, Ian Gillan would eventually bid farewell and re-join his old sparring partners for the Mk. II reunion of Deep Purple and leave Black Sabbath once more gazing into the crystal ball hoping the face of yet another lead vocalist would reveal itself.
For Iommi, Butler, Ward, Gillan, and keyboardist Geoff Nicholls, work would swiftly commence in May of ’83 at the Manor Studios in the village of Shiptonon-Cherwell, Oxfordshire. Produced by Black Sabbath and co-producer Robin Black, who had also worked on 1975’s Sabotage, 1976’s Technical Ecstasy, and 1978’s Never Say Die, Sabbath’s eleventh studio release would represent a radical departure from the gloomy atmospherics and blackened lyricism that had forged their identity and spawned innumerable descendants.
Gillan’s approach to song-writing bespoke a lighter-hearted approach to what had, until then, been the primary concern of Butler. Album-opener Trashed, for instance, was inspired by Gillan’s boozed-up race around the Manor’s grounds in Bill Ward’s car that ended in near-catastrophe and a wrecked vehicle. Disturbing The Priest was the result of a door in the studio having been left open during playback, and a local vicar appearing in the doorway asking for the volume to be turned down as it was disturbing choir practice in the adjacent village.
For all of its off-kilter appearance however, Born Again was still Sabbath through and through. Musically twisted and possessed with more than a whiff of brimstone, the album is a thrilling glimpse into an alternative world.
For this re-mastered Deluxe Expanded Edition, a second disc containing 2 bonus tracks is included, with ‘The Fallen’ being a previously unreleased studio outtake recorded during the original album session. Also included are 9 tracks from the BBC Friday Rock Show broadcast of Black Sabbath’s appearance at the Reading Rock Festival in August 1983, which also includes a performance of Deep Purple’s classic ‘Smoke On The Water’.
Disc 1: (Original Album)
- Disturbing the Priest
- The Dark
- Zero the Hero
- Digital Bitch
- Born Again
- Hot Line
- Keep it Warm
- Bonus Tracks:
- The Fallen (Previously Unreleased Album Session Outtake)
- Stonehenge (Extended Version)Live at the Reading Festival, Saturday August 27 1983
(BBC Friday Rock Show broadcast):
- Hot Line
- War Pigs
- Black Sabbath
- The Dark
- Zero the Hero
- Digital Bitch
- Iron Man
- Smoke on the Water