Disc 1 – “Black Sabbath”
- Black Sabbath
- The Wizard
- Wasp / Behind the Wall of Sleep / Bassically / N.I.B.
- Wicked World
- A Bit of Finger / Sleeping Village / Warning
- Evil Woman
Disc 2 – “Paranoid”
- War Pigs / Luke’s Wall
- Planet Caravan
- Iron Man
- Electric Funeral
- Hand of Doom
- Rat Salad
- Jack the Stripper / Fairies Wear Boots
Disc 3 – “Master of Reality”
- Sweet Leaf
- After Forever
- Children of the Grave
- Lord of this World
- Into the Void
Disc 4 – “Volume 4″
- Wheels of Confusion / The Straightener
- Tomorrow’s Dream
- Laguna Sunrise
- St. Vitus’ Dance
- Under the Sun / Every Day Comes & Goes
Disc 5 – “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”
- Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath
- A National Acrobat
- Sabbra Cadabra
- Killing Yourself to Live
- Who are You?
- Looking for Today
- Spiral Architect
Disc 6 – “Sabotage”
- Hole in the Sky
- Don’t Start (Too Late)
- Symptom of the Universe
- The Thrill of it All
- Am I Going Insane (Radio)
- The Writ
- Blow on a Jug (Not on the track listing, but it’s there)
Disc 7 – “Technical Ecstasy”
- Back Street Kids
- You Won’t Change Me
- It’s Alright
- All Moving Parts (Stand Still)
- Rock ‘N’ Roll Doctor
- She’s Gone
- Dirty Women
Disc 8 – “Never Say Die!”
- Never Say Die
- Johnny Blade
- Junior’s Eyes
- A Hard Road
- Shock Wave
- Air Dance
- Over To You
- Swinging the Chain
Disc 9 – “Bonus DVD”
- Black Sabbath
- Iron Man
- Blue Suede Shoes
- All songs by Iommi, Butler, Osbourne, Ward, except…
- “Warning” by Victor Brox, Alex Dmochowski, John Morshead, & Ansley Dunbar
- “Evil Woman” by Dick Weigand, Larry Weigand, & Dave Waggoner
- “Blue Suede Shoes” by Carl Perkins
- Ozzy Osbourne – Vocals
- Tony Iommi – Guitar, Keyboards, Flute
- Geezer Butler – Bass
- Bill Ward – Drums
- Don Airey – Keyboards ( Disc 8 )
- Jezz Woodruffe – Keyboards (Disc 7)
- Rick Wakeman – Keyboards (Disc 5)
- Remastered by Dan Hersch & Bill Inglot
- Sharon Osbourne – Executive Producer
- CD Warner/Rhino R2-73923 (US 2004)
- CD Warner/Rhino R2-78072 (US 2004 – Paranoid Single)
- CD Warner/Rhino PRCD-400104 (US 2004 – Promo Disc, not for sale)
- NOTE that the individual discs inside the box have the Catalogue numbers of R2-73923-A (through H), depending on which disc you’re talking about. A is “Black Sabbath”, H is “Never Say Die!”. I think you can work out the rest. :)
- This was only released in US/North America. This is due to the fact it was distributed by Warner Bros (under the Rhino label). Warner only has Black Sabbath rights in US/North America. The rest of the world is covered by the Vertigo/Universal/Sanctuary deal, and each label cannot sell product in the territory of the other.
- This box set was discontinued early in 2011, and is no longer manufactured.
- The discs inside this set were never released individually. The only way to get these remastered albums in full was to buy the entire set. I am told the band did not want them released individually in the US for some reason.
- This set has had a few release dates. It’s original release date for this was the first week of October, 2003 then it was delayed to November 4, 2003 – and then to March 2, 2004 – finally settling on April 27, 2004.
- This is a 9 Disc package. The first 8 are CD’s, the 9th is a DVD.
- The remastering here was from the same sessions that produced 2002’s “Symptom of the Universe” 2 CD set, and 2006’s “Greatest Hits”.
- The song titles use the “subtitles” like Wasp / The Straightener, etc. These aren’t actual songs, just names given by the Sabbath members to the songs (in their words) “to make it seem like the albums had more songs on them then they actually did”. For some reason they didn’t use all of them, Master of Reality’s Children of the Grave has a subtitle “The Haunting”.
- The 1998 Live album “Reunion” had a working name of “Songs from the Black Box”.
- The lyrics that appear in the booklet are authentic. I checked into it, and Geezer had gone over all the lyrics and corrected them for the Black Box booklet, so they should be considered definitive.
- At the time of release of this box set, there was said to be plans for a Black Box II (Dio Era), and Black Box III (Everything else).
- There are a few reported problems with the set. I’ve heard of a few people not getting the DVD, but a second copy of Never Say Die. Additionally, the booklet has pictures of the band Gentle Giant in the inside front cover, not Black Sabbath. Finally, some copies of the album Sabbath Bloody Sabbath have the word “Bloddy” on the spine.
- There is a “fake” Black Box that was put out by Sanctuary/Castle Records in 2001. That is NOT this version, nor does it have the superior sonic quality of the 2004 Warner/Rhino Black Box. Here are a few pics of this alternate version.
- On the Bonus DVD here, the tracks are more commonly known as “The Beat Club” footage. It’s been available before elsewhere, but the version on Black Box looks to have been visually cleaned up like the audio discs have, too. There is no further content on the DVD.
UPDATE (October 2011): This review was originally written in April 2004. I’ve since come to believe that the Universal remastering series from 2009 into 2011 has better audio fidelity than Black Box, due to more even volume issues in the newer series. Still, this is genuinely how I felt at the time Black Box was released, so I wanted to present my original thoughts here as they were a few years back.
This Tuesday brings the release of the Black Sabbath box set “Black Box: The Complete Original Black Sabbath 1970-1978″. What is it? It’s a 9 disc collection (8 audio CD’s, one DVD) comprising all the of the songs the original Black Sabbath released from 1970-1978, which is considered by a lot of music fans to be some of the most dominating and creative albums ever released by anyone ever.
I know a lot of people are going “What? Another Box set?” Well, let’s examine that.
A little background. In the United States Black Sabbath’s record label was Warner Brothers from 1970-1987. When CD’s started showing up in the 80’s as a commercial product, Sabbath’s Warner Brothers albums were put out on CD (well, most of them – but that’s the non Ozzy stuff, a story for another time). As the format was new, it was great! Folks loved them. I loved them. There were also some CD releases by Castle Communications in Europe, with some extra live tracks on them (which were taken from the Live at Last unofficial album). In 1996, Castle Communications released their own remasters. These releases had a few minor problems (a 1 second sound dropout in the song Fairies Wear Boots is the most notable). These remasters were “remastered” from an unknown source, and while they were sonically better than what was out before, I always felt that a definitive version was to come, from the Warner originals. In 2002 we got a glimpse of that with the 2CD set “Symptom of the Universe”. That was a remaster from the Warner original source. And it never sounded better. It was tantalizing thinking what a full set of Black Sabbath albums would sound like completely remastered like they deserved to be.
What’s this have to do with previously released box sets like “The Ozzy Years” or “The Ten Commandments” or any other number of releases? Well, none of them were “Official Band sponsored items”. Black Box is the first box set released under the guidance of the band itself, and wasn’t something put together by a record label person. That’s one of the beefs I have with all those “other” releases – it confuses the average fan into thinking “Sabbath is just out for the cash, with all these releases”, when Sabbath themselves didn’t have anything to do with the vast majority of these things.
MAKE NO MISTAKE. Black Box is by far the most definitive version of the original eight albums Black Sabbath has released. PERIOD.
The albums themselves have an unbelievable sound quality never heard in these recordings before. It’s not like we have new songs here – these are after all the same songs released before. But they’ve never been heard like this before. I cannot stress how great these discs sound. I’ve been listening to Black Sabbath since 1981. I know these songs extremely well – EXTREMELY well. So much so that the slightest change is noticeable. Well, the sound range here is far more powerful than I’ve ever heard it before. Ever put in an old CD in your player, and it sounds flat, and a newer one you put in has a really rich, vibrant range? That’s the kind of thing I’m talking about here. In addition to the songs just sounding more powerful and cleaner, individual instruments are more noticeable here. There’s tons of places where I’ve heard drum fills by Bill Ward that I’ve never heard before. It’s very cool finding new bits in songs you’ve heard God knows how many times over the years. Most of the more noticeable stuff for me is Bill, although there’s new things noticeable on the other instruments, too.
I could go into a specific list of new items here, but there’s just too many of them. Just understand that on Black Box, I’ve heard things in these songs I’ve never noticed before. Coupled with the fact that it’s got a sonic power that I can’t recall the songs having before make this by far the version to get – even if you already own these albums.
That brings me to another point. The notion that Black Sabbath is just “out for money” by releasing this set without a ton of extras. In running my Black Sabbath site at www.black-sabbath.com I see a lot of feedback on various things, and ever since Black Box was originally announced ages ago, the #1 thing I think I’ve heard is something along the lines of “Where are the rarities? Where are The Rebel, and Song for Jim? What kind of cheap ass set is this without the extras?” No, they’re not here. In fact, the only “oddity” songs on this set are “Evil Woman” from the first album, and “Blow on a Jug” from Sabotage. In fact Blow on a Jug isn’t listed anywhere – it’s just tacked on the back end of the Writ. Which it’s always been – BOAJ has never been it’s own listed track ever (it wasn’t on all releases of that album). Anyway, if you’re looking to buy this based on the recent trend of other box sets to include rare songs and things like that, you WILL be disappointed. But if you’re interested in how the songs SOUND, then my god, this is for you.
And that’s just the music. There’s other stuff here, too. The ninth disc is a DVD which contains what’s known as the “Beat Club footage”, which comprises four songs. The four songs are “Iron Man”, “Paranoid, “Black Sabbath”, and the rather loose cover of “Blue Suede Shoes”. This footage (well, not Blue Suede Shows) is also used on MTV as “videos” and the like, most of this stuff won’t be new to most people, but it’s nice to have it here. It does appear to be a bit cleaner than the VHS release of this stuff that happened some time ago. Blue Suede Shoes in particular looks a lot better, since it’s not subject to the “blue screen visual effect blurs” the other three songs have. Might have been nice to have a formal DVD video release of the Paris 1970 bootleg. Now *THAT* would have been badass. ;)
The packaging itself is rather Black. I’m reminded of the bit from Spinal Tap when they were going “How much more black can it be?” :) I say that because the box itself is Black, and the writing on the box is also black, so it’s not terribly visible when viewed straight on. When you first take it out of the shrink wrap plastic, there’s a piece of paper on there so folks can see what’s on it without opening it up. That paper is not connected to anything, and isn’t part of the actual box. Inside the box are two smaller boxes, each containing four CD’s. Each of those four CD’s are the 8 individual Sabbath studio albums with Ozzy. Each is in it’s own digipak style packaging – it’s not jewel case packaging. On the front and back sides of the individual CD cases are the original front and back cover art that appeared on the albums as they were released ages ago. Inside the digpaks are art that I believe appeared on the original print vinyl sleeves as released originally. So much so that albums that had lyrics on their original vinyl sleeves are reproduced here, too (much to small to read without hurting your eyes). I haven’t seen a vinyl print of Sabotage in ages, and it was funny to see the guys backsides again like that. :) The CD’s themselves have the same kind of “black on black” print that the exterior of the box has. The logos on the individual CD’s match the lettering used on the original artwork for the albums, a nice touch – it’s not standard lettering across all of them. Overall, nice packaging of the albums – no complaints here.
Anyway, the biggest “new” item would be the booklet. It’s a 77 page hardcover booklet, which is covered in black velvet. Let me say this. When you pick up, don’t have your hands dirty. It looks like it’ll pick up dirt pretty easily. It’s got a very nice feeling in your hands. It’s got no writing or lettering on the outside, save for that Sabbath flying angel logo we’ve seen many times before. There’s a few portions to the book. First is a piece called “Lords of this World” by Chris Welch. The second is “A Hard Road” by Brian Ives. Finally there’s a “Sabbath Timeline” which has dates for various events, releases, and whatnot in the history of the band. There’s also lyrics for all eight albums. Finally, some “official” lyrics. This should put to rest some long standing debates over some Sab lyrics. The booklet has some nice stories that I haven’t heard before, as well as some photos I’ve seen before, and a lot I haven’t. There’s much goodness in here. Oh, BTW, the bonus DVD is in a sleeve attached to the inside back cover of the booklet. It was hard to get out without putting my fingers on the disc itself, which is something I try never to do. That’s my only complaint – the DVD is hard to get out of the sleeve easily.
That’s about it for this set. I have to say, even if you own all these albums (and who doesn’t), it’s worth picking up. As I said before, these albums have never sounded better, both from a sonic clarity standpoint, to hearing things in the songs I’ve never heard before – you cannot go wrong here. This is a wonderful package, both from the looks to the sounds, to the booklet. Get it. Your ears will thank you.
I just hope we don’t have to wait for “Black Box Part 2: The Non Ozzy Years”. :)
Here are some pictures of the Black Box and its inside bits.
The following four images are from the Black Box Sampler Promo. Said promo was not available to the general public, it was a private promotional thing. The sampler has eight songs, one from each Ozzy era album. The songs are: Black Sabbath, Paranoid, Into the Void, Supernaut, Killing Yourself to Live, Hole in the Sky, Rock ‘n’ Roll Doctor, Never Say Die.