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Technical Ecstasy - Underrated masterpiece?

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  • Technical Ecstasy - Underrated masterpiece?

    Of course, it goes without saying that in the eyes of the public most Sabbath work is an underrated masterpieces. But I think Technical Ecstasy in particular gets a bad rap.

    The bulk of the complaints are Sabbath mostly ditching their heavy roots for a more progressive sound. And in 1976 I'd probably have been pissed off. But even though they go for a dramatically different sound the results are as amazing as they had been on the previous six albums.

    I think it could be accurately described as "Sabbath doing Zeppelin." Arrangements are more complex, there is a wider variety of material and there is overall a softer sound. However, it is still very Sabbath. Even though the music is not as heavy as it had been it still carries a very dark vibe.

    Atmosphere is a big part of this album. Most of the preceeding albums could be summed up as mostly fitting into a state of mind or theme. Black Sabbath had a strong occult presence, Paranoid focused on the horrors of reality and their affect on the mind, body and soul, Master of Reality pondered on the meaning of power and Sabotage raged against betrayal and the forces that were destroying them. Technical Ecstasy is no different. Lyrically it spends a lot of time on two things, sex and drugs. It is a sleazy sounding album. While it's not "Halloween" dark or "nuclear annihilation" dark, it is "Las Vegas" dark. Darkness that exists in the form of bright flashing neon lights. Volume 4 was the fun side of sex, drugs and rock and roll. This is the bad side. This is the album where Sabbath takes you into the "glamorous" nightlife of your local Metropolis and shows you how depraved and soulless it is - and how they revel in it.

    Musically there is a lot going on. Two ballads, two extended guitar epics, a fast rocker, a medium paced honky tonk romp, a slow heavier piece and whatever the fuck Gypsy is. And to be honest I think all eight tracks stand their ground. There is no sense of filler here. There is a lot of experimentation and it is backed up by some excellent musicianship.

    For starters, this is where Tony came into his own as a lead player. Tony has always been an amazing guitar player but it wasn't until this album that I think his lead work started to catch up with his rhythm. He really lets it rip all across the album. "Dirty Women" is the standout, with long extended solos throughout (Ozzy only sings for two of the song's seven minutes!). "You Won't Change Me" is the other track that features extensive lead work and it is really amazing stuff. Even when soloing in shorter bursts like on "It's Alright" and "Rock and Roll Doctor" he manages to create memorable pieces.

    His tone has also evolved. It was at this point that he switched from his Gibson SG to a John Birch SG, and switched from a rewound Gibson P-90 single coil pickup to an extremely powerful John Birch Magnum minihumbucker. It has a very unique sound with a thinner cutting edge and while it lacks the powerful honk of the Gibson it is more articulate andlays the groundwork for his tonal evolution into the 80s through to the present day. This change in instruments really suits the lead work, as well as the arpeggios used on songs like "Dirty Women".

    Ozzy is a real hero here. While at this point Ozzy was starting to show strain when singing more aggressive songs, he really excels at a more melodic style of singing. His vocal melodies here are some of his best ever and his voice carries them well. "She's Gone" might be the best vocal performance Ozzy has ever given. "Dirty Women" and "You Won't Change Me" are very melodic as well. Ozzy never sounded quite this good again, IMO.

    And Bill gets the spotlight in a major way. While "It's Alright" is hokey and cheesy, it's also fucking awesome. Who knew Bill could sound so reassuring?

    The arrangements on the album are more carefully thought out than they were before. "Gypsy" is a prime example. It starts out so happy and upbeat, but at 1:50 it turns dead serious. My ear is pretty crappy but I think I hear them modulating from a major key to a minor one. Tony says a lot with a little, playing four notes a line and letting Ozzy carry the verses with a piano going in the background. Then after the verse is done they go into a chorus and Tony isn't even playing a riff, just playing a lead under Ozzy's vocals. A far cry from Iron Man. Synths are prominent on the album and they are very well done. They add texture to the music. If they weren't there the arrangements would feel sparse. They really build the atmosphere, giving a cynical edge.

    The whole thing comes together in a single brilliant package. The album is very well polished and it was clearly made with a high level of care (even if Tony was stoned out of his fucking head). It conveys a very clear theme (at least to my mind). And it features some of the best performances the band put out. I honestly can't think of a thing I'd change on it.

    What do you guys think?

  • #2
    I agree with you 100%!! I have always said the same thing about this album. It's solid! Dirty Woman has been one of my favorite Sabbath songs from the first time I heard it. I recall reading back in the day that it was gonna be on the REUNION CD and being so excited for that. It's Alright in the 2nd most played song on my Ipod!! Tony's classical outro guitar solo for that song is second to nothing he has ever done. I would love to have a remix of that song that has his solo more out front so we can hear it better. I like when you said "whatever the fuck Gypsy is" haha.. I agree, It really doesn't fall into any categories except Kick Ass category.

    Backstreet Kids Is every bit as good as Tomorrows Dream.

    I think the most under-appreciated song of the album is YOU WONT CHANGE ME. It also falls into that "whatever the fuck" category. But I have always felt this tune.

    Several years back I read an interview where Geezer himself said that he felt Technical Ecstasy was very under-rated.
    www.downtrendmetal.com

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    • #3
      Back Street Kids is extremely underrated

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      • #4
        Very well said, and articulated 62_SG. I could not agree more. The parallels between Sabbath and Zeppelin, on this album, and over the entire Ozzy era, are hard to deny. I think TE is to Sabbath, what Presence was to Led Zeppelin, and both were released around the same time. Both were also maligned by the masses despite selling fairly well, and both were technical masterpieces. When I concentrate on what both bands were doing, in the music of those albums, I cannot help but be amazed, although Presence was more one dimensional than we were used to hearing from Zeppelin. Change of style is a good thing, and it gives us gems like TE and Presence to enjoy when we need something a little different for the ears. Technical Ecstacy is a fantastic piece that should be approached with an open mind. It was different, but it was, and is, very special.
        Last edited by Now in Darkness; 09-14-2013, 09:44 AM.
        Casting his shadow, weaving his spell, funny clothes, tinkling bell.

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        • #5
          While I love the songs on the album, I find two flaws:

          1. The sound mix. Too bright - with a lack of separation. They had gone back to standard tuning as well so the album seems "lighter" just because of that. I've taken the whole album and pitch-shifted it down to C# and you wouldn't believe how much heavier it sounds!

          2. The lyrics. Geezer seemed to have given up at this point. Compare the lyrics on Dirty Women, Back Street Kids and Rock and Roll Doctor to the likes of Spiral Architect, Megalomania, Under the Sun, etc.
          In the fields the bodies burning, as the war machine keeps turning.

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          • #6
            This was a really good write up and defence of a much-maligned album. Although it's near the bottom of my Ozzy-era Sabbath I've always admired TE for being full of really ballsy experimentation. It doesn't always work, and at times Iommi goes way overboard with his guitar noodling for me, it's impressive to hear them deviate so massively from their sound.

            And yeah, along with Sabotage this album is a really phenomenal turn from Ozzy. Dirty Women is a spectacular performance.


            Originally posted by WallOfSleep View Post
            While I love the songs on the album, I find two flaws:

            1. The sound mix. Too bright - with a lack of separation. They had gone back to standard tuning as well so the album seems "lighter" just because of that. I've taken the whole album and pitch-shifted it down to C# and you wouldn't believe how much heavier it sounds!
            I agree this is a big flaw too. For years I've experimented with pricey headphones and I've never found a set I can totally comfortably listen to this album on without wincing now and then at how harsh it sounds.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by WallOfSleep View Post
              While I love the songs on the album, I find two flaws:

              1. The sound mix. Too bright - with a lack of separation. They had gone back to standard tuning as well so the album seems "lighter" just because of that. I've taken the whole album and pitch-shifted it down to C# and you wouldn't believe how much heavier it sounds!

              2. The lyrics. Geezer seemed to have given up at this point. Compare the lyrics on Dirty Women, Back Street Kids and Rock and Roll Doctor to the likes of Spiral Architect, Megalomania, Under the Sun, etc.
              1. I like the brighter mix and overall lighter sound, but I would love to hear the album tuned down! Dirty Women took to C# very well, as we all know.

              2. While Geezer's lyrics are nowhere near as purple and crazy as they were in the previous few albums, their more straightforward and realistic attitude actually speaks to me more than the abstract poetry used on the previous three albums.

              It's a sign of how off the wall Sabbath was. As the music become more sophisticated and proggy the lyrics became simpler and almost bordering on punk in their honesty.

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              • #8
                I co-sign, and love the album.....it was Never say die that was spotty......
                "It's alright" is the only weak song and it ain't that bad....

                It was time for a change of direction, and to expand the scope of Sabbath to it's listeners.....
                This was a time of change for a lot of the dinosaur bands...

                I think NSD would of been far better had the band been in a better frame of mind....
                Presence and ITTOD were not for every Zeppelin fan......
                drugs and time caught up with people........

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                • #9
                  I love this album, there are a lot of heavy and interesting songs on this album, I also love the Never Say Die! album which I've been listening to all day today, Ozzy really shows his singing skills on this one, Air Dance is such a beautiful song.
                  "Without Black Sabbath there never would have been an Ozzy, and without Ozzy there never would have been a Black Sabbath"
                  "If there ever was a band whose voice is so significant and distinct, that band is Black Sabbath and the voice is Ozzy Osbourne"
                  ________Sabbath Forever, Forever Sabbath!______OzzyIsDio_ (YoY)

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                  • #10
                    Amazing album!
                    You wont change me is one the best songs ever. Stunning melodies by the Ozzman.

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                    • #11
                      A very underrated album. I probably owned it for about 10 years before it really sunk it. There are a lot of good tracks on it. You wont change me is one of the best Ozzy-era tracks for me.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Phantasm View Post
                        A very underrated album. I probably owned it for about 10 years before it really sunk it. There are a lot of good tracks on it. You wont change me is one of the best Ozzy-era tracks for me.
                        Yes that is a great song, one of my favorites on there is Gypsy.
                        "Without Black Sabbath there never would have been an Ozzy, and without Ozzy there never would have been a Black Sabbath"
                        "If there ever was a band whose voice is so significant and distinct, that band is Black Sabbath and the voice is Ozzy Osbourne"
                        ________Sabbath Forever, Forever Sabbath!______OzzyIsDio_ (YoY)

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Phantasm View Post
                          I probably owned it for about 10 years before it really sunk it.
                          Which reminds me, I bought it, ripped it to WMP, and never bothered listening to it. Was caught off guard by "It's Alright", sounded like a late period Beatles song almost.

                          Dirty Women is amazing, and what a standard Sabbath song sounds like. It could have gone on any of the early albums.
                          People think I'm insane because I am frowning all the time.

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                          • #14
                            Yeah agree with all above comments, great album. Ozzy often dismisses this album, and has never really liked it, God knows why, its ace.
                            I've got a live bootleg from the Technical Ectacy Tour in early '77 and its my favourite live Sabs recording, the band sound shit-hot, and Ozzy sounds fantatsic, the best I've heard him sing live, ever.
                            Do you believe a word what the good book says?
                            Or is it just a holy fairytale and God is Dead?

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                            • #15
                              Love TE, play it a lot. It has a great vibe to it and it keeps me coming back. People say the band were unravelling by then but I think they sound really tight on this record. Ozzy sounds great and Tony just kills it.
                              Try your hardest, you'll still be a loser
                              The world will still be turning when you're gone

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