Black Sabbath is undeniably one of the most influential bands of all time. And while many legendary acts often sully their legacy by reuniting and culling an album from the dregs of should-have-been B-sides, Sabbath was spared this fate. The Rick Rubin-produced 13, an album that finally earned Sabbath its first number-one record on the American charts, preserved its dignity.
13 harks back to the pioneering band's most revered early works without feeling forced or feigned in any way. Though it is sadly absent of Bill Ward's brilliant drum work, the heft displayed by the band's three other original members surely makes for a welcome distraction.
A recent teleconference with the Prince of Darkness himself revealed a gracious Ozzy Osbourne. He spoke of the new album, the band's current tour, and what it exactly feels like to be back together in 2013. Here are some of our favorite moments from the conversation.
As excited as we are to have another album by the mostly original Sabbath lineup, the absence of Bill Ward is unfortunate any way you spin it. When Osbourne was asked about the possibility of Bill Ward joining the band again in the future, the singer had the following to say:
"We would love to have Bill back in the fold, but unfortunately it didn't work out, and we knew we had to deliver an album, because we had kept people waiting for like 35 years. So we all just got on the boat, and unfortunately, Bill had some discrepancy about something or other.
But we'd love to have him back and work something out. I wish him no harm. I still love him a lot. We all do. You know, it'd be great to have him back, but we felt if we pull the plug on this one, people would have gone, 'Oh, it's never going to happen,' you know. Because we tried, and we were speaking about it for a long time."
As mentioned above, 13 is Black Sabbath's first album to hit number one on the U.S. charts, an unprecedented achievement for a band so late in its career. This is why Ozzy thinks the album was such a major commercial success, 45 years after the band's inception. The Prince of Darkness gave a response that was as refreshingly humble as it was honest.
"You know what? You're asking the wrong guy, because when it went to number one in England, it just went number one in England, America, Germany, New Zealand, and I'm like, "What?" I mean, I'm still kind of pinching myself, like I'm going to wake up and it's all been a dream, because had this happened in 1972 after Paranoid, I'd have gone, 'Oh, yes, OK.'
But now after 45 years up the road, and we get our first number 1, it's kind of a hard thing to swallow, you know? You just kind of -- it's great. I'm not saying I don't want it to be number one, but I just don't understand why now, you know? I mean, we've been around for a long time, in one way or another."
Ozzy Osbourne is and will always be affectionately known as the Prince of Darkness; however, the question was posed as to whether Ozzy was still comfortable with his nickname. The response was once again disarming and candid.
"It's a name. I didn't wake up one morning and go, 'You know what, I'm going to call myself...' It started as a joke name really. I'm OK with it, you know? You know, it's better than being called an asshole."
While the media have treated this album and tour as a prelude to an unspoken, expected curtain call for Black Sabbath, Ozzy had this to say on the future of the band:
"It's taken us 35 years to get to this point; let's see how we get on with this. I'm sure -- let me put it this way -- I'm up for it if the guys are up for it and we got the goods, we'll do it. But if we're not, we tried once before to do an album before 13, and it just fell apart because we weren't really gelling, but it worked for some reason on this album. And I'm hopeful -- I'm not saying I will, and I'm not saying I won't. Let's just see what happens."
When asked how he would feel if this album and tour were Sabbath's final statement, Osbourne seemed comfortable with the notion.
"Well, I wasn't really happy with the way it ended before, but this album went to number one, and it's been received really well all over the world. I know I can now rest my head and die a happy man."
Finally, Ozzy expressed surprise when questioned on his excitement level, touring with new material, and working with Rick Rubin.
"The whole thing makes me question me, because I thought it was good -- we recorded some good stuff, but a lot of the new stuff is down to Rick Rubin, you know. Rick Rubin had to plan. He knew what he wanted to do. He didn't have to go, 'Oh, well, we should put a cymbal there and a backwards voice there' or whatever.
And he used very limited amounts of tracking. He used the Pro Tools, which you can do a thousand million things on and can do forever, down to two tracks. I don't think we used more than ten tracks on any song, you know."
Black Sabbath, with a DJ set by Andrew W.K., 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 31, at Cruzan Amphitheatre, 601-7 Sansbury's Way, West Palm Beach; 561-795-8883; cruzanamphitheatre.net. Tickets cost $25 to $125 plus fees via livenation.com.
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