“The Music is very honest,” says Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi. “What you see is what you get with that music.”
This is how Classic Albums’ look at Paranoid opens. That sentiment holds precisely none of the bombast or cultivated darkness that both fans and those unfamiliar with Paranoid have come to associate with Black Sabbath. That myth-making comes from other people that are in no way connected with the band (Henry Rollins, never at a loss for a biteable sound bite, likens Paranoid to an AK-47 in that, “even if you dip it underwater, it still works.”) but, in the case of this particular band, it all just suits; anyone familiar with Sabbath as a BAND – not an INSTITUTION – knows that they were a working class band through and through. In spite of the mysticism of their name, the group was always surprisingly well grounded and, in the opening moments of this film, that is made perfectly plain in the interviews conducted with Bill Ward, Geezer Butler, Tony Iommi and Ozzy Osbourne; they talk about the band as it was with no frills or exaggerations.
That lack of needless hyperbole is exactly what makes Classic Albums – Paranoid so easy and interesting to watch. Here, viewers learn that Paranoid – the largest keystone recording in metal – was recorded recorded in two days, cut live off the floor with a minimal number of overdubs and mixed in an additional two. It was a matter of in, down and done, and then Black Sabbath left it to be mixed and released while they went to play in Europe.
It was only after Black Sabbath returned to England that the band realized Paranoid had taken off and was ascending the charts in absentia.
And so a legend was born.
As it progresses, the DVD goes deeper into Sabbath’s “writing process” which included slapping an arrangement together and Ozzy “singing any old thing” as they’d hammer the knicks and dings out of songs on the road. That was where “War Pigs” came from; a jam in the bridge of another song that took on a life of its’ own and put all of those artists SPECIALIZING in protest music to shame. Listening to the band members talk about it as they do here is nothing short of inspiring because (according to the band members) it just seemed to come so easily; in this context, it feels as if anyone could have done it, but what makes the four men in Black Sabbath special is the fact that they did it.
That’s the most incredible thing about this documentary: it’s simple, and profound in its’ simplicity. Unlike so many others in the classic albums series, the focus on Paranoid rests almost completely on the band members and their commentary; there is very little in the way of the obligatory “sitting at the mixing desk with some producer who breaks down and explains the magic” scenes because, in the case of Paranoid, everything was basically willed by the band as the tape rolled. Because of that, what viewers get in the way of explanation for Paranoid is akin to an explanation that one might expect to get for a bit of practical magic which is just perfect; it’s easy to understand which makes the fact that it’s about something that so many people hold as a defining moment in music (call it the spring that launched an entire genre if you like) that much better. Classic Albums – Paranoid is a ‘making of’ that every Black Sabbath fan should see.
(Eagle Rock Entertainment)