Another somewhat low-key killer from Vol. 4. The opening of “Cornucopia” is so doomy and heavy, and while the song’s running time is relatively short, it still feels massive… it’s got enough echoing reverberation and shadowy corners that there’s room enough to get lost. This one ends up in damn near every Ozzy-era Sabbath compilation I put together. Vol. 4 is solid gold, man.
9) “Weevil Woman ‘71”
In 2012, a number of Sabbath back releases were remastered and reissued with bonus content (and they were released just last week on Rhino – ed.). My favorite Black Sabbath record, Master of Reality, included a second disc of demo versions and practice runs, as well as a rough rendering of a song that never made the album’s final cut. I don’t know if the title is a jab at “Evil Woman,” (which I’ll discuss more here in a bit) as the expanded liner notes suggest, but the song itself is no joke. It’s got a quirky, bouncy vibe to it that clashes a bit with some of the album’s dirge masterpieces, but when stacked against “After Forever,” it doesn’t feel that far removed. I’m convinced if it’d been included in the album’s final sequencing, it would’ve been damn popular. This version of Master, as well as remasters of Paranoid and Black Sabbath, were given facelifts back in 2012, but didn’t receive official stateside releases until earlier this month. Check ‘em out. They sound fantastic.
10) “Evil Woman (Don’t Play Your Games With Me)”
While preparing the material that’d end up being their eponymous first LP, the lads of Black Sabbath were tasked by their record label with turning in a cover of “Evil Woman,” a tune by American band Crow that had been released a year prior. Although the band recorded the song under duress, and although future versions of the album, including the American release, would omit this track in favor of “Wicked World” (a wise decision), there’s a sing-song attractiveness to “Evil Woman” that really shows the band’s kinship with other popular rock acts of the day. It’s more traditional than the bulk of what ended up on Black Sabbath, and it doesn’t particularly match the vibe of the rest of the album either. But there’s an honesty to the writing and to the band’s performance of it that’s endearing, even for fans who only go this far back for “N.I.B.” or “Black Sabbath.”
As of 2016, the history books reflect Ozzy’s tenure with Black Sabbath as the band’s most crucial and influential stretch. And there’s no denying that the band crafted something truly superb and unique on that first batch of records. The spirit lives on even now. And while no other era of Sabbath moves me personally in quite the same way as the Ozzy material, there’s so much more to this band that’s not only worth hearing, but that’s just as visionary and trendsetting as anything from their earliest days. Check back in two weeks for the next Criminally Slept-On, when we check in with Ozzy’s replacement… a man whose slight physical stature held no dominion over the towering shadow he’d cast over the genre he helped pioneer: Ronnie James Dio.