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Recent album review #1
A dreadfully sludgy and dead slow live set, with nothing on it from later than Vol. 4, whose tracks are the main feature on this 1980 British import album.

All the usuals are here ... "Paranoid", "War Pigs" (which goes on forever, and is so out-of-tune it sounds like the entire Who wall-of-sound going up in flames), "Children of the Grave" ... but also "Snowblind" and "Cornucopia", and - of all things - "Wicked World" (which is even longer than "War Pigs", how do they stretch a song out to almost 19 minutes?).

The band try their best to come off like the Sabbath they're supposed to be, but maybe this was an off night or something, because there ain't a whole lotta energy coursing through Tony, Oz, Geez, and Ward at the time this was recorded.

There's so little information about this record it's like a KGB secret, but it's the only album released during Black Sabbath's painfully short 'golden month' when they'd figured out how to not suck and hadn't screwed with the formula enough to screw it up.

Whilst they try their best, the tempos always seem to be in a slowed-down G, and Iommi's rudimentary solos only prove he's really a studio guy - put him in front of an audience and he's about as good a soloist as Neil Young without the feedback.

So only completists need subject themselves to these substandard live versions of tunes that were already dirty-grungy and muffly enough already, anyone else can buy a Marshall stack, jab rakes through the speaker cones, piss on the power amp, and run an out-of-tune Gibson SG through it at full-dial for 40 minutes.

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by Reviewer: Capt Bonanza

Posted: Sunday 29th May 2016 1:00 PM

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Recent album review #2
Having achieved considerable success in Australasia with his debut album Bad Habits (reviewed separately), along with a couple of good-quality hit singles, Billy Field then did one of the more bizarre about-turns in music, and turned his back on the very recipe that had earnt him such success in the first place.

Essentially, that recipe was Field's single-handed reintroduction of Big Band Jazz as a foundation for songwriting - a concept that immediately set him apart from his contemporaries, by lending him a unique 'signature sound'. And - along with good-quality material - a distinctive sound is of course always a big advantage in the highly competitive music industry, where getting noticed in the first place is the single biggest hurdle any aspirant must face.

Field's abandonment of the very formula that led to his early success resulted in him becoming something of a 'one-hit wonder', and whilst Bad Habits (1981) has gone on to become something of a collectible nowadays, the follow-up Try Biology (1982) generated little interest, and Field subsequently disappeared from view, until a couple of equally-ignored albums emerged seven years later - Say Yes (on some short-lived indie label), and a budget-label covers album Rock'n'Roll Memories.

Field's short-lived career arc saleswise - from early success to abject obscurity - is precisely mirrored in this 21-track compilation, which only serves to further beg the question as to why on earth he turned his back on what was a very promising start, to trade that in for a career as a generic 70's-style singer/songwriter.

This album consists of 7 tracks from the 10-track Bad Habits, 3 tracks from Try Biology, 5 from Say Yes, plus 6 previously-unreleased tracks.

That it includes 7 tracks from Bad Habits is a good idea, as the original album is very hard to find these days, and - at 5½ to 6 stars each, tracks [1][3][4][6][8] especially - stand head and shoulders above everything else on this collection. But why oh why was "Celebrity Lane" not included as well - that would've made this CD a completely satisfactory substitute for the original Bad Habits album. As it is, it's a glaring omission.

In terms of both quality and presentation, the Bad Habits tracks mentioned above stand so far apart from the rest of this collection, that (as I already own the Bad Habits album), I've set them aside for the purposes of rating this album, so my rating below is for the other 14 tracks only.

Of those 14 tracks, 12 are in the style of 70's singer/songwriter. The two departures from that style are the title track from Try Biology and the closing previously-unreleased "Our Children's Land". The former is a jaunty 4½ star track, sounding somewhat like something from a Brecht/Weill stage musical, and the latter is a rather maudlin slow-tempo number with a minimalist arrangement featuring a muted Jazz horn, filler-ish and of no particular note.

That leaves the remaining one dozen singer/songwriter numbers, most of which sit in the 3 to 4 star range. What's most conspicuous about them, is the extent to which they emulate the styles of various other 70's singer/songwriters - partly in the way Field's vocals attempt to adopt the same phrasing and vocal mannerisms of the artists he's emulating, but more particularly in the arrangements, such that on tracks [2] and [5] he comes across as a poor man's Gilbert O'Sullivan, on tracks [12][13][14][20] he does a pretty good imitation of Van Morrison, then on tracks [15][18][19] he manages to be a passable Elton John copyist.

To my mind though, it's a pity Field didn't stick to fronting Big Band Jazz arrangements - they're the ones where he used his own voice, rather than try and sound like someone else, and for which his natural raspiness is best-suited. And with its sleeve-art so closely emulating that of Bad Habits, this album tacitly acknowledges that that's where his talent had been best-deployed.

It seems however, that Field preferred to see himself as something of a musical chameleon ... having started out successfully emulating 1940's-style Big Band Jazz, he promptly switched to being a 70's-style singer/songwriter, then in 1989 belatedly had a crack at 50's-style rock'n'roll.

But I think he should've perhaps stuck with his original idea of quality popsongs based on Big Band Jazz arrangements, because that's where he developed a unique niche and thus stood out from the pack - and consequently acquired a fanbase - one that promptly deserted him though (that highlighted by this album's poignant subtitle), when he decided to switch to what was the overcrowded field of singer/songwriter, and so ended-up becoming just another also-ran.

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by Reviewer: bluemoon

Posted: Sunday 29th May 2016 4:20 PM

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