Black Sabbath - Live Evil / Live At Last / Reunion / Live From Radio City Music Hall
A bit of a cheat throwing these four live albums into one catch-all guide, but they chart the evolution of the band in a neat, if not entirely satisfying bundle.
‘Live At Last’ (1980) was recorded on the ‘Vol 4’ tour, and issued as a spoiler just as ’Heaven And Hell’ came out in 1980. The band disowned it, as it is as raw as a fresh burn, but it captures the sheer power and drive of the early years in deafening versions of ‘Tomorrow’s Dream’ and ‘Snowblind’. Not as bad as you might remember but definitely not a classic. The 2002 reissue was released under the name of Past Lives and this adds an intriguing bonus disc that is ropey as hell but nice for collectors.
‘Live Evil’ (1982) was at the centre of the first Dio split, and the studio bust-ups are audible in the muted sound. However the set itself is terrific: ‘Heaven And Hell’ and ‘Sign Of The Southern Cross’ are meshed together, ‘Neon Knights’ is a marvellous opener, and it’s a kick to hear Dio handle ‘War Pigs’ and ‘Iron Man’.
‘Reunion’ (1998) documents the emotional return of Ozzy, a thrill for those who had been around in the early days and a treat for younger fans who thought they might never see the original line-up play together. The set is terrific, and even includes the ridiculous but funny ‘Dirty Women’ from ‘Technical Ecstasy’. It's by no means perfect but it's pretty much the best Ozzy Sabbath live album we're likely to see.
2007's ‘Live From Radio City Music Hall’ (recorded as Heaven & Hell) is probably the best of the bunch. It does a similar job for fans of the Dio line-up with the band producing vibrant performances of songs from the three Dio albums.
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