Black Sabbath - The Eternal Idol (1987)
While history would have you believe that every Sabbath album that doesn't feature Messrs Dio or Osbourne is a disaster, that isn't entirely true. Sure, albums such as Born Again and Seventh Star are by no means what you could class as "good " albums but they are not quite the musical antichrists that many would have you believe.
And the pick of the litter is probably the debut album from the Tony Martin era line-up, The Eternal Idol.
The problem with this, and almost all of the other wilderness year albums, is that it just feels wrong. There are flashes of Iommi brilliance in amongst the over-produced, over embellished tracks but they are few and far between as he allowed modern production techniques and instrumentation (waaaaay too much keyboard) to interfere with what Sabbath have always done best: big, bass-heavy, riff-laden rock songs. As a result the record has dated very badly indeed.
Fundamentally you will only really reach for this record as a curiosity and it's unlikely to be anyone's favourite Sabbath moment. However, it's not as bad as you remember and if you can somehow forget that the Sabbath name is attached then this is actually a fairly decent late-80s heavy rock record. And tracks such as 'Lost Forever' and the pleasant instrumental 'Scarlet Pimpernel' hint at some of the band's glory days, while there's a really good song waiting to get out of 'Hard Life to Love'.
For the true Sabbath collector, you should make sure to have a look at the 2010 reissue which featured the long-lost Ray Gillen studio sessions on a bonus disc. These recordings probably sound a little more authentically "Sabbath" than the finished product - looser, less produced and more Iommi. The alternate version of the title-track in particular works really well.
The Shining / Ancient Warrior / Hard Life To Love / Glory Ride / Born To Lose / Nightmare / Scarlet Pimpernel / Lost Forever / Eternal Idol
- Keyboard player Geoff Nicholls played on ten Sabbath studio albums and played with the band for 24 years
- Badlands frontman Ray Gillen may not have sung on the original album after leaving the band suddenly but he can be heard on there - his is the sinister laugh on the song Nightmare.
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