There are two types of people in this world. Those you need to hear Black Sabbath running through Wheels of Confusion 6 times in a row and those who do not. I fall into the former category and it is people like me who this set is designed for.
Black Sabbath with Ozzy Osbourne is my 2nd favourite band of all time and I feel the first 6 albums they created together are all essential. Vol . 4, is the 2nd album in that line up to get the “Super Deluxe” treatment, with Paranoid being the first a few years ago. Unlike Paranoid which came with two live shows and a stereo “quad mix”; Vol. 4 is loaded with two discs worth of studio outtakes and a live show that you might have already.
I opted for the CD version since I already have Vol. 4 on vinyl and I didn’t feel the need for studio outtakes in super hi fidelity. After listening to the entire box set, I’m about 85% satisfied with this decision.
Disc one is the newly remastered Vol. 4, and I gotta say that it impressed me. I usually do find remasters of remasters to be a waste of money unless they didn’t do it right the first time, but there are exceptions. They somehow got a bit more bottom end with Tony’s guitar tone sounding thicker over the 2009 version. Don’t get me wrong, if your happy your 2009 copy, you don’t need to run out and get this. But having a version of Vol. 4 that sounds this good is a pleasant surprise.
Disc 2 and 3 are Outtakes/new mixes/alternate mixes/false starts/and studio dialogue. I can confirm that all of these are indeed on here. All are previously unreleased and have been remastered from the original analog multitrack tapes by Steve Wilson… although if they haven’t been released before, I suppose they were just mastered…
Anyway, I found the changes on the different takes to mostly be subtle with exceptions.
Exceptions like Supernaut as it is played at a slightly slower tempo and it is missing the “heavy metal samba” with Bill Ward drumming solo over the break instead. And it is noticeable how Ward toned down the drum fills on the completed product for a lot of these songs. It was fun to hear him going all out on the outtakes.
For the most part though, the tunes sound close to finished save for the lyrics. There is one version of Under the Sun that has Ozzy “da da daing” his way through it, but for the most part his lyric sound like he is making it up as he goes. Some versions of Wheels of Confusion on here had me appreciating the finish product.
Disc 4 is a live disc that is complied from a couple of UK shows in 1973. It was partly released before as Live At Last in 1980, but the audio has been cleaned up and the set list is better intact. You get a bunch of tunes from Vol. 4, several classics like War Pigs and Children of the Grave and a pre Sabbath Bloody Sabbath version of Killing Yourself to Live. I even enjoyed Bill Ward’s drum solo on this and I usually get bored when listening to drum solos without a visual aid. Maybe I’m becoming a Bill Ward fanboy!
As for the packaging, each CD is given one of those mock LP cardboard sleeves with an anti static sheet like you bought this set in the ’80s. A hard cover book is also included with plenty of photos and words to entertain you. I particularly enjoyed the photos of the sleeve you’d get with the singles back in the ’70s. And finally you get a poster that the collector in me will never be able to hang.
Although I’m a little disappointed that Vol 4 Super Deluxe doesn’t pull back the curtains far enough on the writing process, I do like this set a lot overall. I think I would have preferred to have the studio album and the live show on vinyl with the outtakes on CD, but that is just a nit pick. The album sounds great, the live show is very good, and overall I’m thrilled to have this.