In The Dark

Black Sabbath -- One of the more interesting entries into the recent spate of musical "reunions" (which has delivered everything from Fleetwood Mac to Mstley CrYe) is this second go-round from rock's own four horsemen of the apocalypse. Though long derided by critics, Black Sabbath prompted millions of alienated teens flirting with the dark side of the Force to buy records such as Master of Reality, Paranoid and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath while Eddie Vedder was playing with Weebles. In fact, all of them are probably in your older brother's record collection.

Formed in 1970, in working-class Birmingham, England, the original lineup featured wild man vocalist Ozzy Osbourne, guitarist Tommy Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler and drummer Bill Ward. They helped to create the genre of heavy metal, driving a stake through the heart of what they viewed as flower power psychedelic bullshit (ironically, punk rockers would later do the same to them) with songs of Lucifer, drugs and boot-wearing faeries (though they preceded the Village People by years). And while contemporaries Led Zeppelin concentrated on intricate guitar pyrotechnics and wailing vocals, Sabbath's attack was blunt and bestial, with murky riffs and melodies which often moved at the speed of a funeral dirge.

The original group broke up in 1978, with Osbourne pursuing a highly successful (and controversial) solo career as a living cartoon. Various versions of Black Sabbath, with Iommi as the only constant (though the Ronnie James Dio era was better than expected), limped through the years. The fearsome foursome reunited for two one-off gigs, but most recently for a December 1997 two-night stand in their hometown, documented on the recent double-live CD titled (duh!) Reunion. It gives a good indication of what to expect from their current world tour. While Iommi, Butler and (especially) Ward prove they've got reinvigorated chops on such classics as "War Pigs," "Paranoid," "Iron Man" and "Lord of this World," their biggest hindrance is arguably also their biggest draw: Ozzy himself. His voice -- never an asset to start with -- cracks and croaks in too many places for comfort, and his constant exhortations to the crowd ("Come on! Make some fucking noise out there! Let's see some fucking hands in the air!") smacks of the kind of shtick you would expect at a Loverboy or Night Ranger reunion gig. Still, though these princes of darkness are now more middle-aged than Middle Ages, the show should be a bone-crunching jaunt down memory lane. And don't forget to buy a ticket for your older brother, although he just may have to leave before the final encore. You know, gotta get to work early the next morning.

Black Sabbath performs Monday, January 25, at 8 p.m. at the Compaq Center, 10 East Greenway Plaza. Incubus and Pantera open. Tickets are $36.25, $56.25 and $66.25. Call (713)629-3700 or (713)627-9470.

Upcoming Events

Warren Sneed
CD Release Party

A fixture in the Houston jazz scene for over 15 years, HSPVA alum Warren Sneed built his reputation in the late '80s playing with local jazz stars Kellye Gray, Joe LoCascio and the late David Catney. Today, Sneed leads a jazz trio, regularly plays with the pop group Franchise, jams with TKoh! and teaches music courses at Houston Community College. In the midst of this busy schedule, he cut Brothers, a smooth jazz album that will be officially released Saturday. Brothers falls somewhere between Spyro Gyra and the Yellowjackets and features Yellowjackets bassist Jimmy Haslip in addition to a lineup of accomplished Houston jazz musicians.

On Brothers, Sneed avoids the calculated banality that mars so many smooth jazz recordings, and his warm tone resonates beautifully on every track. His compositions, "Brothers" and "Check Please" in particular, have a certain finesse, and Sneed's cover of "Take a Bow" should be a crowd pleaser. On Saturday, January 23, at 9 p.m. at Ovations. (Paul J. MacArthur)

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