Pop Life

Retro Active: The Ian Gillan-Fronted Black Sabbath

Ian Gillan on his brief stint in Black Sabbath
Last week, Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi filed a lawsuit against Live Nation, claiming that one of the promotion behemoth's subsidiaries, Signatures, sold a bunch of Sabbath merch after a licensing agreement expired in 2006. Though the idea of Black Sabbath "jewelry and fashion accessories" (as noted in the complaint) is kinda funny, you can't really begrudge the guy for being super-protective over the Sabbath "brand."

After all, it was Iommi who kept Black Sabbath in operation well after its sell-by date, releasing albums throughout the '80s and '90s that - at least after Ronnie James Dio left - few people paid attention to.

Hell, for Iommi, the late-'90s reunion with Ozzy Osbourne was less a return to action than another in the many lineup iterations he's shepherded for the last four decades, including the much-maligned (and exceedingly brief) run with vocalist Ian Gillan. For Born Again (1983), Sabbath's first post-Dio release, band manager Don Arden - who had recently lost another client, Ozzy, to his daughter Sharon - thought it would be a great idea to get the ex-Deep Purple vocalist on board. Everyone thought the move was kinda stupid; hell, even Gillan himself thought the whole affair was a bit, uh, ridiculous (see video).

Still, Gillan added a husky shout to Iommi's riffs, resulting in an album that was one of Sabbath's most rocking discs, and also one of the band's most doom-drenched. "Trashed" is the most forthright tune on the record - and one of its catchiest. - Jason Ferguson

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Jason Ferguson