Thursday, May 12, 2016

When Music Mattered - Paranoid (1970)

To say that the band Black Sabbath was prolific early in their career would be an understatement. The group released five albums between 1970 and 1973, with two of them being released in 1970. It is one thing for a band to release a bunch of albums in a short period of time and have most of those albums be terrible, but all five of Sabbath's early albums are classics and Paranoid really stands out.

If you are a hardcore Sabbath fan, then every track on Paranoid is considered critical to establishing the band as the creators of dark heavy metal. But what makes Paranoid really stand out is that even casual fans know nearly every track on the album. Paranoid is a "must learn" album for anyone learning to play guitar for the first time, and half of the tracks on this record are still staples with cover bands around the world.

As I browse through the track list for Paranoid, it almost reads like a "Best of" record. Even ominous titles such as "Rat Salad" and "Electric Funeral" became Sabbath classics and mainstays of their live set. The popularity of Paranoid is helped by two factors. The first is that Sabbath was going around Europe touring for the first time as a signed act and was scaring the hell out of everyone. Sales for this album were driven primarily by the quality of the music, but also by an intense curiosity from Sabbath's audience.

The other element that helped Paranoid is that it is the second album Sabbath released in the first year of its first record deal. The album Black Sabbath saw a decent amount of success, but both Black Sabbath and Paranoid received huge jumps in sales when Paranoid was released. If the album Black Sabbath had bombed, then Paranoid may have had an uphill battle. But when the album Black Sabbath was a success, Paranoid was put on the fast track to immortality.

The reason that I like Paranoid is because this is the album where we get a really good chance to hear what Tony Iommi's new sound was really capable of. "War Pigs" and "Iron Man" were unlike anything anyone had ever heard before, and the deep sound of Iommi's guitar turned these two songs into instant classics. After Paranoid was released, millions of people around the world were entranced by Iommi's guitar sound.

The rhythm section in Black Sabbath also shines on Paranoid. The ending to the song "Iron Man" seems cliche now, but it was groundbreaking when it first came out. To me, that interaction between Bill Ward and Geezer Butler at the end of "Iron Man" established the dominance of the Sabbath rhythm section and set the bar so high for other heavy bands that, to me, it has never been eclipsed.

Thankfully, Black Sabbath gets the credit it deserves for creating an entire genre of music that is still flourishing to this day. The back to back combination of the albums Black Sabbath and Paranoid in the same year played a big part in launching Sabbath's career. But it was Paranoid that piqued the world's interest and really put Sabbath on the rock and roll map.

Rating: 4 out of 5

George N Root III is a classic rock music fan who still understands why Black Sabbath is so important. Follow him on Twitter @georgenroot3 or send him a message to