Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Black Sabbath

  • Black Sabbath [Warner Bros., 1970] C-
  • Paranoid [Warner Bros., 1970] C-
  • Master of Reality [Warner Bros., 1971] C-
  • We Sold Our Souls for Rock 'n' Roll [Warner Bros., 1976] C

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Black Sabbath [Warner Bros., 1970]
The worst of the counterculture on a plastic platter--bullshit necromancy, drug-impaired reaction time, long solos, everything. They claim to oppose war, but if I don't believe in loving my enemies I don't believe in loving my allies either, and I've been worried something like this was going to happen since the first time I saw a numerology column in an underground newspaper. C-

Paranoid [Warner Bros., 1970]
They do take heavy to undreamt-of extremes, and I suppose I could enjoy them as camp, like a horror movie--the title cut is definitely screamworthy. After all, their audience can't take that Lucifer bit seriously, right? Well, depends on what you mean by serious. Personally, I've always suspected that horror movies catharsized stuff I was too rational to care about in the first place. C-

Master of Reality [Warner Bros., 1971]
As an increasingly regretful spearhead of the great Grand Funk switch, in which critics redefined GFR as a 1971 good old-fashioned rock and roll band even though I've never met a critic (myself included) who actually played the records, I feel entitled to put this in its place. Grand Funk is like an American white blues band of three years ago--dull. Black Sabbath is English--dull and decadent. I don't care how many rebels and incipient groovies are buying. I don't even care if the band members believe in their own Christian/satanist/liberal murk. This is a dim-witted, amoral exploitation. C-

We Sold Our Souls for Rock 'n' Roll [Warner Bros., 1976]
By omitting pro forma virtuoso moves--"Rat Salad" has vanished without a trace--this two-disc compillation makes a properly mock-nostalgic document. Only two cuts total (out of seventeen) from LPs five and six, but three from four, cleverly entitled Black Sabbath Vol. 4, which I never got around to putting on in 1972. And you know, I'm still not sure I've ever heard anything on it. C

Further Notes:

Everything Rocks and Nothing Ever Dies [1990s]