Released: 2010, Sanctuary/Universal UK
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Black Sabbath needs no introduction, and if they do, than you should be reading up on Miley Cyrus’ blog rather than perusing these pages. Each of the Dio-era releases with the band are classics in their own right, but 1981’s MOB RULES often gets overshadowed by its older brother, HEAVEN AND HELL. H&H was a turning point for the band; the first post-Ozzy release, the album that gave Sabbath a second chance, not to mention the cadre of classics spawned from that LP. But to follow up an album of that magnitude and proving that it wasn’t just a one-off fluke was just as formidable a task as convincing the fans that there was life after Ozzy. But the resulting MOB RULES demonstrated that this new Sabbath lineup was the real thing. The chemistry between the band was tangible and the live performances have become the stuff of legend.
2008 saw the release of the RULES OF HELL box set, featuring remastered editions of the Dio-era albums, but the lack of any bonus material or anything beyond the original tracklisting of those discs left many die hard fans (myself included) feeling a little disappointed. But In 2009, Sanctuary/Universal Records UK began releasing expanded, deluxe editions of several classic Ozzy-era albums, remastered and featuring never before heard bonus tracks and alternate takes. The inevitable demand for similar treatment of the Dio albums has paid off, as Sanctuary/Universal UK has recently surprised us with deluxe 2-disc editions of HEAVEN AND HELL, MOB RULES, and LIVE EVIL. Now, I’m a cynic. I already own these albums on several formats, several times over, so what's the incentive to buy these again, especially at the price of an import? Well if you’re going to explore any of these, MOB RULES is where you need to start.
Disc 1 features the original studio album in its entirety and sounds phenomenal. Audiophiles who were raised with the vinyl or original CD pressings will appreciate the difference in overall sound quality. Disc 1 closes out with a live 12” single version of “Die Young” and the Heavy Metal soundtrack version of “The Mob Rules,” but Disc 2 is the real reason why this album is worth the price of admission.
Disc 2 features the full LIVE AT HAMMERSMITH CD, which is arguably the best collection of ’81-’82 era live material with this lineup. Originally released in 2007 and limited to 5,000 hand numbered copies, this is as close to being in the crowd as you could ever hope for without actually having been there. Where LIVE EVIL sounds processed and manufactured, the LIVE AT HAMMERSMITH tracks sound like they came straight from the soundboard and are essentially untouched. You’ll hear some feedback, you’ll hear some flubs, but these are the things that Sabbath fans have always wanted and the reason there are so many existing bootlegs of the band during this era. You won’t find full, live recordings of “Country Girl” or “Slipping Away” anywhere else, and finally getting to hear these underrated classics on stage makes up for having to endure “War Pigs” or “Neon Knights” for the zillionth time.
I could write for another six pages about why MOB RULES is a brilliant album, but the bottom line is that this should be a mandatory addition to your music collection. At its core it’s an amazing record, and the bonus features are worthy enough to truly label this as a “deluxe” edition.