Seventh Star (Expanded Deluxe Edition)
Released: 2010, Sanctuary/Universal UK
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
By 1985, Black Sabbath was essentially a non-entity. All but Tony Iommi had exited from the fold and even a reunion of the original lineup at Live Aid that year failed to reignite the band’s fire. Iommi took this opportunity to begin work on his first solo effort, assembling a solid cast of supporting musicians that included ex-Deep Purple alumni Glenn Hughes, Lita Ford (and future Kiss) drummer Eric Singer, bassist Dave “The Beast” Spitz (future Great White), and longtime keyboard player Geoff Nichols. However, record company shenanigans would force Iommi to brand his would be solo effort as Black Sabbath, and the resulting SEVENTH STAR album would become one of the most divisive albums ever to bear the Sabbath name. Some view SEVENTH STAR as either the lowest point in the band’s history or the beginning of a new chapter. With their continuing series of expanded deluxe reissues, Sanctuary/Universal UK has offered up a new opportunity to decide for yourself with a special 2-disc edition of SEVENTH STAR.
Disc 1 features a remastered version of the original album and includes an alternate version of “No Stranger to Love”. There’s not really much difference in the audio quality here and with previous editions, save that the production sounds fuller. This is a small but effective tweak, as the songs on the album are heavy on rhythms and benefit from the richer textures. Talking about the songs themselves, SEVENTH STAR has often been regarded by its reputation rather than on the merits of its songs. Iommi’s riffs are dark and brooding, as if you’d expect anything else from the man, but the songs are distinctly different from anything bearing the Sabbath name prior to it but less so than the albums that would follow it. At the time of its release, it was still heavy enough to be considered a legitimate Sabbath entry but different enough for many fans to walk away. If you accept SEVENTH STAR in the context of how it was originally intended to be received, there’s not a single weak song on the album. “In for the Kill,” the title track, “Heart Like a Wheel” and the aforementioned “No Stranger to Love” are all fantastic songs that rarely get the attention they deserve.
Disc 2 is a live recording from the SEVENTH STAR tour captured from a radio broadcast at the time and features Ray Gillen on vocals. The drama during this tour was tangible – Hughes gave a handful of lackluster performances before being given the boot, and Gillen went from playing clubs to arenas overnight, fronting the biggest name in metal. Gillen-era live recordings are pretty few and far between and his own tenure in Sabbath was almost as brief as Hughes, so the inclusion of this performance really makes things feel like a time capsule of sorts. Yeah, it may not have been the brightest moment in the band’s history, but this is an open acknowledgment of where Black Sabbath was at the time. It’s refreshing, as so too often anything that doesn’t involve Ozzy or Dio is either ignored or glossed over. And Gillen gives the performance of his life on this recording. Try to imagine the level of pressure and scrutiny that he was under – not only was he not Ozzy or Dio (or even Ian Gillan), he was the guy who replaced the new guy on the album who wasn’t Ozzy or Dio either. But he owns the stage here, playing and bantering with the London crowd as if he’d been fronting the band forever.
I was a fan of SEVENTH STAR before, and I’m an even bigger fan of the album now with this expanded deluxe edition. Glenn Hughes and Tony Iommi go together like peanut butter and chocolate, a fact that they both realized with future collaborations (Iommi’s FUSED and the EIGHTH STAR/1996 DEP SESSIONS). SEVENTH STAR was a rocky starting point for that relationship and an even rockier point for Black Sabbath and its fans. But these are great songs that deserve more than the obscurity that they’ve lived in for too long, and this is a great way to give them a second chance.