Author: Martin Popoff
Title: Born Again! Black Sabbath In The Eighties and Nineties.
Publisher: PowerChord Press
Reviewed: March 2019
Last month I reviewed Part I (SABOTAGE) of this two-part series about Black Sabbath. In that review grumbled a bit about being tired of reading about 70’s Black Sabbath and that I was much more anticipating reading Part II, about 80’s (and later) Sabbath. My prediction was correct, this book felt a bit more fresh, new and interesting because this era is not covered nearly as much by other rock scribes.
Once again on his own power-house, Powerchord Press we get a bang up job and the 280+ page paperback with lots of photos, that covers a dozen Sabbath albums from Dio to reunion. Oddly enough 13 and the end are not covered, which sort of leaves a bit of a dangling participle to the tale. I’m not sure there is enough material to warrant a third title in the series. Following the standard chronological, album by album, chapter by chapter, formula, Popoff takes us through the turbulent times, with more downs than up’s, and somehow manages to keep track of all the massive line-up changes all throughout the mid to late 80’s. Even the legendary Laurence Cottle gets his 15 minutes of fame…you really have to remember your Sabbath trivia to recall who this guy was!
There are plenty of stories, and tales of misadventures, especially during the BORN AGAIN sessions, and Popoff gets as close to the truth about the infamous LIVE EVIL Dio/Appice vs. Iommi/Bulter mix vs. re-mix legend as one will ever get. Using countless interviews that he conducted and any number of extra sources, we get a remarkably accurate picture of what was going on in the Sabbath camp which is at most times is shrouded in a black cloak of mystery and sprinkled with a waft of Peruvian marching powder.
It is no secret that Popoff is not a big fan of the Tony Martin years, in fact he recently said that HEADLESS CROSS is his least favourite Sabbath album of all time. You can certainly tell because when he was writing about the HEADLESS CROSS album, video and tour cycle he used words like, ‘garish’, ‘crass’, ‘nonsense’, ‘unimaginative’, ‘ludicrous, ‘silly’ and ‘failure’. Yikes! That stings me to the core seeing as this is one of my favourite Sabbath albums of all time, but at least he covered it. In fact, he did a great job covering 1982-1992 (ie, non Ozzy/Dio years) which most Black Sabbath biographies pass over completely. That is why this book is so useful and valuable. Even if he has a pretty harsh summation of the Gillan/Hughes/Martin era, but in his defense, he is tough but fair and those albums, get, shall we say, the treatment they deserve. Although, he decided against giving CROSS PURPOSES LIVE, Sabbath’s second live album in a quarter of a century, it’s own chapter, while LIVE EVIL gets it’s own chapter and glowing praise. You can see where his heart lies but admits some people actually like the albums. Even albums like FORBIDDEN get their due.
Overall, as with a number of his recent books that cover a bands entire catalogue, (Alice Cooper, Judas Priest etc) Popoff’s lack of personal enthusiasm or deep emotional connection to any of the studio albums say, about post-1990 or so, (depending on the band) is tempered with the fact that he does still care enough to take the time to actually write about them, fairly, accurately and with authority. BORN AGAIN is by far the best book I’ve read on the later years and is a mandatory read for any Sabbath fan.