The Ultimate Collection
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The Ultimate Collection is curated in conjunction with the band, the 31-track collection features the band’s classic songs including Paranoid, Iron Man, War Pigs, N.I.B. and The Wizard as well as choice cuts from their classic albums and is the definitive accompaniment for all Sabbath fans as well as those with a love of hard rock.
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Given the band’s long and distinguished history, which spans over 40 years, the description “ultimate collection” seems rather inappropriate, for a compilation with such a narrow focus. My appreciation for Sabbath’s music extends far beyond the band’s early years. Although this 31 track two CD collection features no new material, the initial price of $16.99 is not outrageous, especially as each disc contains about 75 minutes of material.
The tracks are not arranged in chronological order, and at times the flow of the music seems a little uneven, with some odd transitions in sound. For example, the collection opens with “Paranoid”, and is followed by “Never Say Die”, which is a pretty major contrast in tone. A more conventional approach would have been to feature the selections from the first three albums, Black Sabbath, Paranoid, and Master of Reality, on the first disc, with tracks from Volume 4 and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath serving as the transition to the second disc, which would contain selections from Sabotage, Technical Ecstasy, and Never Say Die.
With the focus limited to the first eight albums, the musical selections are good, but not great. While “Changes” from Volume 4 is well known, it’s a downer tune that I never listen to, and would replace with “Supernaut” from that same album. “A Hard Road” and “Never Say Die” are weaker tracks from Never Say Die that I would replace with the more menacing “Johnny Blade”, and “Junior’s Eyes”. Rather than “Rock ‘n’ Roll Doctor”, and “It’s Alright”, from Technical Ecstasy, I would have selected with “Gypsy”, and “Back Street Kids”, and if there was enough space, “You Won’t Change Me”. The entire Paranoid album is practically essential, and the omission of “Planet Caravan” is unfortunate, as is leaving out “After Forever”, from Master of Reality. Each disc is close to capacity, so some sacrifices are of course necessary.
If you already own the first eight Sabbath albums, there is no reason to give this 3.5 star release much consideration, but for those unfamiliar with the early Ozzy years this would be a more complete introduction to the band than , although , which features all eight albums with remastered tracks, would be the most comprehensive option.
An enduring pioneer in the heavy metal genre, Black Sabbath has produced a prodigious amount of music in their long and distinguished career, and nearly all of it has been very high quality. It would be ideal if a box set encompassing their entire catalog was available, but with several record labels and many past band members involved, this may not be possible. Compiling a real “Ultimate Collection”, one that actually does justice to their entire discography, is a major undertaking that would require much much more than just two CD’s.
The initial Ozzy period is a very distinct era (1970-78), as is Ronnie James Dio’s first time as a member of Sabbath (1979-82). Dio’s time with Sabbath is nicely represented by . Tony Martin’s periods with Sabbath (1987-91 and 1993-97) are another distinct era, which is nicely represented by the compilation .