BLACK SABBATH: CROSS PURPOSES LIVE (1995)
1) Time Machine; 2) Children Of The Grave; 3) I Witness; 4) Into The Void; 5) Black Sabbath; 6) Neon Knights; 7) Psychophobia; 8) The Wizard; 9) Cross Of Thorns; 10) Heaven In Black; 11) Symptom Of The Universe; 12) Headless Cross; 13) Paranoid; 14) Iron Man; 15) Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.
A live album of a 25-year old Black Sabbath with Tony Martin as lead vocalist was exactly what was needed in 1995 to restore the band's reputation, I guess. At least Live Evil (a) had the novelty of being the first officially sanctioned B.S. live record, (b) had Dio on it, adapting the old Ozzy classics to his own style, (c) coincided with a creative revival for the band, whether the fans were willing to admit it or not. Cross Purposes Live has none of these advantages — in fact, it doesn't even have its own frickin' title (although that was probably due to the fact that the concert was first and foremost released as a video, with the audio CD as a bonus accompaniment).
Still, as long as Black Sabbath consists of Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and whoever else, no live Sabbath album can be a completely worthless proposition — if there ever was a night in history when Tony played real bad, or the setlist was completely dominated by subpar material, I'd actually be interested in hearing how that may have sounded. If Martin's voice does not piss you off immediately, there is no reason why Cross Purposes Live should be written off. Because of the setlist? Well, as you can see, more than half of the songs are impeccable classics — and there is even one pleasant surprise, as the band resurrects ʽThe Wizardʼ, a song not performed at all since their first gigs in 1970, unjustly forgotten just because it wasn't a radio hit. And out of the Martin-era material, only ʽCross Of Thornsʼ is a suckjob, and should have been tossed out in favor of ʽEvil Eyeʼ or, at least, ʽVirtual Deathʼ, if we want to be funny.
Martin's live personality is not seriously different from his posturing in the studio, and not a lot of stage banter made it onto the audio disc, anyway. Of course, hearing him howl on the Ozzy numbers is a weird thing — rather than Ozzy's amusingly stoned intonations, and rather than Dio's entertaining «corn-de-luxe» roar-from-Hell, what you get is a guy who seems to be trying to imbue «sincerity» and «genuine passion» into these phantasmagoric, anti-reality soundscapes. Who really wants to hear a ʽChildren Of The Graveʼ or a ʽSymptom Of The Universeʼ that demand to be taken sternly-seriously, let alone a ʽBlack Sabbathʼ? The poor guy is stuck in the middle between the excessive extremes of Ozzy and Dio, and with Sabbath, there is no middle ground by definition. Then again, the man is just doing his job the best he can — I hope very much that nobody cheated him out of any money on that or any other tours.
Trivia-wise, ʽTime Machineʼ begins with a few brief samples of classic Iommi riffs (as in, "let us illustrate this title for those who think it needs illustrating!"); ʽBlack Sabbathʼ, as usual, has a brief «medieval» introduction; ʽParanoidʼ is preceded by one minute of Iommi playing around with the evil wah-wah effect; and ʽIron Manʼ is inexplicably cut down to three minutes (perhaps due to CD length limitations). Oh, and ʽHeadless Crossʼ sounds much better live, free from the clutches of the hideous 1989 production values. And that's about it, folks.