Friday, March 21, 2014

Black Sabbath, "The Mob Rules"

Ronnie James Dio was as great of a singer as Black Sabbath could have found after firing Ozzy Osbourne in 1979. While never as widely beloved as the Ozzman, Dio was irrefutably more musically talented than his predecessor, not to mention charismatic enough to be  a rock star in his own right, rather than just a technically gifted but bland singer trying to live up to a brilliant loose cannon (Sammy Hagar, Myles Kennedy).

Still, most Dio-era Sabbath doesn't hold up to the Ozzy years. It's good, and often great, but not All Time Top Five Metal Bands great. No headbanger could argue with "Neon Knights," but only a fool would rank it above "War Pigs" or "Iron Man." With Ozzy, I wonder how often the band felt like they were dealing with a savant--Dio was professional, musically versed, agreeable and maybe even better, but they could never sell as many records or sell out as many arenas as they did with hazardous old Ozzy.

Dio's best moment with Sabbath, and arguably the only one that stands on par with the Ozzy-era classics, is "The Mob Rules." First heard in the midnight movie classic Heavy Metal, it's one of the only Dio songs that swings instead of marches. Set to a Motörhead-worthy gallop and sung with an exuberance that would open up an entire career for Jack Black years later, "The Mob Rules" proves that Dio could live up to Sabbath's reputation while taking them in a dramatic new direction.

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