Friday, February 1, 2013

BLACK SABBATH featuring TONY IOMMI - Seventh Star (1986)

     About eleven years ago when I was living in Long Island City, Queens, New York, not far from the former site of the Coventry where Kiss played some of their earliest gigs, I overheard my wife on the phone with her mother. Apparently the night before my mother-in-law had gone to see a man speak who had claimed to have once been the lead singer of Black Sabbath but had come to realize the error of his ways and was now a born again Christian touring the country telling the tale of his rescue from the dark side.
     "He's lying," I said.
     "How do you know?" my wife asked.
     "Because he's not Ozzy Osbourne. He's not Ronnie James Dio. He's not Ian Gillan. Ray Gillen is dead. I guess Glenn Hughes counts. No way is it Glenn Hughes. Tony Martin?  It can't be, that guy sang 'Headless Cross.' Tell me it's not Tony Martin!"
     "Mom, was it Tony Martin?" My wife shook her head. It was not Tony Martin.    
     My wife turned to me. "Jeff Fen...holt?"
     "Who? He's definitely lying."

     In 1985 Tony Iommi was preparing to record a solo album. The plan was to record with a variety of singers, and it would be a Tony Iommi album, not a Black Sabbath album. Only later, after Jeff Fenholt's limited involvement had long since ceased and the final recordings had been completed with Glenn Hughes singing every song, would the record company pressure Iommi into calling it a "Black Sabbath featuring Tony Iommi" album. Fenholt was only involved at the stage when Iommi was trying out different singers while writing songs and recording demos for a solo project, NOT a Black Sabbath project. Fenholt was one of several singers Don Arden ushered into the sessions to sing on some of those demos. Here is an example of Fenholt at work. You be the judge, but the reality is that according to Tony Iommi Jeff Fenholt was never even an official member of Iommi's solo band, let alone a member of Black Sabbath in any way, shape or form, but he still goes around claiming he was in Black Sabbath, telling people who don't know any better that he was in that evil band but somehow escaped its clutches. At most he auditioned to be one of several potential guest vocalists on a Tony Iommi solo project. To extrapolate that into having been a member of Black Sabbath is clearly disingenuous. What might his motives be? I'll leave that up to you.
     So what about the resulting album, Seventh Star, which came out at the very beginning of 1986? Is it a Black Sabbath album? Well, that was not Iommi's intention, and it bears little resemblance to what one might have expected from Black Sabbath, considering they were following up a trio of very heavy, protometal albums with Dio and Ian Gillan, but it says "Black Sabbath" on the cover so it's filed away between Born Again and The Eternal Idol on my record shelf. Is it a good album? I like it, but I like this kind of stuff, and I love Glenn Hughes. Look, it's a hard rock record that came out in 1986, that means too much reverb on the drums and mildly excessive keyboards, but there are at least a couple of really good songs on the record:

Turn to Stone
Danger Zone

Glenn Hughes was ousted five dates into the subsequent tour and that was when the late Ray Gillen entered the picture and the seeds of Badlands were sown, since Iommi's drummer happened to be none other than current "catman" Eric Singer. The album peaked at #78 on the Billboard charts and the label never even bothered to release it on CD, so they might as well have let Tony have his damn solo album.

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