Black Sabbath's "Sabotage" box set opened up.
Black Sabbath's "Sabotage" box set opened up.

Black Sabbath: Sabotage Super Deluxe Edition (1975, Rhino/Warner, 4 CDs or 4 LPs + 7-inch). Black Sabbath was a band used to churning out albums -- five within four years – while still touring in a grueling schedule. However, “Sabotage,” their sixth album, and last great album by the original lineup, took 10 months to record. At the time, the band members were trying to free themselves from manager Patrick Meehan, which you can read all about in the 60-page, photo- and memorabilia-filled hardcover book that comes with the box set. The album’s title and the lyrics of “The Writ” also point to the legal dispute, as the band claimed Meehan had held on to or used most of the band’s money.

Of the album itself, which was remastered for this release, it is both heavier at times than “Vol. 4” and “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath,” and continues to experiment with sounds, as in the 9-plus-minute “Megalomania,” which is a descent into madness that starts dark and moody, then builds explosively with psychedelic swirls coming in about the 8-minute mark. The band was using more keyboards by this time – Jezz Woodroffe in the studio and the subsequent tour -- and vocalist Ozzy Osbourne had picked up a Moog synthesizer and taught himself a little about playing it.

There is more experimentation of the 8 ½-minute “The Writ,” which musically changes direction several times, but almost seamlessly. The pointed lyrics include: “What kind of people do you think we are? /Another joker who’s a rock and roll star for you,” followed not long after by, “You bought and sold me with your lying words.” Meanwhile, “Supertzar” forgoes lyrics for vocalizing by the English Chamber Choir.

The heaviness comes in right away with “Hole in the Sky’” – that is, “a gateway to heaven” – although the track quickly drops off into the quiet and folksy “Don’t Star (Too Late),” a brief acoustic number. The other heavy track is “Symptom of the Universe,” a chug rocker. The more melodic “Am I Going Insane (Radio)” ends in weird laughter.

The band would push out two lesser albums – “Technical Ecstasy” in 1976 and “Never Say Die!” in 1978, but the cracks that began showing in 1975 led to Osbourne being fired from the band in April 1979. The remaining members regrouped, added former Rainbow vocalist Ronnie James Dio in June and went on to a creative rebirth with “Heaven and Hell” in 1980 and “Mob Rules” in 1981. Eight years ago, Black Sabbath released “13,” its first album as Black Sabbath in 18 years and the first with Osbourne’s vocals in 35 years.

One of the main reasons to get the new box set is discs two and three, which contain 16 tracks recorded live during the band’s powerful 1975 North American tour. They perform four from the new album, including highlights “Hole in the Sky” and “Megalomania” (now 11 minutes), plus their classics “Snow Blind,” “War Pigs,” “Iron Man,” the ponderous “Black Sabbath” and closer “Paranoid.”  Tony Iommi does an 8:45-long guitar solo and Bill Ward has a couple of mini-drum solos mid-songs as well as his own “jam” solo.

The live recordings were made Aug. 5 at the Convention Hall in Asbury Park, NJ. Thirteen of the tracks see their first release, while “Hole in the Sky,” “Symptom of the Universe” and “Megalomania” previously were released on the live album “Past Lives” in 2002.

The fourth disc is a CD-single of the edited “Am I Going Insane (Radio)” and a shorter “Hole in the Sky,” with sleeve artwork replicating the rare Japanese release of the single. There also are a 1975 replica concert tour book and a 1975 tour color poster. Grade: A

Styx: Crash of the Crown (Alpha Dog 2T/Ume CD, 45 min.). Styx is back with its classic guitar, keyboard and 4- and 5-part harmonies sounds, plus three lead vocalists, all of whom are featured on the title track. However, the music is condensed, with none of the 15 tracks going longer than four minutes. Already released as singles are the title track, released in May, and “Reveries” on June 4.

This is the band’s 17th studio album, which follows “The Mission,” released four years ago this month after a 14-year gap between albums. (There also was the cover album “Big Bang Theory” in 2005.) The current lineup, stable since 2003, includes original members James “JY” Young on guitars and lead and backing vocals and Chuck Panozzo on bass, plus guitarist/vocalist Tommy Shaw, who joined in 1975, drummer Todd Sucherman (1995), keyboardist and vocalist Lawrence Gowan (1999) and bassist Ricky Phillips (2003). Sucherman and Phillips also contribute backing vocals.

Many of the songs deal with the recent and current hard times, but also aim towards a good resolution. It is most bluntly put in “Coming Out the Other Side.” The album starts in progressive fashion with the busy keyboards of “The Fight of Our Lives,” whish is a rallying song, featuring massed vocals and the promise, “We will not give in.” Next up is “The Monster,” whose generic lyrics were the only flaw I found on the album. “Reveries,” featuring Gowan’s vocal, is a good rocker.

“Hold Back the Darkness” has appeal and the highlight “Save Us from Ourselves” features a recording of a Winston Churchill’s speech in two spots. It is all about the USA’s current problems and people having their “heads in the sand.” The title track is amazing as it highlights all three lead vocalists, throws in some disco rhythm and a vocoder, and then has a Freddie Mercury/Queen-like close. “Common Ground,” which has a brief drum solo, is filled with a synthesizer. It is a very positive song and has a guitar solo at the end.

There is 12-string guitar on “Long Live the King,” while “Coming Out the Other Side” has an Indian influence in guest Michael Bahan’s tablas. Steve Patrick plays piccolo trumpet on “Our Wonderful Lives,” another pleasant song with good harmony vocals. The album’s other highlight track is “To Those,” which has classic Styx sounds and vocal harmonies. Grade: A-

Nancy Wilson: You and Me (Carry On Music CD). Guitarist Roger Fisher and bassist Steve Fossen formed Heart in Seattle in 1967, After a couple of name changes and a move to Vancouver, the classic Heart lineup was created with the addition of sisters Ann Wilson (lead vocals, 1971) and Nancy Wilson (rhythm guitar, 1973). The newest version of Heart surfaced in 2019, still led by the Wilson sisters, as it has been since the early 1980s. Remarkably, in al that time, this is Nancy Wilson’s first solo album. Wilson also produced all but one track and wrote or co-wrote eight of the 12 tracks.

Wilson’s guitar playing – acoustic and electric -- is a highlight throughout, but the album leans more towards the quieter side. It opens and closes with tributes. The opening, acoustic title track is about her mother, while the closing “4 Edward” is for the late Eddie Van Halen. Interestingly, “4 Edward” is performed as an instrumental, but the lyric booklet does have lyrics for the piece. Reaching back a bit, Wilson wrote “The Dragon” in the 1990s for Alice in Chains’ Layne Staley.

Several of the songs are cowritten with Sue Ennis, who started writing with the Wilsons about the time of Heart’s fourth album, “Dog & Butterfly” (1978). Ennis also performs on “You and Me.” Other notable contributors are drummer Taylor Hawkins of the Foo Fighters and guitarist Duff McKagan of Guns N’ Roses, who co-wrote and perform on “Party at the Angel Ballroom,” an outstanding rock track that starts with a rock drum beat. Singer Sammy Hagar contributes to “The Boxer,” the Paul Simon song recorded by Simon & Garfunkel. It is another acoustic track.

The other covers are Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising,” with Wilson going for atmosphere here; Pearl Jam’s “Daughter,” which nicely rocks out after the soft opening verse; and the Cranberries’ “Dreams,” featuring Liv Warfield, formerly part of Prince’s New Power Generation and Roadcase Royale, a band formed with Nancy Wilson and other members of Heart.

Other worthwhile tracks include “I’ll Find You,” the midtempo “Walk Away,” with its rock break towards the end, and “The Inbetween,” which features more keyboard. B+

Joe Jackson & Todd Rundgren featuring Ethel: State Theater, New Jersey 2005 (Purple Pyramid, DVD + 2 CDs, 160 min. each format). This is an interesting collaborative concert in which the less ubiquitous Jackson, I think, outshines Rundgren in their 51-minutes-apiece solo portions. Rundgren, who turned 73 on June 22, is having the bigger year though, as he will be inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame this fall.

The show opens with five instrumentals performed by the string quartet Ethel, including the Indian influenced “Alap,” written by group violinist Todd Reynolds. They also perform the brief Finnish fiddle number “Pelimanni’s Revenge” and two pieces by John King, one of which was used by HBO for its promos for “Deadwood.” The 32-minute set is very good, although it seems initially to be a strange part of the show, but more on that later.

Next up is Jackson, who does a superb set of 10 originals and a cover of Jon Lennon’s “Girl,” dome more dramatically. His set opens with “Hometown,” which directly leads into his 1982 hit, “Steppin’ Out.” Jackson, who stays on the piano throughout, also does his two other hits, “It’s Different for Girls” (1979)” and “Is She Really Going Out with Him” (1979, his first release).

Twenty years after his original band broke up, they reunited for album “Volume 4” (2003; remember, then recent as the concert is April 2005), from which Jackson performs the fine “Awkward Age,” “Take It Like a Man” and “Love at First Light.” Another great melody is served up with “Be My Number Two” and he performs the then-new, unrecorded “Citizen Sane.”  Throughout his set, Jackson is engaging with the audience, who sing along to “Is She Really Going Out with Him.”

Rundgren then takes the stage, also solo, for 11 originals. At times, such as the opening “Love of the Common Man,” his voice seems a bit harsh. It seems less affected on the softer numbers. Highlights include the going-to-war song “Lysistrata” (1982, written with his Utopia bandmates); “Tiny Demons,” on which his vocal is echoed; a fun “Bang the Drum All Day,” played on ukulele; his strong rock guitar on “Black and White”; and his closer, “The Wheel.” “Compassion” and his hit, “Hello It’s Me,” bookend three songs he performs at piano.

The encore begins with Ethel backing Jackson on “The Other Me,” then Ethel backing Rundgren on “Pretending to Care.” The musicians mesh together wonderfully. Everyone joins in for a cover of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and Rundgren’s “Black Maria” for a superb ending to the show. Grade: A-

Horrorpops: Live at the Wiltern (Cleopatra/MVD Visual, CD + DVD + Blu-ray, 68 min. each format). Horrorpops is a Danish trio formed in 1996 in Copenhagen. The group blends 1980s new wave, punk, rockabilly, surf and ska for a crowd-pleasing mix and, yes, there is some moshing in the audience. The band includes Patricia Day (lead vocals, stand-up bass), guitarist Kim Nekroman – the two are married – and drummer Henrik “Niedermeier” Stendahl. Day comes from a new wave background, Nekroman from psychobilly and Stendahl from punk. Interestingly, Nekroman and Day switched instruments when forming the band so their work would sound different from their previous bands. Nekroman also is the lead singer and bassist of the band Nekromantix.

The concert actually marked the band’s return from a nine-year hiatus. Fifteen years earlier, their first show in Los Angeles also was at the Wiltern, only as an opening act.

The energy is high throughout, as 18 numbers and the intro are packed into 68 minutes. Highlights include “Julia,” “Thelma and Louise” with its good beat, “Hit N Run,” “Missfit” (think Stray Cats), “Psychob****es Outta Hell” and “Ghouls” The band turns to ska for “Girl in a Cage,” which also has a short guitar solo. Helping out the colorful show are two dancers/backup singers.

Unfortunately, at times the show is hard to watch due to all the quick cuts that director Vincente Cordero makes. A worthwhile bonus is a 27:45 sit-down interview with the band. There also is a slide show bonus. Grade B