After Ozzy left Black Sabbath, the band recorded two studio albums with Ronnie James Dio at the helm. Heaven And Hell came out in 1980, and Mob Rules followed in 1981. At the tail end of the Mob Rules tour, a few shows were taped for a live album. It was during the mixing of these tapes that the band split up. By the time the resulting double album Live Evil arrived in 1982, Ronnie James Dio had left the band (and drummer Vinny Appice left with him). The liner notes of the 2008 CD re-issue of Live Evil tells a tale of the turmoil and misunderstandings leading to the break-up. At the time, Black Sabbath had split into two camps — with original members Geezer Butler (bass) and Tony Iommi (guitar) in one corner, and Dio and Appice in the other. Disagreements over how Live Evil was to be mixed may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.
If you listen to Live Evil, you’ll probably agree with me that no one member of Sabbath was short-changed in the mix. However, you can also tell that Geezer and Tony got their way in the end (they are credited as producers). The guitar and bass are very loud and in-your-face. Live Evil starts off very strong. After a short intro called E5150, Sabbath kick into high gear with a killer version of Neon Knights. This is my favorite track off Live Evil. As the album transpires, it is somewhat interesting to hear Dio’s interpretation of Ozzy-era classics like N.I.B., War Pigs, and Children Of The Grave.
Overall there are no real surprises on this set list. Besides the obligatory Ozzy-era classics, the selections from Heaven And Hell and Mob Rules are good ones. The only favorite of mine that is missing is Turn Up The Night. I’m a little disappointed that some of the songs are extended unnecessarily, and that main riff to Voodoo (one of my favorite Sabbath riffs) sounds a little muddy live. Dio, for his part, was in fine voice — but a bit of a ham on the microphone at times.
Given the material presented on Live Evil, as well as the talent in the band at the time, one might expect to be blown away by this double LP. But I can’t say that’s the case with me. In fact, I much prefer the live Ozzy Osbourne album from the same year called Speak Of The Devil (which consisted entirely of Black Sabbath material). Speak Of The Devil featured Ozzy as high as a f*cking kite but still sounding great, while a then-unknown named Brad Gillis (later to become famous with Night Ranger) performed admirably on guitar. My score: B