Vol. 4 (Black Sabbath album)

Vol. 4 is the fourth studio album by English heavy metal band Black Sabbath, released in September 1972. It was the first album by Black Sabbath not produced by Rodger Bain; guitarist Tony Iommi assumed production duties. Patrick Meehan, the band's then-manager, was listed as co-producer, though his actual involvement in the album's production was minimal.

Vol. 4
Studio album by
ReleasedSeptember 1972 (1972-09)[1]
RecordedMay–June 1972[2]
StudioRecord Plant (Los Angeles)
GenreHeavy metal[3]
Black Sabbath chronology
Master of Reality
Vol. 4
Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
Singles from Vol. 4
  1. "Tomorrow's Dream"
    Released: 22 September 1972[4]

Recording edit

Though the production of Vol. 4 is officially credited to Black Sabbath and Patrick Meehan, the bulk of the actual production was performed by guitarist Tony Iommi.[2] "It's the first album we've produced ourselves," said vocalist Ozzy Osbourne in 1972. "Previously we had Rodger Bain as a producer – and, although he's very good, he didn't really feel what the band was doing. It was a matter of communication. This time, we did it with Patrick (Meehan), our manager, and I think we're all very happy… It was great to work in an American studio."[5] Meehan had little actual involvement in the album's production but nonetheless insisted he be listed as producer, according to Iommi.[2]

The recording was plagued with problems, many due to substance abuse. In the studio, the band regularly had speaker boxes full of cocaine delivered.[2]

Struggling to record "Cornucopia" after "sitting in the middle of the room, just doing drugs",[6] drummer Bill Ward feared that he was about to be fired: "I hated the song, there were some patterns that were just horrible. I nailed it in the end, but the reaction I got was the cold shoulder from everybody. It was like 'Well, just go home, you're not being of any use right now.' I felt like I'd blown it, I was about to get fired."[7] According to the book How Black Was Our Sabbath, Ward "was always a drinker, but rarely appeared drunk. Retrospectively, that might have been a danger sign. Now, his self-control was clearly slipping." Iommi claims in his autobiography that Ward almost died after a prank-gone-wrong during recording. The Bel Air mansion the band was renting belonged to John du Pont and the band found several spray cans of gold DuPont paint in a room of the house; finding Ward naked and unconscious after drinking heavily, they proceeded to cover the drummer in gold paint from head to toe.

In his autobiography I Am Ozzy, Osbourne speaks at length about the sessions: "In spite of all the arsing around, musically those few weeks in Bel Air were the strongest we'd ever been." But he admits, "Eventually we started to wonder where the fuck all the coke was coming from ... that coke was the whitest, purest, strongest stuff you could ever imagine. One sniff, and you were king of the universe." During a show in support of Vol. 4 at the Hollywood Bowl, the cocaine abuse caught up to Iommi. "Tony had been doing coke literally for days. We all had, but Tony had gone over the edge. He walked off the stage and collapsed," said Osbourne. During soundcheck earlier that same day, a crazed Christian man attempted to storm the stage and stab Iommi with a dagger, but he was tackled by members of the band's crew. According to Butler, "we wanted to take a break" at that point.[8]

Osbourne also recounts the band's ongoing anxiety over the possibility of being busted, which worsened after they went to the cinema to see The French Connection (1971), about undercover New York City cops busting an international heroin-smuggling ring. "By the time the credits rolled," Osbourne recalled, "I was hyperventilating." In 2013, Butler admitted to Mojo magazine that heroin, too, had entered the picture: "We sniffed it, we never shot up ... I didn't realise how nuts things had gotten until I went home and the girl I was with didn't recognise me."

Composition edit

Vol. 4 saw Black Sabbath beginning to experiment with the heavy sound they had become known for. In June 2013 Mojo declared, "If booze and dope had helped fuel Sabbath's earlier albums, Vol. 4 is their cocaine ... Despite their spiraling addictions, musically Vol. 4 is another ambitious outing. The band's heavy side remains intact on the likes of 'Tomorrow's Dream', 'Cornucopia' and the seismic 'Supernaut' (a firm favorite of Frank Zappa, featuring Bill Ward's soul-inspired breakdown), but the guitar intro on 'St. Vitus Dance' possesses a jaunty, Led Zeppelin-flavoured quality, while 'Laguna Sunrise' is an evocative neo-classical Iommi instrumental." After being up all night and watching the sunrise at Laguna Beach, Iommi composed the song.[2] In the studio, an orchestra accompanied Iommi's guitar, although they refused to perform until their parts were properly written out.[2] The same orchestra performed on "Snowblind".[2]

"Snowblind" is the band's most obvious reference to cocaine, their drug of choice during this period. Snowblind was also the album's working title, but Vertigo Records executives were reluctant to release an album with such an obvious drug reference.[2] The liner notes thank "the great COKE-cola"[2] and, in his autobiography, Osbourne notes, "Snowblind was one of Black Sabbath's best-ever albums – although the record company wouldn't let us keep the title, 'cos in those days cocaine was a big deal, and they didn't want the hassle of a controversy. We didn't argue."

Although most of the album is in the band's trademark heavy style, some songs demonstrate a more sensitive approach. "Changes", for example, written by Iommi with lyrics by Butler, is a piano ballad with mellotron. Iommi taught himself to play the piano after finding one in the ballroom of the Bel-Air mansion they were renting. It was on this piano that "Changes" was composed.[2] "Tony just sat down at the piano and came up with this beautiful riff," Osbourne writes in his memoir. "I hummed a melody over the top, and Geezer wrote these heartbreaking lyrics about the break-up Bill was going through with his wife. I thought that was brilliant from the moment we recorded it."

"FX" came about unexpectedly in the studio. After smoking hashish, the crucifix hanging from Iommi's neck accidentally struck the strings of his guitar and the band took an interest in the odd sound produced.[2] An echo effect was added and the band proceeded to hit the guitar with various objects to generate odd sound effects. Iommi calls the song "a total joke".[2]

Of "Wheels of Confusion", Henry Rollins said: "It's about alienation and being lost in the wheels of confusion, which is the way I find myself a lot of the time. Sabbath could be my favourite band. It's the ultimate lonely man's rock. There's something about their music that's so painful and yet so powerful."[9]

The album, Tony Iommi told Circus's sister magazine Circus Raves, "was such a complete change – we felt we had jumped an album, really ... We had tried to go too far."[10]

Artwork edit

Sleeve Photo

The album cover features a monochrome photograph of Ozzy Osbourne with hands raised throwing the peace sign,[11] taken during a Black Sabbath concert at Birmingham Town Hall in January 1972 by Keith McMillan (credited as Keef).[12] The album's original release (on Vertigo in the UK, on Warner Bros. in the United States and on Nippon Phonogram in Japan) features a gatefold sleeve with a page glued into the middle. Each band member is given his own photo page, with the band on-stage at the very centre. All photos were from the aforementioned Birmingham gig.

The album's original cover art has proved iconic, and has been imitated and parodied on numerous occasions, such as on the 1992 Peaceville Volume 4 compilation album, the 1992 Volume Two EP by the band Sleep, Longmont Potion Castle Vol. 4 by the prank caller Longmont Potion Castle, and the 1994 Planet Caravan EP by Pantera.

The U.S. 8-track tape and cassette releases of the album feature alternate artwork: a yellow background with Ozzy silhouetted in black.

Release and reception edit

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
(super deluxe)[13]
Review scores
AllMusic     [14]
Classic Rock     [15]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music     [16]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide     [18]
Rolling Stonefavourable[19]
Spin Alternative Record Guide8/10[20]

Vol. 4 was released in September 1972, and while most critics of the era were dismissive of the album, it achieved gold status in less than a month, and was the band's fourth consecutive release to sell one million copies in the United States.[22] It reached number 13 on Billboard's pop album chart[23] and number 8 on the UK Albums Chart.[24] The song "Tomorrow's Dream" was released as a single but failed to chart.[25] Following an extensive tour of the United States, the band toured Australia for the first time in 1973, and later Europe.

Rock critic Lester Bangs, who had derided the band's earlier albums, applauded Vol. 4, writing in Creem, "We have seen the Stooges take on the night ferociously and go tumbling into the maw, and Alice Cooper is currently exploiting it for all it's worth, turning it into a circus. But there's only one band that's dealt with it honestly on terms meaningful to vast portions of the audience, not only grappling with it in a mythic structure that's both personal and powerful but actually managing to prosper as well. And that band is Black Sabbath." Bangs also compared the band's lyrics to those of Bob Dylan and William S. Burroughs. In June 2000, Q[26] placed Vol. 4 at number 60 in its list of The 100 Greatest British Albums Ever[27] and described the album as "the sound of drug-taking, beer-guzzling hooligans from Britain's oft-pilloried cultural armpit let loose in LA." In his 2013 biography on the band Black Sabbath: Symptom of the Universe, Mick Wall insists "Under the Sun" would become the "sonic signpost" for bands that would follow Sabbath in years to come, such as Iron Maiden and Metallica. Frank Zappa has identified "Supernaut" as one of his all-time favorites.[28] (In a 1994 interview with Guitar for the Practicing Musician, Butler revealed, "I loved Zappa's lyric approach. That influenced me lyrically, definitely.") "Supernaut" was also one of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham's favourite songs.[29]

Kerrang! magazine listed the album at No. 48 among the "100 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums of All Time".[30] Rolling Stone ranked it 14th on their 2017 list of "100 Greatest Metal Albums of All Time".[31] The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[32]

Thomas Gabriel Fischer of Triptykon and previously frontman of Hellhammer and Celtic Frost cited Vol. 4 as highly influential on his musical formation and stated he "learned to play guitar from that album".[33]

Track listing edit

All music was written by Black Sabbath (Geezer Butler, Tony Iommi, Ozzy Osbourne and Bill Ward); all lyrics by Geezer Butler. Some North American pressings have parts of the songs titled as "The Straightener" and "Every Day Comes and Goes"; the former is the coda of "Wheels of Confusion", while the latter is a two-minute segment that serves as the bridge for "Under the Sun".[34] These parts are not titled on original releases or any European release.

Side A
1."Wheels of Confusion"8:02
2."Tomorrow's Dream"3:12
4."FX" (instrumental)1:44
Side B
8."Laguna Sunrise" (instrumental)2:53
9."St. Vitus Dance"2:30
10."Under the Sun"5:53
Total length:42:18
2021 Vol. 4 Super Deluxe, Disc Two (Outtakes, New Mixes)
1."Wheels of Confusion"8:14
5."Laguna Sunrise"2:31
6."Under the Sun" (instrumental)3:44
Total length:24:26
2021 Vol. 4 Super Deluxe, Disc Three (Alternative Takes, False Starts & Studio Dialogue)
1."Wheels of Confusion" (False Start with Studio Dialogue)0:26
2."Wheels of Confusion" (Alternative Take 1)4:03
3."Wheels of Confusion" (Alternative Take 2)5:20
4."Wheels of Confusion" (Alternative Take 3)5:24
5."Wheels of Confusion" (Alternative Take 4)5:30
6."The Straightener" (Outtake)3:18
7."Supernaut" (Outtake)5:10
8."Supernaut" (Alternative Takes with False Starts)13:26
9."Snowblind" (Alternative Take 1 - Incomplete)3:30
10."Under the Sun" (False Start with Studio Dialogue)2:00
11."Under the Sun" (Alternative Take with Guide Vocal)3:44
Total length:51:53
2021 Vol. 4 Super Deluxe, Disc Four (Live in the UK 1973)
1."Tomorrow's Dream"3:21
2."Sweet Leaf"5:31
3."War Pigs"7:52
5."Killing Yourself to Live"5:45
7."Wicked World / Guitar Solo / Orchid / Into the Void / Sometimes I'm Happy"19:57
8."Supernaut / Drum Solo"3:57
9."Wicked World" (Reprise)2:17
11."Children of the Grave"5:37
Total length:69:04
  • Discs two and three of the 2021 Super Deluxe edition feature alternate versions from the May 1972 recording sessions that have been mixed in 2020 by Steven Wilson.
  • Disc four of the 2021 Super Deluxe edition features live recordings from two performances from 1973 that have been mixed in 2020 by Richard Digby-Smith. Tracks 1–4 and 7–12 were recorded on 16 March 1973 at the Rainbow Theatre in London, England, and tracks 5–6 were recorded on 11 March 1973 at the Hardrock Concert Theatre in Manchester, England. Tracks 3 and 5–12 were previously released on the 1980 live album Live at Last, while tracks 1, 2 and 4 were previously unreleased. The March 11 and 16 concerts were originally recorded for use in a planned live album release, but the project was ultimately scrapped despite its plans being already promoted in UK newspaper articles. The master tapes of the March 11 and 16 recordings were taken out and remastered for accurately compiling a complete 1973 concert setlist for the 2021 Volume 4 Super Deluxe release.[35]

Personnel edit

Black Sabbath


Charts edit

Chart (1972) Peak
Australian Albums (Kent Music Report)[36] 1
Canada Top Albums/CDs (RPM)[37] 5
Finnish Albums (The Official Finnish Charts)[38] 2
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[39] 8
Italian Albums (Musica e Dischi)[40] 18
Japanese Albums (Oricon)[41] 46
Norwegian Albums (VG-lista)[42] 7
UK Albums (OCC)[43] 5
US Billboard 200[44] 13
Chart (2021) Peak
Austrian Albums (Ö3 Austria)[45] 58
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Wallonia)[46] 142
Scottish Albums (OCC)[47] 32
Swedish Hard Rock Albums (Sverigetopplistan)[48] 1
Swedish Physical Albums (Sverigetopplistan)[49] 3
Swedish Vinyl Albums (Sverigetopplistan)[50] 2
Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade)[51] 17
UK Independent Albums (OCC)[52] 12
UK Rock & Metal Albums (OCC)[53] 4

Certifications edit

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[54] Platinum 100,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[55] Gold 100,000
United States (RIAA)[56] Platinum 1,000,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

References edit

  1. ^ "Great Rock discography". p. 68.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Iommi, Tony (2011). Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven and Hell with Black Sabbath. Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0306819551.
  3. ^ "The 100 Greatest Metal Albums of All time". Rolling Stone. Penske Media Corporation. 21 June 2017. Archived from the original on 12 February 2021. Retrieved 2 October 2021.
  4. ^ "Black sabbath singles". Archived from the original on 2 June 2021. Retrieved 30 May 2021.
  5. ^ "Sabbath – Clocking on in the States". Sounds #36. 30 September 1972.
  6. ^ Rosen 1996, p. 73
  7. ^ Rosen 1996, pp. 73–74
  8. ^ Berry, Alan. "Sabotage - The Documentary". The Tapes Archive. Retrieved 16 January 2022.
  9. ^ unsourced clipping, probably from Melody Maker, reproduced in Sabbath fanzine Southern Cross #12, January 1994, p6
  10. ^ Circus Raves No. 119, October 1975
  11. ^ "The Book of Seth: Black Sabbath - Vol 4". Julian Cope presents Head Heritage. Archived from the original on 10 April 2019. Retrieved 10 April 2019.
  12. ^ Grow, Kory (13 February 2020). "'That Evil Kind of Feeling': The Inside Story of Black Sabbath's Iconic Cover Art". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 14 February 2020. Retrieved 20 February 2020.
  13. ^ "Vol. 4 [Super Deluxe Edition] [Box Set] by Black Sabbath Reviews and Tracks". Metacritic. Archived from the original on 16 November 2021. Retrieved 3 October 2021.
  14. ^ Huey, Steve. "Review Black Sabbath, Vol. 4". AllMusic. Retrieved 25 August 2009.
  15. ^ Rock, Classic (14 January 2020). "Black Sabbath - Vol. 4 Album Of The Week Club review". Loudersound. Archived from the original on 29 January 2020. Retrieved 29 January 2020.
  16. ^ C. Strong, Martin (2002). Encyclopedia of Popular Music. Canongate. ISBN 1852279230.
  17. ^ Collins, Sean T. (4 March 2021). "Black Sabbath: Vol. 4 (Super Deluxe) Album Review". Pitchfork. Archived from the original on 3 October 2021. Retrieved 3 October 2021.
  18. ^ "Black Sabbath: Album Guide". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 6 March 2011. Retrieved 5 June 2012.
  19. ^ Clark, Tom (7 December 1972). "Review Black Sabbath Vol. 4" Archived 5 April 2017 at the Wayback Machine. Rolling Stone. Retrieved 24 February 2012.
  20. ^ Weisbard, Eric; Marks, Craig (1995). Spin Alternative Record Guide. Vintage Books. ISBN 1841955515.
  21. ^ "Black Sabbath Vol. 4". Sputnikmusic. 9 February 2008. Archived from the original on 31 December 2021. Retrieved 29 January 2020.
  22. ^ Ruhlmann, William. "AMG Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 14 February 2008.
  23. ^ "AllMusic Billboard albums". Retrieved 29 January 2009.
  24. ^ "UK chart history – Black Sabbath Vol. 4". Official Charts Company. Archived from the original on 4 April 2015. Retrieved 11 October 2011.
  25. ^ "Billboard Black Sabbath chart history". Billboard.com. Retrieved 17 March 2008.
  26. ^ Q Magazine, issue No. 165, June 2000, p. 69
  27. ^ "Rock List Music". Rock List Music. Archived from the original on 26 November 2007. Retrieved 17 August 2011.
  28. ^ Black Sabbath Vol. 4 2009 reissue booklet, page 11
  29. ^ "BILL WARD Talks About Legendary BLACK SABBATH/LED ZEPPELIN Jam Session". Blabbermouth.net. Roadrunner Records. 31 July 2011. Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 8 October 2013.
  30. ^ Hotten, Jon (21 January 1989). "Black Sabbath 'Vol. 4'". Kerrang!. Vol. 222. London, UK: Spotlight Publications Ltd.
  31. ^ Grow, Kory (21 June 2017). "100 Greatest Metal Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media LLC. Archived from the original on 2 July 2019. Retrieved 22 June 2017.
  32. ^ Robert Dimery; Michael Lydon (7 February 2006). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die: Revised and Updated Edition. Universe. ISBN 0-7893-1371-5.
  33. ^ "Interview: Tom Gabriel Fischer". hit-channel.com. 14 April 2012. Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 10 June 2014.
  34. ^ Joel McIver Black Sabbath: Sabbath Bloody Sabbath 2007 "St Vitus Dance. it serves as a perfect intro to 'Under The Sun', which drags into life with a weighty, down-tuned intro that is the heaviest metal that Sabbath has attempted to date. Not one but two tempo accelerations follow in the next two minutes, .... instrumental outro – often given its own independent title, this time 'Every Day Comes And Goes' – finishes the album off."
  35. ^ Volume 4 Super Deluxe (2021). Rhino Records. p. 34.
  36. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 19. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  37. ^ "Top RPM Albums: Issue 4586". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved October 30, 2023.
  38. ^ Pennanen, Timo (2006). Sisältää hitin – levyt ja esittäjät Suomen musiikkilistoilla vuodesta 1972 (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Helsinki: Kustannusosakeyhtiö Otava. ISBN 978-951-1-21053-5.
  39. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de – Black Sabbath – Vol 4" (in German). GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved October 30, 2023.
  40. ^ "Classifiche". Musica e Dischi (in Italian). Retrieved 27 May 2022. Set "Tipo" on "Album". Then, in the "Artista" field, search "Black Sabbath".
  41. ^ Oricon Album Chart Book: Complete Edition 1970–2005 (in Japanese). Roppongi, Tokyo: Oricon Entertainment. 2006. ISBN 4-87131-077-9.
  42. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – Black Sabbath – Vol 4". Hung Medien. Retrieved October 30, 2023.
  43. ^ "Official Albums Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved October 30, 2023.
  44. ^ "Black Sabbath Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved October 30, 2023.
  45. ^ "Austriancharts.at – Black Sabbath – Vol 4" (in German). Hung Medien. Retrieved October 30, 2023.
  46. ^ "Ultratop.be – Black Sabbath – Vol 4" (in French). Hung Medien. Retrieved October 30, 2023.
  47. ^ "Official Scottish Albums Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved October 30, 2023.
  48. ^ "Veckolista Hårdrock, vecka 7" (in Swedish). Sverigetopplistan. Archived from the original on 18 April 2021. Retrieved 18 April 2021.
  49. ^ "Veckolista Album Fysiskt, vecka 7" (in Swedish). Sverigetopplistan. Archived from the original on 18 April 2021. Retrieved 18 April 2021.
  50. ^ "Veckolista Vinyl, vecka 7" (in Swedish). Sverigetopplistan. Archived from the original on 18 April 2021. Retrieved 18 April 2021.
  51. ^ "Swisscharts.com – Black Sabbath – Vol 4". Hung Medien. Retrieved October 30, 2023.
  52. ^ "Official Independent Albums Chart Top 50". Official Charts Company. Retrieved October 30, 2023.
  53. ^ "Official Rock & Metal Albums Chart Top 40". Official Charts Company. Retrieved October 30, 2023.
  54. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Black Sabbath – Volume 4". Music Canada.
  55. ^ "British album certifications – Black Sabbath – Vol 4". British Phonographic Industry.
  56. ^ "American album certifications – Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath - Vol. 4". Recording Industry Association of America.

Notes edit

  • A ^ Original North American Warner Bros. Records pressings of Vol. 4 (catalog no. BS 2602) incorrectly list "Cornucopia"'s running time as 4:52.

Bibliography edit

  • Rosen, Steven (1996). The Story of Black Sabbath: Wheels of Confusion. Castle Communications. ISBN 1-86074-149-5.
  • Chow, Jason (2006). Dimery, Robert (ed.). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. Quintet Publishing Limited. ISBN 0-7893-1371-5.

External links edit