Universal Music Group and the Sanctuary Records Group have released in the UK a three-disc special edition of Black Sabbath’s influential second album, Paranoid. This new version of the album features the original album, plus bonus versions of all the songs, a DVD containing a “Quadraphonic mix” apparently made in 1974, and expanded liner notes, in new packaging (see “What’s Included” below).
At least two more albums from the early Black Sabbath catalog are slated for release as Deluxe Editions*: Master of Reality: Deluxe Edition and Black Sabbath: Deluxe Edition are both slated for release in the UK on June 30, 2009, although those are being issued as double-CD sets not featuring bonus DVDs [edit: Amazon states that they will not be available until August 12, although June 30 is still listed on the Amazon product pages].
Paranoid: Deluxe Expanded Edition Disc 1 contains the original album recording, apparently as issued in 1970. The CD’s booklet refers to remastering but it’s not specified whether this applies to the first disc or the others (or all three). However, having listened to the first disc on studio-quality headphones, I can safely say that this sounds like a remaster to me (although I have not done a comparison to earlier versions, I’m simply going on memory, having listened to this Sabbath album hundreds of times).
Interestingly, I noticed that two of the songs on Disc 1 are listed strangely when imported into iTunes. The meta data embedded on the CD lists “War Pigs/Luke’s Wall” and “Jack the Stripper/Fairies Wear Boots” as the titles of the songs normally known simply as “War Pigs” and “Fairies Wear Boots.” Edit: According to Wikipedia: “…The outro to ‘War Pigs’ has its own name, ‘Luke’s Wall’ (named in homage to the band’s two-man road crew, Geoff ‘Luke’ Lucas and Spock Wall) and features a more melodic tone than the rest of the song…” and “…‘Fairies Wear Boots’…contains an instrumental at the beginning called ‘Jack the Stripper,’ which contains a piece of the guitar solo of their self-titled song [Black Sabbath].”
Disc 2 is a DVD containing the entire original album, but featuring a Quadraphonic mix apparently done in 1974 (so says the CD packaging). Quadraphonic was an early four-channel surround sound technology in wider use in the 1970s, but this DVD touts 5.1 STS audio (5.1 channels of sound sound similar to Dolby technology), as well as a separate 2.0 LPCM stereo track (LPCM is a lossless compression file format). So, presumably the Quadraphonic mix from 1974 was also remastered for this new Deluxe Edition.
The 5.1 surround sound audio won’t really do you any good unless you have a home theater setup that permits this type of listening, usually consisting of five or six speakers. Listening to this audio track through a normal two-channel stereo system will actually give what is often considered a rather consternating experience, as the two-channel setup will seem to drop certain tracks from the music, like a guitar fill here or a vocal overlay there. This happens because those audio tracks have been ported out, during the remix, to separate speakers you don’t have, so they’ll be barely audible, if at all, on two speakers or headphones.
Disc 2 is for use in a DVD player (preferably one hooked up to a home theater with surround sound, although it’ll play in your DVD-enabled computer too), and navigated using a familiar graphical DVD menu. From the initial menu, you can select Play, Tracklisting [sic], or Audio. Play will simply begin the audio from the first track, playing straight through like a movie would. Tracklisting lets you choose which song to play, and Audio lets you select whether to play the DTS 5.1 or 2.0 Stereo versions.
During the DVD’s audio playback, you’re treated to a visual slideshow of band photographs and various international album covers of the Paranoid record and singles, presented in a style similar to a screensaver. The visuals seem to vary whether you choose Play or start from Tracklisting. Not particularly groundbreaking, but a nice touch.
Suffice it to say, the bonus DVD is great for audiophiles or the completist Black Sabbath collector, but not particularly suited for a general audience.
Disc 3 contains bonus alternate versions of all the original tracks. There are instrumental versions of “War Pigs,” “Iron Man,” “Electric Funeral,” “Hand of Doom,” and “Fairies Wear Boots.” Most of these sound very similar to the normal album tracks, and you can even hear Ozzy’s vocal track dialed way back in the mix of “War Pigs” (or maybe just leaking from the vocal booth?), so it seems these were alternate takes recorded during the same sessions, or in some cases perhaps the exact album cuts, just without the vocal tracks. Most noticeably different are some of the bass lines played by Geezer Butler in “War Pigs.” When not overlaid by the vocal track, Geezer’s inventive playing really shines here.
The other songs on Disc 3, “Paranoid” and “Planet Caravan,” are listed as “Alternate lyrics” versions. I must say the alternate lyrics for “Paranoid” definitely aren’t as good; not by a long shot. One must wonder whether the Sabbath legend would have risen the same way if these alternate versions had made their way onto the final album, or whether Paranoid would have been one of the first famous “sophomore slumps.”
The alternate version of “Planet Caravan” notably omits the effects from Ozzy’s voice, making for a pretty different song compared to what longtime fans have been used to.
Disc 3’s version of “Rat Salad” is a slightly different mix, one which seems to contain less noise, and a few other minor differences.
[this part of the review omitted]
* The release is alternately referred to as “Deluxe Expanded Edition” (because that’s what’s printed on the actual CD package’s spine), and “Deluxe Edition” (because that’s what’s printed on the CD package’s plastic sleeve and is also how it’s referred to by Amazon).