As we celebrate fifty years of Black Sabbath, including the forty-ninth anniversary of their debut album, we are seeing a lot of outpouring of love and respect across music. One really interesting tribute is from mega fan Michael Suilleabhain. Hailing from West Cork, Ireland. By day he is Irish Nuclear Construction Safety Inspector, but by night Michael is a music producer and singer with big dreams. One dream he willed into reality was an all-star tribute to his favorite band, Ninth Star (PHD). Amassing ten former members across every lineup of the band, Emerald Sabbath features Adam Wakeman (Black Sabbath/Ozzy Osbourne), Bev Bevan (Black Sabbath/ELO), Neil Murray (Black Sabbath/Whitesnake), Terry Chimes (Black Sabbath/The Clash), Laurence Cottle (Black Sabbath/The Alan Parsons Project), Ron Keel (Black Sabbath/Ron Keel Band), Vinny Appice (Black Sabbath/Heaven & Hell), Dave Walker (Black Sabbath/Fleetwood Mac), Bobby Rondinelli (Black Sabbath/Rainbow), Tony Martin (Black Sabbath/Headless Cross), Rudy Sarzo (Ozzy Osbourne/Whitesnake) and The English Chamber Choir. Other Emerald Sabbath contributors include Will Malone and Mike Lewis (Sabotage/Technical Ecstasy) Mike Exeter (Black Sabbath/Judas Priest), Jeremy J. Lewis (Headless Cross), Mike Lewis (‘She’s Gone’) Skaila Kang (Royal Academy Of Music) as well as Sabbath album graphic designers Richard Manning and Colin Elgie (Technical Ecstasy) and Hugh Gilmour (Born Again). It’s an impressive feat to have united these forces for this album, but do they pass muster.
Well-produced and well executed, the tracks on Ninth Star don’t always sizzle and pop as much as they have somber respect to them. Sure a few tracks are firey and exciting, but most of the songs herein are contemplative deep cuts and instrumentals. Individually, the tracks are very good, well crafted, and enjoyable.
The real highlights are Ron Keel led worshiping ‘Die Young’ and ‘Trashed’. Keel has an indefatigable voice and does justice to these tracks. He is a least solid on ‘Hole In The Sky’ although he is testing the top of his range since the original was so high in key. Unsung belter Tony Martin gets a take on Glen Hughes-era underrated classic ‘In For the Kill’. Such a baddass track, maybe the best on here. David Walker’s vocals bring a haunted, lonely baritone to ‘She’s Gone’. Another winner of a track. Suilleabhain, himself largely an unknown as a singer does a fair job with ‘Changes’, compared with some all-time greats here. Very solid all around.
The downside is other than a spare moment here and there, almost all of these songs are rote covers of the originals. It’s tough to cover such iconic material in the first place, especially stuff that has been done ad infinitum already. So some creative license would have been appreciated if a few of the tracks were a little out of the box or experimental. Still, the love put on for Sabbath, the fine performances of those assembled, and the generally high quality of the material makes this a must-have for die-hard fans, and a maybe for curious completists.
7 / 10