Live Evil is the first official live album by Black Sabbath. The sleeve states the album was recorded in Seattle, San Antonio and Dallas on the Mob Rules tour. It was released in December of 1982.
Live Evil should have been cause for celebration but instead it split the group’s second lineup right down the middle! Tensions were already at an all-time high during the final mixing for the album even as former frontman Ozzy Osbourne was in a bad way, struggling, trying to dealing with the tragic death of guitarist and friend Randy Rhoads. Founding Sabbath members Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler accused singer Ronnie James Dio of sneaking into the studio after hours to raise the volume on his vocal tracks. And he, supposedly also suspected them of doing the same with their guitar and bass parts. Guilty or not, Ronnie finally had enough, so he quit the band and decided to pursue a solo career, taking along drummer Vinny Appice with him. And of course Dio — the band was born to critical acclaim with 1983’s Holy Diver.
Overall Live Evil is a pretty solid live album with spot on performances and pristine in-your-face sound, that showcases equal amounts of both Ozzy and Dio era Sabbath material. Ronnie definitely has the vocal chops and charm, to handle the Ozzy classics, but in all honestly his banter between and during songs is sometimes annoying. By far one of the highlights of the album is the extended “Heaven and Hell”/”Sign of the Southern Cross” suite that clocks in at almost 20 minutes with a great guitar solo by Iommi! And there are also solid interpretations of metal classics like “Children of the Sea,” “Black Sabbath,” “War Pigs,” and “Children of the Grave”!
Tony Iommi has said that the decision to release Live Evil was prompted by two factors. The first was the 1980 release of the unsanctioned Black Sabbath – Live at Last album, and the second was Ozzy Osbourne’s own 1982 release, Speak of the Devil, a live album that consisted entirely of Sabbath songs. In his autobiography, Tony confesses that he was “unpleasantly surprised” by this. At the time Ozzy was managed by his wife and manager Sharon who was severely at odds with her father Don Arden, who was managing Sabbath! There was no love lost between the two or between Ozzy and his former band. To say the rivalry was a bit heated would be an understatement. They all pretty much hated each other!
In the end, Live Evil was superior Sales-wise, anyway in the U.K.; while Ozzy’s Speak of the Devil dominated in the U.S.!
The album is included in the Black Sabbath box set The Rules of Hell. *NOTE: the Live Evil album cover features literal interpretations of Sabbath songs.