Throughout the entire month of ‘Sabb’tember I will be serving up songs from significant releases by Black Sabbath, Ozzy, Dio, Black Label Society and others off the Sabbath Family Tree!
Never Say Die! which was released 28 September 1978, was the final studio album by Black Sabbath’s original lineup and also the last to feature original vocalist Ozzy Osbourne, that is until 2013’s aptly titled 13.
Critics called it unbalanced, scattering its energy in too many directions. Which is actually a pretty good assessment. The original lineup of Ozzy, Geezer, Iommi and Ward was on its last legs when they went into the studio to cut the album in early ’78. It was their eighth album in as many years and they were simply tapped out, not to mention terribly hobbled by cocaine and alcohol abuse. The Ramones had opened up for them on their last tour, and the band started to realize that their sound was a little dare I say “outdated”. A burned-out Ozzy had quit the group shortly before recording began, so Tony Iommi turned to former Savoy Brown and Fleetwood Mac vocalist Dave Walker. “We were grasping at straws,” Iommi wrote in his memoir Iron Man. “We have a studio booked and no singer!” They played with Walker on a single TV show and cut a few songs with him, but then Ozzy finally came to his senses and returned. They started from scratch, but nobody was really happy. “It’s hard to relate to that album,” says Tony. “It was a bitter time for us.” Despite the endless problems, the LP has some very nice moments, particularly the title track and “A Hard Road.”
“Never Say Die” is the title track from Sabbath’s 1978 album of the same name. And it was their first UK single to chart since “Paranoid” in 1970, peaking at 21.
“A Hard Road” is the second single from Black Sabbath’s Never Say Die! album, the first of course being the album’s title track. It reached 33 on the UK singles charts and was the last single recorded with Ozzy on vocals until “Psycho Man” in 1998 for the Reunion album.
Never Say Die! went gold in November 1997, more than 19 years after it was originally released and it is still widely considered by many as the least successful album of the original Ozzy era right above or below (depending on who you talk to) their second to last effort 1976’s Technical Ecstasy. A least the cover and sleeve artwork for the album was cool (again created by London art group Hipgnosis) featuring ghostly images of British military pilots in their flight gear and masks standing next to an airplane.
Even though Never Say Die! is far from Sabbath’s best output, it’s still an underrated and important release in the history of heavy rock and metal, that anyone interested in the roots of these genres should know and own. Honestly it almost seems to get a little better or mature with time. That’s my opinion anyway. But don’t take my word for it, give it a listen for yourself! And of course the next year, in 1979 Ozzy was officially fired by Black Sabbath, and as we all know; went on to have a successful solo career, releasing 11 studio albums, the first seven of which all earning multi-platinum certifications!