The 50(ish) Greatest Albums of All Time

An Illuminating Black Sabbath

“What did you put in this cake?!” (Photo by Nathan Bingle on Unsplash)

Try and have a think, when was the last time you were pleasantly surprised by something?

Sure, you will have been alarmed by stuff, appalled even, and probably daily. Especially if you read the Daily Mail. But when was the last time you had a good surprise? Right now, it seems as though the world is as repetitive as it is depressing. Rolling, stale news about the pandemic, only abruptly and brutally interrupted with all too familiar tales of unspeakable violence against women or racial prejudices. I’ve heard the word ‘drudgery’ more times in the last 12 months than in the rest of my life combined. (And now I’ve typed it, I’m not even sure it is a word).

So, imagine my despair when I pulled out Black Sabbath by Black Sabbath for this week’s album. ‘Oh, great’, I thought, ‘this will be an uplifting experience.’ I know I put it in the tin but, come on, I know Black Sabbath — this is not going to be enjoyable.

I was so wrong.

I really enjoyed this album. I was dreading it but felt it had to be on the list as, whether I like it or not, Black Sabbath were one of the first, and best, at what they did. To my pleasant surprise, Black Sabbath is a brilliant album, and I never would have listened to it if it not for this project — I would have just continued assuming I didn’t like Black Sabbath despite never bothering to investigate them. There is a word for that, and that word is ignorance.

Imagine my surprise when I — a straight, white, middle-class male — realised I was wrong. Unheard of. How can this be? What other things could I be wrong about? Let’s not open that door…

We are not ready to go there yet… (Photo by Alexander Tsang on Unsplash)

With hindsight, the signs were there. I always knew that Ozzy Osbourne was cool — after all, he is one of only two people in the world famous for eating a bat and he didn’t even cause a global pandemic. But clearly I had been sleeping on the talents of the rest of the band. The screaming guitar solos from Tony Iommi, the driving bass of Geezer Butler and Bill Ward’s thrashing drums. In the world of metal, Black Sabbath is everything Metallica’s Master of Puppets wasn’t.

Also, I am a big fan of the fact that the opening track of Black Sabbath’s debut album, Black Sabbath, is called… Black Sabbath. “Hey I like this, what’s it called?” Black Sabbath. “Who’s it by?” Black Sabbath. “Which album is it on?” You’re not going to believe this mate…

“I’ll just wait here until we think of a better name than Black Sabbath for the opening track…” (Photo by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash)

The fact that I enjoyed this record so much came as such a nice surprise to me that I began to think about why I had assumed I wouldn’t like it. As I said earlier, I think the reason is basically ignorance mixed with a slight arrogance that I knew best, without having all the facts. A lot of us, especially men, have been doing a lot of self-reflection this week. And so, I am more than happy to say that I was wrong — about Black Sabbath, but about so many other things too — and I will do my level best to keep improving.

I can’t believe we’ve found a way to make Black Sabbath wholesome. Maybe there’s some nice message in there about finding light in the darkest of spaces? I dunno, at the moment that seems a bit far-fetched. But then, I suppose that’s the nature of surprises.

Thanks for reading — over the course of 2021, I’ll be reviewing 50(ish) of the greatest albums ever recorded. You can see the list here.



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James Beck

James Beck


(n): Glasgow-based Stopfordian. See also; Books, Sport, Nonsense