Never Say Die!

Black Sabbath

Warner Brothers Records, 1978

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


The late '70s were not kind to the members of Black Sabbath. Since their Sabotage album in 1975, the group had been fighting both creative burnout and attempts to overhaul their sound. Their 1976 release Technical Ecstasy was a shade better, but further illustrated that Tony Iommi and crew were not the same band who did earlier works like "War Pigs" and "Iron Man."

Never Say Die!, their 1978 release, suggested that the other shoe had indeed fallen. Gone were the demon-invoking images that made up their early works. In were songs which dared to be radio-friendly - and, in one case, even hinted at influences like the Allman Brothers Band. Whatever the case, it was a bad move - though there are even a few diamonds in the rough of this disc.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Up until Reunion, this album was notable for being the final appearance of Ozzy Osbourne with Black Sabbath. Too bad he couldn't have had better material to go out with. Sure, the title track swings, and has enough groove to rival a lot of the musical output of this time period. But when the first song is the most accessible out of the group, you know you're in trouble.

Indeed, it takes much more than a cursory listen to appreciate some of the finer points of Never Say Die! - and even after five listens to the first four songs, I still found myself saying, "I don't get it." I still don't understand why Black Sabbath would tackle a song like "Johnny Blade" or "Swinging The Chain," and I sure as hell don't know what's with the "In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed" teaser in the latter half of "Air Dance." Cripes, I kept waiting for Dickey Betts to burst through the speakers.

If you think that Black Sabbath was merely going through the motions, you're not alone in that belief. Often, it sounds like Iommi and crew are turning in barely mediocre performances in order to just get this chapter of their history behind them. As a result, semi-decent songs like "Over To You" and "Hard Road" get lost in the malaise.

I think that's what bothers me the most about this disc. Never Say Die! Could have been a great album, something that Osbourne could proudly look back on as one of the defining moments of his career. Instead, it's left as a half-baked effort which might have been best left on the cutting room floor - or, maybe, as special unreleased "bonus tracks" for later compilations. While Black Sabbath was by no means throwing in the towel, Never Say Die! Suggested that the group might want to think about saying that one little word, instead of "oops."

Rating: C-

User Rating: D


The reason this album is so poor is no mystery. the band was so drugged up it's surprising they accomplished anything. I saw them on the tour for this album and they looked like zombies, and played that way too. Ozzy was so polluted he could barely stand and kept blowing the lyrics, in one case just giving up and walking off stage about halfway through War Pigs and they just played it out without vocals. This album is the sound of a once mighty band collapsing under the weight of durgs and alcohol.
Not their proudest moment, for sure. I'm not sure I'd use 'going through the motions' so much as 'wandering aimlessly'. There are a few good spots. I always liked Iommi's soloing in Air Dance, plus the songs, Shockwave and Junior's Eyes. Not very Sabbathy, but nice to hear the band venture outside their usual fare.

© 2003 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Warner Brothers Records, and is used for informational purposes only.