Roland's favorite CD versions of Black Sabbath albums

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by rjstauber, Jun 8, 2007.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. rjstauber

    rjstauber Forum Resident Thread Starter

    You might have noticed my similar thread dedicated to Deep Purple, which can be found here:

    I know that a lot of this information can also be found in other threads, but I thought it would be nice to have a main thread dedicated to the Black Sabbath catalogue on CD. I have listened to many different versions on CD and I now feel pretty confident which versions I like best.

    Of course, we all know that preferences are a very subjective issue, so feel free to disagree with my assessment. I am aware that some forum members have a slightly different opinion, but that is perfectly fine.

    By now, you are probably aware of my mastering preferences, and that I prefer non-remastered CD versions for the most part. Well, it is no different with the Black Sabbath CD’s, hence you won’t find a recommendation for any of the remastered versions from me (Black Box, Castle remasters, etc.).

    1. Black Sabbath
    This is probably the most complex album on CD. We have two different track listings, the original UK vinyl with Evil Woman and the US vinyl with Wicked World. Well, I like both these songs and want to have both of them in the best possible format. In order to compile my favorite version for all tracks, I need two or three different CD versions:
    For the best sounding side 1 of the original album and for the best sounding version of the song Evil Woman, I recommend the first Japanese pressing (33PD twofer which doesn’t have the long song Sleeping Village/Warning and which also features the album Paranoid) or the 1986 Castle version (CLACD or NELCD prefix). These two sound quite similar, and I haven’t finally made up my mind which version I like better (right now I slightly prefer the 1st Japanese pressing, which is a tad brighter but a little more defined).
    For the best sounding side 2 of the original album and for the best sounding version of the song Wicked World, I recommend the Creative Sounds CD, but: You must make a CD-R copy of this CD and manually set the PE flag in EAC, since the PE flag is missing on the original CD. The resulting CD-R sounds awesome in my opinion.
    Now you are probably wondering, why the Creative Sounds CD doesn’t also make the perfect side 1 of the original vinyl? Well, there seems to be some kind of tape alignment problem from approx. halfway through the first song to somewhere in N.I.B. Sounds like an azimuth error or something. Otherwise, side one would sound awesome as well. Just compare the first half of the title track, it is mind-boggling.
    If you don’t want to mess around with all of this, the early Castle version is a good choice, but it doesn’t have Wicked World.

    2. Paranoid
    My favorite version is the first Japanese pressing (33PD twofer – see above). The 1986 Castle is a good second choice, but sounds a little muffled in comparison. Some people also prefer the 2nd Japanese pressing (23PD), but it has too much EQ for my taste.

    3. Master Of Reality
    My favorite version is the 1986 Castle version (either CLACD or NELCD prefix). It’s a little on the dark side, and some people might consider it muddy, but it sounds great and very natural to me, and you can really crank it. I like it better than the 1st Japanese pressing (another 33PD twofer, together with Vol. 4).

    4. Vol. 4
    Same as with MoR, I prefer the 1986 Castle version. In this case, it is by far my preferred version and I haven’t heard a version which comes close to it (that includes the 33PD twofer).

    5. Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
    My favorite version is also the 1986 Castle CD. I prefer it over the 1st Japanese pressing (23PD).

    6. Sabotage
    Similar as with the first album, my favourite version is made up of two different CD’s. I have to say though that I never heard an early Japanese pressing of this album. The US Warner Bros. CD sounds pretty good for this album. It seems to be made from the right tapes, but it sounds a little harsh at louder volumes, especially some of the heavy rock tunes like Hole In The Sky. The early Castle CD from 1986 sounds a little more natural, but it has some tape problems during Symptom Of The Universe and Megalomania. To me, side 2 of the original vinyl sounds better on the Castle, but you need to have the US Warner Bros. for those songs with the tape problems.
    If you don’t want to deal with different CD versions, then I recommend to just get the US Warner Bros. CD.

    7. Technical Ecstasy
    I have the 1st Japanese pressing (23PD), and it is the best I have heard so far. I once compared a clip of the US Warner Bros. CD to this, and it turned out to be digitally identical. There could still be minor differences due to different pressing quality, but I am not going there in this thread (I am only talking about clearly different masterings here).

    8. Never Say Die!
    I have the US Warner Bros. CD and think it’s o.k. As far as I know, there is no early Japanese version of this album (not in the 23PD series). It’s not my favorite album anyway, so for me the US Warner Bros. is sufficient.

    9. Live At Last
    The early Castle version with NELCD prefix is the best version I have heard so far. The NELCD versions of the first six Black Sabbath albums (as well as the NELCD version of Greatest Hits) each feature a bonus live track from Live At Last also. The sound of the bonus tracks is the same as on the full album, but War Pigs from the full album was not available on any of the studio albums.

    10. Heaven And Hell
    I compared the WG Vertigo (mastered by Gert van Hoeyen) with the US Warner Bros. CD and slightly preferred the Vertigo. It’s the best version I have heard so far, but I have it from reliable sources that the 1st and/or 2nd Japanese pressing (32PD or 23PD) are still a tad better (they are quite hard to find though).

    11. Mob Rules
    I only have the WG Vertigo (mastered by Gert van Hoeyen) which sounds great in my opinion. Again, an early Japanese version might still be a tad better. I never heard the US Warner Bros., but apparently it is not much different to the WG Vertigo.

    I think I will stop here for the moment, I don’t have much interest in Black Sabbath after that.

    I might tackle Uriah Heep in my next similar thread.
  2. heavyd

    heavyd Forum Resident

    San Diego
    Thanks for posting this. I am still in the market for the first two CD's. I have the 33PD 2fer for V.4 and MOR. It has the "breath of life" when listening on my headphone setup, so I'm going to stick with it. I found your input here regarding s/t to be particularly helpful. I am going to experiment with that one :)
  3. eelkiller

    eelkiller Technically right but still wrong

    I think the Vertigo PHCR-2053 is the nitial Japanese pressing of this album - 1987. It is the only version I have heard.

    I have the 23PD version and IMO it sounds nicer than the North American version. The domestic sounds OK but the 23PD has a bit more natural sound IMO.
  4. rjstauber

    rjstauber Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Barry, by domestic version you mean the US Warner Bros., not the WG Vertigo, correct?

    I guess we still need a shoot-out between the various Heaven and Hell masterings. Anybody care to provide any sound clips of the 23PD and the 32 PD version?
  5. Roland- Thanks! (from the other thread), so I would be OK with the U.S. WB's for the last 3 Ozzy discs. Cool...
  6. eelkiller

    eelkiller Technically right but still wrong

    Correct Roland - I have not heard the WG Vertigo of Heaven & Hell
  7. agentalbert

    agentalbert Forum Resident

    San Antonio, TX
    Any opinions on the best sounding Born Again (cd and vinyl)? I really like this album, but the mix always seems odd to me. I've got the 1996 castle remaster on cd, and I had a Japanese vinyl pressing that I bought from Red Trumpet but returned cause it was too noisy.

    Anyone have this vinyl pressing? Maybe I just had a bad copy. If anyone has advice on a better sounding cd of this, maybe a Japanese one, I'm interested.

    Roland - Any opinions on the best sounding Live Evil?
  8. rjstauber

    rjstauber Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Born Again: I really don't know what the best sounding version is, but I would either try to find an early German/West German pressing or an early Japan pressing.

    Live Evil: The original Warner Bros. 2-CD set is a good choice.
  9. I saw in another Sabbath thread, that there's some history behind the awful mix we've all heard. And that there are bootleg versions about with a much cleaner mix. But we're not supposed to talk about such things here. :)
  10. john lennonist

    john lennonist There ONCE was a NOTE, PURE and EASY...

    Any love for sound quality of the JPN mini-LP version of Vol. 4 (probably released 4-5 years ago)?

    Any NR on that one?
  11. claypool

    claypool New Member

    I haven't heard that one, but maybe it's the same mastering as the 1996 Castle remaster which is very good. I'm still on the fence whether I like it more than the original 1986 Castle which Roland favors. Both of them sound great and are also quite similiar tonally.
  12. claypool

    claypool New Member

    Thanks for your efforts once again, Roland :thumbsup: . This thread, like the earlier DP thread, is very useful and I'm sure many other forum members appreciate your efforts too.

    I'm looking forward to that upcoming Uriah Heep thread :righton: I've been hunting down those earlier Castle Heep CDs and finally have found them all from "...umble" to "Wonderworld". Unfortunately early Bronze Uriah Heep CDs have proven to be impossible to find here so far but the quest continues ;)
  13. Who-eey! :) Without much trouble, I actually found an '86 Castle for Vol. 4. Can't wait to compare! The bummer? The dude said he had them for the other 4 of the 1st 5, but this was the last one he had left!
  14. rjstauber

    rjstauber Forum Resident Thread Starter

    You are very welcome. Thanks for the feedback.
  15. Goodyear

    Goodyear New Member

    Thanks again for posting this info, Roland. Great stuff. Looking forward to your Uriah Heep thread, too.

    Agreed, this is by far the best I've heard this album on CD. I know I expressed displeasure with the production in the other large Paranoid thread, but I think I was overreacting a bit. It's a stellar album. I'm still curious about how the 33PD CD sounds, but if MoR just uses the WB CD mastering then perhaps I should pass... plus, doesn't the 33PD omit "Under the Sun"?

    What exactly are the tape problems with "Symptom" and "Megalomania"? Does it sound like an azimuth alignment issue, or is it tape damage? Higher generation tapes used? Just curious.

    Actually, I think the PHCR-2xxx Sabbath CDs (NSD, Born Again, 7th Star) were released ~1990. The 23PDs appear to have been released in 1989, and the two 33PD twofers in 1987. The 33PD issue of Heaven and Hell was released in 1986 (according to the discography on the site). There are also 33PD issues of 7th Star and The Eternal Idol -- these must have been released in 1986 and 1987, respectively.

    I have both the German CD issue of Born Again on Vertigo as well as the original Japanese Vertigo CD (PHCR-2054). They appear to be different masterings. I'm not confident in my abilities to quantify the differences in sound, so hopefully someone else will A/B them one day, but I happen to prefer the sound of the Japanese Vertigo CD.

    For Live Evil, I would just go with the original 2-disc WB CD, as (I believe) this is the only CD release to contain the album in it's entirety. Other CD issues either omit "War Pigs" or cut out some of the between-song chatter.

    As others have said, these CDs most likely utilize the 1996 Castle remasters. I believe all post-1996 Japanese CD reissues of Sabbath albums have used these remasters.

    Congrats on the score.
  16. rjstauber

    rjstauber Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Yes, it omits one song. I think I posted short samples of Tomorrow's Dream of the 33PD and the Castle version in the other thread.

    It sounds like the tape is damaged (mangled).
  17. Jeff Carney

    Jeff Carney Fan Of Specifics (No Koolaid)

    Great idea, Roland!
  18. Jeff Carney

    Jeff Carney Fan Of Specifics (No Koolaid)

    Ths is the 1996 Castle remastering, and if the '86 Castle is true to the tapes, there might have been a small amount of NR used on the '96 Castle, because it is far less hissy.
  19. Jeff Carney

    Jeff Carney Fan Of Specifics (No Koolaid)


    Roland, the WG Vertigo is mastered by Hans Brethouwer, not Gert Van Hoeyen, and is best avoided.

    I am still looking for a Japanese 1st of this.
  20. Jeff Carney

    Jeff Carney Fan Of Specifics (No Koolaid)

    A couple of points and I'll have more comments later:

    I prefer the Japanese 23PD of H&H to the WG Vertigo, but the WG Vertigo is really solid. I haven't heard the 33PD.

    I slightly prefer the Warner Bros. issue of Mob Rules to the WG Vertigo. The WG Vertigo has slightly goosed bass and perhaps some work on the midrange. It sounds interesting, but the Warner is hard to top. Too bad Warner clearly used inferior, EQd production tapes for H&H.

    The PHCR-2053 version of NSD is the same as the old Warner. It even has the same liner notes inside the booklet.

    The WB CD of Sabotage is stunning, IMO.
  21. rjstauber

    rjstauber Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Good to know, I'll have to check the WB out. I like the sound of the WG Vertigo on its own, but there can always be a better one.

    Do you have the possibility to post a short clip? Sign of the Southern Cross would work well.
  22. OK, I have to ask ...

    It being fairly difficult to find the original Castle's for the 1st, Paranoid, MoR and SBS, after those, what would be the recommended CDs to get? (Or, at least until I can track down more '86 Castles... I just got Vol 4 and I'm digging it!)

    I am still making my way through the "Paranoid" thread, and I have notes written down that both the WB and '96 Castle sound good for SBS.

    Some comments about the Replica versions being pretty good for BS and Paranoid, but I don't want to get another 8 disc set for just 2 discs.

    ... Some '96 Castles have a problem with Fairies Wear Boots. And then the volume problem with War Pigs (what discs have that? I know this was corrected on the Black Box at least).


  23. yesstiles

    yesstiles Senior Member

    What about the 1991 Castle?
  24. yesstiles

    yesstiles Senior Member

    Is this just for playback on a computer? If I want to play the cd on my stereo set-up, do I still have to make a cdr of it?
  25. claypool

    claypool New Member

    It should be a digital clone of 1986 Castle. I think they just re-pressed them again 1991. Never seen one though...
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page