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Martin Popoff
Backbeat Books / Hal Leonard Corporation
Format: Paperback
Release Date: May 1, 2011
By Rob Browning January 19, 2012

In the pantheon of contemporary musical greats, there are but a select few bands that can truthfully lay claim to birthing a genre. Black Sabbath number in that elite group, and as such are musical icons. These facts no sane person can dispute. Everything else, the average music fan can and will probably debate at length.

As we enter the second decade of the 21st century, forty years have passed since the four Sabbath proprietors threw in together as The Polka Tulk Blues Band in Birmingham, England. Twenty-two members passed through the fold in those four decades, a pantheon of greats that speaks volumes to the lasting cultural impact of Black Sabbath. Encapsulating a band of this stature takes a special kind of writer, and if there is anyone today tailor-made to document said significance as regards the dark ones, it would be Toronto, Ontario, native Martin Popoff. Popoff is arguably the Black Sabbath (or at the very least the Tony Iommi) of contemporary rock scribes, having penned over 20 books on the likes of UFO and Deep Purple, in addition to a number of genre-encompassing compendiums of rock record reviews in the heavy, hard, and Southern varieties. More pertinently, Popoff has written on the subject previously, publishing the band history Black Sabbath: Doom Let Loose (ECW Press, 2006).

While Doom Let Loose was the usual comprehensive Popoff work and is widely held as the definitive Black Sabbath tome, there is always a deeper vein of minutae to be veined. Black Sabbath FAQ fills that role nicely. Truth be told, it’s a pretty amazing work. Subtitled “All That’s Left To Know On The First Name In Metal,” there couldn’t be a more apt encapsulation of the proceedings. Year after year, in between arguments as to which tracks Sabbath never played live or which recordings were best and why, pundits have broached such discussion topics as whether Van Halen really wiped up the floor with Sabbath in 1980 on their first national tour or what really fostered the dissension between Blue Oyster Cult and the boys from Birmingham. Don’t get the average fan started as to which singer was the best. With the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, late greats Ronnie James Dio and Ray Gillen, as well as Ian Gillan and Tony Martin in the running, the debate could go on for years.

Regardless of where your allegiances lie, Popoff gives cannon fodder for all sides. Black Sabbath FAQ covers artwork, band lineups, and the like, but gets much deeper than that. Readers can revel in the esoteric delight of chapters ranking each Sabbath release by sound quality, a roster of bands who opened for Sabbath in the early days, solo achievements from each of the four original members, and even a lengthy enumeration of bands who took their name from Sabbath songs. And that’s all before the appendices.

Rare interviews with early supporters of the band like Norman Hood and Sandy Perlman sweeten the pot, as do the elaborate timelines that break each decade down monthly by pertinent date, starting with the release of the first Black Sabbath 7” (a cover of “Evil Woman,” by local never-rans Crow) on January 9, 1970 and culminating on November 16, 2010, with the release of last year’s Neon Knights: 30 Years of Heaven & Hell – Live In Europe on CD and DVD (Eagle Rock Entertainment). Whether you are a casual Black Sabbath fan flipping though or a completist that feels the need to read the book cover to cover, Black Sabbath FAQ is quality musical infotainment at its finest.

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