Black Sabbath has opted not to record a final album to go along with its upcoming farewell tour, The End. But it will have a final piece of product, with some unheard music, to offer fans at the shows.
Frontman Ozzy Osbourne and bassist Geezer Butler told Billboard that the group has prepared an eight-track CD that will be sold only at shows featuring four unreleased tracks from sessions for 2013’s Grammy Award-winning 13, which was also Sabbath’s first No. 1 album on the Billboard 200.
The set includes “Season of the Dead,” “Cry All Night,” “Take Me Home” and “Isolated Man,” along with live versions of the “13” tracks “God Is Dead?,” “Age of Reason” and “End of the Beginning” and the “Vol. 4” deep cut “Under The Sun.”
“We went into the studio with 13 songs — which is why the album is called ’13,'” Butler explained during a conference call with reporters. “We thought we’d put out an album of 13 songs, but when we were in the studio we wrote another three songs, which brought ti up to 16 and then we left it to (producer) Rick Rubin to pick which songs would go on the album, and to give it some light and shade he picked the eight songs that we on the 13 album. We put a few songs on deluxe versions of the album and then we had the four left over, and we decided to do a gig-only CD.”
The End tour kicks off Jan. 20 in Omaha, Neb., with dates currently booked into September. Osbourne, Butler and guitarist Tony Iommi will once again be joined by 13 tour drummer Tommy Clufetos, who also plays in Osbourne’s band, sitting in for co-founder Bill Ward, who remains on the outs with the group and its management. The group opted against a follow-up to 13 because, as Osbourne explained, “If it didn’t get to No. 1 again and went to No. 2, it would’ve felt like the wrong thing to do.” And, he and Butler promised, The End will definitely be the end for Sabbath, 49 years after the group formed in Birmingham, England.
“We just all decided that we wanted to do one last tour,” Butler said. “We’re all getting up there in our age, and while we’re still at the top of our profession both musically and aesthetically, then we wanted to go out on top and we feel like this is the right time to do it.” Osbourne added that, “We’re not gonna get back together in three years when we all run out of cash or whatever. I have no intention of that. This is really the end.”
With that in mind. the shows on The End tour will be focusing on Sabbath’s 70s heyday, particularly its first five albums, and not delve too far into the 13 material. The group has posted a 16-second teaser clip from rehearsals online, and a quick glimpse at a partial set list includes “War Pigs,” “Snowblind,” “Into The Void,” “Wall of Sleep,” “Black Sabbath,” “Fairies Wear Boots” and “After Forever.”
“We decided not to do so many new songs off 13 because people want to re-live the old classics that take them back down memory lane,” Osbourne acknowledged. “It never gets tiring for me. ‘Paranoid’ never gets old. ‘Iron Man’ never gets old. You’d think after 40 years I’d be saying, ‘Oh, no, not ‘Iron Man’ again,’ but every time I play it it’s like the first time. “The response that we get from the audience always keeps them fresh, anyway,” Butler said.
Osbourne and Butler would not answer questions about the Ward situation — “Every time I open my mouth about Bill Ward I get another 10,000 complaints from him,” the singer cracked — but they said that Iommi, who`s been battling lymphoma, is feeling good and ready for the trek.
Sabbath, of course, isn’t the only ones singing Black Sabbath songs these days. Osbourne and Butler are well aware of soul singer Charles Bradley’s revved-up rendition of the group’s ballad “Changes.” “It’s fucking great!,” Osbourne declared. There’s been so many covers over the years it’s hard to keep track of them, but when I heard that ‘Changes’ cover, fucking hell! It’s amazing. It’s really, really good.” Butler added that, “I think that’s the best cover I’ve ever heard. It’s fantastic.”
Also making the duo happy these days is that old running mates Deep Purple will be joining Sabbath in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year. “It’s about time,” Osbourne said. “They were a great band. They were going through band member changes for a long time so I kind of lost them after awhile, but it’s about time they got into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They were a really good band. The had a lot of focus. They were good guys.”
Osbourne and Butler left open the possibility of The End being extended longer but had no concrete information. As for post-Sabbath plans, Butler is waiting until after the tour to consider his options, while Osbourne will make a new solo album and also will be hosting a History Channel show with son Jack. But, he noted, “I don’t know what the touring situation’s going to be. I don’t want to do extensive touring, just ’cause I can’t do it anymore, a year out on the road. I’m done. I’ll do gigs. I’ll do watered-down tours and things. But I’m going to be still actively involved in music to a certain degree, I hope.”