Never Say Die
A Hard Road
Over to You
Swinging the Chain
If ever an album title was proved false, it was this one. Following the sacking of Ozzy Osbourne in 1979, Never Say Die! ended up being the last studio album made by the original Black Sabbath. And so it remains, given Bill Ward’s absence from the band’s comeback album 13.
Having briefly quit Sabbath in 1977, Ozzy was by his own admission, rather worse for wear during the recording of Never Say Die! "Everybody was fucked up," he said. "But no matter how fucked up I was, I’d still be up early in the morning because I’ve always had this sleeping disorder. So I’d be up at 7 o’clock and out of my mind by 11, drinking and getting fucked up.
"The rest of Sabbath wouldn’t get up until late because they’d been doing their drugs, or whatever it was, all night. They’d turn up and jam, but by that time I’d lost the spark, you know? Even to this day I don’t know the details, but I assume – and I’m very likely wrong – that Tony wanted me out of the band."
But even when carrying their singer, Sabbath still produced flashes of brilliance on the album’s explosive title track, slow-rolling boogie A Hard Road, and the beautiful, jazz-influenced Air Dance, featuring Don Airey (Rainbow/Deep Purple) on piano. And amidst all the trauma, Never Say Die! may be one of Sabbath’s most underrated album.
Every week, Album of the Week Club listens to and discusses the album in question, votes on how good it is, and publishes our findings, with the aim of giving people reliable reviews and the wider rock community the chance to contribute.
Other albums released in September 1978
- Bloody Tourists - 10cc
- The Bride Stripped Bare - Bryan Ferry
- Pieces of Eight - Styx
- Molly Hatchet - Molly Hatchet
- Blue Valentine - Tom Waits
- Skynyrd's First and... Last - Lynyrd Skynyrd
- Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds - Jeff Wayne
- Stage - David Bowie
- Tracks on Wax 4 - Dave Edmunds
- Giant for a Day - Gentle Giant
- Studio Tan - Frank Zappa
- Wet Dream - Rick Wright
- Ace Frehley - Ace Frehley
- Gene Simmons - Gene Simmons
- Paul Stanley - Paul Stanley
- Peter Criss - Peter Criss
- Tormato - Yes
- Road to Ruin - Ramones
- Breathless - Camel
- Bursting Out - Jethro Tull
- Love Bites - Buzzcocks
- Back on the Streets - Gary Moore
- Fallen Angel - Uriah Heep
- Flamin' Groovies Now - Flamin' Groovies
- Gillan - Gillan
- Parallel Lines - Blondie
- Rough - Tina Turner
- Some Enchanted Evening - Blue Öyster Cult
- Wavelength - Van Morrison
- Weekend Warriors - Ted Nugent
What they said...
"Even the surprisingly energetic title track, which seemed to kick things off with a promising bang, couldn't entirely mask the group's fading enthusiasm just beneath the surface after a few repeated listens. The same was true of half-hearted performances like Shock Wave and Over to You, and there were several songs on the record that sound strangely disjointed, specifically Junior's Eyes and the synthesiser-doused Johnny Blade. (AllMusic)
"The exploration of new sounds is part of the reason why Never Say Die! is looked down upon by many fans. For a band that not only was well known for playing heavy metal, but creating it, it must have surely been a shock to some listeners." (Magnet)
"The opener title track is already a laughable attempt to create a powerful start, and it doesn’t get any better from there. Junior’s Eyes, for example, tries to be epic, but falls flat on its face, and by the time we’ve come to the brass arrangements on Breakout, which are far from interesting, we’ve completely given up. On this record, Black Sabbath officially stopped being Black Sabbath. Apart from Osbourne recognisable (and very annoying) performance, you wouldn’t even guess this is a Sabbath record. Such talent wasted. It is a shame." (Sputnik Music)
What you said...
Andy Hubble: I think this album is a lot better and quite a bit more important than many people believe. It has been dismissed as a low point in Black Sabbath’s career, and that’s true from the point of view that personally and professionally the band was having lots of problems. The drugs certainly were taking their toll and this record is really not prime Sabbath and I can understand why it’s been so derided.
So I think the problem with the hate of this album is that it’s judged as a “Black Sabbath album” and not as an album on its own merits. It’s hard to recognise this as the same group that is so crucial to the development of heavy rock. When The Wizard is compared to Air Dance, the contempt for this album is deserved. If someone suspends their disbelief and listens as if this is a band with a singer that sounds just like Ozzy Osbourne, a great bassist, guitarist and drummer, and a keyboard player who's really swingin’ for the fences it becomes a much more enjoyable record. The thing is that it IS a Sabbath record so those that can’t or won’t see it as anything but can be forgiven for thinking this album sucks, even if they’re wrong.
Each track has something that’s fairly good, and sometimes that’s Don Airey’s showboating. I almost wonder if he was taking advantage of the rest of Sabbath’s constant intoxication to make this a showcase for his talents. He’s not a bad musician, and he does make a lot of good contributions. Some of those contributions do not belong on a Black Sabbath album, yet there they are.
The tracks: Never Say Die has a great hook. Had it not been released in 1978 it might have been a hit. Johnny Blade strikes me as the opening theme song to an action flick. Imagine a frenetic animation piece with the opening credits in a summer blockbuster and it totally works. Our antihero’s only friend is a switchblade knife! What will happen to you, Johnny Blade? I’m camping out for that one. Junior’s Eyes is pretty good. I’m not quite sure what the violin is doing there, but it’s ok. The jazz feel is pretty groovy. A Hard Road has some great bass guitar in it, and Iommi sings! I didn’t really like the song so much, kind of plodding and too long, but at least Geezer keeps me a bit interested. Catchy chorus.
Shock Wave starts out ok, but ends a lot stronger with an awesome, heavy riff. That chorus needs to go away. Air Dance is such a strange tune. Cool heavy intro, but then here comes Don Airey! Enjoy some vaguely depressing lyrics about lost dreams and some flowery piano leading into the tasteful guitar stylings of Tony Iommi. Then a few seconds of heavy. And now some jazz with some space-out synth! I have tons of respect for their courage in releasing it. It’s not very Sabbath, but they liked it enough. Totally shakes things up.
Over To You is one of my faves. They forgot to take Airey’s piano away from him before it was too late, but it’s not that bad in the chorus. I’m just listening to Geezer anyway. It ends with another damn fadeout. The story of Breakout: A roving band of brass and wind players was wandering by the studio. Ozzy, Iommi, Geezer, and Ward were passed out from the drugs and alcohol. Airey was plotting on how he could become a full-fledged member of Sabbath for the next album The roving band snuck in wearing Black Sabbath wigs and recorded it, and it wasn’t noticed until the angry letters and phone calls from fans who just bought the album came in. I think it’s a great song though. It has its own heaviness and is so unexpected. Again I respect the courage of the band to release this. It’s a great segue into Swinging the Chain. That song is pretty unremarkable. The harmonica is ok. Pretty good opening riff. “How should we end this?” “I dunno, I guess we’ll fade it out.”
This album is super important, not because of what it is but because of what followed it. The band basically split and the fragments found other musicians and created four of heavy metal’s finest albums ever. Never Say Die! Is the seed from which those albums sprouted. Ronnie James Dio brought a brand new vibe to Sabbath and gave us Heaven And Hell and Mob Rules. Ozzy brought Randy Rhoads to a wider audience and those two albums are legendary. Without the problems and perceived shortcomings of Never Say Die! that sealed Black Sabbath’s fate we don’t have the classics that are so revered today. The songs are ok, too. Definitely better than anything Motley Crue ever released. Never Say Die! deserves respect.
If you made it all the way through this, thank you.
Nigel Lancashire: Cards on the table, I don’t like Ozzy Osbourne. Can’t understand his popularity, can’t hear his talent. I’ve seen him twice through his career and when given my third opportunity, opted to leave the arena before he came on. So, clearly I’ve ruined my murder mystery here; I’ve already given the plot away, and you might guess who I’m going to reveal as the killer of Never Say Die!”.
Only, you might say the victim was asking for it. There are no innocent parties here, and while Ozzy has an alibi, already signed out mentally and sat in the bathroom alone, singing the lyrics, hastily written in bog roll, to every song like he wanted to be somewhere else, Tony Iommi was busy beating on the barely-breathing corpse of Sabbath Mk.1 in the conservatory with a left-handed lead pipe as Bill and Geezer applauded him - rhythmically of course.
Seriously, what was Black Sabbath thinking while this patchwork quilt of an album was Frankensteined together? (Rhetorical question by the way; I know the background to this recording and they seemingly weren’t thinking about much but getting through the agony as fast as they could.) There are good moments all over Never Say Die! – the trouble is they don’t belong on the same record. The album reeks of aimlessness and indulgence, trying to keep all members of the band happy while satisfying no-one. Ozzy’s total absence from the last two songs on the record tells the story.
On the upside, the musicianship is good, with everyone bar Ozzy putting in a sterling performance, especially on Air Dance which is the only track here I truthfully feel impressed by. I even quite admire Bill Ward’s vocal on Swinging The Chain, done out of necessity due to Mr Osborne reportedly pulling a sulk about it due to the song being written during a short period where he wasn’t in the band (but let’s be frank – it was a childish move. Hell, it’s not like Ozzy ever actually writes anything he sings is it?).
Never Say Die! itself, and A Hard Road are the obvious singles and the album’s high points in terms of energy too. Johnny Blade I find myself utterly indifferent to, it’s filler at best. Junior’s Eyes is oddly old-sounding for 1978 and unlike everything else here, sounds like a live in studio recording. That’s another thing about this record; it isn’t only patchy in songs, it’s remarkably uneven in recording quality too, adding to the desperate, piecemeal feel of it all. Shock Wave is much more what you’d expect from this band, and likely a relief to long-time fans listening through the record for the first time.
As previously mentioned, Air Dance, with its more sophisticated structure and keys from Don Airey, hints at the future beyond Ozzy. It’s the one song, other than the singles I already knew, that impacts on me. Over To You” is interesting enough, more nice keyboards and something belonging more to Vol. 4 maybe. Then it’s a quick check that I’m still listening to the same record for the brass-based jazz of Breakout (it’s no Jazz Odyssey but then, what is?). I’d understand it more of it was intended as the closer to the album, but that dubious honour goes to Breaking The Chains, which sounds like a classic Sabs song.
And that was that. Sabbath Mk.1 was dead, and the truth is, no-one was innocent. A Dr. Dio was called and miraculously, the corpse came back to life, albeit with brain damage and a very altered personality.
But by this point, Osborne was already far away from the scene, blood on his hands and vanishing into a Blizzard. I wonder what ever became of him...?
Melanie Kyle: The bottom line on Never Say Die is that its Sabbath as a straight-ahead rock band. No doom and gloom, not the heavy sounds and production from the first four records, Not the groundbreaking new direction of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, not the anger of Sabotage. They dropped it all and just played music. Is it my favourite Sabbath record? Nope, but my brother-in-law who is 10 years younger than I am loves it. Kinda the Sabbath album for the late 70s crowd... it's head and shoulders above Foreigner and other bands of that era, but for me still comes in last in the Sabbath catalogue.
Gary Claydon: So the background is well documented. The band speeding (literally) headlong into the buffers, creatively as well as mentally and physically. And it shows on Never Say Die!. Unfocused, uncoordinated with scattergun production. But is it actually a bad album? Well let's see now.
It opens with the title track, which is an enjoyable rocker and is one of the tracks which doesn't suffer due to overall too-bright production. In fact, it gives it quite a jaunty (now there's a word you don't use too often about Sabbath!) upbeat quality which also facilitated Ozzy's hilarious, manically bug-eyed turn on Top Of The Pops. Great stuff. Johnny Blade sounds like the title of some kind of teen-hero cartoon or a Gerry Anderson creation, you know, like Joe 90, that kinda thing. And the track itself would serve well as the title music, especially with the opening keyboards and the gloriously naff chorus.
Next up is my favourite track from the album and a chance for the rhythm section to get their groove on. Junior's Eyes positively swings in places and is Ozzy's best vocal on here. It's from here on in that the problems start for me. Hard Road and Shock Wave could have been punchy hard-rockers but the weedy production renders them into mid-paced plodders, the former with poppy undertones as well as being the only documented incidence of Tony Iommi singing backing vocals! The rest of the album smacks of directionless filler to me. I know a lot of people describe Air Dance as experimental but to my ears it's just proggy/jazzy noodling. Breakout is pointless and the closer has novelty value due to Bill Ward's vocals but little else.
Overall, Never Say Die! is an album that is only half as good as it could have been but isn't half as bad as some make it out to be.
John Davidson: This was my pick to reassess and to be honest my view hasn’t really changed since release. It’s not their best but it is by no means the turkey the critics painted it as.
Over the last four albums Sabbath had experimented with different styles and sounds and Never Say Die! continues that trend. It’s a pity it suffers from such poor production throughout. The songwriting, certainly in the first two thirds of the album is very strong and while it does rather peter out towards the end it acts a perfect metaphor for the direction of the original band as a whole.
Their subsequent split birthed two great albums in Ozzy’s solo outing Blizzard Of Oz and Black Sabbath’s injection of colourful Rainbows in Heaven & Hell, but the rest of the 80s were less kind to Mr Iommi and the gang as they struggled to adapt to the sensibilities of an MTV generation.
In 1978 Sabbath were (along with Zep) seen as the old guard and largely past their prime with younger bands like Van Halen nipping at their heels and in truth they were in a sorry state between drugs, huffs and tantrums. With that in mind it’s a miracle this was made, far less that it contains over 30 minutes of prime classic rock.
This was the first Black Sabbath album that I bought new when it came out. I had already explored much of their back catalog and preferred their later more proggy/metal output to the bluesy doom laden sounds of their first three albums. So with that in mind – how does Never Say Die! stand the test of time?
First up – let’s kill the elephant in the room. The production and mix are poor by anyone’s standards but a terrible fit for Black Sabbath. For band that plumbed the sonic depths to produce monstrously powerful riffs, this is a thin and reedy affair and they sound more like Judas Priest than the Black Sabbath of the past. Secondly – and related – Iommi’s guitars are heavily distorted and splash across the songs rather than soaring and roaring as they did on other albums.
Listening to their other albums I can only wonder how good Never Say Die! would have been if they’d managed to recreate the sound from Technical Ecstasy where although the songs were weaker, the sound was crisp and modern but still had some meat.
With the songwriting stronger than it was on Technical Ecstasy I think this album stands up well to Vol. 4 and Sabotage even if it doesn’t quite hit the consistent highs of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath or Masters Of Reality .
The only winner on this album is Bill Ward as his drumming really shines – we’ll draw a polite veil over his singing on Swinging The Chain – and the slightly jazzier song structures allow him to display a level of finesse that wasn’t always apparent on their earlier albums.
Out of the blocks:
Never Say Die delivers a traditional up-tempo slab of heavy metal – not quite as effective at blowing the cobwebs off as either Back Street Kids or Neon Knights, but a decent start none the less.
Johnny Blade tells the story of a young street thug, a topic much in the news in the late 1970s as street punks and gangs threatened the establishment and graced our TV screens in equal part. Musically it opens with the kind of keyboards you’d expect to hear Vincent Price talk over before Bill Ward’s drumming joins in and the song proper starts. I love the rhythm on this song – the drums are almost the lead instrument with the guitars providing supporting structure and Ozzy wailing the melody. If the riff was in a lower register the drums would merge in with it – so this is one of those songs that benefits from the mix being a bit wonky. When the guitar solo arrives towards the end of the song it squeals and cries rather than roaring – but it works well for the song.
Junior's Eyes kicks in right away with a grooving drum and bass intro that carries us nodding into the song. The overlay and interplay of Ozzy’s voice and Tony’s guitars is an object lesson in how to structure rock music and why I almost always prefer it when the guitarist isn’t the singer. This is the best song on the album and one that shows Sabbath experimenting with the formula and coming up with the goods.
Hard Road returns us to a traditional mid-paced sing-along rocker. It's not bad song, but the thin production and rasping guitar tones rob it of the kind of thundering gravity Sabbath brought to their early 70s output. On the up-side you can at least hear Geezer’s rolling bass line on this one and the short solo shows Tony Iommi still has the gift.
Shockwave is lyrically prime Sabbath – with its apocalyptic imagery, paranoia and otherworldly dark forces but its the guitars that make the songs. Lush with overlays that buzz and squawk, it’s the shredded solo that makes this song a personal favourite.
Air Dance is a song of a different sort. It's not often you want to describe a Black Sabbath song beautiful but this one is. There is as much reverie as melancholy in the lyrics and the music matches the tone perfectly – lifted by Don Aireys floaty keyboards, an excellent guitar solo and some of Ozzy’s most delicate singing.
Over To You is a strange combination – it starts with a traditional doomy Sabbath groove before opening up to a lighter middle section, then reverts to the more metallic sound of the rest of the album at the end. Tony’s guitar sounds like an angle grinder sparking over the vocals during the close and it goes on a little too long but its reasonable album filler.
Breakout is about as un-Sabbath-like as a song can be. A horn section provides the melody and there’s a saxophone solo. It’s almost like Bill Ward got to the studio one day with the wrong band and decided to record something by himself.
If Ozzy had come out of his huff and actually sung on it Swinging The Chain wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Sabotage. It’s not a bad song, but mix is awful, even by this album’s low standards, and Bill Ward just doesn’t have the voice to carry the tune.
In the old days when a C90 cassette was the only way to listen to music on the move I taped Never Say Die! up to Air Dance, threw in Back Street Kids and Dirty Women from Technical Ecstasy and created a better 45-minute album for myself out of the two (that might be unfair to Technical Ecstasy but not by much).
As my first Sabbath album Never Say Die! means a lot to me though and while I am probably being generous, I think this is worth an 8/10.
Neil Immerz: I listened to this recently for the first time having never heard it before. While it lacks the heaviness of earlier Sabbath releases, there are moments where the band still shines. Never Say Die! is of course a total banger of a track, but songs like Breakout and Shock Wave bring a different kind of heaviness to the Sabbath sound. Swinging The Chain was a standout track for me as Bill sang on it, instead of Ozzy and he does a good job of it too.
I like the addition of keyboards on the album which shows the band aren’t afraid to add more textures and layers to their sound. It may take a few listens to really understand as a whole, but it’s worth your patience.
Roland Bearne: When you hear the negative mythos which surrounds this release you would be tempted towards thinking it's an absolute turkey. I my view it really isn't. It isn't 24-carat Sabbath and the sound (acknowledged by Sir Tone) is a bit lacking in oomph, but there doesn't seem anything wrong with the playing! I don't actually know how long it took or how much studio "surgery" was required to stitch it all together but it doesn't sound like Iommi and Butler were short on ideas and there's plenty to titillate the Sabbath palate.
Apart from the obvious, I really like quirkiness of Air Dance, the head nodding simplicity of Over To You and Bill Ward does indeed do a bang up job on Swinging The Chain, in fact big ovation to Bill all through actually, his drumming sounds terrific. Not the Sabs album I will necessarily reach for but the pain and negativity surrounding its genesis detracts from a really very decent album. As ol' Len Goodman used to say on Strictly Come Dancing: "Seveeeern!"
Chris Webb: I actually really enjoy this album, it's quite different from anything else in their catalogue. The uptempo title track sort of points in the direction that Sabbath would take with Dio, and the direction Ozzy would take in his solo career.
There's a number of great tracks here (the title track, Johnny Blade, A Hard Road... the solo on Junior's Eyes is awesome, and Air Dance and Breakout are complete departures.) I think the biggest stumbling block to get over in order to appreciate this album is that it doesn't really sound like a Sabbath album.
And for the record the opening four chords on this album always reminds me of The Boys Are Back in Town (different key I think, but same chord pattern, same whole notes).
Carl Black: The lesser listened-to classic line up Black Sabbath album. This is a great choice. The first thing that should be noted about this record is the fine performances of all four original members. I know there was trouble at mill, but the musicianship can not be denied.
I've listened to the the title track the most from this offering but it caught me off guard with the happy sounding opening riff. It reminded me of The Boys Are Back in Town.
We get a bit of experimentation and this was focused on back in the day. However underneath all the jazz, and wired sound tomfoolery you have the basic and much loved, Black Sabbath formula. A metal defining riff, crazy drum fills, driving bass and Ozzy's classic vocals. At the time the band may have needed to break out, but for the here and now, the standard ingredients that make up a Black Sabbath album sound delicious.
Jonathan Novajosky: I've seen a lot of lists that rank Never Say Die as the worst Sabbath album, but is it really that terrible? I don't think so for the most part. It's true, I find that most of the songs are pretty average at best. Junior's Eyes and the title track are decent enough to merit attention, and I actually really like A Hard Road. It's semi-catchy and nothing spectacular, but I think Ozzy sounds great on the track.
Unfortunately, it's hard to say that this album does a whole lot to elicit more than a "meh" from me. Breakout is interesting but feels way too out of place – and I'm usually all for mixing things up. Changes on Vol. 4 works, this doesn't. And Swinging The Chain?" Just horrible. Overall, there's barely enough to bring some enjoyment to Never Say Die!, however most won't feel the need to weed through the weaker tracks when there are plenty of other Sabbath albums out there. 6/10
Tony Woods: Always loved this album. Gets far too much criticism. Not the greatest Sabbath album but certainly not the worst. It's interesting and tracks like Air Dance, Breakout and Swinging The Chain just show some diversity. Never Say Die, Johnny Blade and Junior's Eyes are just great tracks. I guess you also have to take into account what was happening in music at the time this album was made.
Gerry Ranson: Terrific album. I find it odd that people disregard this and Technical Ecstasy after the first six. Iommi was nothing if not an inventive writer and he was still clearly coming up with great new ideas here. I judge each Sabs album on its own terms, and this is right up there (although it could maybe stand a remix and remaster).
Alexander Taylor: one of my favourite Sabbath albums, it's beautiful and bleak. Songs like Johnny Blade and Hard Road are superb, and the muscianship is top-notch, really showing the band's jazz chops. These days Never Say Die! gets played on the radio and even Iommi likes it. As much as I love all the other Sabbath line ups, there was something special about the original line up.
Brian Anderson: I love bread, me, be it brown, white, granary, anything really, it’s all yum. So I generally love sandwiches, but there’s the odd filling that turns a great snack into a bad one. Tuna for example, yuck!
Technical Ecstasy and Heaven And Hell are bread, can’t get enough of them and could live off them forever. Never Say Die could have been the perfect sandwich filling, maybe BLT, or chicken mayo, or my personal favourite cheese savoury. Instead we were given tuna. I don’t like tuna, me.
James Last: While I'd agree that consistency wise that it doesn't quite measure up to their first six albums or heaven and hell, there's lots of great stuff on there. The band was changing, there's no question that it wasn't the same Sabbath, but at its best, it was just as good. You have to wonder if it would have got the same critical pasting if it had been made by a newer band.
Andrew Williams: I seem to have spent most of my adult life trying to convince fellow rock fans of the merits of Zep's Presence and Sabbath's Never Say Die, two albums I absolutely adore and which most people hate (even Rock critics). Never Say Die! is in the unfortunate position of not being one of the first six solid gold Sabbath albums and from having a very tinny, thin production (remastering makes little difference it seems). At the arse end of Ozzy's tenure with the band it gets written off. Big mistake, its songs are bloody brilliant and it's full of great riffs. I urge all to give it another go.
Keith Jenkin: Title track is a killer and although it's not a total clunker it was obvious from day one to me that there was nothing else on here to trouble the future "Best-Of" compilers.
Jeff Tweeter: One of my favourite Sabbath albums - and ferociously misrepresented by the band and the music media to fit the bullshit narrative that this album was the ashes the phoenix rose from with Heaven And Hell and Blizzard Of Ozz. Never Say Die has some killer creative juice running through its grooves. Junior's Eyes and Air Dance are prime examples. And in Johnny Blade, when Ozzy delivers the line "...And his web is the city at night" - it is so perfectly menacing! Over To You and Shockwave are killer, overlooked gems as well.
I always thought Never Say Die made up for everything that was wrong with the previous album Technical Ecstasy. To this listener, and Sabbath devotee, it's probably my 4th favourite of the 70's Ozzy era. Having said that, I do tend to pass on Swinging The Chain, no disrespect to Bill Ward's vocals intended - it just seems like filler; and Hard Road is just a bit too... cheerful, perhaps? But overall, this is definitely a (mostly) triumphant underdog album, and listening to it is always a bit of an event for me!
Mark Fletcher: As said earlier, it’s a great album, improves with age every listen. The elephant in the room is it just wasn’t Sabbath enough, it wasn’t the doom and gloom we all loved and expected?
Mike Knoop: Growing up in the north Texas Bible Belt, I was way too afraid for my soul to listen to much Black Sabbath the first time around, so I didn't get into them until 30+ years after the fact. Update: Soul's doing fine.
Never Say Die! is doing fine too. For me, it's definitely one of the most intriguing Ozzy-era albums, featuring stuff they rarely did - which I guess for many fans (and Ozzy himself) was the problem. The title track and A Hard Road are both upbeat singalong anthems that were staples of other band's repertoires, but not Sabbath's. Johnny Blade and Shock Wave are more typical Sabbath rockers, but still nothing you would attribute to a bunch of slouches stoned on couches.
Ironically, I can't get enough of two songs that Ozzy hated: the phantasmic fantastic instrumental Breakout with the skronking sax solo and the gnarly, snarly Breaking The Chains, sung by Bill Ward that is punctuated with a scream that puts the Ozzman to shame.
Air Dance is probably the most beautiful song they have written since the equally melancholy Planet Caravan way back on Paranoid. It's a spectacular prog showcase but clocks in under 5 1/2 minutes. Journeyman Don Airey greatly enhances the song with his keyboards, same with Over To You and Junior's Eyes.
Of course, it probably helps that I didn't see them live back then when they were getting soundly and roundly trounced by their whippersnapper opening band, Van Halen. But strictly as an album, I put it at #4 or #5 in the Ozzy-era pantheon. (I like Technical Ecstasy a lot too, so they're constantly jockeying for position.
Mark Veitch: Some albums require pages of analysis and some can be summed up in one word. The appropriate word for Never Say Die! would be ‘shite’.
Billy Master: Always been a favourite of mine despite all the derision that it has received. Although it is well documented that all was not well in the camp, as was subsequently proved. I thought that this was a brave move. So many bands get trapped by their own sound and are not allowed to deviate from it. Nowhere near as heavy as earlier albums and not Iommis best guitar sound. They still managed, for me, two top ten Sabbath tracks (Junior's Eyes and Johnny Blade). We now know that they had at least one more top draw album in them (Heaven And Hell), but what Iommi did with the brand name thereafter was often dreadful. Saw them on this tour too and they were excellent. In conclusion all I can suggest is that those fans that expected Master Of Reality, Vol. 4, Paranoid, etc, go and play those albums. Judge this on its own merits (of which there are many).
Randy Banner: The original Ozzy-era Sabbath can be divided into two distinct periods: Black Sabbath through Vol. 4 (predominately straightforward heavy metal), and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath through Never Say Die (marked by increased experimentation and less reliance on their signature doom metal sound).
That experimentation, in my estimation, reached its peak with Sabotage. Never Say Die! finds the band returning to its metal roots while still keeping a toe or two dipped into the waters of experimentation. The title track is a straight-ahead rocker (and coincidentally or not, my least favourite song on the album) while Johnny Blade, Air Dance, and Breakout indulge in much more embellishment.
The opening riff of Shock Wave is straight fire; some less thin production on that guitar would have benefitted the song greatly. This and Junior's Eyes are two of my favourites on this album, along with the (unfairly) much-maligned Swinging The Chain. Bill Ward will never surpass Ozzy as a vocalist, but this song is not as bad as the naysayers would have us believe. I actually prefer it to It's Alright. In summation, while Never Say Die! is a far cry from Sabbath's best album, I can certainly think of a lot worse ways to spend 45 minutes. 7/10
Bill Griffin: The first side is as good as anything in their catalog, especially the last three tracks. The second side is a haphazard affair but not surprising considering the internal troubles they were going through, the fact that much of the material was written for Dave Walker to sing and Ozzy refused to redo them which resulted in instrumentals and Bill singing. It still has a few great tracks and none of it is unlistenable to my ears (as opposed to Born Again, which, no matter how many times I try, remains completely unlistenable). I am equally as likely to play this album for a fix as I am any of the other Ozzy-era albums.
Elad Winberg: I really like this album and Technical Ecstasy! Both are so unique and interesting, and both have some of Ozzy’s best vocal deliveries ever! However, unlike Technical Ecstasy, Never Say Die is inconsistent, and after a brilliant side A, you have some awful songs on Side B, but also good tracks like Air Dance and Swinging The Chain with Bill Ward on vocals. Overall it’s a decent album, not their best, but certainly not their worst. I’ll give it a 7.6 out of 10
Final Score: 6.7⁄10 (152 votes cast, with a total score of 1019)
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