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Black Sabbath, ‘The Shining’ – Rock’s Hidden Gems

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For every universally celebrated song, known to all and played to death by radio stations everywhere, there are countless hidden gems — album cuts that, for reasons unclear, somehow missed their predestined date with classic-rock immortality.

Like Black Sabbath’s monolithic riff-fest, ‘The Shining,’ which arrived amidst a positively miserable career downturn for the heralded heavy metal godfathers, and, as a result, was sadly overlooked by many fans.

Not that you can blame fans for feeling suspicious of Black Sabbath, at the time, given the tragic-comic sequence of events that assailed the band’s legacy following their brief creative rebirth behind Ozzy Osbourne’s replacement, Ronnie James Dio.

First came their brief and disappointing union with Deep Purple legend Ian Gillan for the infamous ‘Born Again’ album; then repeated misfires with repacement vocalists both known (Glenn Hughes) and unknown (David Donato, Ray Gillen), while founding bassist Geezer Butler and drummer Bill Ward continually stepped in, out, in, and finally out of the picture.

By the time Sabbath’s riff-meister-in-chief, Tony Iommi, found a talented, reliable but once again little known singer in Tony Martin, his band’s reputation was in the dumps, and virtually no one expected great things from 1987’s one-year-in-the-making ‘The Eternal Idol.’

Against all odds, though, the album yielded some of Iommi’s best and heaviest songs in years, and, in ‘The Shining,’ the hands-down greatest Black Sabbath’s tune not sung by Osbourne or Dio.

Just listen as ‘The Shining’’s deceptively bright introductory melody quickly gives way to those mountain-leveling barre chords, backed by funereal organs (courtesy of behind-the-scenes hero Geoff Nichols), leading into its thought-provoking lyrics (at once cynical and defiantly optimistic) and rousing chorus powered by Martin’s stupendous, if admittedly Ronnie-esque, pipes.

From bow to stern and across its inspired succession of riffs, forbidding harmonies, and mournful Iommi solo, ‘The Shining’ is built along the same, towering sonic architecture that defined so many vintage Black Sabbath classics of old, and should by all rights have joined them in the heavy metal trophy room, if not for the travails afflicting its creators.

Instead, ‘The Shining’ has become one of Rock’s Hidden Gems: recognized as such by few, forsaken by many, but glimmering brightly nonetheless, just like the Morning Star rising over the horizon.

Next: A Deep Purple Gem

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