The more switched on among you will have already entered our competition to win a CD Box Set of Black Sabbath‘s underrated 1975 epic Sabotage by now; You’ll have been alerted to the comp via my unboxing video which ran on Youtube a couple of days ago, and which I’ve included again here if you missed out on eyeballing it first time around.

Within the vid I mentioned that the box set contains a full live set taken from the band’s 1975 North American tour, which I mentioned was an ‘unattributed’ show. This is because there are no details given as to when and where the show was recorded. Imagine our surprise when a concerned Sabs fan, calling themselves EV Tribute, supplied this information in the comments section of the video: “Here is what you can read on a forum about the live: “They really pulled a doozy here. I have pretty low faith in them at this point, but they even managed to come in lower than that. I was not expecting this. I knew the chances of them just grabbing a bootleg were fairly high since this is what they did for the Past Lives tracks. But I assumed they’d grab the master reel transfer CD-R rip that has been widely circulating for fifteen years. I believe that’s what they used for Past Lives. They grabbed a bootleg, alright. But not that one. Or even a lossless one. They grabbed one of the bootlegs that has lossy audio. Yup, we finally get an official release of Asbury Park and it comes from lossy audio. It has the telltale hardline frequency cutoff at 16khz and the blotchiness above that line in quieter areas which is exactly what MP3 audio looks like. So then I decided to go on a mission to trace to which bootleg. A Sabbath expert sent me a song from about twenty different bootlegs of this show and I traced it to the audio on these 3 titles: Accidental Overdose, Behind the Wall of Spock and Heaven & Earth. It’s possible other titles share the same audio and they got it from there, but either way, the lossy encoding characteristics match exactly between these bootlegs and the 2021 official release. If anyone would like evidence, I’ll gladly post pics. They remastered the 2021 a bit so the waveforms don’t look exactly alike but everything about the frequency cutoff and blotchiness does. I did a rough EQ match between the two as well and the waveforms got much closer. It seems they just grabbed a bootleg and EQ’d it. Allegedly There is basically no chance the vinyl Asbury Park isn’t also sourced from lossy audio, but if I ever come across a transfer of the LPs, I can confirm it”.

So, in a deliciously post modern turn that is sooo 2021, the bootlegged have become the bootleggers!

What are we to make of all this? Is it, as the poster in the forum, and by extension EV Tribute themselves seem to think, a sordid cash grab by Camp Osbourne, designed to take the food out of honest, hard-working bootleggers’ mouths and taking all the credit for their efforts for themselves? Or is it an example of an oppressed artist, coffers squeezed to breaking point by the likes of Spotify and the fact that young people simply refuse to pay for ‘product’ now taking the initiative and presenting something that’s been commercially available for some time as essentially something new, unheard and desirable?

I’ll leave it for you to decide on that, for my philosophical training is but basic and not up to examining the many questions this issue throws up; in purely self-interested terms, Sabbath’s now-label BMG has been one of the few industry identities anywhere in the World to continue to support Sentinel Daily throughout the COVID situation by spending cold hard advertising cash, and I’d be hesitant to lay the blame at their door here. But that doesn’t mean that the issues here shouldn’t be discussed: Should the bootleggers have been credited by Sabbath, at least in as much as identifying the show used for the new box set as being one available before, albeit unofficially? Do people like the unnamed forum poster and EV Tribute have a case for their outrage, if that is indeed what it is? Is this a more widespread practice than we’ve thought up to now? Does any of this matter at all in the grand scheme of things? So many questions to think about – and so few apparent answers to any of them. What’s a fan to do?