Black Sabbath reunion hits snag as squabble erupts over Bill Ward's contract

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The proposed reunion of Black Sabbath’s original quartet survived a cancer diagnosis for founding guitarist Tony Iommi, but may have hit a new snag over the deal to bring back drummer Bill Ward.

“At this time, I would love nothing more than to be able to proceed with the Black Sabbath album and tour,” Ward says, in a new posting on his Web site. “However, I am unable to continue unless a ‘signable’ contract is drawn up; a contract that reflects some dignity and respect toward me as an original member of the band.”

Ward has been at work with Iommi, Geezer Butler and Ozzy Osbourne since November of last year on a new album, the first with the initial lineup of Black Sabbath since 1978. He even participated in a news conference in Los Angeles announcing the reunion project, but no deal for his services has ever been worked out.

Black Sabbath was originally working in California, but after Iommi’s cancer news, the group returned to continue sessions in the UK — apparently, without Ward.

“Let me say that although this has put me in some kind of holding pattern, I am packed and ready to leave the U.S. for England,” Ward says. “More importantly, I definitely want to play on the album, and I definitely want to tour with Black Sabbath. Since the news of Tony’s illness, and the understanding that the band would move production to the UK, I’ve spent everyday getting to or living in a place of readiness to leave. That involves something of a task, and as I’ve tried to find out what’s going on with the UK sessions, I’ve realized that I’ve been getting ‘the cold shoulder’ (and, I might add, not for the first time). Feeling somewhat ostracized, my guess is as of today, I will know nothing of what’s happening unless I sign ‘the unsignable contract.'”

Black Sabbath has already announced 15 European dates.

Here’s a look back at previous thoughts on Black Sabbath, and related solo projects. Click though the title for complete reviews …

BLACK SABBATH – SABOTAGE (1975): The end of Sabotage also begins the fade out of the Ozzy era of the band. Though the two records that followed both have their moments, it wasn’t until 1980 and the entrance of Dio that the band put out another truly amazing record with a sound so altered that, at times, it would be hard to identify the music as Sabbath. There’s also a very powerful argument to be made for that record as the band’s best, but I’ll save that one for another time. Sabotage isn’t likely to overtake the groundbreaking debut record or the hit-filled Paranoid as Sabbath’s best work in most people’s minds, and I understand that. But the next time you’re looking for a Sabbath fix, dig a little deeper and give it a listen, especially if you haven’t heard it in a while. It might just be a much better record than you remember. — Fred Phillips

BLACK SABBATH – THE DIO YEARS (2007): While I was aware of the Ronnie James Dio-fronted version of the band, I just never got around to checking them out. I moved on from being a metal die-hard for a while to other things, but in recent years have been slowly re-integrating a lot of older metal material. What we’ve got here is five tracks from Heaven and Hell, four from Mob Rules, three from Dehumanizer, one from Live Evil, and three brand-new songs that Dio wrote. So, finally, after all this time, the Dio-era Sabbath is finding a home in my collection. — Tom Johnson

OZZY OSBOURNE – BLIZZARD OF OZZ/ DIARY OF A MADMAN (1980/81): In my opinion, Diary of a Madman is Ozzy’s finest hour outside of Black Sabbath. While his debut had a few duds — “No Bone Movies” comes immediately to mind, and though it may seem like sacrilege to some fans, I’ve never liked “Revelation (Mother Earth),” either — Diary is a far more consistent record from beginning to end, and there’s not a single track that I skip every listen. 1980’s Blizzard of Ozz, of course, features some of Ozzy’s best-known songs, including “I Don’t Know,” “Mr. Crowley” and perhaps his most recognizable solo hit, “Crazy Train.” It also features one of my personal favorite guitar instrumentals, Randy Rhoads’ neo-classical jaunt, “Dee.” — Fred Phillips

WHOCARES, FEATURING TONY IOMMI AND IAN GILLAN – OUT OF MY MIND (2011): For all the mediocre music he shelled out under the Black Sabbath name following the departure of Ronnie James Dio, Tony Iommi is making amends later in life. His reunion of the Dio-era Sabbath lineup under the name Heaven and Hell a few years ago produced the best Black Sabbath record (and it was Sabbath, no matter what the cover said) since the same lineup reunited in 1992 for Dehumanizer. With WhoCares, he’s back together with Ian Gillan, who fronted Sabbath briefly after Dio left, for a great charity record to benefit the rebuilding of a music school in Armenia that was destroyed by a massive earthquake in 1988. — Fred Phillips

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