'A failure to agree': Drummer Bill Ward confirms that he won't be joining Black Sabbath reunion

After months of wrangling, drummer Bill Ward confirms that he will not be joining the other original members of Black Sabbath in their long-awaited reunion this summer.

The troubled project, which was set to feature Ward, Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi in their first studio project since 1978, has been slowed time and again by devastating news — beginning when Iommi was diagnosed with lymphoma. Writing sessions then moved from L.A. to England, where the legendary guitarist underwent cancer treatment. Ward, however, did not make the trip, issuing a statement saying he could not unless a “signable contract” was drawn up.

Ward later said the sticking points included a series of alleged demands made by Sharon Osbourne, wife and manager of Ozzy Osbourne, the group’s original lead singer. Fans took to Facebook to lobby for Ward, launching a page dubbed 1,000,000 Black Sabbath Fans Say Yes To Bill Ward. That followed an unconfirmed report that Tommy Clufetos from Ozzy’s band would replace Ward.

Apparently, those efforts were for naught. Black Sabbath has dates set for May 19, 2012, at its hometown of Birmingham, England; at the UK’s Download Festival on June 20, 2012; and then at Lollapalooza on Aug. 3, 2012, in the states. But Ward now says he won’t be there.

“It is with a very sad heart that I bring you this news,” Ward says, in a Facebook posting this afternoon. “I am sincerely passionate in my desire to play with the band, and I’m very, very sorry that it’s fallen to this. This statement is even more painstaking to write, as I was particularly excited to play alongside Tony Iommi after the recent treatments he underwent. I wanted that to become a reality.”

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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