Sound — 7
In 1976, tensions within Black Sabbath were beginning to tear the band apart. These tensions were not only personal, but also musical; Apparently, Tony Iommi wanted to go in a more melodic and commercial direction inspired by Queen's recent success "A Night At The Opera", while other members wanted to stick to their heavier sound. The album ended up being something of a compromise: Heavy, gritty numbers such as "Dirty Women" and "Back Street Kids" are featured alongside mainly orchestrated pieces like "She's Gone". The production is more polished and keyboard-laden than ever before, but Iommi's guitar still retains most of its crunch. The words "melodic" and "commercial" might make many of you sick, but this is in fact a fairly balanced gathering of musical styles. The album's main selling point is not necessarily its individual songs, but the diversity that will keep listeners focused for several spins. "You Won't Change Me" starts off with a sluggish riff, but develops into an operatic, organ-based song. "Gypsy" gives us some groovy percussion, and clearly shows how inspired Iommi was by Queen at the time. "Dirty Women" gives us heavy Sabbath in their horniest glory, much like "Sabbra Cadabra" did 3 years earlier.
Lyrics — 6
Let's face it: Sabbath were never a great band lyrically. At best, their lyrics were worthwhile, at worst they were mundane. Never fantastic. This album doesn't stand out much in that respect, but at least it tackles different subjects than the previous albums. Drugs, prostitution and transvestites ("Rock N' Roll Doctor", "Dirty Women" and "All Moving Parts Stand Still", respectively) give this album more of a streetwise aura than your usual, anti-establishment Sabbath. Ozzy's voice is still completely intact, and he gives us quite a great performance. Check out "You Won't Change Me" and "Gypsy" to see what I mean. Also, Bill Ward made his first appereance as a singer on here, on the Beatle-esque tune "It's Alright", and it's not bad at all, to be honest. His voice is a lot softer than Ozzy's, so he was probably a wise choice for that song.
Overall Impression — 7
In a time when bands of the first generation of prog/metal bands were falling one by one, defeated by drugs, lack of creativity and the punk movement, Sabbath still retained some of their spark with "Technical Ecstacy". However, this is arguably the first Sabbath album to contain obvious filler tracks ("Back Street Kids" and the worthless "Rock N' Roll Doctor"), as opposed to inspired but failed bits of experimentation. Some of the new ideas are also worse than others, and "She's Gone" only comes across as whiny. The rest of the songs are very enjoyable, though: "Gypsy" features a fantastic coda that you HAVE to check out, "All Moving Parts" is filled with awesome riffage and vocal melodies, and "Dirty Women" is Sabbath at their very best. Each and every riff is a tenner (and there are TONS of them, one of which was probably recycled by Judas Priest for their "Breaking The Law"), the lyrics are brilliantly disgusting, and it manages to go on for over 7 minutes without ever getting boring, despite its repetetive outro with 3 minutes of soloing from Tony. Sabbath always seemed at their best when contemplating the issue of human reproduction. Overall, I'd say this is a pretty strong album. It was the worst album they had released up to that point, but that doesn't mean it's bad. I mean, their six first albums were all masterpieces. The bad song do give us a hint about their next album, the disastrous "Never Say Die", but the good ones more than make up for that. Sabbath fans owe it to themselves to get this, and more casual fans will probably have a good time with it as well.