There's something quite exciting and inherently right about listening to an album in the way that album was intended to be listened to, on vinyl. No playlists, no shuffling, no skipping tracks and no overplaying of the hit singles, just 40 plus minutes of an unbroken and in a sense uncompromising musical journey from a designated start point to a designated finishing point (and yes, I'm aware you can pick and choose tracks, but honestly, it's much more fun to hit start and let the magic happen). In fact, there's three journeys in this case: Black Sabbath, Paranoid and Master Of Reality.

You'll have to forgive me, being an ardent child of the CD generation the process of doing these reviews has been a revelatory experience so I may fawn a little. However, nowhere is the magic of vinyl felt more keenly than on Black Sabbath's second album, Paranoid. Sabbath created far superior albums as a whole over their entire career, multiple times actually, but Paranoid is unarguably their hits album; their best collection of their strongest songs. Of course with CD there's a tendency to gravitate towards those hits and listen to the rest later but on vinyl it's easier to jump on with 'War Pigs' and go from there and that's where Paranoid comes alive. You garner a new appreciation for the immediacy of 'Paranoid' based on where it's placed on the album, stuck between three pretty slow songs. That ferocious ending to 'Iron Man' becomes more ferocious and intense because the song follows on from 'Planet Caravan', the two combining to become a ten minute build-up to a terrific crescendo and side conclusion. There's also an added intensity to 'Iron Man', those bass drum kicks are deeper and more ominous, plus that natural bass heavy sound found on vinyl makes everything feel darker and terrifying.

That big, expansive sound you get with a vinyl record gives Black Sabbath the little helping hand it needs to elevate itself. As their career went on Black Sabbath became more and more focused in their song writing, so on Black Sabbath you're hearing a band that is unrestrained and fuelled by youthful exuberance to try anything; there's a bit of experimentation in musical styles and instrumental passages are fleshed out about as far as they can go before reaching King Crimson territory. Combine all of this with that expansive sound and Black Sabbath becomes a cinematic experience, every odd sound accentuated to provide something a little different while those meandering passages come alive because every little detail can be heard. Black Sabbath is also the band's most bluesy album so that warm vinyl sound works beautifully well with tracks like 'Evil Woman'.

Master Of Reality always has that feeling of the fun finally beginning for Black Sabbath. It's on this album we finally start hearing what I can only describe as the Sabbath sound: part proto-metal, part proto-stoner and part heavy rock with a dash of experimentation in interludes ('Embryo' and 'Orchid'). Previous recent releases on CD haven't been kind to Master Of Reality, that sludgy, stoner sound not being particularly honed and often it just sounds like a jumbled up mess with no clarity, however this release sorts that particular problem, and then some. There's finally room between Iommi's guitar and Butler's bass and it's a joy to hear both a little separate from each other, every nuance to Tony Iommi's playing is laid bare and it's spectacular to hear every note and every strum. This vinyl release helps transform the guitar portion of the album from a bit of a damp squib to something more colourful and interesting; 'After Forever' suddenly sounds more energetic while there are more and more layers to 'Embryo', 'Orchid' and 'Solitude' revealed. Oh, and then there's 'Children Of The Grave', the vinyl reissue allows the doomy and gloomy atmosphere that's such an integral part of the song to stick around while the enhanced clarity of Iommi's guitar adds a huge amount of bite and menace, helping to make the song a bit of a dangerous beast. It's also because of this separation between instruments one begins to appreciate just how integral Geezer Butler and Bill Ward were to early Sabbath; providing a powerful, driving rhythm section that fits in with the established tone set by Ozzy Osborne's lyrics while having the technical ability to deviate from conventional rhythmic structures to add their own impressions and help send songs onto a different plane. It goes to show this band has never, ever only been about two people. The whole album now practically sparkles, if that's a term you want to associate with Black Sabbath.

You would think that albums that are 35+ years old wouldn't be able to throw up any more surprises after being released to death on multiple formats with added extras but here we are with a set of records that might just be the most essential versions of those albums, not because of the rarities, thirty second outtakes and b-sides that have been dug up, nor because of the obscure concert recordings that've been found, but because of the original seven or eight songs. If you've got a turntable and don't own these records now might be a good time to change that, and if you've already got them, well, there's no reason not to get them again. Black Sabbath have never sounded as good.

Reissues of the first eight Black Sabbath albums can be bought now on on 180g vinyl.