The average music fan knows Sabbath with Ozzy. The metal fan knows Sabbath with Dio. The Sabbath fan knows Tony Martin. Black Sabbath's longest-tenured vocalist, Martin lent his vocals to five studio albums and one live album/video for the band across nearly a decade from 1987-1995 with a brief break in between for the Dio Mob Rules-lineup reunion for Dehumanizer around 1990-1992. Often ignored by the mainstream and perennially out-of-print, Martin's albums are a fascinating, essential chapter in Black Sabbath's legacy and, while there may not have been high-charting hits, even the most skeptical listener can take two tracks from each and build a "Best Of" playlist guaranteed to change your mind about where Sabbath begins and ends and pique your interest in the man known as "The Cat."
The Eternal Idol - 1987
the Seventh Star project, Tony Martin was enlisted to re-record the tracks Gillen had laid down for The Eternal Idol. The result was a solid, cohesive album that did not sound like anything Sabbath had done before but was decidedly Sabbath, nonetheless. "The Shining" leads off the album and, for me, remains the embodiment of all that is Martin-era Black Sabbath and easily competes with any song by any Sabbath vocalist ever. It's moody, it's menacing and it rocks.
The sixth track, "Nightmare," is just a crunching riff machine that Martin flies above and, at 2:40 in, brings Old Scratch home to Sabbath.
Headless Cross - 1989
"When Death Calls" stretches out to nearly seven minutes of rich, dark atmosphere and showcases the only twin guitar attack I know of in Black Sabbath's discography as Tony Iommi duels with the one and only Brian May.
TYR - 1990
Cross Purposes - 1994
It is "Hand That Rocks the Cradle," though, that stands as the record's masterpiece and shows what a monster latter-era Black Sabbath is. I challenge you to leave the head unbanged when the mad, rotating riff kicks in at just under a minute into the song.
Forbidden - 1995
That said, it still has a few rough gems to offer. "Get a Grip" is one, if for no other reason than its resemblance to the stellar Born Again number, "Zero the Hero." This is also its downfall as it falls short of its predecessor but remains a highlight of the album and a good performance from Tony Martin. "Rusty Angels" leaves a lot to desired in terms of its lyric but offers a solid Iommi squall at the 3:00 mark.
Following Forbidden, Iommi, Ozzy, Butler and Ward finally reunited and Tony Martin went on to release solo work as well as albums with over half a dozen different acts. Black-Sabbath.com reports as of this week that Tony Martin albums are still in line for reissue "in due course." Until then, it's well worth the time for the curious metal fan to seek out these five platters at secondhand shops and flesh out their Sabbath collection.