Clearly, we’ve got a bit of a thing for the first time that Ronnie James Dio and Black Sabbath joined forces, as we inducted 1980’s Heaven and Hell into our Hall of Fame back in 2008, and now we’ve tossed its follow-up, 1981’s Mob Rules, in there as well. It makes sense that both full-lengths that Dio appeared on during his debut stint with the legends have ended up in our hallowed halls: they are both incredible albums.
We ranked the songs on Heaven and Hell from worst to best back in 2015, and today we’re going to celebrate the recent induction of Mob Rules into our Hall (grab a copy of the issue today) by ranking its songs from worst to best. Sit back and get ready to listen to fools, because this mob rules.
Somewhere between “instrumental interlude” and “something to do with Van Halen” in my cluttered mental notes sits this neglected number, which really works quite well between album heavy hitters “The Sign of the Southern Cross” and the almost-title track, “E5150” just some noisy stuff, some goofy stuff, and some cool guitar stuff, a nice breather in between a couple of metal classics, but it belongs nowhere else but the bottom of today’s list.
8. Country Girl
Haha, man, we really gotta come to terms with the fact that this song is brain-dead stuff lyrically, but luckily the lumbering, rockin’-doom riffing and classy caveman drumming make up for it, “Country Girl” kicking off side B of this record with, I dunno, a bit of a toss-off, but, like I say, that riffing and complementary drumming is just too good to pass on, even if the song’s conceit was one I could just never fully commit to.
7. Slipping Away
One of a few songs on here that are more philosophically aligned with a hair metal scene that hadn’t happened yet, “Slipping Away” grooves along with a massive stutter-step of a shuffle, Vinny Appice more than proving his worth here, as he does throughout this whole album, the man’s skills a pleasure to listen to. This song, well, I wouldn’t call it a Sab classic, and I’m not sold on some of those vocal melodies in the chorus, but when it plays, what, are you not air drumming along to it? Of course you are.
Not sure I’ve ever heard a great song that has “Voodoo” in the title, but rock and metal bands just gotta keep trying, so here we have it, easily one of the best songs working this absurd theme, slinky Iommi riff absolutely taking care of business behind a killer Dio vocal performance. Love the mid tempo after opener “Turn Up the Night”’s big-city-night party.
5. Falling Off the Edge of the World
I always liked this late-album cut, starting off powerful and dirgey and then going into a galloping stomper, hitting into that mid-to-fast stride that this version of Sabbath did so well, so brisk and economically. Also features one of Dio’s great vocal lines and melodies. Love it, and it leads into cool closer “Over and Over” perfectly.
4. Over and Over
Speaking of which, here we have it, the monolithic closer, maybe the most classic-Sabbath sounding of all this album’s tunes, “Over and Over” ending things off morosely, perfectly, proving that the Appice-backed configuration of the band could indeed handle low and slow with much grace and ease, even though lots of the stuff we remember from this album is more four-on-the-floor hot-rockin’. Majestic guitar solo, great drumming, killer vibe.
3. Turn Up the Night
I mean, it basically could open one of three or so ’80s KISS albums, but/which is why it rules, “Turn Up the Night” rocking hard and dumb, concise and fast, like “Paranoid” having a good time drunk on the highway in LA in the ’80s versus on downers in a factory in London in the ’70s. Look, we love it, it’s a classic; could anyone have written and played it? Sure, but they didn’t, and it’s awesome.
2. The Mob Rules
Well, hard to argue this one, the concise 3:15 of this rocking extremely hard, very “Turn Up the Night” but with more brains, great lyrics, riff perfection. It’s hard to overstate how great this is as a rock song, a Sab classic, just a perfect little nugget of pure metal might. I love “The Mob Rules” and you probably do too, the song right up there with the title track of this album’s predecessor when it comes to essential Sabbath songs you just gotta use to spread the good word.
1. The Sign of the Southern Cross
Oh, man, “The Sign of the Southern Cross,” this is such a massive, huge song, maybe the greatest and most Sabbatherian accomplishment of the first Dio era of Sabbath, everything lumbering, dooming, sludging, but also being totally catchy and memorable, a great song drenched in classic, traditional metal, glorious, regal doom. Love the drum work here, and another classic performance behind the mic from our man.