We always think of Black Sabbath as a musical aperitif: listening to the no nonsense crunch of their best stuff immediately clears the palate, providing a simple but exhilarating antidote to fussy, over-produced music, a freshener that cuts to the very essence of what rock should be: hard, direct, relentless, evil.
There’s more to the Sabbath songbook than just bludgeoning riffs, however, although, of course, their riffs are superlatively good. What does resonate throughout their work is a kind of oppressive darkness, whether caused by man, woman, bomb, demon or boot wearing fairy: a nihilistic revelry in death and destruction.
There is no darkness to ‘Planet Caravan’, though, only diffused and abstracted light, cosmic (in both senses of the word) rays seen through a heat haze or a drug haze or a drug daze. The drifting, swirling music recall camels and shifting sands, but whether they are of the Sahara or the Olympus Mons is unclear. We have always assumed the latter, as the disembodied vocals suggest transmissions from another planet, radio waves floating through space, only received long after the sender has died and turned to dust.
In an alternate time stream, Sabbath recorded a whole album like this, full of textures and mystery and dreams. It went to number one and everyone in the world heard it and became a better and more spiritual person, and every government added Friday to the weekend so that we could all stay up late on Thursday and sit around on beanbags and listen to its strange magic.