Black Sabbath: The Shining (with Ray Gillen)

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The Shining!

It’s a hidden gem, alright:

From bow to stern and across its inspired succession of riffs, forbidding harmonies, and mournful Iommi solo, ‘The Shining’ is built along the same, towering sonic architecture that defined so many vintage Black Sabbath classics of old, and should by all rights have joined them in the heavy metal trophy room, if not for the travails afflicting its creators.

Instead, ‘The Shining’ has become one of Rock’s Hidden Gems: recognized as such by few, forsaken by many, but glimmering brightly nonetheless, just like the Morning Star rising over the horizon.

And yet, even more hidden is the original Ray Gillen version. His vocals are the best, in our opinion, and the inclusion of his alternate recordings on disc 2 of The Eternal Idol Deluxe Edition are an opportunity for you to discover some of heavy metal’s most remarkable buried treasure (which were previously only available in bootleg form). You can hear the album as it was born. Later on, it was released with Tony Martin’s substitute vocals. But Gillen’s magnificent vocals are an achievement for all time.

Perhaps the track’s evocative title conjures up certain indelible subconscious images for you as well…

As with so many of his earlier films, Kubrick is less concerned with delivering a coherent plot than a mood, an environment and striking, almost dissociative images, and The Shining has so many of them. The ghosts of twin girls in blue gingham dresses, lurking hand-in-hand at the end of a hallway. The elevator doors unleashing a tidal wave of blood. Shelley Duvall’s bulging eyes as she swings a baseball bat in front of her. The reams of typing paper covered in the same phrase — “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” — over and over again. And in the film’s most famous moment, Nicholson’s face leering and sweating as he taunts his wife through a door he’s just splintered with an axe.

It’s those individual moments that have cemented themselves within pop culture, and which have been the subject of endless parody and tribute. The plot, which is riddled with logical inconsistencies and continuity errors (some accidental, some deliberate), ends up not really mattering in the long run. So perhaps The Shining is still freaking out modern-day audiences, many of whom have scoffed at the supposedly dated shocks of older horror classics like Night of the Living Dead or The Exorcist, not because it’s relatable or emotionally harrowing but because it slowly and purposefully insinuates itself onto you. It creeps into your subconscious and takes up residency there.

Thoughts?

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