Saturday, 10 November 2018

Nazareth




Nazareth (1971)


Witchdoctor Woman/Dear John/Empty Arms, Empty Heart/I Had A Dream/Red Light Lady (Parts 1 & 2)/Fat Man/Country Girl/Morning Dew/The King Is Dead          

This was Scottish rock band Nazareth's first album and, while it displayed quite a bit of the blues and folk influences that would stay with them throughout the career, it was certainly not a full-on heavy rock offering, as their albums from 1973's Razamanaz were. It contained a fair amount of musical diversity and experimentation and quite a lot of sonic sound effects and innovative instrumentation - voice box guitar, fuzzy guitar, strings, steel guitar, possibly a bit of a legacy from the trends of the late sixties. There were still plenty of signs, however, that this was a band that knew how to rock. It simply is not quite as all-out rock as later albums. However, it is far more rocking in its sound than its follow-up album, Exercises. Far more bluesy.
                                
The album begins in quite a rocking fashion. Witchdoctor Woman is an excellent opener. It is one of the album's chunkiest, heaviest numbers. It is overflowing with great guitar play, solid drums and an overall moody, bluesy rock sound. Vocalist Dan McCafferty showed here that he was a force to be reckoned with. Dear John is a thumping blues rocker, driven along by some bar-room boogie-woogie piano. Empty Arms, Empty Heart has a vague folkiness to it, but that is over-ridden by some huge clunky guitar and drums. The bass reverberates and there is an overall muscularity to it very typical of early seventies hard rock.

 

I Had A Dream is an airy, hippy-ish floaty ballad that is still fortified by a deep bass line. It utilises some keyboard sounds similar to those used by David Bowie on Memory Of A Free Festival. The rock solidity is back with the powerful but slow burning groove of Red Light Lady (Parts 1 & 2), a heavy rocker's lament about a lady of the night. After two and a half minutes, the heaviness gives away to a low-key acoustic/organ passage before the drums and heavy guitar kick back in again. A huge string backing arrives to give it a grandiose stateliness. McCafferty's voice goes high-pitched in an Ian Gillan style as the strings descend all around him. Quite impressive stuff.

Fat Man uses the voice box guitar to make the guitar and vocal sounds on the deep, bluesy track sound even more mysterious. This was dense, reverberating blues rock. Country Girl is a slow piece of country-ish rock with hints of The Rolling Stones' slower material to it. It features a fetching steel guitar. Even this song, though, has its heavy parts on its chorus, with its bass and drum backing.

Morning Dew is an early Nazareth classic, showing how they could take an essentially quiet, acoustic folk number like this and turn it into something massively moody and menacing. They did the same later with Vigilante ManThe Ballad Of Hollis Brown and This Flight Tonight. The song builds up with some intoxicating rolling drums and razor-sharp cymbal rhythm before McCafferty's haunting vocal comes in. The lead guitar interjects here and there in a way U2 would later come to master and the song shuffles its inexorable way to its barnstorming climax. Huge drums crash in at 3 minutes 40. This is very, very good, absolutely full of atmosphere. This was Nazareth's first big statement.

The album ends with the Elton John-esque (from the Elton John album), string backed slow, stark ballad of The King Is Dead. They must have been listening to Elton/Taupin's The King Must Die when they wrote this. It sits pretty incongruously with the rest of the album though. Overall, this was a convincing first album from one of the seventies' best heavy rock/pop bands.





Exercises (1972)


I Will Not Be Led/Cat's Eye, Apple Pie/In My Time/Woke Up This Morning/Called Her Name/Fool About You/Love Now You're Gone/Madeline/Sad Song/1692 (Glencoe Massacre)     
        
Like Thin LizzyNazareth spent two albums searching for their rock muse. On this, their second, they went folk and acoustic orientated as opposed to hard rocking blues. Many bands were taking a similar approach in 1972, so it was not too much of a leftfield turn. Mott The Hoople’s Wildlife, Wings’ identically titled but differently spelled Wild Life, T.Rex’s T.Rex, Slade’s first two albums,  Rod Stewart’s first two albums, Thin Lizzy’s first two albums, Free’s Highway even Led Zeppelin III and parts of Bowie’s Man Who Sold The World and Hunky Dory were all examples of groups “going folky/laid back. Then there also bands like The Strawbs and Blodwyn Pig. It seemed like bands all thought they had to be a cross between The Band, CSNY and Nashville Skyline era Dylan.
            
I Will Not Be Led, the extremely over orchestrated low key opener, would have sounded ok on one of Elton John’s early albums, but here it just seems like a criminal waste of Dan McCafferty’s voice. Cat's Eye, Apple Pie is a quirky, folky tune that sounds a bit like The Band. It has its appeal,  but Nazareth as we would come to know them it ain’t. In My Time sees a modicum of blues rick creep in, with a more gritty and powerful vocal and some good lead guitar. Woke Up This Morning is also impressive, but nowhere near as good as the rocking howler it became when re-recorded on Loud And Proud two years later. It still has a satisfying chug in this incarnation though.

  

Called Her Name has some potent, riffy, heavy guitar and drum parts but also some whimsical acoustic passages, orchestrated bits and some CSNY harmony vocals. Its not a bad effort, but again, not the band we came to know. Played live, however, it is much heavier, a real rock song. Fool About You is a Strawbs-style country stomper with acoustic guitars and bass drum. Love Now You're Gone is based around a powerful synthesiser riff, and a convincing vocal but the lightweight, wistful Madeline has you wanting to tell the band to pull themselves together, get some whisky down them and start bloody well rocking. It does, however, have an acceptable mid-paced rock fade out which redeems it somewhat but, Dan, those vocals. Get gargling with some razor blades, big man.

Sad Song is, unfortunately, similarly feeble, vocally, and again, too orchestrated. It also ends just as it is getting going. 1692 (Glencoe Massacre) has the band going historical and singing of their Scottish history, with slightly predictable military drum rolls. Again, Dan McCafferty’s voice doesn’t do itself justice, as on all of this album. Quite what happened between this album and the next year’s hollering performance on Razamanaz is a mystery.

The sound on this latest remaster is excellent, but, as with many of these albums, it will only get an occasional airing.





Razamanaz (1973)


Razamanaz/Alcatraz/Vigilante Man/Woke Up This Morning/Night Woman/Bad Bad Boy/Sold My Soul/Too Bad Too Sad/Broken Down Angel

BONUS TRACKS 

Hard Living/Spinning Top  


Dunfermline's finest, Nazareth, really were the dog's bollocks from 1972-75. Heavy enough not to be to true "glam rock" yet pop-sensitive enough to pen a chart hit when the mood took them. One got the feeling that they "lived it" to the full as well - the whisky, the women, the fights. Nazareth were "hard". 

Their first two albums had Stones-ish bluesy elements mixed with a folky sound but this was the first album that saw them cut loose and develop some heavy rock credentials. Production by Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover no doubt helped quite a bit. There was far more attack and drive on the album, yet it wasn't all full-on rock bombast, the group found ways in which to include some musical diversities. Blues and country influences are floating around in places. 

                   
This current remastering on Salvo records is truly outstanding, pumping out the bass into your living room, as that glorious intro to Razamanaz pounds out of your speakers and Dan McCafferty howls "we got to get it togetherrr" you feel like dashing to your drinks cabinet to get the "Famous Grouse" out to give him a wee livener. There is some great whisky sodden RAWWK on here. From the opener through the brooding drum-driven power of Alcatraz to the Woody Guthrie cover Vigilante Man, which starts as a solemn blues but ends as a muscular rocker, and the abrasive Woke Up This Morning - the school of hard rock knocks is open for morning lessons. The latter track has a great bit of drum, bass and guitar interplay at the end. It had previously appeared on the group's previous album, Exercises, but this re-recording is a much heavier, improved offering.

Two chart singles appear as we progress - the melodic, poppy, Stonesy Broken Down Angel and the sawdust throated Bad Bad Boy much hated (unreasonably) by Radio One's Tony Blackburn at the time. Check out the bass and glammy Glitter Band-style drums on Night Woman too. This was such a sound of 1972-74.

Sold My Soul is a slow burner of a rocker, full of powerful, deep bass, drums, lead guitar chunky riffs and McCafferty's strong vocal. It also features a slow, atmospheric guitar solo in the middle. Too Bad Too Sad is a delicious, upbeat rocker, packed full of riffy guitar and infectious percussion. The sound on this one is superb - turn it up loud for some seriously solid rock. The two bonus 'b' sides, Hard Living and Spinning Out are good too - the first a very Deep Purple-esque slow-pace heavy rocker, while the latter is quite Led Zepplin-ish, with a killer riff.

There are four cuts from the BBC Bob Harris sessions included too and these are rough and ready and show that the lads could cut it live too. I always like these BBC Sessions tracks. They are invariably of high sound quality and it was amazing how many bans at the time just popped into the BBC and laid down some wonderful sounds, just when they had a spare fifteen minutes, it seemed.





Loud 'n' Proud (1973)


Go Down Fighting/Not Faking It/Turn On Your Receiver/Teenage Nervous Breakdown/Free Wheeler/This Flight Tonight/Child In The Sun/The Ballad Of Hollis Brown      

After the success of the barnstorming blues and Scotch whisky rock of earlier in the same year's Razamanaz, Scottish rockers Nazareth were back with one of their hardest-rocking albums. Deep Purple's Roger Glover was the producer, once again, and there are some excellent, guitar-driven rockers on here. This is a proper heavy rock album but with a catchy accessibility. That was Nazareth's strength.
                        
Go Down Fighting is an absolute Naz stonker of an opener, full of riffy guitars, pumping bass and pounding drums and the similar strains of Not Faking It keeps up the heavy rock pressure. Dan McCafferty's rasping vocals are excellent, ideal for the material, a sort of Rod Stewart meets Robert Plant and Ian Gillan.

Turn On Your Receiver has a few vague twinges of country rock about it, and a slightly less frantic pace than the two openers, but it still rocks solidly. It is certainly no CSNY. Nazareth had the ability to turn a cover version into their own, copper-bottomed slice of credible hard rock. They do exactly that with Little Feat's Teenage Nervous Breakdown superbly with a riff-dominated version. That typical Nazareth fuzzy lead guitar is at full strength here.  It almost sounds punky in an Eddie & The Hot Rods kind of way. There is almost a "live" feeling to the song's vibrant looseness.

 

Free Wheeler is another dollop of top notch blues rock, featuring some infectious cymbal work and solid, driving riffage. This, the old "side one" of the original album, has been seriously top quality rock from the very first note to the last.

The album's hit single, the band's cover of Joni Mitchell's This Flight Tonight turns the song from a wistful folk song into a rumbling, rhythmic rocker with a superb vocal from McCafferty. It deservedly provided them with their third chart hit.

Child In The Sun is an initially acoustic-backed rock ballad, that breaks out into some impressive fuzzy guitar with hints of Deep Purple to the vocal and structure.

The highlight of the album, however, is the extended, menacing blues rock splendour that is their cover of Bob Dylan's tragically disturbing tale, The Ballad Of Hollis Brown. Searing rock guitars swirl all around the powerful, threatening, foreboding drum beat as McCafferty tells of the father who takes the life of himself and all his children. One of the greatest ever Dylan covers, but one that is, unfortunately, rarely mentioned in such lists.

Nazareth released three (possibly four) excellent mid-seventies rock albums. This is certainly one of them. It doesn't diversify as much as their previous albums had, but it doesn't really need to, does it?

The four "BBC Sessions" live tracks on the latest remaster are excellent, as so many of the "BBC Sessions" cuts were, from many groups. The sound quality is really impressive, particularly for 1973.





Rampant (1974)


Silver Dollar Forger/Glad When You're Gone/Loved And Lost/Shanghai'd In Shanghai/Jet Lag/Light My Way/Sunshine/Shapes Of Things/Space Safari   

I remember buying this album back in 1974. It kicked serious ass then and it does now. Dunfermline's hard-as-nails whisky-sodden foursome give it some and more on this excellently remastered extended version from this classic seventies rock band. It is a Southern rock-influenced album, sort of Lynyrd Skynyrd but with the usual Stones strains popping up all over. Dan McCafferty's voice is outstanding throughout. The album is not quite as diverse as Razamanaz or, to a lesser extent, Loud 'n' Proud but it certainly is consistent in its energetic approach. It is another slice of quality seventies rock with a poppy accessible edge. 
           
One of the album's most impressive numbers is Silver Dollar Forger, which kicks the album magnificently - packed full of frantic riffing and vocal power on its first part, which then morphs into an impressive instrumental workout on part two. Glad When You're Gone is an upbeat, catchy typically Nazareth rocker. You can't beat the passionate yearning of Loved And Lost either.

 

The hit single from the album was the Stonesy (complete with mid-song riff tribute) Shanghai'd In Shanghai and a corker it is too. Perfect pop rock.

There is a similar feel on Jet Lag to Silver Dollar Forger, although this time it has a bluesier edge to it, and is slower in pace. It has some great wah-wah guitar near the end too. "Yes ma'am I did say Scotland - "can you spell that for me please?" is a good line as well. They could come up with some nice tongue-in-cheek lyrics at times.



 Light My Way is a slow and powerful rock ballad, drenched in feedback, an enhanced vocal and muscular, pounding drums. Sunshine is just a beautiful, anthemic, singalong rock ballad and the band's cover of The YardbirdsShapes Of Things is excellent too. The song suits Nazareth perfectly. It ends with a spacey instrumental in Space Safari. In fact, the spacey bits occur intermittently throughout the track, and there is room for a John Bonham-style drum solo in the middle as well. The bonus track 'b' side, Down is an impressive rocker. I don't really get why it couldn't have been put on the album, it would have made it even better.

The "extras" are BBC "In Concert Sessions" live cuts from 1973 featuring Naz classics such as RazamanazNight Woman, Vigilante Man, Alcatraz, Broken Down Angel, Woke Up This Morning and Morning Dew which show just what a great, powerful live band they were. The sound is really good on these recordings.


Hair Of The Dog (1975)


Hair Of The Dog/Miss Misery/Guilty/Changin' Times/Beggars Day/Rose In The Heather/Whiskey Drinkin' Woman/Please Don't Judas Me/Love Hurts

BONUS TRACKS

My White Bicycle/Holy Roller/
Railroad Boy      

This was the last in the run of four excellent Nazareth albums in the seventies. It was their most successful, commercially. Originally, it was to be titled "son of a bitch", after the hook line on the title track, but US censors objected to that, puritanically. Even the track itself had its title changed in the same way.

Deep Purple's Roger Glover was no longer on production duties, but the sound is pretty much the same - hard rock but with an ear for a killer pop chorus and elements of folk here and there. Overall, though, it is more heavy and less pop/rock than their previous offerings.

 
                                  
Hair Of The Dog is a magnificent opener, kicking off with a Honky Tonk Women cowbell before a big, chunky riff and Dan McCafferty's gravelly voice arrive. The chorus - "now you're messin' with a son of a bitch" is irresistible. Miss Misery is a classic, industrial-strength heavy rocker, with Deep Purple-esque guitar and a soaring vocal. Guilty is a slow, bluesy ballad, with small hints of The Rolling StonesLove In Vain and No Expectations about it. It is a cover of a Randy Newman song. Changin' Times is so Led Zeppelin it could almost be them, let's be honest here. McCafferty's voice is so damn good, however, that he also makes it a Nazareth song. After all, it is their song, it is just very "under the influence". The guitar/drum section at the end, as it speeds up, is superb. This is some of Nazareth's most impressive instrumentation.

Beggar's Day, a Crazy Horse cover, is another massive monster of a heavy rocker, full of thumping bass and Purple power riffs. This is some of the heaviest stuff Naz had laid down in their career thus far. After four minutes it morphs into the synth, spacey strains of the instrumental Rose In The Heather, enhanced by some excellent buzzy but melodic guitar.

Whisky Drinkin' Woman is as clich├ęd, lyrically, as the title suggests, but no matter, because it is searingly hot, musically - blues rock heaven. Please Don't Judas Me is a typically Nazareth slow blues number in the style of their cover of Bob Dylan's The Ballad Of Hollis Brown. It is actually over nine minutes long and, you have to say, completely uncommercial. Indeed, save for the title track, the album had been composed of serious "album"-style tracks - deep and heavy, not many Broken Down Angel or Shanghai'd In Shanghai type tracks to be found. The album ends with the hit single, the band's cover of Love Hurts, which is delivered in grandiose fashion, with a great guitar solo in the middle.

The bonus tracks contain another couple of hit singles - the fuzzy guitar-driven cover of sixties psychedelic rock number My White Bicycle, which is entertaining and the melodic rock of Holy Roller. Both these tracks would have been fine additions to the original album and significantly altered its character. Railroad Boy was a 'b' side and is a chugging, but no less impressive rocker. Without the bonus tracks, the album is heavy but ever so slightly in need of vitality. The bonus tracks give it just that.





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