Saturday, 3 August 2019

Nazareth - Nazareth (1971)

I'm your witchdoctor woman....

  

Released November 1971

Running time 40.21

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.

TRACK LISTING

1. Witchdoctor Woman
2. Dear John
3. Empty Arms, Empty Heart
4. I Had A Dream
5. Red Light Lady (Parts 1 & 2)
6. Fat Man
7. Country Girl
8. Morning Dew
9. The King Is Dead                                          

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 Man, The 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.

B-