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Main Category: Heavy Metal
Also applicable: Rhythm & Blues, Roots Rock, Arena Rock
Starting Period: The Artsy/Rootsy Years
Also active in: The Interim Years, The Punk/New Wave Years,

The Divided Eighties, From Grunge To The Present Day



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Year Of Release: 1971

Aye, that's a five stars out of five all right. For some reason, nearly every heavy metal band that ever pioneered the movement back on the Sixties/Seventies border, used to have its first album as its finest hour (stupid critics don't seem to realise that, of course, but hey, it's their personal problem). Think Led Zep I (glorious!), Deep Purple In Rock (not that band's first record, but the first serious Mark II studio effort), Paranoid (well, it was Sabbath's second effort, but it came out the same year as the first), and yes, Nazareth's self-titled album.

You know my scepticism towards heavy metal as a genre, but even I have to admit that this is one helluva record; easily the second best "heavy" release of 1971, barely nudged out by Zoso and only because that one had a mightier share of instant classics. On the other hand, Nazareth is more consistent; you'll find nothing like the stupid self-indulgence of 'Four Sticks' or the lame ear-shredding harmonies of 'Misty Mountain Hop' on here. So, assuming that very few souls in this world still remember the Scottish lads' innocent debut, I might just as well give you a short run-down.

Freshly descended from the snowy mountains of Scotland, Nazareth seem to have absorbed the heavy sound quite seriously; there's no reason to doubt their having worn out their copies of Led Zep's, Black Sabbath's and even Uriah Heep's records from the previous year. But Nazareth adds an important series of elements that are enough to completely distinguish their effort from that of their predecessors. First, there is a very strong folk influence throughout; and unlike Led Zep, these guys actually understand what folk is all about. Maybe Edinburgh was a good place to soak in these influences; in any case, a song like 'I Had A Dream', even if it might seem 'mushy' on first listen, is actually an excellent and moving acoustic gem, graced by tasty harmonium and very Winwood-like vocals from Mr McCafferty (in fact, you could easily mistake this song for a Traffic number! A good Traffic number at that!) Likewise, 'Country Girl' is adorable - it has nothing to do with Neil Young's song of the same name, but it is somewhat similar to Neil's balladeering style, and dang catchy and pleasant at that.

More important is that Nazareth introduce the pop hook into their fat grumbly metal machine. All of these songs are only indirectly related to the blues; the main melodic structures are actually pop, cleverly and brilliantly disguised as heavy, gritty rockers (a trick that Uriah Heep never really managed to pull off. And why? Because their melodies sucked, that's why!). Actually, the album opener 'Witchdoctor Woman' (should be separated with a comma - no androgynous stuff on here) is currently in my Top Five, maybe even Top Three, heavy metal songs ever written. What a magnificent riff. What brilliant singing - listen to how Dan marvellously fits in with every guitar tone. The awesome Sabbathey 'cluck-cluck-cluck' guitar "echo". The terrific prolongation of the outro chord on every second line. The simple, yet oh so effective solo. Why the song never actually sent them over the top into the league of "metal greatest" back in 1971 is one of those unfair mysteries of life I just can never get used to.

Nothing else really scales the same epic heights, but many of the other tracks come close. Particularly impressive, for instance, is their seven-minute rendition of Tim Rose's 'Morning Dew' (which can also be heard in a very good version as impersonated by Rod Stewart on Jeff Beck's Truth): the atmospheric intro, with the pumping bass line and all those echoey guitars slowly and menacingly weaving around it, is sheer brilliancy again. And even if the tune is essentially generic, it's still performed with such an outstanding audacity that you can't help but get involved - as regards, for instance, the bold piano rocker 'Dear John'. Meanwhile, the guys have a good sense of humour too: 'Fat Man' is simply hilarious, with amusing electronically encoded vocals and a groovy song structure. To top it all, the band also shows a passion for bombastic, but clever orchestrated passages - as can be evidenced by the huge operatic finale of 'Red Light Lady' (another excellent rocker in its own rights), and the slightly less memorable, but interesting 'The King Is Dead'. And the new CD release adds a bunch of bonus tracks, among which you'll find the funny pop ballad 'Friends' (pure music-hall!) and an alternate edit of 'Spinning Top' which would, of course, be featured later on Razamanaz.

In other words, as far as consistent albums go, they hardly get any better than this. It's an awful shame the album isn't in print in the US (just as it's an awful shame that Nazareth as a band are virtually unknown there); it's definitely a must for any hard rock collection.



Year Of Release: 1972

Exercises indeed. This album is the weirdest anomaly in the entire Nazareth catalog (at least, the entire Seventies Nazareth catalog), as there's nary a heavy rocker to be found anywhere. Even hardcore Naz fans sometimes raise an eyebrow here, but I say swell. If anybody were going to accuse me of "always expecting something from a band and then condemning them when they try and make something different", here's a good chance to disprove this accusation. This is the most untypical, anomalous, chronologically displaced, genre-irrelevant Nazareth record ever; and yet, it is one of their best, even if it's nowhere near as perfect as the debut album.

What happened here is that Nazareth tried going in a far softer, laid-back direction. This stuff is not exactly "soft rock", because it doesn't have that safe, homey feel most soft rock creations have, but it completely lacks the band's traditional mountaineer grittiness. Orchestrated ballads, country-western tunes, Scottish ballads, conventional folksey ditties... not a heavy metal tune in sight. Well, only one, maybe, which is the band's hilarious bluesy rocker 'Woke Up This Morning'; but it's essentially a novelty tune, continuing the line of 'Fat Man' from the last album. It kicks some ass, to be sure, but its biggest attraction by far are the lyrics ('woke up this morning, my dog was dead/Someone disliked him and shot him through the head/Woke up this morning, my cat had died/I know I'll miss her, sat down and cried' and so on). The melody is kinda trite, awesome guitar solos though.

But the big plus is that all... well, most of this stuff works, for me, at least. Apparently, these guys were just so much soaked in authentic Celtic folk music that all these ballads don't sound cheesy in the least. It's not that there are a lot of hooks - maybe I haven't had enough listens, but so far, the songs don't stick all that much in my head. But while they're on, they're all just tremendously groovy. Everything well aranged, with thick acoustic guitars, fat harmonicas, swollen orchestration and puffed-up vocals (just trying to give you the impression of how LARGE these guys were). And in any case, these are not power ballads (well, Nazareth did have some good power ballads later on, but you know power ballads ain't exactly my cup of tea). 'Sad Song' is just as gorgeous a ballad as anything Rod Stewart or the Moody Blues had put out in their prime; likewise, I can easily imagine 'Madeleine' being sung by Justin Hayward (not to better effect, but I suppose he wouldn't let the song down either). And kudos to Manny Charlton for pulling off all that acoustic guitarwork with superb taste and care. And did I say "no hooks"? Watch out for that superb trick on the instrumental breaks to 'Madeleine' where the main riff-producing electric guitar just keeps repeating that same riff over and over and then suddenly goes "wheeeeeezzz..." soaring up at the end of each verse (if I'm not clear enough, it first occurs at 0:37 into the song, but then gets even better later on). Now that's a hook all right.

Other highlights include the cheerful, silly 'Cat's Eye Apple Pie' with lots of excellent slide guitar (the easiest way to trick me into a good mood is to put LOTS OF EXCELLENT SLIDE GUITAR in a song, as this just might be my favourite instrument of all time); the hyper-orchestrated, yet somewhat medieval-sounding 'I Will Not Be Led', which is everything Uriah Heep wanted to be but never were; and the closing tune, the sinister '1692 (Glencoe Massacre)', structured as a traditional Scottish ballad (copyright to Nazareth, though, so it's probably not authentic, unless they were just stealin' like some bad-assed Led Zep clone. Oh well, sometimes they did sound like a bad-assed Led Zep clone, but that's a different matter).

A couple other tunes aren't as thrilling and I wouldn't want to waste space describing all of 'em (you already heard about the best), but none of them suck, and in general the album is quite effective anyway. In fact, it deserves a four-star rating if only for the fact that the band takes such a dangerous subject (puffed-up orchestrated balladeering) and manages to get away with a minimal, if any, percentage of cheese. Awesome.



Year Of Release: 1973

Not what I'm looking for when I'm looking for something. Not coincidentally, this was also Nazareth's real commercial breakthrough in Britain, with a couple hit singles and lots of airplay and all; Razamanaz still remains a cult favourite among fans, but, unfortunately, it's a very un-unordinary record to make a cult of. Ex Deep Purple bass player Roger Glover comes on board as producer, and although I'm not too sure if he had the biggest hand in such a radical change of direction, there's quite a bit of evidence for that on the record. Indeed - what is 'Razamanaz' (the title track, I mean) but an updated, slightly modified take on Deep Purple's 'Speed King'? I can almost imagine Roger taking a listen to the first two Naz records, then taking off his headphones in disgust and saying 'hey guys, you got it all wrong. You never ain't gonna be no superstars if you continue dabbling in all that folkish rubble. What we need here is some more crowd-pleasin' ass-kickin'. Now let's just remember how we started out. We had that 'Speed King' thing back in 1970, let's try it your way now, see what happens...'

What happened was a sacrifice of Nazareth's maybe not thoroughly ass-kicking, but definitely unique brand of "Scottish Folk-Metal" for a more traditional, generic blues-based hard rock sound. Yes, this is also the place where Dan McCafferty's vocals suddenly take off and become as raunchy as, well, as is required from a professional heavy metal screecher (Glover's influence again? 'Hey Dan, why don't you try an Ian Gillan approach on that one...'). And if you're a heavy kind of person, Razamanaz is an absolute winner after all the stupid sissiness of Exercises. But if you're a heavy and intelligent kind of person (which is rare, I know, but nevertheless happens), you'd do better if you went to the band's first album for something really intriguing. I mean, hey, it might just be me, but I'm personally not interested in a half-baked cross between Deep Purple and Lynyrd Skynyrd without the former's technical proficiency and the latter's authenticity. Not that I find Razamanaz an utterly dumb record, like some people, notably Mark Prindle, do - I've certainly heard dumber albums from the era; I just don't find enough exciting or original tunes here to redeem Razamanaz's existence.

A brief rundown of why the album still gets its two and a half astral bodies, now. The band's take on Leon Russell's 'Alcatraz' is the main reason: McCafferty sounds like the devil himself and the opening riff is one of the band's best, and I really get the shivers when Dan growls 'going back to Alcatreeeeeeeezz'. (How bizarre that Leon Russell's songs should have been covered - and at more or less the same time - by both Nazareth and the Carpenters. Not even the Beatles can boast that). The wonderful "shooting" slide guitar in 'Bad Bad Boy' lifts up this otherwise pedestrian song, transforming it into a delicious, if silly, slab of exciting pop-rock. 'Too Bad Too Sad' is one of those songs that fall in the "so stupid it's genius" category. Is it just me or am I right in hearing something punkish/New Wavish in those vocal harmonies? Nah, probably just me. And the two rockers at the end of the album, 'Hard Living' and 'Spinning Top', are also decent Deep Purple/Uriah Heep send-ups, completely unnecessary if you're not a particular heavy metal fan, but acceptable and enjoyable if you endear the genre.

Everything else either sucks or is just filling up space (not to mention time and money - hey, instead of recording these tracks the guys coulda been hunting Nessie instead!) Okay, I give: the solos in 'Razamanaz' are great Chuck Berry-style boogie, excellent to headbang to. But that main melody is a total rip-off of 'Speed King', dude, 'cept that Dan's hollering is abysmal, as if he were dying of laryngitis or sumpthin'. The cover of Woodie Guthrie's 'Vigilante Man' has some good slide guitar to it, but this time I'm not subdued - I've heard these same chords many many times... on just about everybody's versions of 'Amazing Grace', yup. 'Sold My Soul' is Nazareth taking their Sabbath legacy a bit too seriously. The remake of 'Woke Up This Morning' is ridiculous - the original was better anyway. And I can't even remember the rest of this stuff. Sorry fans, I simply can't see how a person of good musical taste could ever prefer this derivative, insecure stuff to the classic Scottish sound of Nazareth. Beats me.



Year Of Release: 1973

Isn't this one of the earliest BBC live releases? As far as I know, it ain't an archive release (that honour falls to 1998's Live At The Beeb... yeah, yeah, I know what you're thinking, but these guys gotta lots of archive tapes). Anyway, an excellent live album it is, and it actually gave listeners back in 1973 the first true taste of what Dan's voice was truly capable. Not that I'm an admirer of Mr McCafferty's vocal stylisations: I don't think that screaming so much and not always in the right places is good for one's health, whether the "one" be the singer or the audience and whether the "health" be physical or psychological. But hey, I bow my head to the sheer power of his roar - God did grace the man with an unbelievable pair of vocal cords.

The song selection, unfortunately, is marred by way too many selections from Razamanaz - in particular, I could easily do without 'Night Woman' and 'Broken Down Angel' (yeah, I know the latter was one of the two UK hits from the album, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's an interesting song). It's such straightforward generic hard rock filler that no amount of energy or technical prowess can really save the material. And 'Vigilante Man' doesn't benefit too much from a live setting, either - the slide guitar is still singing out its routine 'Amazing Grace' lines, and the verses still plod along as dumbly as they did before. Oh well. At least the title track rocks along pretty nicely - I still don't understand why the hell does Dan feel the need to imitate a fit of vomit on each line in each verse, but maybe I'm missing something? The Chuck Berry-isms go off splendidly, though. And 'Alcatraz'... well, it's 'Alcatraz', after all.

As for the other material, it all easily qualifies. My main complaint is that there's too few songs from Nazareth, though (two), and particularly: where the hell is 'Witchdoctor Woman'? The best song Naz ever did, and it ain't present on a single live Naz album? This is nothing short of sacrilegious. Did they never play it live or what? And if yes, then why? Much too "metallic" for their tastes? Count me displeased.

Then again, it's not really a complaint that relates to this album exclusively, so... The version of 'Morning Dew' is amazing - Pete Agnew is the main hero on here, putting loads of fuzz on his bass and then playing it like he did in the studio, but now instead of a galloping bass horse we have a thrashing bass mammoth; add to this Manny's excellent mastery of the 'mystery guitar' sound (I miss the echoes of the studio version, but hey, they'd need two guitarists at least to create something like that on stage) and Dan's hilarious "evil" voice and voila, a live classic is born.

Other highlights on here include a very heartfelt and moving rendition of 'Country Girl' (whatever one might think, it's still much better than most of their later power ballads), a trusty performance of 'Woke Up This Morning' (which, if I'm not mistaken, is the Naz cult equivalent of 'The Jack' in the AC/DC cult: a primitive, yet strangely endearing, almost intimate "sick groove"), a hardened version of 'Called Her Name' from Exercises and - last but not least - an interesting surprise: the band's take on the Allman Brothers' 'Black Hearted Woman'. A good one, heavier than the original, of course, if not necessarily better. But very symbolic: with this performance, Nazareth almost seem to renounce their Celtic roots and switch to the American roots-rock pattern. Too bad.

Anyway, this is the earliest official Naz live album available ("available" is, of course, a very relative word here, as most Naz albums are out of print in the US, but hey, the US ain't the world, so there), and since it's the earliest, it's also the best par excellence. So buy it if you see it. No, that was not a bias out there.


LOUD 'N' PROUD ***1/2

Year Of Release: 1973

Again, this is a change of direction, but not a radical one this time. Rather they're just refining their style a little bit, reclining from the "Purple Skynyrd" formula and making their power attack somewhat more precise and compact, not to mention more original. As usual, the album is rife with filler, but even the filler this time has some redeeming qualities: it's not offensive in the least, just a couple of not particularly attractive hard rock tunes without catchy riffs. 'Turn On Your Receiver' is the one I'm mostly thinking of - a simple, but ineffective pop-rock number that sounds good while it's on... bah, you know the rest.

But most of the stuff is pretty interesting - hilarious fast rockers a la Uriah Heep (i.e. with inane riffage, but attractive vocal melodies; that's actually a compliment, because I always thought that Uriah Heep's strongest point were the unpretentious rockers - it's when they began to dabble in fantasy and operatic flourishes that trouble usually struck). Actually, speed is the main motto of this album: it's not all that loud, but sure is speedy. Kick-ass rock'n'roll in its primary function - rebellious dance music. 'Go Down Fighting', 'Not Faking It', 'Freewheeler', they all have mighty fine, melodic choruses, and an unprecedented amount of energy. Of course, this couldn't be any further from the kind of "mountainous" solemn heavy rock these guys started out with, but hey, they found a formula that seemed to work, so why should we complain? And on their cover of Little Feat's 'Teenage Nervous Breakdown', they actually manage to out-AC the DC, which, by the way, hadn't yet busted out of Australia by that time. I mean, don't you see the prototype of 'Let There Be Rock' in this song, with its furiously thrashing drums and its primitive, yet so irresistible chorus? I sure get my kicks out of it.

The big hit on the record (which, actually, won them a final breakthrough - transgressing Britain, it charted fine in both Europe and the States; the record, not the hit, I mean) was the cover of Joni Mitchell's 'This Flight Tonight'; I haven't heard the original, but - dare I say it? - intuition tells me the hairy distorted guys did mess the original arrangement up a bit. It's never striken gold in my soul, but that doesn't mean it ain't a solid piece of work, either, with McCaffertey's soaring vocals and the steady pulsating rhythms and all. Just a bit too conventional for my taste.

And just so as not to let us think they have completely fizzled out on the grounds of diversity, the last two songs are entirely different from the usual pattern of the album. 'Child In The Sun' is the only ballad here, and it's good: not yet structured according to their "power ballad" formula, it's a rather complex "rootsy" composition with excellent soloing and lots of neat tricks. But the main "eyebrow-raiser" is, of course, their take on Dylan's 'Ballad Of Hollis Brown' - I still don't know if it should be taken as a strike of genius or as a pretentious parodic mocking. Probably both. Namely, they just take his tale of that unhappy farmer driven to suicide and "family-cide" because of poverty and transform it into a creepy gothic horror-story: Alice Cooper would sure have been proud of such a recording in his catalog. Melodically, it's not any more complex than the original; but the arrangement is so thoroughly marinated in feedback, phasing and all kinds of different synth-processing of the guitars that it's absolutely dreadful, in all possible senses. Still, I do realise that the arrangement suits the song's matter real well, and therefore I forgive them the sin of ruining my ears; if only Mr McCaffertey would have bothered to sing instead of mostly screaming and murmuring out of key, could have been a real hoot.

In any case, I'm glad that 'Ballad' is there on the album - for all of its nine minutes, it still presents a nice counterpoint to all the unambitious arse-thumping on the record's first side. The balance is good, so count me satisfied.



Year Of Release: 1974

Things start out rather playful and innocent, with a couple of boogie tunes that refine the boys' headbanging style even further - don't worry, they sure know how to rock'n'roll now, and Agnew's bass pulsates like nothing else in the world, while Charlton is either throwing out rapid-fire licks designed to send your head in a whirl or is carefully sticking to THAT kind of the riffage - you know, the one which is supposed to get all your nerves ecstatic. I'm particularly speaking of the glorious 'Silver Dollar Forger', of course, with its unforgettable chorus and brilliantly crafted solos. Then up comes the second tune, 'Glad When You're Gone', and that one makes you scream: 'Hey! These guys ain't heavy metal thugs at all! They're just doing generic boogie for us!' And sure they do, as this one's hardly anything more than a Fifties' pastiche updated for the hard rock crowds of the Seventies. Hey, if not for the trademark McCafferty vocals (which, to tell you the truth, start to annoy the hell out of me by now, but hey, it's just me after all), this could have easily been mistaken for an AC/DC tune of the same period - that is, before those guys dropped the retro boogie approach and started imitating heavy metal rather than Chuck Berry.

Great sound, anyway. And the other bunch of hard-hitting rockers, 'Shanghai'd In Shanghai' and 'Jet Lag', twitched in the middle of the LP, while not particularly interesting from a melodic standpoint, still have that great ass-kickin' Nazareth vibe to them. Sure, I'll disregard the fact that some of these songs sound uncannily close to mid-Seventies Vegas-ey Rod Stewart, but hey, mid-Seventies Vegas-ey Rod Stewart was never a big problem for me; it's when he started dabbling in synth-pop and 'synth-rock' that real trouble actually struck. And what's that about including a particularly "fuzzed out" 'Satisfaction' riff smack in the middle of 'Shanghai'? Was that supposed to be just an ear-attracting gimmick?

However, while these four songs indeed constitute half of the record, the other half doesn't sound like them at all - and I'm not exactly a big fan of that second half. Both of the ballads, 'Loved And Lost' and 'Sunshine', certainly have a certain edge to them, but they bring in that "power approach" which is one of the least tasteful things ever to happen to a ballad. Still, I'd at least have to admit that the solo section in 'Loved And Lost' is brilliant beyond description: Charlton selects a weird 'poisonous' guitar tone (somewhat close to Dave Gilmour's dentistry, but more distinct and up-to-the-point) and proceeds to offer a perfect compromise for Mr McCafferty's overemoting.

However, I really don't have anything to say in favour of 'Light My Way', a dumb pedestrian "anthem" with McCafferty singing through some stupid reverb mask. Slow, pondering and not too elaborate, it's little more than your average arena-rock crap. Let this music illuminate a stadium, but keep it out of my living quarters for Chrissake; can't stand generic arena-rock and hope so do you, whoever you are. And more or less the same style characterizes the band's take on the Yardbirds' 'Shapes Of Things' - loud, thick, pounding, rambling, messy, and screeeeeamy; a good prototype of all the Eighties' metal 'excitement'. God only knows why the band decided to incorporate that style. Maybe they were planning to return to the 'otherworldly' sound of Nazareth, but as they worked on all that pomp, they forgot about the melodies in the process; plus, McCafferty never screamed his head off like that on the debut album. Blah.

In any case, the world can be a perfectly happy place even without those two arena scarecrows. I mean, whatever, the rest of the album is either okayish balladeering or good old timey boogies. Still, what the heck - Rampant is "neither fish nor meat", as we say in Russia. If you want power ballads and generic arena-rock, check out Nazareth's later stuff. If you want good old timey boogie, check out Loud 'n' Proud. This is some kind of a weird transitional album, and that's probably the best thing I can come up with to say about it. Sheez.



Year Of Release: 1975

Usually considered as the "classic" Nazareth record, and there is some truth in this assumption, but I have the same problem with it as I had earlier with Thin Lizzy's Jailbreak: namely, this is a pretty normal and formulaic album which is mighty fine by your average hard rock standards but pales in comparison with records that made these bands truly unique. For Thin Lizzy, this true peak were Vagabonds Of The Western World; Nazareth had their peak on the debut album. And Hair Of The Dog? Well... It's a good one.

Obviously, the main reason the record had reached a 'cult' status is the fact that it contains the band's take on the Everley Brothers' 'Love Hurts' - turning it into a prototypical power ballad that later spawned millions of imitations. I usually loathe power ballads, but this is almost an exception: the song is being salvaged by Dan McCafferty's ultra-powerful vocal approach (only on hearing him wail his way through the lyrics do you understand how utterly ridiculous Steve Tyler or these Scorpions guys sound while doing something in the same style) and Mannie's tasteful guitar arrangements, plus a really really heavenly and really really understated, economic guitar solo to straighten things out. The song couldn't help but become a hit single, the biggest in the band's entire career - and forever put the tag of 'power balladeers' on Nazareth, which is a most unjust tag if there ever was one.

Because 'Love Hurts' is far from the best number on the record. Here, Nazareth take an unprecedented super-heavy approach, churning out leaden metallic riffs as if the main goal would be to sink the ground under Black Sabbath's feet; 'Miss Misery' and 'Beggar's Day' are definitely among the heaviest numbers of the Seventies, and are both a must-hear for any respectable metal fan. Me not all that impressed, tho' - heavy metal is not my forte, and while Dan certainly screams his head off in a cool way, the riff of 'Miss Misery' definitely leaves a lot to be desired. 'Beggar's Day' is a highlight, still, can't help myself on this occasion, and the title track is pretty groovy in its kinky way - what a better way to parody the entire cock-rock business with harmoniously chanting the refrain 'Now you're messing with a son of a bitch, a son of a bitch'? Unless they're serious about it, of course, in which case I rest mine.

On the poorer side, the chuggin' 'Changin' Times' is just Nazareth trying to write their own 'Black Dog', with an incredibly similar stop-and-start structure but with several times less excitement than on the 'original', and the rootsy 'Whisky Drinkin' Woman' has earned a very just 'Joe Walsh-style' tag from Mark Prindle: it's supposed to rock, but it's kinda tame and silly. Although I suppose that from a certain point of view this silliness can be just an additional factor of fun, and I wouldn't wanna confiscate all of Mr McCafferty's posessions for this crime against good taste. And then, on the richer side, Randy Newman's 'Guilty' has some more excellent guitar arrangements - Mr Charlton is really a masterful slide player, doncha think?

The album's centerpiece, however, is neither of these songs, but the epic, quasi-gothic 'Please Don't Judas Me' which occupies about half of the second side. Building steadily up, up and up, through eerie layers of dark slide guitar and ominous synthesizer bleeps, Dan's desperate hoarse wailings, and a stern martial drum pattern, unto a mastodontic metal guitar solo, the song is the 'classic period' Nazareth masterpiece. Perhaps only Led Zeppelin could have stood up to the competition, but even so, Page would definitely lose in the production department: the Zepsters weren't big experts when it came around to overlaying these subtle echoes and keyboard grunts. Don't forget about this one when making a Nazareth compilation - it could have easily fit on their debut album, as the atmosphere and subtlety of the performance match its character completely.

The CD re-issue also adds a couple rockers as bonus tracks, but I found them perfunctory, and anyway, 'Please Don't Judas Me' and 'Love Hurts' leave you so exhausted already that instead of putting on more Nazareth, I'd suppose you go and play some crappy computer game. Which is what I'm gonna go do now.



Year Of Release: 1976

Now this was really unexpected. We'd all already thought that Nazareth had settled into a formula (ass-kicking hard rock vs. power ballads), but now they actually go out of their way to prove this isn't so. The album is easily their most diverse, at least since the debut one, and the title says it all: they're 'close' for rock'n'roll, but they rarely do actual rock'n'roll on here, branching out in every way possible and making a valid statement. And that statement? 'This is our Houses Of The Holy, only it's better because we have a better singer and we're unpretentious enough to experiment in such a drastic and unpredictable and dangerous way'. More or less like that, give or take a word.

The album, in fact, begins with the most daring and experimental track Nazareth ever put out, the epic eight-minute multi-part suite 'Telegram', devoted to all the hardship and toil of the life of a rock'n'roll singer. Where their earlier lengthy creations were moody and atmospheric, but could be eventually dismissed as boring by some, 'Telegram' just goes from one well-established riff or melody to another, incorporating grouchy rock passages, cheerful anthemic pop ditties and even a 'quotation' from the Byrds' 'So You Want To Be A Rock'n'Roll Star'. Classy Manny Charlton solo in the middle, too.

And plus, that's just the beginning. Manny comes in next to entertain you with a short, slow, pretty countryish instrumental ('Vicki' - obviously influenced by 'Amazing Grace', but different), which is then followed by the pompous folk-rocker 'Homesick Again'. You know, the kind of song driven forward by acoustic guitars, on one hand, but booming drums and portentous vocals, on the other. Not tremendously memorable, but rather nice still. From there, we go into the only good-time party piece of rock'n'roll on the record, the glorious 'Vancouver Shakedown', possibly the only place of worship for those Naz fans who like their idols tight, raunchy and loud instead of atmospheric and intelligent.

I wonder, though, how Naz fans would react to 'Born Under The Wrong Sign', a gloomy funk-rocker emphasized by a clever use of talk-box effects on Manny's guitar. Actually, Manny's da man on that one, contributing all kinds of fuzzed and hi-tech processed guitar effects that he'd already mastered better than Dave Gilmour. Anyway, it's not that often that you can find funk elements in Nazareth songs, and this one's a successful example: 'dark funk' with a nice climactic chorus and all kinds of glorious keyboard and guitar gimmicks plastered all over it. Terrif!

The rest of the album is somewhat more traditional, bar the dubious reggae experiment 'Carry Out Feelings' (still not sure if it can be dubbed 'good' or if it can be dubbed 'what the heck'); more rockers, some rather slow and pedestrian ('Loretta'), but at least one absolutely timeless - 'You're A Violin' is one of Nazareth's best album closers. Not sure if it belongs to them or if it was a cover, but in any case, the lyrics which compare the protagonist (more exactly, peoples' reactions to the protagonist) with all kinds of musical instruments, are excellent, and Dan sings them with passion while backed by superb riffage. Too bad Manny's heavenly solo fades out so quickly. Hold on, Manny! Let me squeeze into that speaker!

In any case, there could only be one general complaint against this unbelievably eclectic album: some of the hooks are rather 'lazy', and the epic power of Telegram' manages to nearly overshadow everything else on the album. Repeated listenings, however, bring out its real charm and its full adequacy: it's only on records like this that you understand the real capacities of Nazareth in their prime. Any ordinary metal band would simply fall flat on its face while tackling so many different styles (heck, even Led Zeppelin had problems with that). But on Close Enough, not even a single song smells corny, and that's a major plus. Too bad the band is so unknown that its core audience are raunchy metalheads who would never appreciate a successful experimental number if it ain't Ass-Kicking.



Year Of Release: 1976

Aaahh... eh. There's nothing as frustrating as to sit through all those Nazareth albums and... you know, when great bands hit their peak, they just put out classic album after classic album and don't give a damn anyway. But when merely good bands like Nazareth reach their peak, they're so darn frustratingly inconsistent I get all muddled up and freaky. It's like the Bush/Gore case, you see: everything depends on just a couple hundred votes to decide if you're a winner or you're a loser. I can't for the life of me present a completely valid case of why exactly I consider Close Enough to have been a particularly high point and this album a letdown, at least, that case wouldn't possess the necessary globality and firmness needed to kick out the guts of anybody who would object.

Then again, who would? You probably never heard both anyway! So please just forget that and proceed to read my next boring review of the next boring album you have never heard and will hardly ever hear, unless you're that particularly loony case of insecure gentleman or lady who actually follows my recommendations. Occasionally, at least. If that be the case, I would still recommend Play'n The Game: not being a great milestone in the Nazareth catalog, it's still hardly offensive and eminently listenable.

It just reeks of stagnation. Hear that? Stagnation? Foul smell? Croaking toads? Nice picture. Way too many power ballads on the album this time - as if they were compensating for the lack of that kind of material on Close Enough, or maybe the record company was just actively pressing them for another 'Love Hurts'. And besides, what's with those covers? Why the hell do we need to hear a cover of the Beach Boys' 'Wild Honey' on a Nazareth album, for instance? What's next? 'Bus Stop'? 'I Want To Hold Your Hand'? Lay off the pop classics! At least they easily compensate for that stupid lapse of good sense with 'Downhome Girl', an oldie which you might well know through the brilliant Stones version on Now!, issued in 1965 when the Naz boys were still learning to tune their instruments. Fortunately, they learned to do that real well, and the wah-wah guitars, frantic lead work and moody synth patterns on the song are excellent.

The funk elements are also prevailing - apparently, 'Born Under The Wrong Sign' invigorated the band, and they wrote a faster and even more tighter follow-up called 'Waiting For The Man' (no, not a rewrite of the VU classic). The bassline is killer, and once again, all the incessant phasing and echoing on the song work perfectly. See now why Nazareth were really one of the most efficient heavy bands of the Seventies? They really understood the power of a tight rhythm section and compact, cleverly syncopated riffage, something that, say, Aerosmith never actually mastered. And yeah, I'll take 'Waiting For The Man' over any weak attempt at funk by dem Zed Leppelin.

A couple more decent, but not too memorable rockers ('Born To Love' is probably the best of the bunch. Probably!) finish off the aggressive material. But the ballads just don't seem to work... okay, 'Flying' is at least partially cool in that the band again overabuses phasing to create some genuine flying effects while Dan roars out the rather catchy verses to a very slight, minimalistic backup. But the old R'n'B classic 'I Don't Want To Go On Without You' is completely pointless; if that was supposed to be the next 'Love Hurts', it's clearly a case of 'unhappy follow-up'. Don't experiment too much with power ballads; this stuff is tremendously risky. It's like walking on thin ice. It's like snorting coke before a cop. It's like fiddling around with TNT. It's like applying for a position in the Bush administration. In brief, it pays off one time out of a hundred, but most of the time you just get busted. You're busted THIS time, Dan McCafferty!

Even if I still admire your voice and I still consider Manny Charlton's guitar tones to rank among the coolest of the Seventies. Buy this album. Or get it off Napster or something. It won't hurt. It'll just prick a little. Heck, if it's your first Nazareth album, you might even find yourself totally in love with it.



Year Of Release: 1977

A bit of an overstatement. True enough, this album rocks hard and packs enough grittiness to guarantee a solid headbanging program, but overall, I'd say it's not a very interesting listen. Nazareth go for a very blunt, uncompromised, ear-assaulting attack here: no power ballads or genre experimentations, just a bunch of mean fast riff-rockers alternating with a bunch of mean mid-tempo riff-rockers. Plus, as many have noticed, Dan McCafferty's voice only grows better with age; Expect No Mercy is one of his best vocal demonstrations ever - when you begin thinking he just can't take any more, here he goes banging on your eardrums with another incredible fit of roaring. Go Danny go! Dammit, I like expressive vocalists, even if their basic means of expression is through a hoarse, poisonous, drunken, bloozy rasp like that. Still, weren't Mr McCafferty and Mr Charlton born for each other?

The problem is, I always liked Nazareth when they were in their experimental mood ('Telegram', anyway, eh?), and, on the contrary, albums where Nazareth were definitely unexperimental, like Razamanaz or Play'n The Game, never attracted me all that much. This one sure falls into the second category - and if not for the fact that, however simplistic and primitive the songs are, they are mostly packed with hooks anyway, I would have really twirled my nose until it fell to the ground. Fortunately, the guys' songwriting skills haven't yet gone down the drain. Even such a potentially stupid throwaway as the three-chord folk-rocker 'Shot Me Down' is still brought to life by a particularly inspired and powerful vocal workout from Dan and a romantic, equally powerful solo from Mannie. Just the kind of folk rocker I like - the one that doesn't just plod along in order to fill up space and show that 'we know howta be aut'entic, man', but has that mixed sad/joyful feel that makes you stop for a minute and think, 'wow, that was intriguing!'.

Apart from that, the only 'softer' track on the album is 'Place In Your Heart' which sounds exactly like 'Shot Me Down', just a tad faster, so I kinda like it. As for the rockers, about a half of them are based on more excellent riffage: hmm, let's see, the title track is perhaps one of the most powerful 'beware that life in the fast lane' statement from the boys, and is just as socially biting and angst-filled as anything that the younger punkish boys were throwing around at the time, not to mention professional (sorry for such an obscene word, guys). I also have a soft spot for 'Revenge Is Sweet' and its speed-metal riffage (well, it's not that speedy, but it should have been - a pity Nazareth are never really mentioned in the 'speed metal godfathers' column, cuz they really deserve it, at least, to some extent). But arguably the honour of best song on the album should go to the creepy, shiver-sending 'Kentucky Fried Blues', which is just everything I like about Nazareth - apart from the 'experimental' stuff, of course - packed into three minutes of supermusic. What a riff, man. What powerful lead lines. What a goshdarn absolutely awesome lead vocal. 'KENTUCKY FRA-HHH-AAA-HHHH-AAA-HHAA-IIEED BLUUUES!' I tell you, that guy could sing lyrics unworthy of a Kiss member and still send shivers down your spine - after all, it's not the exact words that matter, it's the way you get them across. Whoah.

The cover of Jack Nietzsche's 'Gone Dead Train', 'New York Broken Toy' and a couple other stompers also qualify - even if the record is not entirely devoid of filler, because, after all, it all depends on whether they can churn out a really fantastic riff or not. Quite often they can - sometimes they can't, which is why the closing 'epic', 'All The King's Horses', is essentially a stately bore. Of course, they had to end the record with something slow, massive and pompous, but that doesn't necessarily mean I have to pay respect to a song that just isn't able to live up to my usual expectations of that style.

So there you go - in terms of headbanging, it's perhaps one of your best bets for Nazareth, but in terms of Nazareth's Undenied And Criminally Underrated Crucial Importance For Rock Music In The Seventies, So Often Overlooked By Critics Who Couldn't Spot A Great Hard Rock Band If It Came Behind Them And Started Banging Out Their Best Material With The Amps Turned To The Max And All The Band Members Playing Their Instruments As If They Were The Second Coming Of Jesus Christ (Excuse Me For Such A Tasteless Allegory, But These Capital Letters Are Confusing My Mind), it's not that hot. Buy it still.



Year Of Release: 1978

As if somebody cared. This album follows the exact formula of its predecessor: no experimentation, no branching out, just the same mean old rockers and the same sentimental old ballads. The good news, then, is that these are EXCELLENT old rockers and old ballads! Well, maybe I was a bit too quick with these capital letters, but the fact remains - all, or most at least, of these songs are cool and intelligently written, and my jaw just drops a few inches lower as I see that this is the band's tenth studio LP of original material, and it still sounds just as exciting and fresh as any of its predecessors, in fact, better than some of them. Now name me a rock band who's able to sound youthful, powerful and convincing on their tenth record. Apart from the great five-star artists on this site... hmm... Well, maybe there are a few, but the wonder is, Nazareth hadn't done anything entirely innovative since their debut record: they're still cruising around on the same old battleship. Just how many cool riffs has Manny the Metalgod got inside of him? And would Dan McCafferty's voice ever start deteriorating? He sounds more and more wicked and nasty with every new album!

Okay, enough emotions. Fact is, I still can't give the album more than this moderate rating because not everything here is a classic, and for an unimaginative record like that, you gotta have CCR-type and CCR-quantity hooks to boast a real high mark. Let's go over the record track by track, particularly since my CD-ROM with all those Nazareth albums seems to be malfunctioning and I can only listen to the whole album in sequence (it's long to explain, so I'll leave it at that).

We start off with the fast, totally ass-kickin' punch of 'Just To Get Into It'. By the way, at this point Nazareth were joined by a second guitarist, Zal Cleminson, and he immediately makes his mark with fluent, intelligent, riff-based solos, while Manny impersonates a Pete Townshend on speed and McCafferty is at his most raunchy and invigorating. One of the best "pure rock'n'roll" tracks the boys ever did.

'May The Sunshine' follows with an acoustic-based folkish shuffle, graced by more of those pretty solos and harshened by a grungey feedback-drenched riff coming from... from... from somewhere in between your headphones. From my chin, so it seems. Not particularly special, but... nice. Me, I prefer the monster riff of 'Simple Solution', which steals the first chords from 'Day Tripper' but adds some of its own and becomes a great independent 'loopin' riff, wonderful for headbangers. Oh, and don't forget the wonderful, clear production too - every note is so perfectly audible you can't help but pick up your air guitar at times.

'Star' I could easily live without: it's a power ballad and it's worse than 'Love Hurts', so I have no real use for it. See how consistently predictable I am? Just mention 'power ballad' to me and I'll get nightmares. I know it's a medical problem, but I do have a theory about how this world we live in could have been wiser and smarter if the concept of a power ballad never happened to arise. I'm not giving that one out, though. Consider it my know-how thingie. That said, 'Star' doesn't exactly offend me because the acoustic guitar is pretty.

But I still wait for it to go away and be replaced by the merciless grinding stomp of 'Claim For Fame', the album's heaviest number. Geez, they sure sound heavy, heavy and intelligent at the same time. This ain't music for your average headbangers - it's slow and boasts some subtleness, so most people around 1978 just clung on to their AC/DC, or, if they were so desperate, to their Def Leppard and Judas Priest. Well, these bands may be respectable in creatin respects, but I'll just hang on to my Nazareth, thanks. 'Claim For Fame' rocks heavier than Zeppelin, but doesn't offend my taste like hair metal does. So?

On to the cute folk-rockishness of 'Whatever You Want Babe', where McCafferty's meanness and evilness of the previous track disappears and is replaced by a rough Rod Stewart-like tenderness, the one I like the most. The guitars just keep ring-ring-ringing on that one, like a more 'disciplined' version of the Byrds. One of the album's best tracks. Can't say that for the two last songs though - 'What's In It For Me' is pretty loud and cool-sounding, but not tremendously memorable, and the title track is just too darn long. They were going for an 'epic' approach with 'No Mean City', but apart from a short mid-section extract where the emphasis is on 'guitar beauty', it's just barroom-beat-oriented and not all that substantial. Where's the goddamn riffage?

Still, count me happy - 'Star' is the only real dud on here, and in all, No Mean City gives me a great opportunity to add a bunch of excellent riffs and vocal melodies to my growing musical treasure chest. Goes without saying that it's a must for all Naz fans: don't be put off by the gimmicky album cover (the band was beginning to become more and more inspired by contemporary heavy metal bands like Motorhead in that department, which is a minus, but a minor minus). The band's last album of the Seventies, and for many, the band's last great album in all.



Year Of Release: 1980

WEIRD. No, really, it actually gains points for extra weirdness. And more proof that Nazareth aren't just your average cock rock band. Just as you were starting to actually bother about the band's albums beginning to all sound the same and be pretty much interchangeable - although, granted, they're also all high quality products - Nazareth take a sharp turn and radically change face. They never did anything like this before, and for many fans, both then and now, this was, and is, treated like a friggin' shockin' sellout. Indeed, how can one imagine a quiet smooth Nazareth without the heaviness and the gutsiness? Never mind that this Nazareth actually did a quiet folksy album eight years ago with nary a metal tune in sight (Exercises): we want our Hair Of The Dog back!

Well, forget about it for this album. So many of its songs sound clean, smooth, polished and combed, that on first listen, I almost cried out: 'This... this... this is more Steely Dan than Nazareth!' And I was pretty spot on, heh heh (that's called "gratifying the reviewer's ego" and it's a procedure I undergo radically for it gives me strength and hope, so you'll just have to live over it) - turns out that the album was produced by none other than Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, former Steely Dan guitarist now turned producer, and Jeff makes the guys tone down their guitars, pushes McCafferty's jaws several inches closer to each other, adds all kinds of weird gimmicks like female choruses and jazzy synths, and pushes them to experiment more with their genre stylistics. Or maybe he doesn't - maybe it's all fully due to the initiative of the guys themselves.

Anyway, no wonder that so much of the album really sounds like Pretzel Logic-era Steely Dan, only without that band's lyrical maturity and definitely without that band's hooks. Repeated listenings make the material dearer to your heart, but they don't really make the songs all that memorable... yet one thing is important: this is BY NO MEANS a sellout. Nazareth did not need to sell out; they had a pretty solid and stable commercial formula going on, and this move could only have ruined their reputation, which it partially did - so, quite on the contrary, this sudden smoothness and softness of the sound is actually a brave, if particularly risky, attempt at totally reinventing themselves.

That doesn't mean there's no heavy material on the album at all. But even the heavier songs are cleaned up. Look at the beginning of 'Talking To One Of The Boys', for instance - there's some brilliant twin guitar interplay going on there, but rock'n'roll purists will certainly be dissatisfied because it has no distortion! No fuzz! No raunchiness! Just two different clean tones interacting with each other! And the song doesn't even progress or climax - it just kinda rolls on and on! That's boring! Never mind that there's a moderate hook in the chorus and this interplay actually ain't something you're gonna hear all over the place on any given soft rock record... jes' sock it to 'em! Ah well. 'Turning A New Leaf' almost approaches breakdance rhythmics with its cold robotic pulsation... and 'Talkin' Bout Love' effectively channels Mannie's fearsome rock'n'roll energy into the creation of a strangely moody, if somewhat overproduced, funk-rocker that borders on disco in the chorus. And 'Big Boy', which begins as a basic two-chord boring sludge piece, suddenly gives you a reggae chorus of all things. And that ain't weird?

But then there's also the New Wave-ish 'Fast Cars', which could be called proto-synth-pop if only the "synths" on it weren't arranged as ominous, pulsating pseudo glockenspiel parts. And, of course, my favourite, the dippy 'Holiday', which begins as a 'Bang A Gong' rip-off with lighter guitar tones, but then suddenly develops into an almost Cars-style synth-rocker and absolutely seamlessly alternates between the two moods. And just a simple catchy fast tune like 'Showdown At The Border'. And maybe something else I've forgotten.

Don't get me wrong - this album is larger than the sum of its parts, and it's not like I've been seduced by any particular song, but it just seems so peculiar and so blatantly 'wrong' to my ears that I'm intrigued, and subsequent listens only confirm that intrigue. It's not Steely Dan, and it's not the Cars, and it's not true Nazareth, but it's a strange strange hybrid of the three, and as far as weird hybrids go, count me in on this one. Just don't overrate it as a lost classic or something, but there's no true reason to despise it either. Call it "stylistic experiment with mixed results and reactions". Then check yours.



Year Of Release: 1981

Okay, this isn't very good. Maybe, after all, they wanted to sell out and Malice was just an intelligent 'transition' album - where the more demanding public would be distracted by the strange gimmicks and weird stylistic mix-up so it wouldn't notice the band slip into true primitivism on Fool Circle. Because this one is really very disappointing. Again, Jeff Baxter produced this puppy, but this time, the guitars have been toned down even more seriously, the rhythmic patterns become far more generic and far more Eighties-like, and you'd be hard pressed to find anything resembling a good old solid heavy rocker on the album.

Even worse, many of the songs have an obvious bubblegum whiff to them - painfully shallow and thin melodies and vocal deliveries, something you'd never could imagine these gruff mountaineers of being able to come up with. Just take a listen to 'Every Young Man's Dream'! Is this the Bee Gees? Jimmy Buffett? Hall & Oates? It's hard to imagine anything dumber than the 'whooooah-oh, she's every young man's dream!' chorus of the song - I could imagine a very drunk Dan after a couple dozen whiskey bottles attempting at singing like that at a party, but somehow we're supposed to take that stuff seriously... aren't we? What a joke. Similarly, I have a suspicion that that number, 'Victoria', which closes the album, wasn't actually written by the band (it's NOT the Kinks song, though, don't worry), but whoever wrote it was a corny dumbass. 'Victoria, Victoria, I could love you for a hundred years and still want more-ia' is the lamest line ever written since that 'Oh, poor Romeo, sitting alone on his own-eo' stuff by Thin Lizzy, and the dumb musical quotation from 'Good Vibrations' only adds extra ounces of brie to the big bunch of roquefort the song already is.

I still have to insist there are some good songs on here. For instance, the band's live acoustic rendition of 'Cocaine' is pretty inventive and radically different from both the J. J. Cale original and the Clapton cover - Mannie plays that cool funky rhythm track in a funny, but aggressive manner, and McCafferty's grizzly vocals are perfect for the song. Then there's the basic rock'n'roll stuff: I understand that 'Dressed To Kill' is nothing more than a generic boogie tune, moreover cleaned up and brushed out to the point of total sterility, but dammit, it's bouncy and catchy and enjoyable! The way the guitar, bass and piano interact with each other... at least, with Jeff's assistance, they managed to garner a level of tightness previously unseen.

Plus, some of the basic poppy stuff is also acceptable - the band tries to follow the basic rules of decent popwriting and at least stuff like 'Another Year' and 'We Are The People' is memorable. 'We Are The People' is actually downright good; who cares whether it's disco or not if it's so dang melodic? I'd also call it Steely Dan-ish, not just because of the socially significant lyrics (which certainly can't even hope to achieve the Dan level of sophistication, but aren't that bad anyway), but because the untrivial twists of the vocal melody in the chorus really remind me of the Dan - for instance, that "any fool can see" insertion would be quite typical of Fagen & Becker (melodically, I mean). And then there's more genre-experimenting stuff like 'Let Me Be Your Leader', which goes from reggae to balladry and back, with some more untrivial lyrics as well - apparently, at this time Nazareth are really starting to get interested in political activity.

All said, though, the basic difference between Malice and Fool Circle is that for the former, I didn't really have no friggin' need to structure my review as an apologetic one - the only reason I chose a defensive line of approach was due to the fact of so many people misunderstanding its message and condemning it simply because it didn't live up to their expectations. Fool Circle, however, is generally more "bad" than "good", er, let's say 65% bad, 35% good, okay? Something in that proportion, I think, and so we really have to tear out the better moments and discard generic rubbish like 'Every Young Man's Dream' or boring ballads like 'Moonlight Eye' or very stupid attempts at power-pop like 'Pop The Silo' (what title, eh?). 'Let Me Be Your Leader', 'We Are The People', and the untrivial live take on 'Cocaine' should definitely be salvaged, and like I said, a couple other tunes ain't bad, but in general it really makes me wonder why these guys felt such an urgent need to get rid of their heavy metal past in the early Eighties. Did they get deaf or something?




Year Of Release: 1975

Spare yourself, Naz fans. Dan was never a prolific songwriter (most of Nazareth's original material was written by Manny anyway), and since his own opinions apparently made little impact on the band's policies, back in 1975 he went ahead and released this solo LP which has about as much value as contemporary Roger Daltrey or Art Garfunkel product, i. e. none. Assembling a big band, aided by Manny and lots of people I ain't never heard about, Dan takes a bunch of other people's songs, more or less evenly split between Motown/Stax-Volt and Sixties' classic songwriters and proceeds to... well, not exactly butcher them, but render them as bland and forgettable as possible. Granted, this is just a fun party album, apparently recorded only in order to satisfy Dan's ambitions (of the "you know, when I was a kid, I always swore at night to my pillow that one day I'd grow up and record a Drifters song myself" variety), and so I don't have a reason to get particularly angry at it. But does it mean I actually have to praise it? No, no and no. Thrice no.

I mean, what the hell, Dan's vocals aren't even all that focused on this recording. He's one of the best screamers in the business, and what do we get? Feeble, hoarse vocals, probably coming from a very boozed-up version of Mr McCafferty. He actually lets rip only on the last number, the stupid orchestrated version of Shirley Brown's 'Stay With Me Baby', but it's so cheesy it actually gets me to puke. Everything else is just murky.

It does start off fine, in accordance with the grand party spirit - the best number on here is the cover of Poco's 'Honky Tonk Downstairs', announced by a great Floydish bassline. You know, the kind of song that gets you going, particularly if there's enough whiskey to make the go-round. It's alright, particularly because since McCafferty relinquished the early 'Scottish mountain metal' vibe that I loved the most about Nazareth, this party style was one in which he was able to excel far better than in any other one. (If you're not able to understand that last sentence, don't worry: re-reading it, I hardly get it either. No, really, I must stop using all those periods. Where's my inborn feel of the beauty of English language? Dammit.)

But in any case, the rest of the songs are so-so. They're either getting bogged down in their marshiness and mushiness (Little Feat's 'Trouble' is a pretty-sounding nothing), or in silly pomp (the Stones' 'Out Of Time' which is far closer to their ridiculous orchestrated version on Metamorphosis than to the stripped-down, hard-hitting original). He even makes a brave stab at covering Neil Young's 'Cinnamon Girl', but manages to lose all the former instrumental charm of that number in the process. As for the rockers, well, they rock. That's all I can say about them.

The weirdest song is Dan's reggae arrangement of the old pop classic 'Watcha Gonna Do About It', which is just as hilarious as it is completely excessive and, er, questionable: Dan McCafferty doing reggae? Dan McCafferty whining while doing reggae? Nay, heed my call, Naz fans, and spare yourselves. Fortunately, the record was a complete commercial bomb, and since it managed to accomplish two aims - namely, satisfying McCafferty's solo ambitions, and also proving that McCafferty was an absolute zero without the band's support - Dan never dared to repeat the effort again. In fact, he didn't emerge with another solo album until ten years later, although I sure wish he'd never released anything solo... Oh, by the way, I still give this two stars because some of the tunes kick some mighty ass. If "ass-kicking" defines a good record for you, feel free to increase that rating by half a star. Heck, feel free to raise it to five stars! That would be your opinion and I wouldn't be responsible for it, now would I?

Nope. This album kicks ass. And sucks it, too. Remember - we are breathing in the air of paradox all the time.


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