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Review No: 283
Dan McCafferty: Vocals
Manny Charlton: Guitars
Pete Agnew: Bass
Darrell Sweet: Drums
Nazareth were formed in 1968, when Manny Charlton joined what was left of a Dunfermline band called the Shadettes, a Scottish rock band that was having to play Top Twenty hits locally to survive and venture down to London occasionally to play their own material. Their world was to change when multi millionaire / rock ‘n’ roll fan / all round good guy, Bill Fehilly took the band under his wing, providing them with enough financial backing to get them some decent equipment, a brand new transit van, and most importantly enough money for the band to eat regularly.
Stardom did not come over night though.
It was not until 1971 and hundreds of gigs all over the British Isles that they were picked up by a record company, the brand new Mooncrest label. The first album, Nazareth (1971), in an attempt to capture the band’s live sound, was released with very little production, and therefore had a lot of rough edges. In fact, if truth be told it was all rough edges, and although garnering critical acclaim was a commercial disaster.
Realizing their mistake Nazareth went back into the studio and in 1972 released ‘Exercises’, which this time was so over produced that it completely missed out on all of the excitement that was the live beast that Nazareth had become. So that when a new convert to the band went to go and buy a replica of the raucous Nazareth on stage what he got was more like something that would be played on the BBC’s Radio 2 service.
It was obvious a re-think was necessary. Because of the
previous two albums, record company Mooncrest pulled out of any financial
backing, although agreeing to distribute any product the band could come
up with. Bill Fehilly stepped in and agreed to finance some more studio
time, but equally importantly Roger Glover, the famous bass player and
arranger from Deep Purple, who was on sabbatical from his Purple days,
was keen to produce the next album having witnessed the power of the mighty
Nazareth when they toured as support to Deep Purple.
Silver Dollar Forger
(Parts One and Two)
The results of this collaboration were instantly successful. The single that proceeded the album was ‘Broken Down Angel’, which rushed up the British charts reaching Number 7. When the album ‘Razamanaz’ (1972) was released it was an international hit, going top twenty nearly all over the world. A world tour was organized starting at a pub in Lancaster to 150 people, but after appearances on influential British chart programme ‘Top Of The Pops’, by the time they finished the British leg of the tour they were playing to packed houses everywhere. More singles were released from the album and they rushed up the charts, too.
As soon as was humanly possible the boys were rushed back into the studio for a follow up album with Roger Glover still on production duties. ‘Loud ‘N’ Proud’ did not disappoint, with more hard rockin’, including a hard rock version of Dylan’s ‘The Ballad of Hollis Brown’, and a cover of Joni Mitchell’s ‘This Flight Tonight’, which was released as a single which turned them into household names, especially in Canada. In 1973 they were Canada’s biggest selling band (Joni Mitchell is Canadian, which helped). Loud ‘N’ Proud reached Number 11 in the British charts.
Then in 1974 Nazareth went back into the studio again to record their fifth studio album, ‘Rampant’ (1974), again with Roger Glover at the production controls. This time the boys decided to do a full out hard rock album, laying the template for all guitar driven rock bands for the future.
‘Silver Dollar Forger’ is a perfect Nazareth opener. Manny Charlton riffs at super speed into his guitar, leading the rest of the band to charge in after him, before the distinctive Scottish vocals of Dan McCafferty come in to tell his tale. The only way that Dan McCafferty could have possessed vocal chords like that would have been if he had gargled with sulphuric acid every night before he went on stage.
All successful bands have their trademark and with Nazareth it’s McCafferty’s vocals, a wonder to the ears. ‘Silver Dollar Forger’ is an excellent capsule of all that is good about Nazareth; a classic rockin’ song, a guitar solo that fair bristles with Scottish pride, dynamic lead vocals, superb harmony vocals, a sense of humour, a heavy bass line, and thunderous drumming. I can still picture them now on stage. Dan McCafferty, the perfect front man leading the crowd with his arms aloft, Manny Charlton stage right from the audience all concentration, his face gurning to every note wrung out of his axe, whilst bassist Pete Agnew was having the time of his life stomping up and down on the opposite side of the stage. Then up on the drum riser was Darrell Sweet, cheeks all puffed out as he propelled the band along to even greater heights, never missing a beat, but at every opportunity lobbing drumsticks out into the crowd for souvenirs.
The band carries on with the cheeky ‘Glad When Your Gone’ - not exactly a love song! But certainly something to get everybody dancing in the aisles. The ballad ‘Loved and Lost’ is not some lonesome tale of a broken heart after some relationship, more the sort of thing where fate has it in for you, and you get plenty of luck, all of it bad. You must know one of those days when even the dog bites you for no apparent reason. It also features a really gritty guitar solo from Manny Charlton.
On any Nazareth album you would always get a couple of
road songs from the band’s exploits on tour. ‘Rampant’
is no different. The next two songs are perfect examples: ‘Shanghai’d
in Shanghai’ is a belting song with amusing lyrics about life on
the road, name dropping all over the place, and when Dan McCafferty proudly
announces that Nazareth will be second billing to The Rolling Stones,
the rest of the band breaks into ‘Satisfaction’ for thirty
seconds. The other road song is ‘Jet Lag’, which is a little
self explanatory, but sung with the tongue firmly in the cheek, as Dan
And livin’ out an overnight bag, Times changes every day, They do things different, Back in the USA.
Tryin’ hard to make a phone call, “long distance over seas,” “yes Ma’am I did say Scotland,” “Could you spell that again please”.’
‘Light My Way’ is a good heavyweight Nazareth song with effected vocals and a custom built arena chorus which slowly builds to a nice climax with some more excellent work from the band. ‘Sunshine’ is the only acoustic song on the album, which shows that these hard men from Dunfermline do have hearts after all.
The one cover song on this album is a version of ‘The Yardbirds’ classic ‘Shapes Of Things To Come’, which was probably recorded by the band due to public demand as it was regularly used to close their live set. It is not so much a cover version, more of a complete destruction, and then re-building. Nazareth turned ‘Shapes’ into one of their own songs (which over the years they had a habit of doing with other songs as well).
Whether in the recording studio or on the live stage, Nazareth obviously had so much fun playing this song, so that while you marvel at the dynamics of it all, you also cannot help but smile as the song rocks out your speakers. In fact, not wanting to stop, the band adds on their own instrumental verse called ‘Space Safari’, allowing them to do a little early Seventies freak out to bring the album to a close.
After ‘Rampant’ Roger Glover relinquished the producer chair, handing it back to Manny Charlton. Really, his job had been done and Roger had other things to do, such as join ‘Rainbow’ and later re-form Deep Purple. The first thing Manny Charlton did for Nazareth from the production chair was deliver a version of Boudleaux Bryant’s ‘Love Hurts’, a song that Nazareth now have to play everywhere they go.
Yes, Nazareth are still going strong today. Twenty studio
albums have been released plus umpteen compilations and live albums. Like
any family they have had the odd divorce, and a tragic bereavement; these
stories will be told another day. But still anything with the Nazareth
badge on it is a seal of quality.