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Friday, November 19, 2004

NAZARETH

It wasn’t easy for Manny Charlton, Dan McCafferty, Pete Agnew, and Daryl Sweet, the men who comprised the original Nazareth line-up. Mostly because of that age-old adage about business; location, location, location. Not only were they not from London, where the UK’s music scene began and ended back in the late sixties, they were from Dunfermline, Scotland, which is about as removed from the hustle and bustle of London as one could get in ’69, and still be a citizen of the U.K. They had to slog it out in the ballroom/club circuit in Scotland for years, doing mostly covers. This only served the band in the end, because they would have their biggest success doing other people’s songs. Their first two records; ‘Nazareth’, and ‘Exercises’ did reasonably well in the UK, but it would be 1973’s ‘Razamanaz’ that put them on the international map with the hits ‘Broken Down Angel’ and ‘Razamanaz’. Once international interest in the band developed, they began that familiar cycle that every successful 70’s band knew all too well; tour, record, tour, record, tour, record….
In 1974 they released ‘Loud N’ Proud’, produced by Roger Glover of Deep Purple, it featured a cover of Joni Mitchell’s ‘This Flight Tonight’ which was a smash hit in Canada, and led to Ms. Mitchell’s claim that the song was no longer hers, it was now a Nazareth song. Later that year they were back in the studio between tours, again with Roger Glover, and the result was ‘Rampant’. The single ‘Shanghai’d In Shanghai’ disappointed, but the album showed the band’s growing ease in the studio, and offers a diversity and sense of experimentation that many rock fans found satisfying enough to put the album in the charts even though the single failed to do as well as expected. It was 1975, however, that would be the big year for Nazareth. Wasting no time, they went back into the studio, this time, and for years after, Manny Charlton, the guitar player, would produce. ‘Hair Of The Dog’ is the quintessential Nazareth record. The fact that the million selling ‘Love Hurts’ single (again a cover) comes from this record belies its true worth. The entire record is fantastic. Ranging from traditional blues (‘Whiskey Drinkin’ Woman’), sheer rock (‘Changin’ Times’), to progressive experimentation (‘Please Don’t Judas Me’), ‘Hair Of The Dog’ is a complete package, and it sealed success for the band for years to come. Massive touring followed, and it wasn’t until the next year, 1976, that Nazareth had another record in the shops. ‘Close Enough For Rock And Roll’ followed suit with the trend that the band seemed to be destined for, doing poorly in the U.K. but taking off in the U.S and Canada. The single ‘Carry Out Feelings’ didn’t do well, but U.S. and Canada’s burgeoning adult oriented rock radio took to Nazareth as one of their staples. Continuing in this vein, ‘Playin’ The Game’ came out in ’76 as well, and contained the same quality rock that they were becoming known for. Covering Joe Tex’s ‘I Just Want To Do Everything For You’ gave them another successful single as well as the self penned ‘Born To Love’. On 1977’s ‘Expect No Mercy’ the band continued down the path toward Heavy Metal. They had always been a heavy band, but the expectations were higher, and they felt that a heavier direction was called for. Spawning no hits, ‘Expect No Mercy’ is another fine record by a band that just wanted to rock.
In January of 1979, Nazareth released ‘No Mean City’. Expanded to a five piece with the addition of second guitarist Zal Clemson, ‘No Mean City’ contained the last single that would chart for the band; ‘May The Sun Shine’. I saw them on this tour with my brother Fred at the Capitol Center in Maryland. I was fourteen, and completely blown away. I would simply never be the same. Neither would they. By 1980’s ‘Malice In Wonderland’ Manny Charlton had handed the production over to Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter, who simply didn’t get it. The album is the first in a succession of poor releases, though it does contain what I call the last good song; ‘Big Boy’.
The Nazareth story does not end here, it continues to this day. Unfortunately Nazareth couldn’t sustain the unified vision they had in the 70’s. This division, mostly due to lack of label support, culminated in the departure of Manny Charlton in 1990. But McCafferty and Agnew (Daryl Sweet sadly died of a heart attack in 1999) are still making the rounds, hitting the boards, and releasing records. God bless them.

Comments:
Another superb post that inspires me to hit Amazon in search of long lost and forgotten records of my youthful past. My wife is beginning to wonder as the Amazon packages keep showing up at the door (...another Ted blog about music you used to listen too, huh?). and I just got through my Alice Cooper collection. Damn you Jackson, damn you!

I will listen to 'Hair Of The Dog' on my way to dinner tonight. "Changin' Times" is an unbelievable tune, as is "Please Don't Judas Me". Do you recall driving to Memphis in the pouring rain from NY, out in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania and being able to get one radio station crystal clear, and that one radio station playing the entire 'Hair Of The Dog" record without interuption? I do, and it still freaks me out and makes me think that there were supernatural powers at work that night.
 
I most certainly do, and shame on me for not mentioning that in the blog. We would never have made it to Roanoke if not for divine intervention.
 
I have a question: What happened then with Zal Clemson?? You´ll see, I am following his career because I love the way he played with TEAR GAS. Now I´m very surprised to see he was even part on the great Nazareth!!
 
Not one word about the song Holiday? I thought it was the one jewel in the bag o coal. I think Chuck is cool.
 
Malice in Wonderland was a departure for the band, but you can't blame them for trying a new sound after so many years of playing pure hard rock. "Holiday" was as good a song as the band ever did, with a very cool solo by Zal. Very under-rated band with great players at every position. I saw them live in Cleveland - awesome live act!
 
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