(2-CD) Angel Air Records [Release date 01.09.14]
Original Nazareth guitarist (and oft songwriter and producer) Manny was instrumental in Nazareth’s sound and success throughout the 70s and 80s. His bluesy guitar augmented McCafferty’s gravelly vocals perfectly.
Since he left the band in 1990, Charlton has recorded a number of albums, both solo and as The Manny Charlton Band. These two (largely) covers sets were recorded and released in the mid 00s, and see Manny handling the lion’s share of the vocals and bass as well as all the guitar duties.
Sharp, recorded with drummer / percussionist Steve Froese (and bassist Billy Pixel on two tracks), has an almost stripped down feel and opens with a wonderful take on the Spencer Davis Group’s ‘Muddy Water’, and Dylan’s ‘All Along The Watchtower’ is another great song.
Manny has obviously tried to do these tracks how he wants to, deliberately veering away from the well known arrangements, so don’t go expecting the tracks as you already know them.
The guitar work is excellent, and at times intricate. It’s also a far cry from the 70s Nazareth; this is a modern and new feel.
Burnt Sienna and In Her Eyes are two of the new tracks that fit in well with the whole album’s direction and feel. The bluesier Rollin’n’ Tumblin’ sees a burst or two of slide guitar, and reminds you with a kick up the arse just what a good blues player Charlton is. And Nazareth’s Please Don’t Judas Me (covered because Nazareth never played it live and Manny wanted another crack) is a great and underrated song.
Sharp Re-Loaded, again featuring Froese, along with guest drummers on two tracks, and Emil Gammeltoft on a cover of Nazareth’s ‘Fallen Angel’. This CD kicks off with Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’, and a take on Nazareth’s ‘Cinema’ features a ballsy crash bang wallop. Another stand out is The Byrds’ ‘So You Want To Be A Rock’n'Roll Star’ (part of which was originally used in Nazareth’s ‘Telegram’). Again the arrangements here are vastly different.
Both albums feature a couple of extra tracks and in the booklet there’s an intro by Manny and notes to some of the tracks. Bar a lack of notes to all of the tracks, this is a good touch and adds to a decent package.
A little off the beaten track but a wonderful listen. ****
Review by Joe Geesin
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