BMG [Release date 05.07.19]
Celebrating their 50th Anniversary, Nazareth are still going, albeit with just founder member and bassist Pete Agnew at helm. Last year BMG issued the amazing Loud And Proud box (33CDs, 3 7” 45s, LP, picture disc LP, 2 double LPs and book, aka reissue of the decade), and this is the second set of 6 individual LPs. In each case the original LP packaging has been replicated.
Scottish band Nazareth formed from ballroom cover band The Shaddettes in the late 60s, originally featuring Pete Agnew, vocalist Dan McCafferty, guitarist Manny Charlton and drummer Darrell Sweet, and in the during the mid 70s produced some fantastic bluesy whiskey soaked classic rock. And the band were one of the hardest working around.
1971 the band signed to Pegasus and issued their eponymous debut, the first LP here. And like the bulk of the Nazareth catalogue, it’s been widely reissued. In the UK, the Pegagus original had a PEG repress, and reissues on Mooncrest, Mountain, Nems, Sahara and Castle, amongst others (and that’s before we get to CD issues).
Even by their own admission, the band were still finding their way. It is a great album though, not Nazareth’s best but it is underrated. ‘Dear John’ is a piano beefed up rocker, ‘Witchdoctor Woman’ is just fantastic, and the cover of ‘Morning Dew’ is outstanding.
The following year’s Exercises (here replicated in the original gatefold sleeve) was similarly good, a few acoustic arrangements and the blues of ‘Woke Up This Morning’. A much overlooked album.
Jump forward to 1976 and Nazareth were stars around the world. And rightfully so. But they were struggling in the face of punk. Close Enough For Rock’n’Roll, gatefold sleeve and inner. There’s some great songs here, even if they lacked the bite of the 1973/74 releases. But this album is worth it alone for the opener ‘Telegram’, just such a wonderful groove; a concert opener for years.
Released the same year, Play’n’The Game kept the groove going, There’s not many reissues kept touches like the inner sleeve, and this is a great opportunity to re-explore the album. I’d forgotten just how good it is.
Jump to 1980 and Malice In Wonderland, the second album with the addition of second guitarist Zal Cleminson (formerly of Sensational Alex Harvey Band). Taking their new found heaviness (see 1979’s classic ‘No Mean City’) and turning it in a more commercial direction, this album is firm fan favourite and rightfully so. Lovely innersleeve with lyrics, ‘Holiday’ was a minor hit. Written by Cleminson, the reggae tinged ‘Big Boy’ is actually cover of a SAHB track.
Back to the original four piece in 1981 for The Fool Circle, original insert and a lovely mauve vinyl, another wonderful album. The keyboards are split between produced Jeff Baxter and Spirit pianist John Locke (who would then join the band). This is more uptempo than Malice and from the opener
‘Dressed To Kill’ the band are on fire. Zal appears on the version of ‘Cocaine’ recorded live on the previous tour.
The albums have a wonderful and solid feel, they sound as good as they look. Absolute top marks for packaging. Essential, and that’s before you try finding an original pressing in decent condition.
Review by Joe Geesin
Album review (Reissues, April 2019)
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