Wymer Publishing [Publication date 06.08.21]
Scottish rock legends have been recording for 50 years now, and a book on the band and their fantastic legacy has been long overdue. Their charting days be over (they were chart and Top Of The Pops regulars in the 70s) but they have continued to record and tour, and some of their 80s and 90s releases still get regular plays in this household. Nazareth’s third album Razamanaz remains up there with anything Deep Purple, Uriah Heep and Led Zeppelin put out. Bluesy roots and Dan McCafferty’s trademark gravelly whisky soaked vocals made the band distinctive.
A well known rock writer has been involved, as has a fan and collector who has provided some of the archive pictures.
This is not a regular biography; a coffee table format, it is a thick and heavy book and that has a solid and lovely look and feel. It runs a bit like a diary, after the intro, with dates of important milestones, interspersed with quotes from the band (well, vocalist Dan McCafferty and bassist Pete Agnew, (and a couple from former guitarists Manny Charlton and Zac Cleminson), and some historic quotes from the band and reviewers taken from archive press. Then there’s a serious quantity of live photos and a few record pics to boot!
As their former fanclub editor, I am well acquainted with the band’s history but what I did find interesting was the pre band history, and the walk through the different line-ups of (pre Nazareth band) The Shaddettes. And what will be new to almost everyone, throughout the book, is the plethora of live photos from across the ages. That’s where the book is excellently produced.
The insight to the band from Dan and Pete is good, they talk about how touring with Deep Purple, the hit singles (Bad Bad Boy, Joni Mitchell’s This Flight Tonight, Love Hurts et al), the comparison to one of their tracks to Deep Purple’s Speed King.
The diary format mentions releases of many singles, but not all, some US, some UK, so while it is useful and interesting, it is not complete or consistent. Sometimes they just need to ask the right people the right questions. And on the discography front, there’s little or no mention of world-wide variations of track listings, artwork or band logo.
Visually the work with Frank Frazette and Rodney Matthews could have been more of, and while a few solo releases (Manny, Billy) are mentioned, the Dan McCafferty track Dreaming (from the Exiled LP) is not mentioned, and it is by far one of his finest performances. And from around the same period, the track Crazy (A Suitable Case For Treatment) from the Heavy Metal soundtrack, but there’s no story (and there are some good ones there; again asking the right people the right questions), but instead there’s a quote from Dan on the heavy metal genre.
Another interesting story is behind Snakes’n’Ladders, the last to feature founder guitarist Manny Charlton. It’s common knowledge the band were fragmented and under record company pressure, and it is widely considered one of their weakest, but the extent of the issues made for informative and insightful reading.
1990s and back came Billy, then in come Jimmy Murrison and Ronnie Leahy, the nearly hiring of Big Country’s guitarist, Darrell Sweet dying on tour, more interesting stories from a period that often gets overlooked.
However, as previously mentioned, some missed opportunities, and that is even more so here; the decade saw three albums that I helped PR, I was in the studio for the recording of one of them, I turned up many records the band had never seen; no mention (and sadly not involved either). The release of a CD of rarities is mentioned, the fact I compiled and co-produced it is not. And into the 2010s and the Linton Osbourne fronted period (and live album) is skipped over.
While there is a great deal missing, whether events, releases or detail, there is also lots to enjoy. There’s something new for everyone no matter how much a fan you are, and the combination of live photos and band quotes is a genuine joy. There are topics the band discuss that they have avoided in the past, so a good read all round.
This is an extensive, essential and enjoyable addition to the archive. As good as it looks, and if you’re a serious fan it’s well worth the money, despite some missed opportunities. I know I’m being picky, but I’ve been there, most fans shouldn’t be worried.
However, my archive features so much more that shall now remain locked away. Given my history with the band and that my offer of writing a book two years ago was shot down in flames, one remains miffed. ****1/2
Review by Joe Geesin
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 12 September 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at www.getreadytorock.com for that week.
UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020 and 2021 Finalist) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 14 September 2021.
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Featured Albums w/c 6 September 2021 (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 HEARTLAND Into The Future (Escape Music)
12:00-13:00 VEGA Anarchy And Unity (Frontiers)
14:00-16:00 JACKSON BROWNE Downhill From Everywhere (indie)
Power Plays w/c 20 September 2021 (Mon-Fri)
BAD TOUCH Twenty Five Miles (Marshall)
THE HUMAN VEIL Enemies (indie)
DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY Now’s The Time (Golden Robot Records)
VANSLEEP Oceans (indie)
TRUE NORTH Save Me (Out Of Line Music)
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