BMG (2LP, 2 double LP, 3*7”, 32 CD) [Release date 28.09.18]
Scottish rock legends Nazareth celebrate their 50th anniversary this year, and issue a new album to boot, with their new line-up.
It’s a few years since any reissue campaign, and over the years each new campaign has added something new (or less). But here we have the complete works, the dog’s bollocks. And what a wonderful package it is.
Nazareth were formed in the late 60′s, from the ballroom cover band The Shaddettes, and the original line-up of vocalist Dan McCafferty, guitarist Manny Charlton, bassist Pete Agnew and drummer Darrell Sweet turned professional at the turn of the 70′s, with their eponymous debut following shortly after.
The Nazareth sound was a hard bluesy rock with Dan’s whisky-soaked gravelly vocals. Their breakthrough, following a tour with Deep Purple, was the Roger Glover produced Razamanaz that spawned the hit singles Bad Bad Boy and Broken Down Angel. Later covers of Love Hurts and This Flight Tonight would also be era defining.
Later line-up changes would include the addition of second guitarists Zal Cleminson (ex-SAHB), then Billy Rankin, and Spirit pianist John Locke. Billy replaced Manny in the 90′s, before in came guitarist Jimmy Murrison and keyboard player Ronnie Leahy.
After Darrell Sweet’s death in 1999, and more recently Dan’s retirement due to ill health, the current line-up features Pete Agnew, guitarist Murrison, drummer Lee Agnew and vocalist Carl Sentance. Nazareth continue to tour.
This set gives us all of their studio albums to date, two live albums (including the classic ‘Snaz as a complete double disc rather than the usually edited single), each in a card sleeve (‘Snaz in a gatefold), and loads of extras.
So we do have pretty much the complete works.
There is no need to review each album in full individually, as anyone reading this would (or should) be familiar with them. The 1973-1975 work albums are considered the golden era, and rightfully so, and after a couple of weaker (but by no way to be discounted) albums Expect No Mercy is another step up.
Notable here is that original version of the album, dismissed by the label before a reassembly/re-recording, is added as an LP. It is not on CD here but has been issued on CD previously.
Another highlight is the No Mean City album, which added Zal Cleminson on guitar. The whole band got a kick up the arse from his presence, and the album also stands out for the distinctive Rodney Matthews artwork.
Zal recorded a second album, Malice In Wonderland, with Naz, before leaving. Zal left for two reasons, one being the label haemorrhaging money (recording an album in the Bahamas for example). Don’t ask me the second reason – I’ve a promise to keep.
The albums with Billy Rankin also are excellent, and the double live ‘Snaz (with Spirit’s John Lock) is essential listening – here as a double disc with the two new studio tracks of the time.
The late 80′s was a difficult time for Nazareth, with Snakes’n’Ladders the third album not originally released in the UK (following Sound Elixir and Cinema), record company pressures bringing in outside session musicians and song writers and producers and it left to Manny leaving the band.
A personal highlight is the 1998 album Boogaloo, I was present at the recording sessions, as between 1992 and 2002 I ran the fanclub, also providing some PR as the then record labels were occasionally AWOL in their marketing efforts.
The 2000′s material is good too, and this box takes us up to the end of Dan’s run with the band, his ill health forcing an early retirement.
The bonus material is fascinating, firstly 3CDs of B-sides and non album tracks. ‘Nightingale’ was a Dan McCafferty solo B-side that featured the whole band, a Naz album leftover, and ‘Crazy (A Suitable Case For Treatment)’, the only track to feature pianist Callum Malcolm, was recorded especially for the film Heavy Metal The Motion Picture.
The second 3CD features never before issued material, much of which comes from my personal tape collection (largely from my fanclub editor days, including material supplied by Darrell Sweet before he died). This includes 1973 demos, live material, and rough mixes from Move Me, and original versions from Boogaloo, 1997, a year before the overdubs and brass were put on.
The 3 7” singles show 6 picture sleeves from around the world – and the LPs include the aforementioned Expect No Mercy (original version), Rampant (picture disc), and two live 2LPs. The Hammersmith show has seen the odd track officially released – here’s the full show – on double vinyl gatefold – result.
The whole box is augmented by inserts, the originally dollar bill that was issued with Rampant (and now impossible to find separate – it’ll always be stuck on), repro tour programmes (again from my collection), and a thick book.
Now, this book. It’s wonderful and features lots of rare pictures. And it’s annotated well by Classic Rock’s Dave Ling.
I’m going to be picky here – very picky, but I did spend 10 years on the inside, and the band’s “official” take on some things has changed over the years. There’s lots I could mention (reasons why Manny, Billy and Zal left, the former manager Jim White incidents to name just a very few). Largely excellent annotation – but knowing what I do nothing will ever be faultless. Some of the ‘holes’ are not publishable anyway.
Now there are some things that are not included. Not mentioning things that are on the vinyl that may or may not have been on CD previously.
Known work not included, rare as hen’s teeth, includes (but not limited to)
The Live In London Camden Palace 1985 show CD/DVD aka Razamanaz live (original release a grey area, and it is, to be honest, shit)
Live In Brazil (see above)
A couple of tracks from the original Boogaloo (cassette quality issues).
World-wide 7” edit variations (not different enough to be interesting – and discounting those artificially created for the Essential label remasters).
The Linton Osbourne material (live and studio work, the No Means Of Escape DVD or the actual un-overdubbed/edited recording) – an excellent and underrated period that I understand Pete wishes to forget.
Any quibbles I have are minor. Very minor. This is a fantastic box and a wonderful presentation; a labour of love by the label (with whom I have worked closely), the band, and all those involved, including Dave Ling.
The complete works doesn’t even begin to describe this set – the packaging is just superb, and like the Nazareth catalogue, it rocks. *****
Review by Joe Geesin
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