Album review: DAN McCAFFERTY – Last Testament

In June 2014 Dan McCafferty chatted to David Randall for Get Ready to ROCK! Radio before the release of Dan’s swansong Nazareth album ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Telephone’.  In this hour special they discuss his career spanning 50 years and including artists and tracks that have provided inspiration during that time.

DAN McCAFFERTY - Last Testament

Ear Music/Edel [Release date 18.10.19]

After Dan’s retirement from Nazareth, the legendary Scottish hard rockers he’d co-founded in the late 60s, due to ill health, I really wasn’t sure if this would ever happen. Dan had fronted a band with hits including ‘Bad Bad Boy’ and ‘Broken Down Angel’ to their name (as well as covers of ‘This Flight Tonight’ and ‘Love Hurts’), and when he retired he’d been suffering from COPD and had been unable to complete a couple of shows. Nazareth always were a hard touring band, and Dan found continuing that lifestyle untenable.

While Nazareth continue with vocalist Carl Sentence (replacing the underrated Linton Osborne), Dan has returned to the studio, and what a lovely album this is. It is one fans will need to approach with an open mind as it is, clearly from the opening track ‘You And Me’, a personal and heartfelt album. The vocals initially are soft, honest, almost fragile (as they are in places in other tracks), before the vocal power picks up. It’s a very Scottish sounding track too.

‘Why’ follows, an honest croak in the whiskey soaked vocals, and it’s a mature and mellow track. Elements of Sting’s post Police output. The opening bars to ‘Looking Back’ reminiscent to ‘Hotel California’, but the emphasis is on Dan’s vocals. The piano and mix of acoustic and electric guitars on the album, typified here, are augmented by strings and a big, warm production. When both vocals and music ramp up, you can feel the passion.

‘Tell Me’ opens gently, and sees someone opening their heart in a very moving fashion, almost a tear jerker. The song builds well and by the end Dan’s trademark range and power will have grabbed you by both ears. ‘I Can’t Find The One’, the accordion giving both a French and Scottish feel, sees Dan sound how we all know and love; power and gravel in full flow.

There’s an acoustic and Celtic feel to many of the tracks, and good to see the bagpipes in full flow on the rocker ‘Home Is Where The Heart Is’. There’s a hint of punk rock’n’roll in there too. ‘My Baby’ is short and sweet, and blast. Some heavy soul in an up tempo rocker. Then in contrast ‘Refugee’, with its piano and cello, is much more thought provoking.

At nearly 7 minutes, ‘Mafia’ is a real musical and lyrical journey; changes of mood and energy make for a captivating listen. Some lovely layered backing vocals, this is something I would have loved Nazareth to have done. A bit more progressive.

There’s a couple of tracks here you could see Dan performing as duo in a bar, vocals and either piano or accordion, smoky atmosphere, glass of whiskey, while others have a much bigger production.

Fourteen tracks that close with the rough rocker ‘Bring It On Back’, which nod to the last album or two Dan did with Nazareth.

Then the album closes with an acoustic version of ‘You And Me’. A really nice touch.

As Dan told me, he didn’t to do Son Of Nazareth, it’s a genuine solo album, it’s heartfelt, and both have to be applauded. Emotional, there’s a lot of feeling and feelings here, both musically and lyrically. In fact as many as there are gripping vocal melodies. Just listen to the take on Nazareth’s Sunshine for proof. A thoroughly good listen, beginning to end. ****1/2

Review by Joe Geesin

Joe asked Dan a few questions about the album, possible return to live action and his connection to an ex member of Wham!…

Hi Dan. How are you?.

Dan – Not bad, not bad. How about you? It’s been a long time.

Good thank you. I’ve just been enjoying the new album.

Dan – Oh good.

How did the album come about?

Dan – I met some great musicians from the Czech Republic and got a lot of inspiration. I wrote a lot with Karel Marik, whose an internationally renowned accordion player.

Some of the tracks seem very personal?

Dan – Yes, yes indeed. It was supposed to be, it’s not a solo album otherwise. I wanted it to be different, not do a Son Of Nazareth.

The track Mafia stood out for me? Almost progressive.

Dan – It is a good track – got a lot in there, it took on a life of its own while we were recording it.

Will you be returning to the stage any time soon?

Dan – I would love to. Lots I would love to do. Maybe a variety show kind of thing with other artists. My fans have been great it’s nice to give back.

Do you miss the touring?

Dan – Yes of course I do. It’s what we do.

So when you had to retire from Nazareth, it must have been heart breaking?

Dan – Yes very much so. It was very sad. But it had got to the stage where I would disappoint fans, disappoint the band, and disappoint myself, so I had to make that decision.

You’ve left one hell of a legacy.

Dan – I like to think so, thank you.

Do you have another album in you?

Dan – I would like to think so, but I want to focus on this album. Of course, I would like to go on, there is more in me.

Do you have much unreleased in the archive?

Dan No. We used all that we had, which is why there’s the acoustic version of ‘You And Me’. We had more left over in the early days.

So what did you make of the Nazareth box set that came out last year?

Dan – As it goes, pretty good. They did a good job, it’s what the fans wanted.

Joe What sessions have you done that would surprise fans?

Dan I don’t think so – I think they know about them all.

Didn’t you sing backing vocals on the Andrew Ridgely (ex-Wham!) solo album?

Dan – Ha ha yes I did. They were a lovely bunch. I thought I sounded good on that too.

How do you feel about Nazareth continuing without you?

Dan – It’s cool, I wanted them to go on, keep the legacy going.

What is your best or most outstanding memory from the last 50 years in music?

Dan- Too many, I can’t choose. We’ve been very lucky. Maybe the first US headline tour, but no I can’t say one.

Any regrets?

Dan – I try not to look back in anger.

I asked Zal Cleminson that question and he said his autograph, in reference to the bad record deals he’d gotten into.

Dan – (laughs) Yes sounds about right for us all.

How’s your health been?

Dan – I have ups and downs, I’ve been through a lot.

Any message for your fans?

Dan – Thank you. I’ve no complaints. It’s all about the fans. They’re amazing.

Album review (vinyl reissues)

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