Nazareth – No Mean City (1979)

Nazareth_NoMeanCity4 out of 5 Stars!

No Mean City is one of my favorite Nazareth albums—the band’s tenth studio release, if memory serves me correctly. This is also the first Nazareth album to include Zal Cleminson, the guitar hero of The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, who injected a boost of energy into the band, not only contributing his songwriting chops, but adding his distinctive guitar tones to the proceedings and finally giving Nazareth that dual-guitar punch I felt it needed.

Unlike most (if not all) previous Nazareth albums, no outside songwriters were used for No Mean City—the group reworked no “cover tunes”—and includes not only some sterling kick-ass rockers such as the opener “Just to Get Into It,” but also “Simple Solution (Parts 1 & 2),” “Claim to Fame,” “What’s in It for Me,” and the brutal “No Mean City (Parts 1 & 2),” but also the track “Star,” probably the finest ballad Nazareth ever recorded.

Moreover, the album features my best-loved Nazareth cover art of all time, thanks to artist Rodney Matthews, which clearly gives a hint as to the killer material on offer.

Though perhaps not as perfect as previous Nazareth collections such as Hair of the Dog or (my favorite) Razamanaz, the power and consistency of material on No Mean City easily matches that of other top-tier albums such as the previous Loud ‘n’ Proud, Play ‘n’ The Game, and Expect No Mercy, making this one another gem in the band’s vast catalogue.

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Nazareth – Razamanaz (1973)

Nazareth_Razamanaz4.5 out of 5 Stars!

Razamanaz is undoubtedly one of my favorite Hard Rock albums of all time, and my personal favorite in the Nazareth catalogue.

The bluesy riffs, the scorching performances, the spiffy production (thanks to Deep Purple’s Roger Glover), the selection of original and cover songs, and Dan McCafferty’s whiskey-shredded voice all seemed to gel on this album. Indeed, it was on Razamanaz, the Scottish band’s third studio effort, where the trademarked Nazareth style perfectly came together.

From the storming title track and a take-no-prisoners version of Leon Russell’s “Alcatraz,” to the eerie and devilish “Sold My Soul” and the ultra-catchy “Broken Down Angel,” this collection of tunes just doesn’t let up for one single minute. Both “Vigilante Man” and “Bad, Bad Boy” are showcases for Manny Charlton’s wild and wonderful slide guitar, and “Night Woman,” “Too Bad, Too Sad,” and “Woke Up This Morning” (a track from the band’s previous album, but rerecorded and energized) are nothing less than rockin’ and stompin’ killers, displaying impressive teamwork from the long-time rhythm section of bassist Pete Agnew and drummer Darrell Sweet.

Although Nazareth subsequently released numerous other top-quality albums during its forty-plus-years career, none of them seemed as near to everlasting “Hard Rock Paradise” as Razamanaz…a “must have if stranded on a deserted island” album if I ever heard one.

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Nazareth – Boogaloo (1998)

Nazareth_Boogaloo4 out of 5 Stars!

One thing that can easily be said for Nazareth—the Scottish band cannot be classified as a group of “quitters.” After Nazareth’s initial semi-major success in the ’70s began to fade, the band kept rockin’ ‘n’ rollin’ onward, despite the various musical trends that created havoc in the industry through the ’80s, ’90s, and into the new century. And Nazareth never altered its style too drastically, but strove forward into each new decade by continually producing its enjoyable (albeit occasionally spotty—ie. “varied”) style of Hard Rock.

Indeed, apart from one or two albums that fell below the band’s “quality benchmark,” Nazareth’s latter-day albums still contained some fun and delicious music, Hard Rock with a touch of Blues, Country, and AOR mixed in, with Dan McCafferty’s raspy and punchy vocals and Pete Agnew’s thumping and melodic bass lines, regardless of the other musicians that eventually joined the fold throughout the years.

And this album from the late ’90s is no exception. For starters, Boogaloo opens with the gruff and gritty “Light Comes Down,” a blast of rock ‘n’ roll that could have easily appeared on any of the band’s albums from the ’70s. From there, “Cheerleader” is another upbeat boogie-rocker with dastardly vocals, slamming drums, and tinkling piano in the tradition of tracks such as “Razamanaz.” With some brass accompaniment, “Loverman” adds a whisper of funk to the killer beat, while “Open Up, Woman,” “Talk Talk,” “Party at the Kremlin,” “Robber the Roadie,” and “Waiting” all pack the heavy swagger that made Nazareth so special in its early days. Even the more mid-tempo, slower-bluesy tracks “Nothing So Good” and “God Save the South” pack a mighty wallop to the jaw, whereas the final tune, “May Heaven Keep You,” is the only actual ballad included here, yet nevertheless has an impact during the choruses.

Indeed, Boogaloo contains an above-average collection of songs, is probably one of the most consistent albums in the band’s more recent catalogue, and isn’t too far afield from classic albums such as Razamanaz, No Mean City, or Hair of the Dog—in other words, the music is pure Nazareth, and terrific!

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