The pulsating crunch under Big Dog’s Gonna Howl, a neo-Black Sabbath inverted riff (perhaps After Forever from Master of Reality) gives in to the plodding AC/DC repeat of ‘You Just Found Me Out’, the refrain that makes up “Claimed”. Dan McCafferty’s voice is still snarling alongside original bandmate, bassist Peter Agnew while 90s Nazarenes – guitarist Jimmy Murrison and drummer Lee Agnew (Peter’s son) keep the rock & roll essential, no matter what the clock (or the year) says.
“No Mean Monster” is another top-forty aimed single that’s right in the pocket, though a step out of time for today’s dreadful “hit” radio. Any of these numbers would have been perfect as follow-ups to “Love Hurts”, the group’s Top 10 hit in January of 1976 (which, of course, was nothing like Roy Orbison’s classic rendition – prolific all over YouTube these days; or the perspectives of the Everly Brothers and Emmylou Harris). Hair of the Dog was the group’s sixth album back in the 1970s, and the Scottish rock band put out over a dozen more after that.
Jimmy Murrison’s production work is stellar and the six minute and 24 second “When Jesus Comes to Save the World Again” would be a phenomenon for any true-to-their-beliefs Christian rock band. It’s superb. The guitar has enough pause to make one think Led Zeppelin IV. The album clicks in at 55:38, almost an hour of contemporary Nazareth. “Radio” could be a sequel to Van Morrison’s “Wavelength” album, more charging than Joni Mitchell asking you to turn her on. The old gang’s still got it…in fact, the fine wine cliche has to be employed again, Nazareth is rocking better and bolder than ever, with even Lynda Agnew pitching in to help out with the artwork.
“Time and Tide” is a great jam song for bands aspiring to pick up the Nazareth mantle. Where does the time go? is an appropriate question for all sixties fans and artists…the ones of us still breathing. Rock & Roll keeps you young, at least mentally, and the teenage/twenty-something artform being embraced by the over sixty set is just something inconceivable back in the day. Wasn’t “don’t pass me by” a Ringo quote from the White album? There are riffs and notions galore from the past but it doesn’t sound intentional, it’s just guys who love their gig getting back to work. The Rolling Stones need a little jolt of this “get back to the roots” kind of involvement, and maybe the out-takes from Exile on Main Street drove that point home for Mick & the boys. “Lifeboat” is a rip-roaring highlight, great riff, authoritative vocal, political in the same way Ian Hunter’s “Ripoff” from his classic Rant set the pace re: getting in the government’s face. The guitar doesn’t quit…holds up past the fadeout. More religious overtones permeate “Watch Your Back”
McCafferty doesn’t find the Janis Joplin tenderness in the ballad “Butterfly”, but he handles the nuances well and it fits into what would have been a double vinyl set back in the 1970s or ’80s. “Sleeptalker” is another first rate effort, more Beatles fragments tucked into the texture if you listen hard enough.
Track Listing: 1.) Big Dog’s Gonna Howl 2.) Claimed 3.) When Jesus Comes To Save The World Again 4.) Radio 5.) No Mean Monster 6.) Time And Tide 7.) Lifeboat 8.) The Toast 9.) Watch Your Back 10.) Butterfly 11.) Sleeptalker
Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at TMRZoo.com. He was a film critic for Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, has written thousands of reviews and biographies for AllMovie.com, Allmusic.com and produces and hosts Visual Radio. Visual Radio is a fifteen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed John Lennon’s Uncle Charlie, Margaret Cho, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere, Marty Balin, Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.