6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: No Mean City (Audio CD)
1979 was a dreadful year for music and a sad way to end a fantastic decade of innovation and classic rock. Anderson and Wakeman had left Yes, Ozzy had left Sabbath, Dio had left Rainbow, the best selling artists were Leo Sayer and Barbra Streisand. Turn on the radio and all you heard were the Bee Gees, Abba and Blondie. But 1979 was also the year in which Nazareth released an album so monumental that it has not dated one iota in the decades since and remains a cornerstone of British heavy rock. No Mean City is a dark chronicle of grime expressed by the raucous, gritty (but always controlled) vocals of Dan McCafferty and the crunching guitars of Manny Charlton and Zal Cleminson, complemented perfectly by Rodney Matthews' iconic album art. Ex-SAHB member Cleminson was an inspired choice as the second guitarist and contributed the stunning "Simple Solution" and co-wrote the title track. McCafferty's voice is an acquired taste, of course, and I know several friends who only listened to this album once, so impenetrable can that voice be to the untrained ear. But I would argue that McCafferty's delivery is perfect for the sagas of groupies, street whores, drugs, crime and "the one on the cross", giving the sometimes shocking and brutal lyrics an extra texture of sleaze. Light relief is provided by "Whatever You Want Babe" and the stunning "Star", in which McCafferty's roar becomes a plaintive wail for a lost love. The power chords which precede the chorus still give me goosebumps after all these years. This particular edition offers the single version of "May The Sunshine" and a good but unremarkable instrumental. When that single was first released the reviewer in Sounds sneered, "Are they really trying?" Yes, mate, they were, and Nazareth succeeded in producing an album which has not only stood the test of time but is really an essential album to have in your collection if you have any interest at all in honest British hard rock music.