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Close Enough for Rock 'N' Roll...,
This review is from: Rock 'n' Roll Telephone [Deluxe] (Audio CD)
When Nazareth were recording Rock ‘N’ Roll Telephone in 2013 there was no indication it would be the last with gravel-voiced
co-founder Dan McCafferty.
However breathing problems during shows in August of that year and a diagnosis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (C.O.P.D.) led to the front man’s disappointing but sensible decision to retire after 45 years with the Scottish rockers.
Given those circumstances the rose in the heather tinted reaction from fans posting 5 Star reviews of the album was hardly a surprise, but the truth of the musical matter is the band’s twenty-third studio release is no Nazareth classic.
What the band have produced however is a predominately mid-tempo, guitar-based rock album in the style of 2011’s Big Dogz, but with a little more light and shade.
Opener 'Boom Bang Bang' doesn’t have anything like the musical intensity the title suggests and the number never gets beyond third gear but it has a great, funky riff-rock shuffle and comes complete with a throwaway but infectious chorus.
'One Set of Bones' has a grungier attitude but retains the classic Nazareth sound; it’s a perfect contrast to the acoustic-based songs 'Back 2B4' (a simple but pleasant sing-a-long number that implores us to have no regrets) and the ballad 'Winter Sunlight,' a track that wouldn’t have been out of place as the light relief back in the band’s classic album after classic album era.
Unfortunately references to classic Narareth are few and far between on the second half of the album.
The title track is a ponderous slice of slow rock and while 'Punch a Hole in the Sky' and album closer 'King of The Mountain' pick up the pace they lack the musical weight, energy and rock and roll gravitas of songs such as 'Raz-Ama-Naz' and 'Expect No Mercy.'
The soul-rock groove employed on 'Long Long Time' is a little different but sadly never develops beyond its one dimensional state; the band is better suited to the heavier, riff-based 'Not Today,' the rock radio friendly 'Speakeasy' and the brooding 'Just a Ride,' the latter featuring on the Rock 'N' Roll Telephone bonus disc that includes two non-album numbers and five live tracks.
Dan McCafferty was once one of the biggest voices in rock so it’s fitting he was the biggest voice in the case for Nazareth continuing with another vocalist, as they have since announced with Scottish singer Linton Osborne.
But while guitarist Jimmy Murrison has been with the band since 1994 and bass player Pete Agnew’s son Lee has been behind the kit for 15 years, McCafferty’s departure and Pete Agnew’s status as the only original member of the group moves Nazareth from classic band to classic brand.
But that’s classic rock in the 21st century, where many bands have become franchises.
An extended life based around not the original members but the original songs and the original sound.
But hey, Close Enough For Rock ‘N’ Roll and, far more importantly, Dan McCafferty’s retirement from the circuit has probably extended his own life.
Thanks for the Raz-Ama-Tastic memories, big man.