Monday, June 27, 2011

Nazareth - Big Dogz (Deluxe Edition)

Big Dogz (Deluxe Edition)
Edel Records/Riot! Entertainment/Warner Music Australia

Having made a comeback after ten years away from the studio in 2008 with ‘The Newz’, classic hard rock outfit Nazareth are back with their surprisingly quick follow up ‘Big Dogz’ - which is the Scottish band’s twenty-second studio release, and first for German based label Edel Records.
Given the overwhelming positive praise for ‘The Newz’ from the press and fans, it’s not all that surprising to see that there’s a bit of interest in Nazareth’s latest effort. And sure enough, the band lives up to most of those expectations with their latest release.
The opening track ‘Big Dog’s Gonna Howl’ gets the album off to a strangely slow start, with Jimmy Murrison delivering a deliberately measured heavy blues based riff that is backed up with plenty of power from bassist/backing vocalist Pete Agnew and drummer Lee Agnew. Although lead vocalist Dan McCafferty puts in a solid performance with his distinctive raspy voice over the hard rocking tune, ‘Big Dog’s Gonna Howl’ does come across as a little too slow and stripped back to really have the impact it should as an opener - which is a little disappointing (Especially given that the song does have plenty of potential).
Despite sticking to the same slow tempo of the opener, ‘Claimed’ is classic Nazareth with McCafferty’s performance bringing to mind AC/DC’s Brian Johnson if he had a wider range and was able to project a bit more melody into his singing style.
It isn’t until ‘No Mean Monster’ (A song that imagines what it would be like if Fred, the monster depicted on the band’s ‘No Mean City’ album from 1979, were to come to life) that Nazareth really up the ante in terms of pace and heaviness, which helps steer the band back towards more familiar territory for the band, while the political dig of ‘Lifeboat’ is an infectious rocker that is one of the album’s hard rocking stand outs.
Another personal favourite is the slow burning semi-acoustic based ‘When Jesus Comes To Save The World Again’ with its thought provoking lyrical stance and the band’s use of dynamics (The gentle start, heavy middle section and mellow tail end), while the up-tempo feel-good rocker ‘Radio’ and the ‘The Toast’ are further great hard rocking efforts that stand out.
McCafferty shines on the reflective ‘Time And Tide’ and the heartfelt ‘Butterfly’, even if the cracks in his voice on the latter do reveal a little too much rawness in his vocals at times (Which understandably enough may turn some off the song), while the bad boy boogie of ‘Watch Your Back’ and ‘Sleeptalker’ (Which is easily the closest the band get to their classic old school rock sound) finish the album with plenty hard rocking energy.
As an added bonus to the deluxe edition of the album, ‘Big Dogz’ comes with an additional disc entitled ‘Live & Unplugged’, which as the title suggests, features five acoustic favourites recorded live in 2000 in acoustic form (With keyboardist Ronnie Leahy also part of the line-up at the time).
While there isn’t any real surprises to be found in the track listing (‘Big Boy’, ‘Simple Solution’, a cover of Tomorrow’s ‘My White Bicycle’, Boudleaux Bryant’s ‘Love Hurts’ and ‘Open Up Woman’), the performance on all of the tracks is nothing short of great, and makes for an excellent addition to the official album.
Despite a couple of tracks that don’t quite stand up to some of the other stronger sounding tracks, ‘Big Dogz’ is another great album from Nazareth, and proves that old dogs needn’t have to learn new tricks in order to remain relevant in today’s classic hard rock scene.

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© Justin Donnelly