For such a big Nazareth fan, I’m ashamed how out of the loop I’ve been in recent years. First I was shocked to recently find out that their vocalist Dan McCafferty, the legendary Dan McCafferty whose voice immortalized the bands main hits Hair of the Dog, and their two covers This Flight Tonight and of course Love Hurts, as well as fan favourites such as Telegram and Go Down Fighting, to name a very very few, has left the band. Albeit it’s due to health related problems, which at this age, this far into the bands career I can’t be shocked about. The shocking part was that he left a year ago and I never knew. The second thing that I can’t believe went over my head was that the last album recorded with Dan on vocals, Rock ‘n’ Roll Telephone, was released early this past June.
Sure the band has been in obscurity from anyone but their big fans since the 70’s, after their string of successful albums, the 80s saw them become trend followers rather than setters. They had songs I really enjoy at this point in their careers, such as songs like Moonlight Eyes, This Month’s Messiah, Winner of the Night, and many others. I won’t deny, however, that those songs were very unlike the hard rock classics that made Nazareth a hard rock giant at a point in the 70s. Sometime in the 90s, I think it’s safe to say ‘91’s No Jive album was where the band went back to their hard rock sound. That was the point where a lot of those bands who went from being hard rock bands to being 80s trend followers felt they needed to go back to their roots. Unfortunately, just like most other bands, by this point it was too late for Nazareth to regain what they once had. But they didn’t mind, as long as they could still make music for the loyal fans that wanted to hear it by them.
So that brings us to the newly released Rock ‘n’ Roll Telephone. For people who have been following Nazareth since beyond the 70’s, it’s a pretty standard Nazareth album to what they’ve been recording since the 90s. Opening track Boom Bang Bang is a slow dirty hard rock track with guitarist Jimmy Murrison starting things off with a riff that introduces drummer Lee Agnew in to the song with his slow and heavy beat. Founding member (and now sole remaining member) Pete Agnew was sure to make his bass guitar heard despite the heaviness of everyone else’s instruments, and Dan McCafferty, who has long since lost a lot of his voice given his raspy style that made his voice such a signature for 70s hard rock doesn’t sound out of place at all here. Frankly it’s when he sings the old classics that you can hear the change in his voice, when it comes to new stuff, he sounds almost perfectly fine.
After the albums second track One Set of Bones, another slow and dirty hard rock song, the album wastes no time in getting to a couple of softer songs. Back 2B4 is a heavily acoustic driven upbeat song. And then there is Winter Sunlight which is also acoustic driven but in an incredibly different way. Back 2B4 is centred on chords and jumpy drum beats, where Winter Sunlight is much slower and relaxing, if maybe a little dark, it has great harmonies and melodies, showing surprisingly exceptional song writing for a band that already made their case long ago and really have nothing to prove.
The title track Rock ‘n’ Roll Telephone is a little anti-climactic, coming right after the two previously mentioned tracks you’d expect something great, but it’s a below standard hard rock song with incredibly unwell thought out lyrics. At least the next track Punch a Hole in the Sky finally brings a fast beat. This song is like a Motörhead song compared to the pace of the rest of the album so far. It really does wake you up.
Long Long Time is an awkward song. I can’t see many people enjoying this songs hip hop drum beat and 90s pop melodies (they remind me of songs from the 90s) and a guitar riff that attempts to give the song an upbeat feel but doesn’t do enough to save the song. This is, however, followed by my favourite song on the album. With me, it’s hard to go wrong when you add a bluesy track on an album, such as The Right Time. It’s a pretty standard slow blues song, the slowest song on the album. The lyrics aren’t special, and the song isn’t anything groundbreaking, but it is soulful and the album wouldn’t be the same without it. Actually the album wouldn’t be the same without Long Long Time either. It keeps the album from being one-dimensional as I feared it would be before my first listen.
There are two more generic hard rock songs before the album ends, Not Today and Speakeasy. The latter song stands out a bit, but really it’s because of the main guitar riff. It has a bit of an 80s pop rock feel to it differentiating it ever so slightly from all other hard rock songs on the album.
The albums ending track God of the Mountain is a pretty solid ending track. It has a live audience dubbed in to add effect which helps. The song has a fast driving pace, one that Rock ‘n’ Roll Telephone hasn’t had to this point, and it has the catchiest chorus on the album. It’s short and simple “Sky high praise the God of the Mountain” and all four members of the band make their case in getting noticed one last time, with Jimmy belting out one last good solo (he’s had a few good ones on the album), both Pete and his son Lee keeping that driving pace going throughout the song, and of course Dan singing his heart out for one last time.
I am pleased with the albums multi-dimensions compared to what I initially expected. However at this point in the bands career, albums like these are just made for fun. They aren’t expecting huge amounts of money (or any amount of money really) and they aren’t looking to change the world, they are looking to give their loyal fans one last ride (Though the band does still exist with a new singer named Linton Osborne). If Rock ‘n’ Roll Telephone is the last Nazareth album, then so be it. They didn’t go down fighting but they kept their place in our hearts (puns intended) for much longer than anyone expected.
“One Set of Bones” – I figure this album does mostly have slow dirty hard rock songs, despite having some experimentation to it, so it would only be right to pick the best of these dirty hard rock songs. One Set of Bones is my pick because it doesn’t sound completely effortless (like in the way Rock ‘n’ Roll Telephone [the song] sounds like the band just gave up) and it comes at a point in the album that they better catch the listeners attention, because right after this song comes two softer songs.
7 (Out of 10)
|“Boom Bang Bang”||3:17|
|“One Set of Bones”||3:27|
|“Rock ‘n’ Roll Telephone”||5:45|
|“Punch a Hole in the Sky”||3:49|
|“Long Long Time”||4:18|
|“The Right Time”||4:51|
|“God of the Mountain”||3:44|