Review: Nazareth – Big Dogz

The Big Dogz may still howl, but they've lost their bite.
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Nazareth - Big DogzIt’s been 40 years since the band’s first studio album was released, and it wasn’t until their 6th album, Hair of the Dog, in 1975 that they hit it big. Fans of the band will remember such classics as “Beggars Day” and “Please Don’t Judas Me” from this album, but everyone knows the huge hits “Love Hurts” and “Hair of the Dog." No matter how old you are, if you’ve never found yourself driving down the road with the radio cranked and screaming the words “Now you’re messing with a son of a bitch,” you are not a hard rocker.

Since then the band has been releasing albums nonstop and have had a few other memorable songs such as “Crazy” from the Heavy Metal Motion Picture Soundtrack and “Holiday” from Malice in Wonderland, which had a relatively popular video that ran on MTV in the early ‘80s.

This Scottish rock band has had a few band member changes, but original singer Dan McCafferty and bass player Pete Agnew have been a constant. For this current incarnation Lee Agnew is on drums and Jimmy Murrison on guitar, both have been with the band since the ‘90s.

The longevity of the members has strengthened the song writing and creativity of the group and is evident throughout this latest album. It is also the weakness.

While the melodies and lyrics are well done, it’s evident that 64-year-old McCafferty has lost the magic in his voice. Much like Brian Johnson from AC/DC, McCafferty has a hoarse raspy voice. Johnson can get away with the degradation in his voice because much of the music his band plays is intense, driven hard rock. Nazareth can also rock, but they are also known for their touching ballads and melodic quality.

The only somewhat rocking song is “Big Dog’s Gonna Howl,” and it’s the only one that the singing is enjoyable. “When Jesus Comes to Save the World Again,” has a great melody and is just a really cool song.

But unfortunately, the majority of the songs are just hard to listen to. The vocals on “No Mean Monster” are just a bunch of high-pitched squeals that are almost nonsensical.

The song “Time and Tide” is a slow ballad that is croaked out by McCafferty and has an odd juxtaposition with the rest of the band singing smooth backing vocals. Plus after listening to six and a half minutes of him asking “Where did the time go?” you start asking the question yourself. And when it finally ends at 7:21 you are glad the song is over.

By far the worst example is the song “Butterfly” it’s a slow sweet ballad, but there has never been an older sounding vocal track in the history of rock. It literally sounds like someone on their deathbed barely able to squeak out the words.

So while Nazareth is still one of the classic rock bands still around with the ability to create good music, it’s going to be difficult for them to have any success with the original singer. And if McCafferty is no longer the singer, then it just really isn’t Nazareth.       

The track list is as follows:

  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