(Album Review) NAZARETH - No Mean City
Release date January 1979
Fond memories of seeing Nazareth live for the first time in 1979 at my favorite concert of all time - the Canadian World Music Festival. 50,000+ fans stuffed CNE stadium for a 12-hour hard rock/heavy metal marathon for the ages. Nazareth were the third top billing act of that long day, with only Ted Nugent and Aerosmith taking to the stage after them. Luckily for those in attendance, Nazareth were touring in support of their No Mean City record and were very much in top form.
Admittedly, Nazareth have a very sketchy track record with their albums, rarely being able to put out platters of consistent quality. The Scottish troop had/have a frustrating habit of mixing light-in-the-loafers tripe with top tier hard rock on their records ... and unfortunately in concert, as well.
That is not the case with respect to No Mean City though, proving to be Nazareth's magnum opus. Every track a corker, this continues to be the album I listen to front-to-back when in the mood for some Razamanaz'n. Starting off with the high octane 'Just To Get Into It' was inspired, grabbing the listener's attention but quick. What follows is a mix of concrete slabs of hard rock ('What's Your Claim To Fame', 'What's In It For Me' and the title track), upbeat rockers ('Whatever You Want' and 'A Simple Solution') and uber-memorable rock ballads that should have taken over radio at the time ('May The Sunshine' and 'Star').
The mix works impressively, the despondent vibe of some of the tracks offset by some absolutely vicious and giddy sections. A roller coaster of an album if there ever was one. Perhaps it was the inclusion of Zal Cleminson (Sensational Alex Harvey Band) giving them the boot up the arse to get their act together on this, not sure, but there's no doubting that this was a heavier, more focused Nazareth at play. Rodney Matthew's album art and Dan McCafferty's razor-gargling vocals then act as the cherry on top, both being world class.
Easily one the top 50 albums of all time.