Most rock fans in the U.S. of a certain age know Scottish rockers Nazareth by their bona-fide American hit single “Love Hurts.” Like many other Classic Rock tunes of the era, “Love Hurts” became an evergreen hit, one that people turn up their radios to listen to because it reminds them of the days when they could take risks, hang out with some questionable friends and party. Yes, “Love Hurts” was the perfect party song if you were with a fine lady who liked to make out during this song. As a matter of fact, “Love Hurts” was one of the first ‘power ballads’ in Hard Rock history. The guys could listen to it because the band still rocked, but the girls would swoon because these tough rockers were showing their sensitive side. Yeah, “Love Hurts” was – and is – a fucking ace tune. (FACTOID: “Love Hurts” was written by Boudleaux Bryant and was originally recorded by The Everly Brothers in 1960!)
However, Nazareth was much more than that one song. The track was released on the American version of the band’s 1975 album Hair Of The Dog, which was their sixth full-length overall. Their five previous releases helped to build the band a solid fan base before Hair… sent their career into overdrive. Sadly for rockers in the U.S., the spotlight of fame didn’t linger on Nazareth for long. The band’s next few albums did chart in the U.S. but the arrival of Punk and New Wave changed the musical landscape and bands like Nazareth were overlooked in favor of the ‘80s Pop generation. To their credit, Nazareth never gave up and they deserve your love and respect for that alone.
If you are familiar with any Nazareth studio album, you already know that the band never tried to knock out the same old Hard Rock anthems on every record. Sure, they had the ‘Nazareth sound’ firmly in place by 1973’s Razamanaz but they didn’t stick to that formula throughout the album. The band was confident enough to try different things in the studio. Has every Nazareth album been great? Well, that is up to the listener to decide. However, every album has songs that really stand out and honestly stand the test of time. I could easily go through each album in their catalog and point out some great songs if you ever have a few hours and want to come over and listen to some prime Nazareth. Though their catalog is lesser known, I’d say that Nazareth are in the same league as Deep Purple, Blue Oyster Cult, Aerosmith, Thin Lizzy and other like-minded melodic Hard Rock heroes.
In Dan McCafferty, the band had a vocalist who could scream, growl and croon his way through a tune. Personally speaking, I’m not a fan of most ‘screamers’ out there, but McCafferty was different. This was a wild man who let loose and wailed on the rockin’ tunes, then scaled it all back and got lost in the emotion of the melody. He didn’t scream because he could – he did it because that is what the song asked for. Just listen to “Love Hurts” – that is the wail of a broken man. The music is powerful and emotional and it draws out the inner anguish of a man in the throes of utter sorrow. It isn’t just a scream - it is a cry for help. The band has had many great moments like that along the way, but they didn’t receive much airplay on U.S. radio, which is our loss.
Since Hair… was released in ’75, the band has soldiered on with changes in their line-up but always with McCafferty front and center. In 2014, they released their 23rd studio album, Rock ‘n’ Roll Telephone. Sadly, McCafferty has had to retire due to health reasons (COPD) although the band is continuing with his blessing. I was honored to interview Dan last year for the release of that album and you can find the interview HERE.
Over the past year, I’ve sat down to review the band’s catalog but I’ve been so overwhelmed with other projects, work and life in general and have not been able to devote the necessary time to create such an article. But it has kept nagging at me and although sharing the occasional video on my Facebook page has helped, it hasn’t satisfied that Naz urge. So, I decided to pick 10 songs that I felt were great examples of Nazareth’s catalog and share them with you. Are they the best Nazareth songs ever? Not exactly... these are just SOME of them: they have plenty more great ones to choose from. I just decided on these at the moment because I want to share them with folks who may not be that familiar with the band apart from “Love Hurts.” If I were to post this tomorrow, it might be a whole different set of songs! I don’t claim to be an expert on Nazareth, but I am one of many devoted fans. My view of the band comes from a ‘melodic’ view point. Some love the riffs while others love the band’s Hard Rock crunch. Personally, I love their hooks and the power in McCafferty’s voice – a unique instrument that has defined the band’s sound since they released their debut album in 1971.
So, here are 10 reasons why you should love Nazareth. You’re already familiar with the first…but I thought I'd include it to ease you into things. Many FM radio fans are familiar with the second as well...
Click on the song title if you'd like to peruse the album info... and don't hesitate to purchase it!
1. "LOVE HURTS"
2. "HAIR OF THE DOG"
4. "LOVE LEADS TO MADNESS"
5. "GONE DEAD TRAIN"
7. "MORNING DEW"
8. "GOD OF THE MOUNTAIN
9. "RAIN ON THE WINDOW"
10. "THIS FLIGHT TONIGHT"
This has been a presentation of SPAZ on the NAZ,
By Stephen SPAZ Schnee