"Hair of the Dog" Rockers Nazareth Fight Back Against Retirement

Nazareth, 2014 version: Jimmy Murrison, Lee Agnew, Linton Osborne and Pete Agnew.EXPAND
Nazareth, 2014 version: Jimmy Murrison, Lee Agnew, Linton Osborne and Pete Agnew.
Photo by Darren Snape, Gigitapp.com/Courtesy of Eagle Rock

Nazareth
No Means of Escape

Eagle Rock Entertainment, 173 mins., $19.98 Blu-Ray/$14.98 DVD

When it was announced in 2013 that Nazareth singer Dan McCafferty was retiring from touring because of health problems that made it impossible for him to complete a show, many figured that would be the end for the venerable Scottish hard-rock band, in business since 1968.

After all, it would leave only bassist Pete Agnew as an original/classic lineup member. However, Agnew's son Lee (on drums) and guitarist Jimmy Murrison have both clocked in considerable time with the group, Murrison at that point in the band longer than Manny Charlton.

So with McCafferty’s blessing, Agnew recruited a new vocalist, Linton Osborne, and Nazareth continued. This was the group captured for this 2014 gig in London, though Osborne has since left.

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The 13-song set straddles a good sampling of Nazareth’s catalog – hits, deep cuts and even some newer material. In the U.S., the hard rockers ironically scored their biggest hit with the ballad “Love Hurts,” a cover of the country song by Boudleaux Bryant that was a hit for the Everly Brothers in 1961. Disappointingly, Osborne doesn’t even come near McCafferty’s soaring vocal heights or pain here.

Still, highlights include a rocking “Silver Dollar Forger,” the punchy “Razamanaz,” the acoustic-based “See You See Me,” the alternately lustful and threatening “Bad Bad Boy,” and Nazareth's unlikely reworking of Joni Mitchell’s “This Flight Tonight,” the band’s first hit.

Murrison’s guitar work is especially impressive — and, honestly, anchors the proceedings — though Osborne’s vacant-stare stage presence while singing does seem odd. And the cowbell-heavy “Hair of the Dog” (which many still think is called “Son of a Bitch,” based on its distinctive lyrical chorus) hasn’t lost any of its power.

Overall, the show falls squarely in the middle ground of quality — not searing, but not an embarrassment to the band’s legacy.

Bonus features include Made in Scotland, a 50-minute documentary on the band’s history. But while a cool extra, it’s also a botched opportunity as it’s based mainly on contemporary interviews with McCafferty, Agnew, and an informed Scottish rock journo. It also repeats concert footage of the current lineup, and has no archival footage of the band in its heyday (or representation from Charlton or late drummer Darrell Sweet), relying on repeated photographs.

It is charming to hear the affable McCafferty refer to Nazareth megafans Guns N’ Roses as “lovely boys.” The ‘80s metal giants included their version of "Hair of the Dog” on 1993's all-covers LP The Spaghetti Incident? Axl Rose even asked the older rockers to play at his wedding, which they declined.

Other bonus features include an acoustic number, extended interviews with McCafferty and Agnew, and a wonderful “Meet the Superfans” segment, filmed at an art reception for the band’s No Mean City cover artist, Rodney Matthews. The artist created a new version of band mascot “Friendly Fred” for the cover of this DVD.

“The heart of this thing is the music...and you have to move on,” says a wistful McCafferty, who clearly wishes he was still fronting the band, toward the end of Made In Scotland.

And really, who are the Classic Rock Purist Police to say how “real” the existing lineup of Nazareth (or any other band) is? So long as they are out there on the road, keeping the music alive to still-rabid fans both of vintage and new discovery, more power to them.

And as for retirement? “It’s boring,” McCafferty chuckles. “Fucking boring.”


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