Incredibly, by the time this album was released in
1981 by Vertigo Records as a live double album (oh those good old days
of vinyl), Nazareth had already released thirteen studio albums. That
does not include the masses of Greatest Hits, etc., that have been put
out over the years by the record companies. That was surprising as
Nazareth had always been known as a live band, guaranteed to deliver
live and pack them in wherever they were booked.
By not putting out their live albums until 1981,
Vertigo rather missed the boat. Punk rock had already come and gone,
which had not really hurt Nazareth as they were always too hard-edged to
be roped in with the hated progressive bands like Pink Floyd, Genesis,
etc. However, when you look at what live double albums did for the
careers of the likes of U.F.O. with ‘Strangers In The Night’; Deep
Purple with ‘Made In Japan’; or Thin Lizzy with ‘Live And
Dangerous’, it raises the question of how would Nazareth have fared
had they had the extra kick of a double live album out on the shelves as
further grist to their mill.
There is no doubt that this is a mighty tome indeed.
Nazareth’s original Scottish quartet of musicians are still together
by the time of Snaz. Manny Charlton with his thick chords and chopping
riffs. Was there ever a tighter rhythm section of Pete Agnew and Darrell
Sweet? And all topped off by the gravel vocals of Dan McCafferty, who
sounded as though he gargled with acid before hitting the stage.
The only changes to the lineup to this point had been
the addition of fellow countryman Zal Cleminson (ex- The Sensational
Alex Harvey Band) for a couple of albums and tours directly before this
album. The story goes that the rest of Nazareth found Zal temporarily
between bands driving taxis in Glasgow, Scotland. Not believing that
such a talent was not actually playing in a rock ‘n’ roll band, they
dragged him out of the taxi and immediately enrolled him in the band
until he found his musical feet again. And then when he did, they let
After Zal departed, the band felt a bit of a musical
void, so they enrolled fellow Scots Billy Rankin on guitar and John
Locke on keyboards. Then they set out on a massive tour of North
America, recorded every concert for their projected live album, and
decided that the concert held at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver,
Canada, was just what they wanted. So they discarded all the other
recordings and put this one out in its entirety.
I think they were right as it catches the band on
what was definitely a special night. Starting with the epic
‘Telegram’ (the story of being on the road with a rock ‘n’ roll
band, including the immortal lyric “I need your picture, smile this
way, oh, by the way, will you tell me what you play?) they carried on
till a rousing encore of Nazareth’s biggest hit, the ballad ‘Love
Hurts’, followed by a version of ZZ Tops ‘Tush’, left both, band
and crowd, breathless.
In-between are all the classic Nazareth songs and
cover versions which they became famous for. Of course this is one of
the advantages of not recording your live album early in your career,
but saving it till you have a full two hours of classic material. Mind
you, if Nazareth had released a live album in the early seventies, they
could have done an equally good one for the eighties.
Snaz was first released on CD in 1997, but
horrifically, that was a pretty poor effort as the sound was very tinny,
and it was not possible to get all the material from the live double
vinyl album onto one CD. As a solution they hacked off six tracks to
make it a more manageable seventy minutes, and so completely ruined the
flow of the running set, especially as it meant missing out ‘Big
Boy’, magnificently penned by Zal Cleminson.
However, Eagle Records have gotten hold of the
original masters and under the expert supervision of Robert M. Corich
and Mike Brown, the original Snaz has been returned to its full glory.
The spread covers two CDs, has new liner notes, and even the two new
studio tracks that had been tacked onto the end of the live recording in
1981 have been faithfully restored.
Whether you want to buy a collection of Nazareth’s
greatest hits or just of a very fine rock ‘n’ roll band doing what
they do best on the live concert circuit, Snaz will not disappoint.