Nazareth

No Mean City

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This 1978 album found Nazareth continuing to mine the combination of stripped-down hard rock and roots rock sounds explored on 1977's Expect No Mercy. No Mean City is also notable because the veteran Scottish rock outfit expanded its lineup for the first time with addition of guitarist Zal Cleminson, formerly of the Sensational Alex Harvey Band. He helped the band create a gutsy twin-guitar attack that stamps its authority all over the album: prime example of the group's new firepower include "Just to Get Into It," a blinding speed rocker that provides the album with a fitting opener, and "Simple Solution," a hard-driving slab of boogie rock that sets cynical lyrics against the backdrop of a gritty, hypnotic guitar riff. Another major highlight is "May the Sunshine," which starts as a Celtic-inflected acoustic tune, but soon adds electric guitars and rumbling bassline to become a stomping folk metal tune in the style of Led Zeppelin. However, the album's secret gem is "Star," a power ballad about a love affair broken up by the music biz that is driven by a sweetly harmonized guitar riff almost as heart-tugging as the song's lyrics. The problems with No Mean City is that while all of its rockers are sturdy, some of them pale in comparison to these highlights: an example is "Claim to Fame," a rocker that relies upon endless repetition of its central riff but is saved by a ferocious vocal from Dan McCafferty. Also, the emphasis on heavy twin-guitar means there is less of the experimentation that distinguishes the best Nazareth album. That said, No Mean City remains a bracing and electric set of hard rock tunes that is well worth a listen for both Nazareth fans and anyone addicted to 1970s hard rock.

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