2XS/Sound Elixir

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Long-awaited it may have been, but there were moments when Salvo's decision to reissue the entire Nazareth catalog began to look like one soaring ambition too far. This package takes us up to 1983, at a time when the band was still firing on most commercial cylinders, but the creative juices were running thin; or, at least, they weren't thick enough to withstand the demands of the day, which were production, production, and more production, layering on everything that the studio had to offer until even the best song sounded like a technological demonstration disc. The result is the two weakest albums in the band's career. Power ballads rule the day, with 2XS obviously remembering that Nazareth's biggest American hit so far had been their take on "Love Hurts," but forgetting that we maybe didn't need to hear it again. So "Love Leads to Madness" opens the album with a swoon and, though things would pick up later on in the set ("Back to the Trenches," "Take the Rap"), still 2XS is as weak a release as the demands of the radio day demanded. Dispose of it, then, and move on to its successor, Sound Elixir, and wonder if it's even Nazareth any longer. The band's soul and R&B roots had never been far from the surface, but here they leap out without any disguise, except, it's not the R&B that Nazareth grew up on, but that same over-slick version that the '80s, again, made so maddeningly popular. "All Nite Radio" is a neat opener; "Whipping Boy," rocks and "Local Still" boogies. But too much of Sound Elixir falters beneath the overkill of the studio wizards, and Nazareth would have a long way to travel if they ever expected to make up lost ground. Which, says hindsight, is exactly how they planned it. They needed to hit rock bottom in order to have the fun of climbing up again.