The Scottish band Nazareth, which took its name from a line in the Band's "The Weight," occupies an unusual place in hard rock because it alternates between unlikely cover songs and rugged-and-ragged originals. Vocalist Dan McCafferty is capable of singing relatively smoothly, but his sandpaper voice is usually rough enough to make Rod Stewart, Joe Cocker, and AC/DC's Brian Johnson sound like silky hotel lounge crooners. The CD version of 1996's outstanding Greatest Hits captures 18 choice songs from Nazareth's 1973-1982 prime on A&M. For most of these years, the band consisted of McCafferty, guitarist Manny Charlton, bass guitarist Pete Agnew, and drummer Darrell Sweet. Critics hated Nazareth, especially since the band first gained attention -- and probably horrified territorial folk purists -- with a hard-driving interpretation of Joni Mitchell's "This Flight Tonight." Nazareth's two musical sides are best illustrated by 1975's Hair of the Dog. The title track, which casual fans might mistakenly think is actually titled for its relentless "Now you're messin' with a son of a bitch" chorus, is a dangerous, fiery winner, while the sensitive cover of the Boudleaux Bryant-penned "Love Hurts" was a major hit single and a power ballad prototype. Both are included here, of course. The seven-minute take on the Bonnie Dobson/Tim Rose-penned folk-rock standard "(Walk Me Out in the) Morning Dew" from 1981 showed a willingness to experiment that one would've expected from a progressive rock band during the previous decade, while 1982's sleek, infectious "Love Leads to Madness" demonstrates the direction hard rock was moving at the time. The jangly "Broken Down Angel" is similar to Rolling Stones-style country-rock. Nazareth is, ultimately, a hard rock band, and the other songs here that reinforce this are "Razamanaz," "Shanghai'd in Shanghai," and "Go Down Fighting." Greatest Hits won't cause a critical re-examination of Nazareth but, in all fairness, it should.
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AllMusic Review by Bret Adams