Play 'n' the Game

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Play 'N' the Game found Nazareth continuing in the AOR direction they established with Close Enough for Rock 'n' Roll. Like that album, it trades the driving rock that made the group famous for an experimental sound that toys with several different musical genres. For instance, "Down Home Girl" is a stab at Southern rock, and the group's cover of the Beach Boys classic "Wild Honey" slows down that song's tempo to create an effects-laden psychedelic atmosphere. Elsewhere, the group covers the hard rock bases with "Someone to Roll" and "Born to Love," a pair of energetic, guitar-driven rockers that would have fit in fine on Razamanaz or Loud & Proud. They also cross-breed the energy of these tracks with pop hooks on "L.A. Girls," a nimble bit of pop/rock fusion where speedy guitar riffs duke it out a with handclap-driven pop song beat. However, the undeniable highlights of Play 'N' the Game are its ballads: "I Want to Do Everything for You" is a promise of eternal love built on a swinging and pleasingly earthy bass groove and "I Don't Want to Go on Without You" is a moody tale of lost love that shows off Manny Charlton's ability to craft the soft but powerful guitar riffs necessary for a good power ballad. This album benefits from a more consistent overall sound than Close Enough for Rock 'n' Roll, but its shifts in tone are too abrupt for their own good, making the proceedings come off as a loose collection of songs instead of a fully conceived album. Despite this problem, Play 'N' the Game is an effective slice of AOR that will please the Nazareth fan base.

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