By Dave Thompson
Incredibly, and somewhat soberingly, Nazareth has just passed its 40th anniversary — sobering, because readers of a certain vintage will remember when they were viewed as one of the younger whippersnappers on the hard-rock circuit, and incredible, because you are barely 30 seconds into Nazareth’s latest album, and every one of those years has just fallen away. That’s how long it takes for frontman Dan McCafferty to unleash the trademark growl/lascivious leer that he patented back on the first Naz album, and that has not sounded this good in decades.
This is a stunning album without a doubt. Eschewing anything remotely approaching the traditional tenets of a ’70s rock band reborn for whatever we call this particular decade (the teenies?), “Big Dogz” is all stuttering riffs, guitars the size of Glasgow, wide-open spaces and broad sweeps of eclectic energy that refuse to be nailed to any particular period of Nazareth’s past.
The dense blues of “When Jesus Comes To Save The World Again,” the pounding swagger of the title track, the nuanced nostalgia of “Radio” — Nazareth still boasts two founding members: McCafferty and guitarist Pete Agnew — and still packs the humor that always kept the band so buoyant in their youth. “The Toast” could be — and probably will be — sung at every show the band plays from now until the end of time. The closing “Sleeptalker” bucks the modern-day insistence that an album’s finest cut should be the first one because nobody listens to whole discs anymore; it delivers one of Nazareth’s most remarkable numbers ever.
It gets so depressing sitting, living in the past, waiting for old heroes to even try to deliver something new. But Nazareth has done it, and so what if “Big Dogz” isn’t the new “Loud ’n’ Proud?” Regardless, it’s gonna razamanaz all night long.