Friday, August 30, 2013



A hard-rockin' band from Scotland that boasts a lead singer that sounds like an unholy combination of AC/DC's Bon Scott and Brian Johnson smashed together, Nazareth were heavy rock trailblazers  that occupy a well deserved place in All Things Rockin'.  Formed in 1968 in Dunfermline, Scotland, they were the remaining members of a local semi-pro group called The Shadettes. It's my guess that the band broke up due to the sheer embarassment of having a name that sounded like a 60s-era girl group.
Fortunately, vocalist Dan McCafferty, guitarist Manny Charlton, bassist Pete Agnew and drummer Darrell Sweet chose the much more appropriate name of Nazareth for themselves from the opening line of the classic song by The Band, entitled "The Weight". By 1970 the band had relocated to London, England where they released their eponymous debut album in 1971 and a second album, Exercise in 1972. Neither LP moved any significant numbers, but after securing an opening spot on a tour by metal giants Deep Purple, they were introduced to Purple bassist and producer Roger Glover, who wound up producing the band's third album, 1973's  Razamanaz. In another example of the third time being the charm, this collection contained two top ten UK hits,   "Broken Down Angel" and "Bad, Bad Boy"   

The band's relationship with Glover as a producer continued for two more albums, 1973's Loud 'N Proud and Rampant, released in 1974. These slightly less successful LPs followed the same formula started on Razamanaz, guitar-driven, bare-bones heavy rock led by McCafferty's beyond-raspy growl of a voice and fine guitar work by the underrated Charlton. They also exhibited a fearless attitude toward cover songs, unafraid to apply their heavy hands to material seemingly out of their comfort zone and getting memorable results. This was evidenced most markedly on the Loud 'N Proud album where they thoroughly manhandled Joni Mitchell's classic "This Flight Tonight", which became one of the band's signature tunes.

The band's stature grew steadily, gaining them numerous supporting slots on major tours and significant critical praise.They were still however, at this point a really, really good second-tier act. This state of affairs changed with the release of  Hair Of The Dog. This album marked the end of Roger Glover's collaboration with the band, the production chores handled this time by their own Manny Charlton. This collection contained  quite a few gems, but the song that raised the band to headliner status was yet another unlikely cover tune, The Everly Brothers' melodic ballad which was also covered by Roy Orbison, "Love Hurts"

"Love Hurts", released in 1975, was a precursor to the power ballads that became so popular by the hair metal bands of the 80s. Slowly paced, and punctuated with a tasteful Charlton guitar solo, McCafferty sings this song with every bit of power and grit he deploys for the band's hard-edged rockers. It definitely worked, for the song became the band's only U.S. top ten hit, going platinum. It was also top ten in the U.K. and eight other countries, hitting number one in six of them and spending a record-breaking 60 weeks on the Norwegian charts. The title track to Hair Of The Dog is a classic rock radio staple to this day and has been covered by several hard rock acts, most notably Guns And Roses.

On two occasions there were efforts by other bands to recruit vocalist Dan McCafferty from Nazareth into their ranks. One was by Ritchie Blackmore seeking a replacement for Deep Purple to replace the departed Ian Gillan. The second was by the band AC/DC to replace the late Bon Scott. Both of these attempts were met by violent threats by the band to lay off of their singer.

In 1979,the band added fellow Scotsman Zal Cleminson, formerly of The Sensational Alex Harvey Band as a second guitarist. He remained with the band for two albums, No Mean City and Malice In Wonderland , released in 1979 and 1980 respectively. The latter album contained the single "Holiday", which while not a huge seller, still became another classic rock radio favorite. Cleminson's subsequent departure was the start of a series of personnel changes which included keyboardists. In 1991 guitarist Manny Charlton left to pursue a solo career.

In 1999, drummer Darrell Sweet died of a heart attack while on tour at the age of 51. he was replaced by bassist Pete Agnew's son Lee.
The album The Newz was released in February of 2008 on the Hamburg, Germany based Edel Entertainment label to coincide with the band's 40th anniversary tour. A follow-up LP, Big Dogz was released in April of 2011.
McCafferty announced his retirement from the band due to ill health on August 28, 2013. This left Pete Agnew as the sole remaining founding member of the band.
Loud 'N Proud is the best way to describe this Scottish band's contribution to All Things Rockin'

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


Let us for a moment consider... disco music. Does it deserve to be included in All Things Rockin'? It is certainly a much-maligned genre of popular music, and understandably so. The sins of disco are many: repetitive...overly formulaic...promoting decadence, trendiness, status worship and materialism...good for dancing and not much else...the wanton destruction of classic RnB songs like Eddie Floyd's "Knock On Wood" and Robert Knight's "Everlasting Love" perpetrated by Amii Stewart and Carl Carlton drum beat for the most part...I could go on but like damn near everything in this world there is another side to the story. Disco served as an expression of empowerment for gay people at a time the gay community really needed it. The genre brought lush orchestration to prominence in pop music. It was just plain fun for the most part. Finally, the genre was elevated by the participation of truly brilliant artists such as Barry White, The Spinners, Teddy Pendergrass, Donna Summer, and our subject for today, Chic.
Chic was put together in 1977 by guitarist Nile Rodgers and bassist Bernard Edwards, two session musicians who met in 1970. After recruiting former Labelle drummer Tony Thompson, they set out as a trio keeping themselves busy performing cover songs at various gigs. Calling themselves The Big Apple Band, they first dabbled in jazz/rock fusion. later on turning their attentions to new wave music, they re-named themselves Allah And The Knife Wielding Punks (a name they should have kept due to its extreme coolness). Eventually realizing their need for a vocalist to become a fully functional unit, they drew up an agreement with one Norma Jean Wright which permitted her to have a solo career while working with the band. At this point they made yet another stylistic change to dance music, shifting to original material and re-christening themselves Chic.

With the help of a young recording engineer named Bob Clearmountain, who was at the beginning of an illustrious career as a producer, the band recorded what would be their first hits, "Everybody Dance" and "Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)". Chic shopped these demo recordings around with little success until Buddah Records agreed to release "Dance, Dance, Dance" as a 12 inch in late 1977. It gained popularity due to club play and word-of-mouth resulting in a contract with Atlantic Records and the band's self-titled debut album. When Rodgers and Edwards decided to add a second female vocalist Norma Jean Wright suggested her friend, Luci Martin, joining their ranks in 1978.

"Dance, Dance, Dance", which was their first single recording, got Chic to the Top 10 on the band's first shot, peaking at  #6 on both the pop and RnB charts. The follow-up, "Everybody Dance" sold more modestly though still going to  a quite respectable  #38 on the pop charts and  #12 RnB. The band's first trip to the top of the charts came courtesy of their sophomore LP release C'est Chic. This album contained the single "Le Freak" which hit  #1 on the pop, RnB and club charts. "Le Freak" was a high-energy affair that oozed funk with a mid-song vamp that not only forced the listener to move, but also was sophisticated enough to force the listener to listen. It clearly illustrated why Chic stood out among the many disco acts of the time. Although Rodgers and Edwards would become quite prolific producers, the music was not blatantly producer-driven as most disco music tended to be. Chic was a band  and they approached their music as such. And, much like their contemporaries K.C. And The Sunshine Band, and unlike most other disco artists they realized that funk and soul is quite conducive to dancing and therefore kept those very qualities at the core of their music.
This served them well as another single from the album, "I Want Your Love" brought them back to the Top 10 at  #7 pop and  #5 RnB. This, plus the fact that "Le Freak sold six million copies in the U.S. alone, making it the highest selling single in the history of Warner Brothers (Atlantic's parent company) until Madonna's "Vogue" in 1990. Chic's status as superstars was solidified as one of the few platinum-level acts in the genre of disco.

A year later in 1979 their next album Risqué was released, which featured  a single that would be one of the most influential songs of the era. This song, titled "Good Times" became the basis for The Sugarhill Gang's seminal breakthrough rap single "Rapper's Delight". It's direct influence could also be heard on the rock group Queen's "Another One Bites The Dust" and new wave group Blondie's "Rapture", Daft Punk's "Around The World" and Captain Sensible's "Wot?". As for Chic themselves, the song gave them their second chart-topper, hitting  #1 on both the pop and RnB charts.

The band's music, composed by Edwards and Rodgers, would find its way via sampling to many more subsequent hip-hop releases. As a result of their success, Edwards and Rodgers were tapped to write, produce, and arrange work by other major RnB and pop artists such as Sister Sledge's We Are Family, Diana Ross' album Diana which included the hits "Upside Down" and "I'm Coming Out" Carly Simon's "Why" from her album Soup For One, and Debbie Harry's solo LP Koo Koo. Chic also gave a break to a young session vocalist on their earlier albums. This fledgling singer's name was Luther Vandross. Separately, Nile Rodgers produced David Bowie's Let's Dance, Mick Jagger's  She's The Boss and Madonna's Like A Virgin among others. Bernard Edwards joined Robert Palmer's one-off supergroup Power Station with drummer Tony Thompson as well as producing Palmer's commercial breakthrough LP Riptide.

With the disco era coming to an end, Chic disbanded in the 1980s although Edwards and Rodgers kept busy writing, producing  and performing with other high-profile artists. Tragedy struck in April 18th of 1996 when Bernard Edwards died of pneumonia at the too-young age of 43. The band had recently re-formed with new female vocalists Silver Logan Sharpe and Jenn Thomas.
Chic was struck a second time with a band member's death when drummer Tony Thompson succumbed to kidney cancer on November 12, 2003. He was 48.
As performers, writers, producers and an influence on artists that crossed genres, Chic left a large footprint on an industry and indeed, on the world. Just a disco group? Hardly.