Looking at the set list of this CD – you should be giving this double album 5 stars. Especially the second CD covers tracks from the (up until now) not documented period of the 2XS and Sound Elixier tours. However, the overall sound quality of these live tracks is not all that great. As mentioned in the booklet, these are ’sound board’ recordings and obviously, there has not been any mastering. It is great to hear all these live recordings, but if you are not a Nazareth collector, buy ‘Snaz (their live double album from the ‘Fool Circle’ tour) instead.
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Let me just say that disc 1 is simply incredible, and if it were released on it’s own, I would vote it the greatest live rock album ever. However, disc 2 is a real disappointment. Mainly because Dan McCafferty had lost his voice and his constant screaming is absolutely terrible. It’s unfortunate that a guy who once had such an amazing voice had to resort to such hideous screaming.Anyway, let me talk about disc 1. IT IS AWESOME! AWESOME, AWESOME, AWESOME!!! The first ten songs were recorded in ‘72 and finds the band supporting their first two albums, “Nazareth” and “Exercises”, as well as playing songs from the soon-to-be-released “Razamanaz”.The version of “Morning Dew” is simply rapturous. If you thought Pete Agnew’s bass was powerful on the studio version, you haven’t heard anything yet! Here, he plays with almost twice the power, and his bass sounds like a friggin’ hungry monster! Sounds like he added some fuzztone, too. Anyway, Manny Charlton adds some spicy guitar licks and, of course, Dan’s vocal performance is awe-inspiring. The way that he belts out those high notes really makes me wonder why he was such an underrated singer. Here, in his prime, he could hang with the best of ‘em, believe me. “Alcatraz” is a pounding rocker with a spectacular riff, resplendent with Dan’s mighty wails of “GOIN’ BACK TA ALCATRAZ!!!”. “Vigilante Man” is nothing short of brilliant. It starts out with some soothing slide guitar and gentle vocals. They slowly build up the tension until it finally explodes into a furious, gut-wrenching rocker that would make Black Sabbath green with envy. And then there’s “Razamanaz”. Let me just say that this live version absolutely DESTROYS the studio version. The studio version was a fast, heavy rocker. This live version is a sweaty, breathless, take-no-prisoners display of balls and power. It’s so much more raw and intense than the studio version that it’s not even funny. Dan’s wailing is better than ever, and Charlton delivers a positively shattering solo in the middle. This is hard rock at it’s absolute best. Nobody has ever done it better than these bad-asses from Scotland! And Pete totally explodes on his bass at the end, in what seems like a competition with Manny’s guitar. God I love these guys.”Night Woman” is a great tune with that fabulous drum beat from Darrell Sweet, which sounds very similar to Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love”. Just a great, feel-good rocker. “Broken Down Angel”, I’ve always thought, is overrated. However, this live version is very good. No real highlights, just very well-played. But then comes the celestial acoustic ballad “Country Girl”. The thing I like most about Dan McCafferty is his ability to sing in about two or three voices that all sound completely different. I’ve never heard any other rock vocalist do this (except Axl Rose, who ripped off Dan’s vocal style anyway). But “Country Girl” is just beautiful. Here, Dan uses his softer, smoother voice to deliver a grandiose vocal performance. I swear, if you listened to a song like “Razamanaz” and then listened to “Country Girl”, you’d be thinking “That can’t be the same singer”. But it is! “Woke Up This Morning” is a stomping rocker with some hilarious, jokey lyrics. Sound to me like it’s a mockery of blues music, but I could be wrong. Anyway, Manny plays some vicious licks at the end. “Called Her Name” again shows the less-heavy side of the band, with a fantastic vocal melody and a glorious middle section. But the band’s version of The Allman Brothers’ “Black-Hearted Woman” is perhaps the best song on here. Absolutely devastating. Actually, the most fascinating part of the song is Manny Charlton’s final solo, which is one of the most blistering, ferocious, ballsy guitar solos that I’ve ever heard in my life. JESUS CHRIST THAT GUY CAN PLAY!!! Why he never got the recognition he deserved is totally beyond me. But here, he just totally goes nuts and plays like a demon. After listening to this, I don’t care if I ever hear Duane Allman again. The last four songs on disc 1 are all from 1980. It’s a good performance, though nowhere near as great as the ‘72 concert. “Talkin’ To One Of The Boys” is an excellent rocker. By this time, if I’m not mistaken, the band had acquired Zal Cleminson on second guitar. “Heart’s Grown Cold” is a nice little ballad. “Showdown At The Border” is nothing special, and the second version of “Broken Down Angel” is pretty average (it was an average song in the first place).But disc 2, like I said, is horrible. The songs were recorded from ‘81-’84, and by that time, Dan’s voice had lost most of it’s grandeur. For instance, he totally ruins this version of “Razamanaz” with his horrible screaming. Compare this to the breath-taking, fire-spitting version on disc 1. Honestly, I’m beginning to wonder if people in the crowd got up and left. The only good song on this disc is “Boys In The Band”, a massive, speedy rock tune. And Dan keeps his atrocious screaming to a minimum, thank god.I wish that disc 1 would’ve been released by itself. It is absolutely amazing. Buy this album. Just ignore disc 2, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a live album.
BACK TO THE TRENCHES is a great 2-disc set of unreleased live Nazareth. The large majority of disc 1 is obviously from an early show, with some later material tacked onto the end to fill out the length of the CD. The songs are of uniformly excellent quality, and the singing and playing are soulful and intense. On Disc 2, the songs are still of consistently high standard, and Manny Charlton’s guitar playing is still as raw and powerful as in the early days. However, Dan McCafferty’s singing is not quite as good, and at times sounds more like a demon than a human (probably the result of too much drink and smoke, and too many late nights). However, this does not keep the whole collection from deserving 5 stars, as the hot playing more than compensates for whatever problems McCafferty may have been having with his voice in the 1981-1984 period.