Four decades on four discs: a testament to the Scottish premiere rockers' still piling - and long overdue for this kind of compiling - legacy. All their greatest moments, plus long look on stage and a peek behind the scenes.
Perhaps, it's their own fault that NAZARETH don't bask in the same glories that the bands they usually get bracketed with, such as their old pals DEEP PURPLE. Perhaps, it's because of their wider stylistic scope and down-to-earth attitude. But that's exactly what makes the Scots an ever-interesting and arresting proposition, both on record and live, to which this box and this scribe bear witness. With two discs given mainly to the album material and the other two to the previously unreleased stuff, all remastered to reveal the subtleties of the music, the collection spans 40 years, from 1971 to 2001, crowns the Salvo reissue programme and encapsulates everything a casual listener and a lifelong fan alike need. But, frankly, everything one has to know about NAZ is packed in less than four minutes of "Razamanaz": a microcosm of their very existence, a gist of their manner - those upgraded blues-based scuzz - and a promise the ensemble still live by. They're first and foremost entertainers whose hard rock, a genre they're quite blatantly pegged to, has not an iota of aggression, and even the group's late '70s attack of "Expect No Mercy" holds a hooligan grin rather than a murderous threat.
Yet it was there, alongside band's omnipresent humor, in the beginning - it's revealed by comparison of a grim album version of the fuzz-shot "Woke Up This Morning" on the first CD to its reckless, slide-oiled concert delivery on the third one: that's where the NAZ spirit crystallizes to bloom from the SMALL FACES' ghost of early B-side "If You See My Baby" to the streamlined force of "Go Down Fighting". And there's a mark of the band's righteous judgment of what to release and what to leave out. Thus, dramatic "Storm Warning" and the bittersweet "Paper Sun", cut in 1972-1973, make their public debut just now; the latter was played live at the time yet it looks like no recording of this survived - what did remain are brilliant takes on "Country Girl", where the lads do their best BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD impression, and "Called Her Name" as well as the quartet's readings of "Goin' Down" and "Black Hearted Woman", all ten funky minutes of it with tremendous interplay and a "Loch Lomond" quote that, later, would become part of the pipes-voicebox solo in the classic groover "Hair Of The Dog". Where they failed when it came to delivering another cover, as opposed to their fantastic appropriation of THE EVERLY BROTHERS' "Love Hurts" or Joni Mitchell's "This Flight Tonight", was on ABBA's "S.O.S." and CREAM's "Sunshine Of Your Love", wisely put on a shelf, but the failure turned into success as the former's instrumental track became "This Month's Messiah" which, while still cropping up in the group's live repertoire, didn't make it to the box. Their stage craft is represented therein generously, selections from 1975 and 1977 being of special interest, capturing the ensemble at the top of their game, where even excess was assessed in creative terms and meant the collective uninhibited roll of soulful songs from Dan McCafferty's solo LP. Still, it's on their own inventions such as furious "Kentucky Fried Blues" or "Telegram" that the team go rumbling in full, always with rich texture and detail.
It's there in Darrell Sweet's beat on a viscous charge of "When The Light Comes Down" laid down in 1998 a year before his death, in Manny Charlton's country strum on the jolly "Place In Your Heart", in Pete Agnew's fierce bass swing on live rendition of "Night Woman" with a Grieg quote for an intro, in McCafferty's silky rasp on "Dream On". What with gorgeous balladry continuing in "Where Are You Now", the Scots' combination of heavy riffs and acoustic chime amounts to magical effect on the likes of "May The Sunshine" and even plastic "Cinema", whereas gospel's lift elevates "Heart's Grown Cold" and skilful off-beat accent of "What You Gonna Do About It" shows all the ra(n)ge of NAZ's influences that somehow homogenized in the '80s. That era's gloss didn't serve the Dunfermline bunch so well, a string of rough demos sounding better than the issued results. However, "Whippin' Boy" neatly stands in line with "Bad Bad Boy", just as well as "Hair Of The Dog" has its successor in the sharp "Big Dog's Gonna Howl" from the band's latest record, out in 2011 and featuring the now-fledged songwriting team of current guitarist Jimmy Murrison and drummer Lee Agnew. This renders "NazBox" as non-definitive as it gets. And that is great.