Perhaps you've seen the cover to Nazareth's 1975 album Hair of the Dog and thought to yourself, "Damn, that album cover is cool as hell, but no way can the rest of Nazareth's discography stack up." I wouldn't blame you for thinking that!
But boy, would you ever be wrong.
Me? I wouldn't call myself a fan of Nazareth's music. In fact, Hair of the Dog's title track and "Love Hurts," another estimable single from that record, might be the only songs of theirs I've ever heard. But the album covers! I am fully confident that the rest of their catalog sounds as great as it looks.
Take 1979's No Mean City, for instance, which features an ogre in a spiked helmet wielding two sharp-looking swords. Is the music inside as fearsome as the image on the sleeve? You tell me.
Or '77's Expect No Mercy, even badder-ass than its successor, with rainbow-colored gradient type and an ogre wielding a sharp-looking sword, except this time he's fighting a guy and there's a glowing brain in the background, which is also rainbow-colored.
With songs like "Gone Dead Train" and "Revenge Is Sweet," surely Expect No Mercy conveys that battle between valiant knight and brutal monster—so redolent of the personal struggles between good and evil each of us face in our own lives—depicted on its cover. Have you ever heard it? I sure haven't.
Or my personal favorite, The Fool Circle, from '81. Who could forget that universal image: under the light of the full moon, a lithe, violet-clad jockey saddles up on his trusty thoroughbred. The horse is jumping into the water, however, and as it jumps, it transforms into a dolphin, and the dolphin into which it transforms is a yellow dolphin. And the jams within? (I have not listened to the jams within.)
1976's Close Enough for Rock 'n' Roll abandons the classic Nazareth album cover template, eschewing fantastical scenarios and mythical beasts for the mundanities of life on the road, but sacrifices neither the band's wry humor nor its penchant for the mysterious. What band sits inside the car, just outside our field of vision? For whom do the the crazed fans clamor? Surely it isn't Nazareth.
Even Big Dogz, Nazareth's 2011 comeback effort, has a certain charm. We've returned to the hounds-of-hell-type theme of Hair of the Dog, but now instead of looking all inky and gnarled like a swamp- or tundra-based Magic: The Gathering Card, the dogs seem like castoffs from a forgotten Kids WB show. Not even Batman Beyond, though, but like, Men in Black: The Animated Series.
OK, I'm gonna listen to some Nazareth now. It's going to be great, right?