Close Enough For Rock’n’Roll, Naz’s seventh album, came out in early 1976 and was their first on the Mountain label, as well as the first to be recorded in Canada. The opener ‘Telegram’ is a musical diary entry by a successful hard rock band who are growing a tad weary forever slogging it out on the road.
The album achieved little in Britain – no big surprise there – but helped to consolidate Nazareth’s hold on Canada where they became one of the biggest British acts ever, notching up no less than fifty gold and platinum albums there during the 1970s. America also beckoned, big time, as their U.S. label A&M Records increasingly regarded them as a priority act. Mountain had the rights to the old material and naturally was determined to milk it for what it was worth. The Greatest Hits album was out in the shops in time for Christmas ’75 but didn’t chart.
Play ‘N’ The Game was album number eight (not counting Greatest Hits) and was released in November 1976. It continued the pattern of doing next to nothing sales-wise in England (where, for a couple of years to come, punk rock’s cut-throat irreverence eclipsed most acts who dared to take their own music seriously) and yet sold shed-loads abroad, breaking Nazareth in South America.
Sadly, it was around this time that the band lost their manager Bill Fehilly, who was killed in a plane crash. Bill, a Scottish bingo millionaire, was never a music-biz mentor and hustler in the Andrew Loog Oldham/Peter Grant mould, but from their 1971 debut album Nazareth onwards he kept on coming up with the readies – and even during the band’s tricky Exercises phase Bill remained unfazed. Pete and Dan are the first to acknowledge that without Bill Fehilly Nazareth would never have crossed the border to England, never mind the world.
A year later in November 1977 came album number nine, Expect No Mercy, and a definite shift by Nazareth to the AOR market. Adult Oriented Rock was newly created around that time mainly by two bands – the Eagles, and Fleetwood Mac with their monster Rumours album – and on songs like Manny Charlton’s ‘Shot Me Down’ you can hear a big Mac influence. Typical of eclectic Nazareth is a funky 12-bar version of the Ray Charles’ classic ‘Busted’, and an equally strong cover of Randy Newman’s ‘Gone Dead Train’ from the album reached number 49 in the singles charts. The other single ‘Place In Your Heart’ got no further than a bubbling under #70. It was high time for a change.