Manny Charlton 2004, 2005 / Angel Air 2014
Former NAZARETH guitarist runs for cover of his personal favorites.
Back in days of the band he rose to fame with, it usually was Manny Charlton who injected other people’s songs into their repertoire. So, after quitting NAZ and releasing a string of albums, solo and with a group of his own, the guitarist relocated to the USA and set about having a field day with pieces he holds dear. Thus, these two records emerged, one laid down with a drummer and the other, one year later, with a fuller line-up. There’s an upright bass player, though, on the former which houses two Elvis’ classics, “Blue Moon Of Kentucky” and “My Baby Left Me” – both done very authentically – and Emil Gammeltoft, a potential Dan McCafferty replacement in NAZ, on the “Re-Loaded” take on their "Fallen Angel", while Charlton does most of the playing and singing himself.
Even though bonus “Mexico” is not a refreshed "2XS" track of the same title, Manny weaves new versions of the band’s compositions in the context of it all, picking up not so obvious ones, like "Cinema" that’s stripped of its former sheen in favor of swampy splash or the immensely eerie in its acid-spiked form "Please Don't Judas Me". Its erstwhile drone now shifted to Emmylou Harris’ “Deeper Well”, probably the most recent cover on offer, the veteran shines on acoustically driven country numbers such as this one, Muddy Waters’ “Rollin ‘n’ Tumblin'” or Stonewall Jackson’s “Muddy Water”, but struggles with more vocally challenging “Norwegian Wood” which comes out too flat, despite the slide roll, whereas “All Along The Watchtower” gets an alluring angle thanks to its reggae skank. More so, the Scotsman’s renditions of Gene Clark’s “Strength Of Strings” – in an almost Neil Young’s whine, also applied to another Dylan cut, “Wicked Messenger” – and “Hang On To A Dream” might be the best ever, his guitar weeping to complement Manny’s earthy, if delicate, voice and trump the NAZ attempt to do it.
Yet if the full-blown – as opposed to a "Telegram" section – “So You Want To Be A Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” sounds rather regular, the fantastic dry reading of non-bluesy FLEETWOOD MAC’s “The Chain” only goes to show the expanse of Manny’s musical reach. Scattered amidst borrowed tunes are Charlton originals including the gentle instrumental ballad “Burnt Sienna” and the raw riff-fest “Nearly Fine”, the psychedelic blues that is “In Her Eyes” and the smooth “Swallow”, all of them complementing the selection. Not even by any means, it provides an insight into the ex-NAZ man’s creative mind and method; slimmed down to a single album, it could have been a killer collection.