Originally released on A&M records in 1981, Snaz is one of the better, and least recognized, live '70s (as a style, not necessarily a period in time) hard rock recordings. Unlike more recognized '70s metal artists like Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy, and others, Nazareth -- even in their Hair of the Dog heyday -- never were able to put much "heavy" into their heavy metal guitar attack when they recorded in the studio. There wasn't much of a thump coming from the drums and bass either, and the overall affect was a wimpy sound that didn't nearly serve the band's fine material as well as it should have.
All of this left Nazareth's otherwise respectable '70s studio recordings with much to be desired sonically. Recorded live in Vancouver, Snaz is a production and engineering highlight in the band's career. The energy and recklessness of Nazareth's material is much more palpable on these live versions, and while things get a little sloppy at times, it's never distracting. Fans of Nazareth simply must add this record (most recently re-released by Castle in 1997) to their collection of essential band releases.
Seeing a Sinfonia in B of Brahms in an online list of work titles will puzzle most listeners. A closer look reveals a work that's doubly unusual: Swedish conductor and violinist Joseph Swensen has made an orchestral transcription of the Brahms Trio in B major, Op. 8, and he has used the early and rarely heard 1853 version of the piece. Swensen is right that the early version, filled with effusive Schumann-like melody that was redone into complex motivic work in the revision, is worth more frequent hearings, and it goes well with the smaller pieces included: orchestrated versions of the three Romances for violin and piano, Op. 22, of Clara Schumann, and two movements of the even rarer F-A-E Sonata composed collaboratively by Schumann, Brahms, and Albert Dietrich (the initials stood for "Frei Aber Einsam," or free but lonely, the personal motto of violinist Joseph Joachim, the work's dedicatee). Taken in their original settings, the works on the program would make a fine examination of the creative impulses of the Schumann-Brahms circle. The only thing missing is a reason to transcribe these works for orchestra. In the 19th century, transcription would have gone the other way, and Brahms' early chamber writing made unique uses of the pianos. Swensen sets out to transfer every note of the trio to his orchestral setting, resulting in a dense and not particularly idiomatic thicket of sound. There are fine moments: the trio's slow movement is one of the young Brahms' most inspired lyrical creations, and the shorter pieces, in which solo violin parts remain relatively intact, are more successful. The Malmö Opera Orchestra plays well, but the chief audience for this release will be Brahms completists.