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"Are you the hero or are you the madman?"
|Main Category:||Hard Rock|
|Also applicable:||Heavy Metal, Singer-Songwriters, Roots Rock|
|Starting Period:||The Artsy/Rootsy Years|
|Also active in:||The Interim Years, The Punk/New Wave Years, The Divided Eighties|
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A very nice band, actually. And "nice" is the crucial word here - because Thin Lizzy, by all means, weren't key figures in the development of rock music at any given stage of their career. They were just a bunch of "cool" guys from Ireland with a notable interest in roots music and hard rock, and with their debut album coming out as late as 1971, they simply had no hope of setting their mark on any existent musical genre while being way too limited in their ideas to create a new one.On the other hand, there are certain things which set Thin Lizzy completely apart from any other generic early (or late) Seventies hard rock band. First of all, it's tunefulness: even if Phil Lynott, the band's undisputable leader and all-time creative soul, will never rank particularly high on my list of great songwriters, he at least always made certain that the boys in the band produced something way more significant than pure noise or bunches of overblown power chords. Second - and most important, since there definitely were other tuneful hard rock bands in the Seventies - Thin Lizzy always were, or at least tended to be, an intelligent band. There are very few traces of a misogynistic or cock-rockish approach in Phil's music, and his lyrics are often a value in themselves. Lastly, Thin Lizzy tried to be a diverse band; while adrenaline-rising hard rock anthems are indeed the thing they're most well-known for, Phil had often led the band to explore the realms of soul, funk and power pop, and Thin Lizzy's ballads are often not only listenable, but highly emotional and sincere, a thing that's incredibly rarely met among the hard-rocking crowd (yeah, Steve Tyler, it's you I mean, don't you dare look back!) Like I said, Thin Lizzy came from Ireland, with members mostly being strictly working class; in addition to that, Phil Lynott was black, and some have quite justly pointed out that this rendered him "double outcast" in among the all-white European rock crowd of the day, especially since Hendrix had already gone by the time of Lizzy's arrival on the scene. Add to this his personal problems and a radical drugs & alcohol involvement that eventually led to his untimely death in 1986, and you pretty much get the picture of why so much of his material comes across as totally authentic and tear-bringing. This largely explains the fact of why Thin Lizzy's catalog produces the impression of being so consistent (though melodically it is certainly not): whatever the time or circumstances, Lynott always had something to say and knew how to say it. My "friend through reviewing", Bryan B., went as far as to call him an "immature genius" - an estimate not too far from the truth, as it is indeed hard to imagine how such a "socially insignificant" person could come out with such hard-biting lyrics and manage to get them through with the help of a generic hard-rock/metal environment. Thin Lizzy's output can be grouped in three distinct periods, more or less corresponding to the band's main lineup changes. The first period (1971-73) is the band's most underrated one: since they weren't overindulging in standard crowd-pleasing hard rock cliches, no one bought their records, and critics, who have always been rather snub-nosed at Lynott, simply don't notice these early records altogether, even if musically this might have been their finest hour. Then there's the band's commercial peak - the 1974-1978 years, dominated by their famous twin guitar attack and with their biggest international smash, Jailbreak, at the top. This is the period, and these are the albums, that Lizzy will mostly be remembered for, although I personally feel that Jailbreak is slightly overrated; the hunt for commercial success had led Phil to sacrificing some of his identity and trading some of the more personal moments and more intricate instrumentation bits for a direct arena-rock approach, and while one must certainly give the boys their due for managing to make this arena-rock sound seem intelligent and even artsy, quite often their worst excesses make me cringe just like some KISS album would. Finally, the third period is the "decline" - the 1979-83 years, with constant guitarist changes and Phil's drug problems overcoming him, not to mention the provocative blows dealt by early Eighties' production values. There's still some good music hidden in there anyway - actually, Black Rose and Chinatown will hardly disappoint a good-natured Lizzy fan. In brief, there's just too many unordinary things to be said about Thin Lizzy for them to be critically treated as they always are. And if your only acquaintance with the band is through their stupid radio hit 'The Boys Are Back In Town', don't let it bring you down. Yes, there's plenty of that kind material in their catalog, but overall they could do much better than that - I, for one, think that their introspective material was always better than the more anthemic one. So don't be afraid to dive in, and if you follow any of my particular recommendations, well... that'd be too much honour for the old site. As for the band's rating - well, I know a two might not seem much, but believe me, it is quite a lot for a band with no innovative power and inconsistent, hit and miss songwriting. In fact, I originally planned on a one, but not until I started noticing all the slick intricate subtleties in the band's sound, especially in the earliest period; plus, Phil really has that knick knack of getting under your skin and refusing to come out even if threatened with a shotgun. Lineup: Phil Lynott - bass guitar, vocals; Eric Bell - guitars; Brian Downey - drums. Bell (a highly underappreciated guitar man, if you ask me) quit in 1973, replaced by Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham, both guitars. For the later lineup changes, see the actual reviews; I'm too tired and lazy to bring them up here. It's rather hard to believe, but I did assemble a full collection of Lizzy's studio albums plus their most important live one; these will gradually appear on the page until the very end, so keep in touch.
Listenability: 2/5. The
big problem is that Thin Lizzy records, with a few exceptions, are just
not tremendously interesting melody-wise. That's not their point at all.
Resonance: 4/5. THIS is their point. Phil Lynott is the Michael Stipe of the Seventies - less 'educated', perhaps, but actually far more sincere and likeable, if you just wanna give him a try.
Originality: 0/5. No originality - just lotsa feeling and unforgettable power.
Adequacy: 4/5. Sometimes they get a little overworked, but for the most part, their output is even.
Diversity: 1/5. Never a real factor worth consideration for these guys.
Overall: 2.2 = D on the rating scale.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1971
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 10
Witty "hard-soul" with a very sincere delivery and lovely guitar tones.Best song: HONESTY IS NO EXCUSE
Track listing: 1) The Friendly Ranger At Clontarf Castle; 2) Honesty Is No Excuse; 3) Diddy Levine; 4) Ray-Gun; 5) Look What The Wind Blew In; 6) Eire; 7) Return Of The Farmer's Son; 8) Clifton Grange Hotel; 9) Saga Of The Ageing Orphan; 10) Remembering Part I; [BONUS TRACKS:] 11) Dublin; 12) Remembering Part 2 (New Day); 13) Old Moon Madness; 14) Ain't Working Out Down At The Farm.
Anybody who's mostly familiar with the band through Jailbreak will get an immediate shock on hearing track number one of this album. 'The Friendly Ranger At Clontarf Castle' starts with ethnic percussion beats, ethereal faraway bursts of gentle wah wah guitar, and Lynott reciting, not singing, a puffed-up mystical story that's rather hard to follow and is probably meaningless anyway (or maybe it's based on some Celtic legend, like 'Vagabonds Of The Western World' are, but I'm not expert in Celtic mythology, unfortunately). It then changes tempo - a couple times - goes into a psychedelic double-tracked solo and ends off rather abruptly before giving way to the beautiful ballad 'Honesty Is No Excuse'.In other words, this is Thin Lizzy edition no. 1. At this point, the band is a powerful rock trio (although Cream connotations are useless - this sounds not a wee bit like Cream), and I do mean powerful: drummer Brian Downey is a surprisingly competent chap, laying down precise and complex rhythms and only occasionally engaging in very short drum solo outbursts, and as for guitarist Eric Bell, well, I can easily say that he's the best guitarist that Lizzy ever had (barring possibly Gary Moore, but since I'm not a big Gary Moore connoisseur, I won't really engage in these discussions). He's economic when necessary, he's a master of overdubbing, and when it comes to constructing a rapid-fire dynamic solo, just watch those fingers. His guitar tones never grate or get on your nerves and always fit the song's mood one hundred percent, in other words, he's a "minor marvel" of his instrument. As for Mr Lynott himself, I never considered him a terrific bass player, but at least his voice on Thin Lizzy has a special freshness and soulful energy that he somewhat managed to lose by the second record and regain only occasionally. Or maybe it's just Scott English's production that highlights his vocals so marvelously, I dunno; fact is, songs like 'Diddy Levine', with their seven-minute length, relative absence of distinctive melody or hooks, and uninteresting, bland social commentary lyrics, are only saved by Phil's powerful delivery - as if he really takes that stupid soap opera story he's retelling so close to his heart. Okay, so there is a mighty pleasant guitar riff buried in the middle of the song, but it's not much for a seven minute running length and wouldn't have saved it anyway. It is, of course, not quite clear where the band are heading to, particularly. 'Friendly Ranger' is definitely pointing at a 'prog' kind of sound, but all the other tracks fall into two distinct categories, sometimes intertwining with each other: folkish ballads ('Honesty Is No Excuse', 'Eire', 'Saga Of The Ageing Orphan'), and heavy rockers with occasional funk overtones ('Ray Gun', 'Look What The Wind Blew In', 'Clifton Grange Hotel', etc.). A third category comprises anthemic soulful "epics" like the already discussed 'Diddy Levine' or the album closer, 'Remembering'. So in the end it's not too obvious if the band is going to do a leadened up brand of folk rock or a softened down brand of heavy funk. But hey, it was their first album, and for a debut one, it's definitely not bad; anyway, it's tons better than some of their "classic period" stuff. The rockers do rock, particularly 'Ray Gun', Eric Bell's only complete writing credit in Thin Lizzy: a shame, as it's a totally authentic funk rave-up, with smoking wah-wah guitars and killer riffs, plus Phil contributes some of the most shiver-sending 'ow!' screams I've ever heard in my life. Lynott's own 'Look What The Wind Blew In' is hardly any worse, with a catchy chorus and a very funny repetitive riff that's almost optimistic in contrast to Phil's ominous and rather depressive lyrics (and the best guitar soloing on the whole record, too). The ballads are all quite nice; well, 'Saga Of The Ageing Orphan' does wear thin after a few listens, since there's hardly anything particular about it apart from the plaintive lyrics. But 'Honesty Is No Excuse' is a full-fledged masterpiece, a lush, heartfelt love ballad highlighted by an impressive vocal delivery and an intelligent Mellotron arrangement in the background that somehow contributes to the "pure and sincere heart" feel of the ballad - can we abuse a little old cliche and say that Phil is wearing his heart on his sleeve for that one? I guess we can. And of course, there's the obligatory anthem to the free Ireland - Phil's short paeon 'Eire' with tasty acoustic/electric arrangements and a heart-raising climax - 'the land is Eire... THE LAND IS FREEEEEEE!' Lynott screams out with the intonations of a dying hero proclaiming his country's independence from his deathbed. I wonder if they ever were pals with Lennon during this early Seventies period. Probably not. It's not that the album is flawless, of course - I still see a sore lack of melodies, and while atmosphere, pretty guitar arrangements and powerful singing do save much of the material, there's still some filler all around, not to mention that 'Remembering', the album-closing epic, is kinda dull and overlong: the last two minutes, with Phil roaring 'I'll keep on remembering' all over the place until he forgets to follow the melody at all, are almost painful. Still, this is an essential purchase for every Thin Lizzy fan, and one of their least cliched and banal records, both in the musical and lyrical sense: if you're disappointed with Jailbreak because it, well, sounds stupid to your ears, go ahead and try this one. It won't hurt. The CD reissue is particularly vital in that it appends four non-album tracks, all taken from an EP released by the band at approximately the same time. You thus get to hear one more pretty, particularly intimate ballad ('Dublin'), an upbeat, bouncy rocker ('New Day' - for some reason, also called 'Remembering Part 2', although the melody has nothing to do with 'Part 1') with a super-catchy refrain, and yet another bouncy rocker called 'Things Ain't Working Out Down At The Farm' - not so upbeat this time, but also quite memorable and convincing. Listen to Downey's drumming on that one - isn't he a superb drummer after all? Nobody asked him to play these complicated rhythms along to the song's relatively simple melody, but he went ahead and did it anyway. The fourth track is dispensable (I guess), but 3 out of 4 is still a good deal. Isn't it?
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1972
Record rating = 6
Overall rating = 8
Lynott really overdoes it here - hey, where's the music? I mostly hear poorboy whining.Best song: THE RISE AND DEAR DEMISE OF THE FUNKY NOMADIC TRIBES
Track listing: 1) The Rise And Dear Demise Of The Funky Nomadic Tribes; 2) Buffalo Gal; 3) I Don't Want To Forget How To Jive; 4) Sarah; 5) Brought Down; 6) Baby Face; 7) Chatting Today; 8) Call The Police; 9) Shades Of A Blue Orphanage.
Aah boy, what a really really cool start to an album. A paranoid, precise polyrhythmic beat, some cool guitar notes, vague mystic lyrics that don't matter nohow, and a sweaty funk atmosphere all around, until it comes down to that great, great chorus - 'gotta keep on moving... gotta keep on moving on...' with Eric Bell at his very, very best: gruff masterful guitar riffs that raise your adrenalin level and sound seriously menacing and desperate at the same time. Slick unobtrusive, but powerful guitar solos, too, and a completely justified seven-minute length; this is Thin Lizzy at their funky best and a real highlight of the band's early period. Okay, I might have done without the drum solo at the end, but it's real short and sweet...Unfortunately, it's all downhill from here. One of the main reasons is that apart from 'The Rise And Dear Demise' (yeah, that's the one), the record was penned by Lynott in its entirety - lyrics, music and all, with no participation from Bell or Downey at all. The album is supposedly a concept one, with many nostalgic tunes and a telling album cover with the band members presented in a five-or-so-year old state, while the inlay photo shows 'em walking grimly along the road on a misty rainy day with an umbrella over Downey's head. Thinking about their childhood, no doubt? NOSTALGIA screams from almost every spore of this album, and it's not necessarily a good thing; it gives Lynott an opportunity to go overboard and disregard the musical aspects of the record in favour of the, er, well, "message". Not only that, after the debacle of the debut album, he decided to tone down the atmosphere, and out of the remaining eight songs, five are ballads (well, 'Brought Down' should probably be considered a 'power ballad', with a gruff rocking part and all). And while Phil still hasn't lost his expressivity - just toned it down a bit - and hadn't really experienced any letdowns with the lyrics (on the contrary, most of the time it's very hard to understand what he's talking about), the melodies leave a lot to be desired. 'Sarah', for instance, is a bland-sounding nothing, all smothered in pretty guitar and piano bits, but it's one hundred percent atmosphere with a very sporadic vocal delivery; Lynott is going for a very sweet romantic atmosphere, but Thin Lizzy are hardly 'connectible' with true romance because Phil is way too naive and, well, immature for that. I mean, leave the Bee Gees schtick to the Bee Gees and go off with your social commentary. Which sucks on this particular record anyway. I mean, his hoarse tale of an unlucky hobo ('Chatting Today') might look moving and sincere from the lyrics side, but the main idea is too simplistic, and the melody? A primitive acoustic pattern borrowed off the band's own 'New Day', which at least had a catchy chorus. 'Chatting Today' is a generic bore; social comments are okay when they're set to a good melody or... well... hell, I don't wanna offend no working class heros and I'm not going to condemn Mr Lynott for songs like this. I just won't listen to 'em. So out of all the ballads, I only have a soft spot for 'Buffalo Gal' and the seven-minute title track because on there, Lynott is able to combine good lyrics and passionate singing with atmospherics that work. Particularly on the nostalgia trip of 'Shades Of A Blue Orphanage' - the quiet Mellotron noodling in the background accentuates his plaintive intonations perfectly, and the chorus is deeply moving. 'It's true, true blue, Irish blue, and sometimes it reminds me of you...', with quiet female backing vocals, ooh, it's a high-sounding nothing at first, but it grows upon you - remember I said about Phil having a way of getting under your skin? That's a perfect example. 'Buffalo Gal', on the other hand, is just weird, with fun percussion and a groovy 'buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo' chorus. I have NO idea what Phil is trying to say, of course, but like I care. The rockers are slightly better, but there's too few of them - for a while, Lizzy abandon the 'ard attack and just stick to a mid-volume type of riffy tunes with toned down lead guitars. In that respect, 'Baby Face' and 'Call The Police' are both solid, listenable tunes, but they don't cause all that much excitement, just quietly grumble along and that's that. And the short boogie throwaway, built as a Fifties' throwback ('I Don't Want To Forget How To Jive'), is just a novelty number. Why Mr Bell suddenly decided to cut out the fun and energy is way beyond me - maybe he was too upset about not having gotten enough of his own compositions on the record. It's all the more strange to witness this album when everybody keeps saying that early Thin Lizzy preferred traditional hard rock as their main course - hard rock on Shades is limited to one or two tunes. It's even more of a pity that the band didn't pursue this funk road hinted at in 'Funky Nomadic Tribes', because the quiet rhytmic style of Bell on this record suits this genre to a tee (I mean, pursue it on this same album - later on, Lizzy would go on to create some of the best 'funk-metal' fusion ever created). But in any case, it's a good thing that the band actually realized the dead end they stuck themselves into: logically, Shades could point at Lizzy's possible transformation into 'city balladeers', a hardened-up version of the Eagles or a watered down version of Bruce Springsteen, that kind of stuff (yeah, I know Springsteen's debut only came out a year later, but true strong comparisons evade chronological borders, now don't they?) Thank God they were far too smart for that, and their ensuing album would turn out to be a minor masterpiece.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1973
Record rating = 10
Overall rating = 12
Some of Lynott's most intricate and deeply thought out compositions here - yeah, man, this is some real clever rock'n'roll for ye.Best song: LITTLE GIRL IN BLOOM
Track listing: 1) Mama Nature Said; 2) The Hero And The Madman; 3) Slow Blues; 4) The Rocker; 5) Vagabond Of The Western World; 6) Little Girl In Bloom; 7) Gonna Creep Up On You; 8) A Song For While I'm Away; [BONUS TRACKS:] 9) Whiskey In The Jar (full length version); 10) Black Boys On The Corner; 11) Randolph's Tango; 12) Broken Dreams.
Score! Touchdown! Thin Lizzy's third album is here, and lo and behold, it's the band's masterpiece. Don't believe anyone when they go around telling you about Thin Lizzy's glory period with Gorham and Robertson. Vagabonds is an unfairly overlooked gem in the Lizzy catalog, and to my ears it sounds far more explorative, diverse and even well-produced than the critically acclaimed Jailbreak. The main problem is that it had basically no commercial success at all, and passed away into the depths of oblivion together with the entire Eric Bell period - an unjustice which we will try to correct.The story goes as follows: in desperate need of a hit single that would finally put the band on their feet, Lynott and co. had unearthed an old folk tune called 'Whiskey In A Jar', arranged it in an electric version and put forward with the record company's blessings in the fall of 1972. Amazingly, it charted and brought them into the UK Top 10, giving hope to the band and, even more important, increasing their recording budget. The song itself, included as one of the bonus tracks onto the CD edition of this album, is indeed quite nice, based on a magnificent guitar riff and delivered with enough heat and passion from Phil. However, the problem was that it was a rather far cry from their hard-rocking live image and threatened to eliminate their trusty old audience while not really bringing any new one - after all, buying a single is one thing, but becoming a dedicated follower as a result of the purchase is completely another. This fear set Phil, Eric and Brian on the right track: Vagabonds sounds nothing like the previous album, and the threat of Lizzy softening their sound and becoming second-rate 'introspective balladeers' somehow disappeared all by itself. The band, enlivened by the success of the single and the increased financing, had tightened up their sound, left behind some of the more desperate pessimism of the days of yore and set out to record their 'definite' album. Again, Vagabonds sound more or less all over the place, with ballads, hard rockers, funk and pseudo-progressive tunes interspersed with each other, but with more elaborate production values and an ever mounting level of dedication, this sounds like a self-assured band that doesn't seem to ask the question 'hey, worthy listener, tell us which of our styles you like the most and we'll cling to it'. Instead, they seem to be bragging - 'this is our world, man, and we're able to do whatever we like'. There are still a couple of relative duffers, but that's not really a problem because they're completely lost among the real strong material. First of all, the rockers are their best since... since Jesus, because the guitars sound stronger and crisper, and Lynott's voice is gaining force again; plus, Eric has mastered the skill of rapid-fire playing, and some of his solos are positively breathtaking. In fact, 'The Rocker' features my favourite Thin Lizzy guitar solo of all time: it amply demonstrates that Eric was lord of the finger-flashing technique and is sorely missed in among all the other qualified guitar greats. Speaking of 'The Rocker', it's actually a powerful anthemic number that was still used as the encore to Lizzy's concerts long after Bell quit the band: a strong riff-based tune with more energy than contained in the entire Shades Of A Blue Orphanage album. Other rockin' wonders include the eco-rock essay 'Mama Nature Said', almost frighteninghly convincing in its naivety. By the way, it's actually a country rocker, with Bell sliding all over the place, but isn't that only appropriate for an eco-rock tune? It's a heavy country-rocker, anyway, and one of the best in existence. And finally, 'Gonna Creep Up On You' is a 'funk rocker' that will get you up and your knees jerking and toes bouncing in no time. But be sure to listen to it in headphones, otherwise you won't be able to appreciate completely the magnificence of Bell's wah-wah work that supports the tune while Lynott impersonates a raper or someone like that. The 'pseudo-progressive' numbers, as funny as it sounds, are unbeatable as well. 'The Hero And The Madman' builds on the legacy of 'Friendly Ranger', but with more intricate production and a more elaborate arrangement... and an actual melody and real climactic points, like it or not. It's also pretty danceable and once again features a blistering Bell solo in the coda. And the title track, this time definitely drawing on an old Celtic legend which is more fully described in the liner notes, is catchy and moody - although I understand how some people wouldn't like it, as the 'dura-lura-lai' refrain can sound real cheesy if... well, if you want to think about it as cheesy, or if you really want to find something cheesy on the album. But the real highlight is Lynott's breathtaking ballad 'Little Girl In Bloom'. Everything about it is beautiful, starting from the atmospheric four-chord minimalistic ringing bassline and ending with Lynott's delicate technique of 'interweaving' all the verses with each other by juxtaposing them so that you get the feeling of several Lynotts chatting with each other and lamenting about the 'little girl in bloom' whose trouble is that she's not married yet but already carries a child, well, you know the rest... Pretty guitar solo, too; and I again draw attention to the wonderful melodic invention - that bassline alone is worth any amount of furious acoustic strumming on numbers like 'Chatting Today'. In other words, one simple, but untrivial musical idea is worth a whole load of musical genericism. And that's that. I'm not a particular fan of 'Slow Blues', apart from the heartbreaking intro and outro (the one that goes 'My baby don't love me/My baby's gone and made me sad..'), and the closing ballad 'A Song For While I'm Away' is way too happy and corny for a band like Thin Lizzy (although 'corny' is actually a universal description, isn't it? It would be corny for a band like the Bee Gees, too), but like I said, everything else is a winner. Plus the bonus tracks - 'Whiskey In A Jar' cooks, and the other three tunes are okay. Perhaps this record wasn't all that successful commercially, but it has the lowest percent of filler on any given Thin Lizzy album, and I give it the highest rating without any remorse. With an open heart and mind, too. I do understand that by doing this I'm making a highly untrivial decision; hell, the All-Music Guide gave it but two stars. Then again, the All-Music Guide also wrote a rather favourable review of it, further confirming my suspicion that the AMG ratings and AMG reviews have absolutely nothing to do with each other. So screw the AMG rating and take mine before the album goes out of print forever. Go catch it - early Seventies hard-rock at its best and Phil Lynott at the height of his powers. What the hell, this record is way way better than Led Zeppelin's Houses Of The Holy, which the public was buying in spades that same year while at the same time completely ignoring Vagabonds. Stupid, stupid people. This finally led to Eric Bell leaving the ship - and God only knows what the band might have turned to if he had stayed. Me, I have a deep feeling that they would actually be better... but then again, history knows no "ifs", so let us just move on.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1974
Record rating = 6
Overall rating = 8
Soft-rock sellout? Hardly, more probably just a stupid artistic blunder.Best song: IT'S ONLY MONEY
Track listing: 1) She Knows; 2) Night Life; 3) It's Only Money; 4) Still In Love With You; 5) Frankie Carroll; 6) Showdown; 7) Banshee; 8) Philomena; 9) Sha-La-La; 10) Dear Heart.
Holy Jesus, is this a really really strange album. This is, for so many people, the "true beginning" of Thin Lizzy, with Gorham and Robertson coming on board and taking over the duties of the sorely missed Eric Bell. But it's not just overtly uncharacteristic of the 'classic' Lizzy period - it's openly bad, or, at least, so openly undistinctive and bland that one actually wonders about Lynott's state of mind at that time. Yeah, Gorham and Robertson are often claimed to be the 'ultimate' hard rock guitar duelling pair, but you couldn't tell, since most of this album consists of sappy ballads or countryish soft rockers. The band never truly lets rip, and even the hardest pieces on Nightlife sound really tame when compared to the band's future.Of course, it all comes back to you in perspective: apparently, lack of commercial success was tormenting Lynott who couldn't really understand where to turn and what direction to pursue. Thus, after the tough debut album came the diluted and balladfull Shades; after the uncompromising debauchery of Vagabonds, came the thin and pallid Nightlife. What Lynott actually produces on here is a record very similar in tone and structure to the Eagles around 1975: subtle, hardly noticeable hooks, generic melodies and charming sincerity mixed in with the stinkiest cheese you could ever imagine. In brief - "hit and miss", with "miss" definitely prevailing over "hit". Thus comes out one of the worst records by the band. Ever. Speaking of classics, there's only one song here that could rank among Lizzy's best material - the raunchy rocker 'It's Only Money' (not to be confused with the Argent song of the same name, which is, by the way, quite similar in its dancey atmosphere). Like most vintage hard rock material, it's formulaic, but the formula works: crunchy riffs, stark vocal delivery and some bits of unfaked energy all contribute to making this the album's highlight when in another context it would have been just a passable throwaway. The only other true rocker on the whole record is the fast, almost trashy, rave-up 'Sha-la-la', but that one never really stuck around with me, probably because of the idiotic lyrics. 'Black magic woman/You've got a hole/Come on sugar/I'll lose control'? What the hell is that? Okay, so we all know this is strictly tongue-in-cheek, but... huh. It's too poorly written to be tongue-in-cheek, and the chorus 'I want to sha-la-la-la-la-la', I've always found twice as stupid and bringing down the whole experience. Unfortunately, quite a few future Lizzy rockers would be marred by murky ideas like that. Elsewhere, the band tries its hand at merging hard rock with funk ('Showdown') and folk ('Philomena'), with very marred results. The main melody of 'Showdown' is actually acceptable, but the female backup vocals make it sound seriously like adult contemporary, almost presaging this genre's ugly excesses in the Nineties, and the "entrance of the rock monster sound" near the middle of the song doesn't really make things better. And 'Philomena' is just boring. And then there's all that pure soft-rock mishmash. The short instrumental 'Banshee'; the sweet little bouncy 'She Knows'; the sped-up city blues of the title track, all of this somehow manages to make sense and be listenable, but not any more than that. It sounds like they're doing everything pro forma, never forgetting the dance beat to get the listener to jerk his knees and tap his feet a little, but not giving a damn about any true emotional power, technical virtuosity or plain musical hooks. In desperation, the listener then turns to the ballads, hoping they might provide some shelter. In vain. 'Still In Love With You' is horrendous. It would later go on and become a stage favourite - the prototype of the miserable "power ballad" genre, but here it's not at all 'hardened up', and sounds even more miserable, like an old dying armadillo stripped of his protective scales. Where's the melody? Why does Lynott sound like a ragged man, contributing faux-soul vocals when he could have definitely done better? Why all the incessant guitar wanking when the solos are as generic as possible? Ugh. It's actually better when Lynott pulls a short Dylan imitation on 'Frankie Carroll', but the strings completely spoil the impression of the already week piano melody. And for the second time in a row, the closing number is an embarrassment: 'Dear Heart' beats all their previous records as the sappiest song ever recorded by the band, with soundtrackish strings and hardly audible vocals that define "faked tenderness". All too bad, because I find the main melody rather well-constructed - and the atmosphere created by the moody organs strongly reminds me of some of the best George Harrison ballads (it's the same dreamy, introspective style). In fact, this relates to most of the songs on the album: perhaps with a different producer (this one was produced by Ron Nevison) and different arrangements the record would have been far more successful. I do hear a number of strong melodies and interesting musical ideas, but almost everything they're neutralized with bland orchestration or insincere, trumped-up vocal intonations or something like that. Fortunately, Nightlife brought no positive commercial news for the guys, and starting from this point, they said goodbye to soft-rock. You are thus warned: even if Nightlife is called the beginning of Lizzy's 'classic' period, it is in no way a 'classic' album. Do Mr Good Sense a favour and start your collection with the far superior Vagabonds.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1975
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 9
The hard rock fetish is reinstated, but they haven't yet really regained the catchiness. Cool guitar tones, though.Best song: SUICIDE
Track listing: 1) Rosalie; 2) For Those Who Love To Live; 3) Suicide; 4) Wild One; 5) Fighting My Way Back; 6) King's Revenge; 7) Spirit Slips Away; 8) Silver Dollar; 9) Freedom Song; 10) Ballad Of A Hard Man.
So no, they would not stick to that soft rock crap any more. Fighting is the album where the double-guitar Thin Lizzy finally finds its voice. And that voice? Gritty grumbly hard rock (not quite up to 'heavy metal' state, because Phil's bass is definitely not metal and the rhythm playing is never as low or distorted as it should be), replete with Lynott's hard-hitting cynical lyrics and especially the brilliant Gorham-Robertson interplay. Well, actually, brilliant is a bit too hard a word, I s'pose: I've never found the two guys' guitar style all that unique or exquisite. They are both technically impeccable, especially considering that they don't seem to really distinguish between rhythm and lead (that is, they share both functions each), and their style has been very influential, but that's the problem: way too often, their Seventies' posing sounds way too close to generic Eighties' hair metal soloing. I've always considered Eric Bell's guitar to be not only far more inventive, but also far more soulful. I mean, not only did Eric choose different tones, experiment with wah-wahs and special effects as far as the band's recording budget allowed them to go, but he also had a true feel for blues and funk and an understanding of what really makes a guitar such a potentially expressive instrument. These guys don't - they just hack away on the most emotionally primitive level and don't give a damn. Their tone kicks ass, but it never rocks your soul; last time it tried, they ended up with something as ridiculous as 'Still In Love With You', so they should never even try. That said, their tone does kick ass, so don't crucify me.That litte excourse made, let's now get back to Fighting. Like I said, it initiates a series of very formulaic, but stable Thin Lizzy hard rock albums that are among the fans' most popular. The problem is, their subsequent albums would also tend to be far better in the songwriting respect. I don't hear a lot of classics on here, to be honest with you; the songs that rock the hardest aren't particularly memorable, and the songs that rock softer aren't particularly impressive. And that comprises nearly every aspect of the record. The melodies are routine and the riffs aren't distinctive. The lyrics are quite underwritten and often way too primitive even for Lynott, never the ultimate word-wielder. The trademark guitar solos aren't yet as climactic as they are on, say, Jailbreak. Even the production (Phil produces himself this time) is kinda thin. In all, even if the band had found its voice, it's obvious that at this point the vocal cords were still suffering from an overpresence of phlegm which needed to be cleared out. Then again, quite unlike Nightlife, none of the songs really suck - and that's a big plus, considering the disgusting banalities of the last record. Fighting is listenable all the way through, and since the band never falls on misogynistic themes and is ultimately quite tuneful, I don't have any overall problems with assimilating this sound. Not to mention the energy - the guys really seem to be almost reborn, churning out all the tunes as if it were their first record. There's a whole reinvention of image: Lizzy are no longer the 'deep-thinkers' of old, but from now on they should be considered as 'true working-class heros' with strong fists, but sensitive souls. In this way, they definitely appeal to lots of middle class representatives who always wanted to be able to shed a few tears of respect for their 'minor' human brothers but never got the, ahem, 'chance' to do so. Note that the album cover presented above isn't from the original release - that one featured the band posing as a fearsome gang on the street, with Downey holding an iron bar in his hands and Phil waving a club in the air. No wonder it got censored. To the songs now - although, frankly speaking, there's not a lot to be said. The rockers are indeed the best - a wonderful, concise, and economic version of Bob Seger's 'Rosalie' opens the album (but isn't that riff a Stones rip-off? Unfortunately, I haven't heard the original), and 'Fighting My Way Back' and the closing 'Ballad Of A Hard Man' all boogie along pretty well. The best of these, though, and the closest thing to a real classic on here, is 'Suicide', Lynott's vicious and cynical picture of an 'ordinary death', yet another in his haunting portraits of characters, and the wild, ferocious rhythm and abrasive solos all help him to recreate the atmosphere of a mean mean world - the ending jam that goes on long after Lynott's poisonous cry of 'Nobody cared and nobody cried/Don't it make you want to boogie?' never seems too long because it reflects, well, let's see... ah yes, it reflects all the mortal pain and fruitless anger of the deprived working class, I suppose. No, really, I'm serious; things like that really do make me look fondly at the album cover. Elsewhere, it's just okay. I kinda like slower songs like the Medieval-stylistics drenched 'King's Revenge' (social message again - the king oppressing his vassals) and the anthemic 'Freedom Song' (social message again - the title says it all), and the lone ballad 'Spirit Slips Away' is tons better than 'Still In Love With You'; but I don't know what to write about them, because they're not memorable at all. Okayish, tolerable hard rock tunes with lots of subdued social importance; I'm not going to discuss the lyrics this time because frankly, Phil is not at his best. The pleading intonations on 'Wild One' are moving, but the lyrics are cliched beyond measure. The thing that saves the album in general, I'd say, is the atmosphere: this is Lynott at his most insecure and paranoid, and imagery of death and destruction abounds, a far cry from the faked peace-and-love of Nightlife. There's nothing fake about Fighting, and that's the best news.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1976
Record rating = 9
Overall rating = 11
Cool riffs, man. Cool solos, too. What a shame there are some nasty misfires...Best song: JAILBREAK
Track listing: 1) Jailbreak; 2) Angel From The Coast; 3) Running Back; 4) Romeo And The Lonely Girl; 5) Warriors; 6) The Boys Are Back In Town; 7) Fight Or Fall; 8) Cowboy Song; 9) Emerald.
"BREAK OUT!" Phil roars in the title track. He was quite right in his own way, of course, as here it is: Lizzy's big commercial/critical breakthrough. Hey, let's call things their proper names: Lizzy's huge commercial/critical breakthrough, as Jailbreak has long since become the band's visit card and is evidently the record they're gonna be remembered for. Nevertheless, I find the album to be overrated; while definitely a serious point for Lizzy's twin guitarist period, it's notably inferior to the band's "experimentation" with Bell, and, well, it simply contains way too many minuses to be truly regarded as one of hard rock's best moments. Defining, probably; best - never in my life.Still, let's begin with the good news. The good news are obvious: on the third post-Bell album, the band had finally gelled together. Robertson and Gorham now sound like an unstoppable two-headed monster, playing off each other with more ease than the two guitarists in the Stones at any given period, and they don't demonstrate their skills in vain: there's enough interesting musical ideas on the record to keep the listener intrigued throughout, from the very first to the very last minute. Meanwhile, Lynott is Lynott, coming up with the same "minor brilliant" working class poetry and sincere vocal deliveries. In fact, four of the nine songs on here are my absolute favourites in the rich Lizzy catalog - excellent compositions that clearly demonstrate Lizzy's competency as first-rate melodists. Here they are, in order of preference. 'Running Back' is one of the softer tracks, driven forward by a magnificent keyboard riff - so warm, optimistic and intimate, and brilliantly aided by Lynott's heartfelt love lyrics. The sax touch was a great idea as well; I would probably even have included a sax solo as well, but maybe that would raise the cheese factor, so, on second thought, the guitars are doing a better job. Then there's 'Warriors', a tune that I'm ashamed to admit I adore in all of its 'ugliness'. Both Brian Burks and Bryan B., the two reviewers that have previously submitted the album to their own quirky analyses, were dismissing the tune because of Lynott trying to make a vocal imitation of Hendrix. This kinda leaves me dumbfounded. Number one: so what?, number two: he is not imitating Hendrix, he is just pulling off a cynical, detached intonation that would suit the cynical lyrics of the song ('I am the warrior/I serve the death machine', etc.), and it just so happens that this intonation coincides with Hendrix's voice. Which is no surprise, either - it's a typical black voice. But to hell with the voice, it's the riffage that makes the song - the interchanging of the slow, 'roaming' riff with the fast riff that introduces the verses is a breathtaking tour de force, and within its four minutes the song manages to fit an entire two or three solid climaxes. Note also the brilliant solo by Mr Gorham (or was it by Mr Robertson? Who can really tell with those two?) The next one in order of preference is 'Emerald', of course. Damn the first minute and a half of Lynott's conceptual singing (see below), it's the lengthy instrumental suite that hooks me, especially when Gorham and Robertson engage in that mesmerizing guitar duel. As every natural admirer of anthropomorphism, I love hearing guitar duels because of their 'human' nature, and this one ranks among the best guitar duels I've ever heard, ever, ever, ever. One guitarist plays one part of the riff, the other repeats the second part, each line with its specific variations, different notes, different gimmicks, some phasing, and then finally the first guitarist takes over completely with a flurry of notes that knocks you off your feet. It has to be heard to be believed - even if it's all oh so simple from a standard heavy metal player's point of view, I suppose. And finally, there's the title track. No, wait, there's the riff of the title track. It was when I first heard that riff that I understood there was no way that Thin Lizzy could receive a less than two star rating on the old site. It's one of those brilliantly simple, yet eternal in its glory riffs along the lines of 'Honky Tonk Women' or 'Smoke On The Water'. There ain't even any interesting solos in the song, although I do like the contrast between the 'softer' verses and the climactic eruption of the chorus, but I'd forgive it everything. The riff of 'Jailbreak'. It's incredible, man. It's gotta be in my top ten riffs of all time. At least, in the top ten "Axiomatic" riffs of all time, the ones that consist of just a little bunch of notes. Not Tony Iommi riffs. And here is where the particularly good news end. None of the other tracks inspire me that much. At best, they are good, but marred with a few bad ideas; at 'normal', they're just pedestrian; at worst - obnoxious. The latter category, by the way, just so happens to include the best known song from the album, Lizzy's quintessential anthem 'The Boys Are Back In Town'. What with all of its social importance, a bunch of overblown power chords and a few primitively placed vocal harmonies do not a good song make. Oh well, at least the title track also made it big as a single. And what about the murky lapse of taste on 'Romeo And The Lonely Girl'? Every time I hear that horrendous chorus, I want to... no, I don't even want to know what I want to do in that case. What a great way to handle rhymes, too: 'Oo-ooh, poor Romeo/Sitt'n' all own on his own-ee-oo'. Abysmal. And the song could have been a solid radio hit, too (and probably is - sounds like it was made for classic rock radio, too), but with this chorus, I doubt if it can ever be accepted in the "high society of rock classics". The other tunes, luckily, aren't that primitive musically and don't feature any serious disgusting moments, but both 'Fight Or Fall' and 'Angel From The Coast' are fairly forgettable rockers, and I never cared all that much for 'Cowboy Song', either. Not to mention that it's only a true cowboy song for one minute, before turning into another so-so rocker. Thump thump thump. Me no like generic hard rock beat with no discernible riff. Also, the "concept" is kinda icky - the whole record is supposed to represent some sci-fi picture of people rebelling against their cruel Overlord, with a few of them breaking out of the jail the bastard put them in and leading a rebellion. Not too inventive, isn't it? Fortunately, the concept seems actually to be limited to a couple references to the Overlord in question (notably on "Emerald") and the album cover. Otherwise, the subject matter of the songs either doesn't have anything to do with the theme, or can be interpreted differently. I, for one, prefer to think of 'Jailbreak' as a tongue-in-cheek overview of Seventies' machismo rather than anything else, not to mention that it would be rather unwise to put phrases like 'Hey you good looking female/Come here' into the mouths of brave revolutionaries fighting for peace and justice. (Unless it's also a concealed attack on the Bolshevik hypocrisy, but I suppose that would be taking Lynott's lyrics too seriously). Anyway, the good material on Jailbreak is so unbelievingly good that I have no problem whatsoever to give this an overall rating of 11. I just wanted to point out that musically speaking, Jailbreak is still a typical Seventies' hard-rock record, and thus, despite all of Lynott's intelligence and wit, is bound to share all the flaws of the genre, which are many, as we all probably know. But unquestionably, it is one of the best examples of the genre, and at least it's light years ahead of AC/DC...
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1976
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 10
More of the same? Eh... More of the same.Best song: DON'T BELIEVE A WORD
Track listing: 1) Johnny; 2) Rocky; 3) Borderline; 4) Don't Believe A Word; 5) Fool's Gold; 6) Johnny The Fox Meets Jimmy The Weed; 7) Old Flame; 8) Massacre; 9) Sweet Marie; 10) Boogie Woogie Dance.
The formula sank in, and it's a terrible thing with hard rock bands - once the formula sinks in, there's absolutely no way to go. Jailbreak gave the band commercial success and public acclaim, but it also chained them to the style: now it was obvious that they were bound to do the same leaden 'light metallic' formula over and over again. Not that it mattered at the end of 1976: Johnny The Fox never really shows us a stagnating band or even a slightly tired one. This is Thin Lizzy on a huge tidal wave of success, and Lynott was feeling pretty comfy. And thus, another concept album. This time, the concept is a little bit more grounded in reality, all revolving around a drug addict turned criminal (Johnny) and a problematic rock star (Rocky), but it's just as feeble and inconsistent as last time around - maybe two or three tracks in all following the 'storyline' ('storylines'?) and everything else completely out of touch with the main themes. Kinda like in a Dickens novel, overflooded with side stories that are supposed to diversify the atmosphere; only thing is, a Dickens novel would never end in a 'Boogie Woogie Dance'... Oh, but that comes later.Anyway, as usual, to hell with the story. Let's concentrate on the music instead. What I see here, first of all, is an obvious increase in heaviness. Johnny The Fox is, in general, a serious and grim record, as contrasted to the rather lightweight and even playful Jailbreak. The guitars are all tuned according to Mr Iommi's legacy, and this results in such brontosauric tracks as 'Rocky' and 'Massacre' that are heavier than anything previously recorded by the band; according to my gradation system, they are moving further towards heavy metal territory from the earlier and more common hard rock one. Not that the tunes are bad: both are solidly grounded on catchy, well-constructed riffs, whether it be the Sabbath-ey badaboom-badaboom of 'Rocky' or a quirkier, more 'paranoid' style of bouncy riffing on 'Massacre'. But who needs Sabbath-ey workouts from Thin Lizzy when it's easier to go to the source? The 'lighter' rockers ('Johnny', 'Don't Believe A Word') are still pretty grim. Apparently, I need to make a little correction to my intro paragraph: Lynott might really have been on an 'artistic roll', and feeling comfortable about his musicianship at the time, but he was also becoming seriously depressed (no doubt, drugs had a lot to do with it - small coincidence that Johnny the Fox is pictured as a drug addict), and, as usual, personal problems make up for a seriously pissed-off record. It's all the more obvious when you compare the two album openers, i. e. the melody of 'Jailbreak' to the melody of 'Johnny'. Both are gritty and hard, but 'Jailbreak' pulsates with a wild, juvenile, hooliganish energy, while 'Johnny' apparently smells of side effects of heroin. I'm also not at all pleased with the chorus of the song ('oh Johnny, oh Johnny' - what the hell is that?), but apart from that, a riff, is a riff, is a riff. Can't argue with facts. 'Don't Believe A Word', then, is the record's masterpiece - a painful, confessional song with very simple lyrics. But how biting, oh how biting they are: 'Don't believe me if I tell you/That I wrote this song for you/There might be some other silly pretty girl/I'm singing it to'. Is this autobiographic? The words of a boozy asshole of a rockstar in a brief moment of remorse and enlightenment? It definitely is, but the moment that always gives me goosebumps is when the fast steady pace of the song pauses for half a second to make way for the instrumental break, and the soloist (Mr G or Mr R?) suddenly lets loose with that ominous swirl of wah-wah notes. I tell you, both of these guitarists might have made way for generic metal soloing of the Eighties, but you can't deny that they really gelled well with Lynott's style - these solos never feel out of place in any song, yet always try either to repeat Phil's intonations or compensate in some department where his, not all that powerful, voice simply couldn't work. In other words, they were good. So, all biases apart, the rockers - all of them, except the stupid album closing number 'Boogie Woogie Dance' that sounds like a stupid pointless throwaway thrown in for lack of ideas - are fine. Oh, I have also never understood the awe that so many people feel concerning 'Johnny The Fox Meets Jimmy The Weed'. To me, it's just a generic piece of unmemorable heavy "sludge" destined to support Phil's lyrics concerning the storyline. But apparently it was a crowd favourite (and it's even included on Lizzy's subsequent live album), so maybe I'm missing something. As for the slower songs, I suppose it's all a matter of acquired taste. My personal taste acknowledges the moving, romantic 'Borderline'; is in full agreement with the pretty love song 'Sweet Marie'; kinda sits there and stares into the sky with mouth open wide and bleary eyes at the so-so love ballad 'Old Flame'; and twirls in disgust at the generic soft-rocker 'Fool's Gold'. Not because it's soft, of course, but because it's so damn pedestrian. To tell you the truth, sometimes Phil's way of singing really gets on my nerves: the man obviously despised composing special vocal melodies, and often ends up singing exactly the same pattern of lyrics to all kinds of beats, rhythms and riffs. But it's one thing when he "recites" his lyrics against a good riff, and another thing when he "recites" them against a mess of power chords (as in 'The Boys Are Back In Town'), or simply against some of the dullest rhythm structures ever, as in, yes, 'Fool's Gold'. And I could care less that the song deals with a serious historical problem (that of American immigrants who came to the States, well, you got it, in search of fool's gold); I respect Phil's lyrics, but he's no Leonard Cohen, after all, and he always needs good melodies to reside upon. No pain, no gain. Still, Johnny The Fox is not at all a bad album - don't get me wrong, it's just a wee bit duller than its predecessor, with somewhat fewer musical ideas and a less sharp production. But it is a little more interesting from the lyrical point of view, that's for sure.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1977
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 9
This one's pretty depressing, but without a lot of new things to say.Best song: DEAR LORD
Track listing: 1) Soldier Of Fortune; 2) Bad Reputation; 3) Opium Trail; 4) South Bound; 5) Dancing In The Moonlight (It's Caught Me In Its Spotlight); 6) Killer Without A Cause; 7) Downtown Sundown; 8) That Woman's Gonna Break Your Heart; 9) Dear Lord.
As Lynott's drug dependance progressed, the ensuing albums got bleaker and bleaker and bleaker, and on Bad Reputation the early joyful playfulness of the band is all but gone - completely. At least on Johnny The Fox Lynott's personal drama was overshadowed by its conceptual nature; Phil himself was lost in the thicket of the personages he created, and it took you so much time to unfold the whole weird story of Johnny the Fox, Cocky Rocky, and Jimmy the Weed, that any cries for help there might have been went unheard. Not so on Bad Reputation: its overwhelming pessimism, depression and despair just refuse to go away, from the opening anti-war hymn 'Soldier Of Fortune' and culminating in the powerful ending of 'Dear Lord', which is certainly one of the most moving songs Lynott ever recorded. Sure, the song is melodically primitive and when compared to the similar rock-prayer genre of, say, George Harrison, never really goes in any particularly good musical direction. But it has one thing to speak up for itself: deep, bleeding sincerity of a suffering person, and nothing could express those simple ideas of 'give me dignity, restore my sanity' better than the wailing, hoarse, stuttering voice of Lynott. I hate everything else about the song - I hate the corny chorus, I hate the bombastic power chords that open and close the number, but I forgive it everything because the main section is so emotional.Unfortunately, this album does work only when you're on an "emotional cruise" and in no other case. Either it was hard to work as a trio (one of the guitarists was mostly absent during the sessions due to a bar fight in which he damaged his fist), or it was just the drugs taking their toll, but somehow most of the cool riffs have suddenly disappeared - none of the songs are particularly memorable, because it's hard to memorize a song that's based entirely on dull rhythm work without any audible hooks. Lynott works as hard as he can to save the album with good lyrics, impressive vocal deliveries, and a snappy vocal hook on occasion, but, of course, without the usual thick musical base he can't succeed all of the time. There are no real embarrassments on the album; by now Lizzy had enough experience to know cheese when they made it, and the album is never marred by something as stupid as 'sittin' all own on his own-ee-oo' or the equally stupid 'oh Johnny, oh Johnny, oh Johnny, oh Johnny'. But the melodies only work on a couple of tunes, primarily on the title track, perhaps the only serious riff-rocker on the album, and on the odd number out: 'Dancing In The Moonlight' is a rather lightweight, bouncy dance number, with fingerclicks, saxophones and a strong reggae influence. Atmospherically it could even have fit on Nightlife, and it certainly provides a light breathing space in between all the darkness on the album. Not that it's particularly cheerful, but after all, it's just a story of a young workin' boy who keeps dancing on with a chick and forgets to get back home to his father before ten. Working class poetry, 'nuff said. All the other tunes only get by through Lynott alone. And mood-wise, many of them recycle previously available material: 'Soldier Of Fortune', for instance, follows the pattern of 'Fool's Gold', with a 'preachy' slow intro and a lot of insipid guitar noodling; the tune is about... about human unjustice, of course, as usual. 'Southbound', to me, sounds like an intentional rerun of 'The Boys Are Back In Town', and I never loved the tune in the first place. But I sure was moved by 'Opium Trail' and 'Downtown Sundown'. The former is a very telling and poetic depiction of the evils of you-know-what, and the latter is a wonderful little ballad whose message is not too apparent (is it about lost love or is it dedicated to higher metaphysical problems?), but which also, dang it, sounds fresh from the heart of poor old Phil. Perhaps some part of the blame for the album's sound should also be lain on master producer Tony Visconti; yeah, it's the one who saved T. Rex and Bowie ten years before but completely ruined the Moody Blues ten years later. There is no real depth to the sound as there was on Johnny The Fox (which sounded as if it was recorded in a cave), and there is no crisp and fresh grittiness of the guitars as there was on Jailbreak. But I suppose that poor production is only one, and never the most important, flaw of this record. It's just that they employ absolutely the same style for the fourth time around - a thing that was never a problem for AC/DC, of course, but at least AC/DC based all of their albums on carefully crafted riffs, and even if you ever got sick of their Seventies' output, you could always say: 'okay, on its own this is a strong individual riff, and this, and this, and this...' and so on. Thin Lizzy, on the other hand, always neglected the pure melodics side - try to play even their most successful post-Bell albums without any vocals, and you'll hardly be able to stand more than two or three songs of each one. That's not to say that I prefer AC/DC, of course - I like my music intelligent and emotionally telling; but I sure wish Lizzy would have their music more, er, refined, whatever. Still, this is easily worth an overall nine: none of the songs are bad, and at least Lynott is at his deepest and most lyrically and vocally interesting. Apparently, the omitting of any straightforward concept accounted for a lack of serious lapses of taste or any proverbial dumbness.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1978
Record rating = 9
Overall rating = 11
The band in peak form, churning out the hits like mad. The only problem is... well, it's a live album.Best song: ... ... ... ... ...
Track listing: 1) Jailbreak; 2) Emerald; 3) Southbound; 4) Rosalie; 5) Dancing In The Moonlight; 6) Massacre; 7) Still In Love With You; 8) Johnny The Fox Meets Jimmy The Weed; 9) Cowboy Song; 10) The Boys Are Back In Town; 11) Don't Believe A Word; 12) Warriors; 13) Are You Ready; 14) Suicide; 15) Sha-La-La; 16) Baby Drives Me Crazy; 17) The Rocker.
Lizzy's first live album so far, and fortunately - a rare case, too - it was recorded by the band at the very very best moment possible. Okay, so I would probably like to hear Lizzy perform live with Eric Bell, too, but if it's the Gorham/Robertson period we're dealing with, Live And Dangerous really represents that band at the peak of its powers. On one hand, these performances are recorded way before the slide: both guitarists are present and active, and Lynott hasn't yet degenerated into a senseless junkie at all. On the other hand, these performances are recorded at a period when Lizzy already had such a rich catalog behind their back that they could easily turn in a great performance without indulging in all the bland filler of past records.Okay, so the track listing isn't perfect, but a perfect selection of live songs can only be met on self-made compilations, right? In any case, the highlights of Lizzy'ds "arena-rock" period can be met on this album in their entirety: I mean, going over the past five studio albums, what do I miss? Well, I'd like to hear them perform 'Rocky', perhaps, and maybe a couple more subtler, softer tracks like 'Running Back'. And, of course, it grieves me that the Bell period is exclusively represented by 'The Rocker', done as an encore. But I guess we'll just have to take it. We can't blame a band for forgetting its early stages, good as they were. As for the songs that I'd like to see thrown out of here... hmm... well, I'm still not a big fan of 'Johnny The Fox Meets Jimmy The Weed', and 'Sha La La' is just as dumb as usual, and there was hardly a need to include a nearly eight-minute rendition of 'Still In Love With You' (that's one of their corniest ballads!), in other words, Night Life is overrepresented by crap. But you gotta understand me, even the crap sounds slightly better in an overenergized setting like this one. And in any case, as far as it goes with live albums, the track selection is perhaps the most satisfying I've ever heard on a rock album - beating out Live At Leeds and Get Yer Ya Ya's Out in that respect. Of course, it's not really much of a compliment: while the Who and the Stones simply had tons more classics that everybody and I would love to make it onto their best live releases, Lizzy simply didn't have that much breathtaking material. But most of what's breathtaking is on here. Have I confused anybody? This live album is great. About the performances themselves - I actually don't think they embetter the studio originals all that much, and sometimes the intentional stage sloppiness jerks me out. I mean, I miss the subtle transformation of 'Jailbreak' from a stripped-down rifffest into an all-out guitar chaos: this version is entirely chaotic, with both guitarists showing off their interplay all the time, not just on the chorus and solo sections. And the same goes for many of the other songs. But in any case, these are things that are easy to get used to, eventually. I also hate the album cover with Phil in his traditional 'split' pose - looks way too much like your ordinary cock-rocky hair metal band, when Thin Lizzy was never your ordinary cock-rocky hair metal band. Ah well, nothing is perfect, but you see, all of these are minor complaints that never cost the album more than just one point. On the other hand, what's to complain about? These performances tear! And to give them their due, Gorham and Robertson actually play better on stage than in the studio; 'better', of course, not in the sense of 'more professionally' or 'more emotionally', but completely without restraint. The riffs are dirtier, the solos are more finger-flashing and audacious. At times, the guitar almost sounds like Santana, you know, with these crazy lightning-speed arpeggios raining over the stage like lightning (ehh... 'raining like lightning' is a bit of a non-standard metaphor, is it? Well, whoever said that metaphors had to be standard?) Let me tell you about the highlights now. 'Jailbreak' is the ideal opener; 'Emerald' is naturally messier than its studio counterpart, but sounds heavenly in headphones anyway; 'Rosalie' is faster and more menacing than the studio original, although running it straight into 'Cowboy Song' was a bit of a stretch and a bit of a gimmick; 'Massacre' is unstoppable - whoever wants to hear those Eighties' metal monsters ripping up the fretboard when you can hear it done far more melodically and with far more conviction on a Thin Lizzy album?; 'Don't Believe A Word' nearly loses the melancholic edge of the original and doubles in aggression; 'Warriors' accentuates the song's apocalyptic mood with sudden outbursts of grumbling feedback noise so the listeners wouldn't get bored during the lengthy instrumental sections; and 'The Rocker' closes with a suitable p-p-p-punch. And the rest is either good and nice (all those mid-tempo introspective meditations off Bad Reputation) or, well, tolerable due to energized performances ('Cowboy Song'). Wait, there's also a great rendition of 'Suicide' and two newer tunes that are kinda overshadowed by the golden oldies but are still eminently listenable ('Are You Ready', 'Baby Drives Me Crazy'). The record can therefore function as a great introduction to Lizzy's legacy for neophytes - screw all the compilations, this is the album to buy if you want a good overview of the band's impressive legacy (unfortunately, it'll tell you next to nothing about the Bell legacy, so you'll still have to hunt down Vagabonds Of The Western World). Likewise, it is an absolute must if you're a hardcore Lizzy fan. Perversely enough, it is not a must for me, as I already have all the studio records but am not enough of a diehard fan. Anybody want a shitty pirated copy of the band's most unnecessary album? In case you didn't understand, I love the record dearly. Yeah, I'm a living paradox, so don't call me 'predictable'! The world hasn't yet seen enough of me! I'll.. I'll... ah, never mind, I'll just go listen to something else now.
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Year Of Release: 1979
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 10
Same old thing from the boys, but it packs up a real LOT of punch.Best song: WAITING FOR AN ALIBI
Track listing: 1) Do Anything You Want To; 2) Toughest Street In Town; 3) S & M; 4) Waiting For An Alibi; 5) My Sarah; 6) Got To Give It Up; 7) Get Out Of Here; 8) With Love; 9) Roisin Dubh (Black Rose) / A Rock Legend.
True to their conservative nature, Thin Lizzy end the decade with an album that sounds exactly the same as the four before it. But the formula was a real winner from the very beginning, and I can't really accuse Black Rose of any of the two main flaws that show a certain formula has began running out of gas: namely, a) endless re-writing of the same songs with recycled riffs, etc., and b) an overreliance on TOO simple and derivative melodies undiscernible from one another. So even if the album is by no means a chef-d'oeuvre and is really only hugely recommended for those who can't get enough of Mr Lynott (like me - who's grown meself a real appreciation for the pathetic old [and dead] dude), it's still quite nice and has enough steam to guarantee repeated listening.There is one serious change, though: Robertson had never entirely recovered from the 'delay' caused by the infamous barfight, and quit the band for good in early 1979. He was replaced by his old pal Gary Moore - actually, not many know it, but it was already the second time Moore joined the band; the first one was in 1974, when he replaced Eric Bell before the band found the regular replacements. Anyway, Moore never lasted that long in Thin Lizzy, having been fired for 'unpredictable behaviour' (missed a couple of gigs, it seems), but he had enough time to play with Gorham on this record. Fans of Gary need not bother too much, though: there are only a few examples of his impeccable hard rock techniques on the record, which is rather strange, by the way - it's not that Phil was against redhot guitar workouts on Thin Lizzy albums, but perhaps something just didn't gel. In any case, I'm very rarely wooed over by the guitar playing on this record; it's no Jailbreak, that's for sure. On the other hand, this puts Mr Lynott in an extremely favourable condition - he is undoubtedly the main, if not only, star of this record, and he makes his mark both with really tough and melodic bass parts (check out the funky monster of 'S&M', for instance, or the super-fluent line on 'Waiting For An Alibi'), and with exceedingly interesting lyrics. Oh, and his performance. Man, what a performance. I tell you, nobody can take a bleak, feeble, totally routine hard rock melody and make it bleed and sweat like Mr Phil. Of course, you have to get over the opening track, 'Do Anything You Want To', which is really annoying and pedestrian. I don't know if it's ever been released as a single, but it's such an obvious musical 'follow-up' to 'The Boys Are Back In Town' that I almost wanna puke. The riff is recycled, the vocal melody... ugh, and the lyrics sound like they've been written in two minutes (inspired by Dylan's 'All I Really Want To Do' - compare the song titles, for Chrissake! It's as if Lynott was trying to pen an 'answer' to Bob). But once you got past that - and it's not that I imply you can't fall in love with the song, because there are quite a few fans of 'Boys Are Back In Town' on the planet - everything's alright. 'Toughest Street In Town' takes us to the slums where Lynott loves to spend so much time (metaphorically speaking, of course - I don't know how much actual time the guy had spent in the slums after hitting the big time), with a memorable refrain and a beautiful emotional workout from Phil. 'S&M' is kinda strange, because I don't quite understand why Phil had to put a song condemning kinky sex in the midst of an album about all kinds of social problems. Oh well, so much for predictability. Love the spooky drum pattern in between the verses and Phil's bass, but the song's hardly a highlight; the real highlight is the single 'Waiting For An Alibi', featuring probably the catchiest melody on here (almost a major power pop kind of thing!) and a classy speedy guitar solo - Gary Moore's best moment with Thin Lizzy.And the album ends with 'Sarah', no, not a rewrite of 'Sarah' from Thin Lizzy's second album, but another song with the same name (a rare and confusing case of a band releasing two different songs under the same name). It's the only, and the only good, ballad on the whole album, a gentle and touching ode to Lynott's newly-born daughter. The second side starts with a couple more raving personal problem statements ('Got To Give It Up', devoted to Lynott's alcoholism/drug problems, is rather straightforward, but hey, this is true working class poetry, not Springsteen, so whaddaya want?; 'Get Out Of Here' features a brilliant 'proto-rap' singing pattern - 'pack up, I've had enough, that's it, I quit, give up, you win, I lose, you win, you choose, you stay I'll go, you stay, I lose', etc.), rambles through a bit of filler ('With Love', still energetic enough to make you wanna sit through the entire song) and culminates in the seven-minute long epic title track (full name: 'Roisin Dubh (Black Rose), A Rock Legend'), which returns us to the thematics of 'Emerald', i.e. Ireland's battle for independence. Frankly speaking, I don't think it really deserves seven minutes, and the main riff of the song is actually recycled from the main riff of 'Emerald', but goshdarnit, it's a Lynott song, and he knows what he's singing about. I'm not offended at all. Ah, shucks. It's all because of Lynott. The guy's really a marvel. Take his lyrics and singing out of the picture and all you're left with is a generic, absolutely uninteresting, meek late Seventies hard rock album. If I want melodic metal, I'll stick to Rainbow or something; this is just tolerable as far as melody goes, but it's absolutely unbeatable as long as sincerity and broken hearts and conviction and everything actually matter to you. Black Rose effectively closes the classic Seventies' era of Thin Lizzy... and now we're approaching the tacky Eighties.
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Year Of Release: 1980
Record rating = 9
Overall rating = 11
Gee, I haven't had so much aggression and fury on a Lizzy album since... well, ever.Best song: CHINATOWN
Track listing: 1) We Will Be Strong; 2) Chinatown; 3) Sweetheart; 4) Sugar Blues; 5) Killer On The Loose; 6) Having A Good Time; 7) Genocide; 8) Didn't I; 9) Hey You.
Holy Mother! Where did THIS stuff crawl from? On the brink of the Eighties, at the very last years of their effectiveness, after more member changes and turmoil, and with all the drug problems of Phil going on, Thin Lizzy have suddenly gathered their forces together and delivered a true blast - the dragon on the cover may as well represent the force and fury of the band, even if the liner notes explain it as a special three-clawed dragon symbolizing the Triad (a medieval Chinese secret society). Actually, Chinatown isn't any more of a concept album than any of its predecessors: supposedly, it deals with the hard life of the immigrant population in Chinatowns all over the world, but apart from the title track and a couple other references, the concept doesn't amount to much... as usual.What amounts to much is just how fierce, energetic, passionate and, actually, catchy the music is. By 1980 Gary Moore was out of the band already, replaced by the newcomer Snowy White; this doesn't exactly speak in favour of the level of technical brilliance, but actually, I think the guitarwork on here is in fact better than on Black Rose. Snowy doesn't go that much for technical virtuosity, instead, he is very keen on re-establishing that kind of guitar interplay which used to be so important for the 'classic' Lizzy sound, and more or less succeeds in that matter. The songs seem fuller and more convincing now; fast tempos also abound, but these are good fast tempos - not stupid pedestrian power chord metal rockers, but well-constructed, well-played riff-full hard rock compositions. A lot of them, too: the idea was clearly to make a gritty, ass-kickin' statement, so there's only one ballad on the entire record, but that's all right by me. Anybody who rocks that well deserves to have seven or eight rockers in a row. True, there's no instant classic on the album, like 'Waiting For An Alibi', not to mention 'Jailbreak' (although the first two opening songs come close). But who cares if the album boasts such a tremendous level of consistency? Rocker after rocker, all good, all great to headbang to and all betraying a little part of Lynott's usual bleeding personality. Of course, we already knew all that stuff before - all of Phil's psychological problems, his passion for the weak and the oppressed and the third world and the ecology and the buffaloes and himself; but repetition isn't a vice in itself, and actually, I can only question myself why it took the band so long and so many lineup changes to come up with a record that would rock in such a groovy way. Like I said, the first two numbers are by far the best. 'We Will Be Strong' opens the album on an optimistic, yet deeply suffering, note, and Phil's heartfelt wailings receive an excellent backup from the two guitarists. Did I mention how great the production of the album is? It sounds a little muddy on first listen, but what a great idea to make one 'main' guitar (the one that carries forward the main riff) and one 'auxiliary' guitar that wails in the background, being mixed a little bit lower. This way, the guitars don't mesh with each other and you can always make out the melody, but the interplay is still there. The same goes for the title track, a statement as powerful as any that Phil had made up to that point, propped by a great looping double-tracked riff. You could almost swear Lynott spent his entire childhood and all of his teenage days in Chinatown, there's so much conviction in his voice. And the solos just smash you, grind you into the wall... But the hooks and the power don't end right there. 'Sweetheart' is the heaviest track - catchy chorus, grumbly minimalistic riffs, what else do you want? 'Sugar Blues' is almost hilariously bouncy, almost power-pop, or Fifties' boogie redone in metal style, if you wish; sure don't know what Lynott is talking on here, but oh boy do those guitars kick, and don't forget the excellent swing of Downey. 'Killer On The Loose' is lyrically a throwaway, an analogy of 'S&M' on the previous record (somehow Lynott seems to have worked out a passion for these goofy 'evil scenes' late in his career, a passion I can't say I appreciate), but just the same, I can't deny the catchiness of the chorus or the effectiveness of the riff. Heck, it's all the same - good riff after good riff, good vocal melody after good vocal melody - but isn't this the formula of success if we're talking unimaginative hard rock? I'd love to see Aerosmith top that consistency, for one. Plus, 'Having A Good Time' immediately follows the bleakiness of 'Killer' with a joyful celebration of the band's reckless lifestyle, and has great rappy bits from Lynott to show how much he and the guys actually enjoy playing their stuff. Love to hear Lynott announce the solos from his guys, love to hear the guys solo, love to hear that wonderful acoustic rhythm track... Love everything. Even love the somewhat dumb 'Genocide (The Killing Of The Buffalo)' - the title says everything about the lyrics, but how can I resist another catchy chorus? Just as the two first tracks were the best, the two last seem to be a slight letdown - mainly because the only ballad on here, 'Didn't I', seems slightly weak compared to all those amazing outbursts of adrenaline, and the closing cut, 'Hey You', ends up stealing a riff from 'Massacre'. Then again, that ballad is actually nice, and 'Hey You' almost begins as a Police song! A pseudo-reggae bit, echoey Andy Summers-style guitar... then it all fades away, but that bit of intro really left me wondering how much exactly had Lizzy been soaking up influences at the time. All in all, Chinatown shouldn't really be underrated - it's a must for any serious Lizzy fan, as it's easily the band's most consistent record since Vagabonds. And it really leaves me in complete awe: Thin Lizzy were, by far, the most consistent hard rock band of the Seventies - I have yet to see a hard rock band that managed to produce five or six formulaic hard rock albums in a row without even a single major stinker among them. Except for maybe Nazareth, of course.
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Year Of Release: 1981
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 9
Too much "Thin Lizzy sound-alike" here to be as enjoyable as any classic.Best song: RENEGADE
Track listing: 1) Angel Of Death; 2) Renegade; 3) The Pressure Will Blow; 4) Leave This Town; 5) Hollywood; 6) No One Told Him; 7) Fats; 8) Mexican Blood; 9) It's Getting Dangerous.
Nothing lasts forever, I guess, and Renegade finally finds Thin Lizzy on a steady downward slide. That said, I am still left somewhat puzzled by the general critical opinion that finds Renegade to be the weakest Thin Lizzy album ever and spooks away the potential buyers. Too many reviews had led the record buying public (and me in particular) to believe that the record is weakened by a lack of melodies and by modernistic production values that take away the energy of the Lizzy of old. Well, first of all, let me tell you this: apart from the prominent synthesizer backup on the album opener, 'Angel Of Death', you could hardly distinguish the actual production from, say, Black Rose. Same guitars, same real drums - same hard-rockin' style. True, Snowy White lets several songs down by stooping to playing generic off-the-cuff hair metal solos where the tone and speed are more important than the actual note sequences played. But that's about the only complaint I can voice when it comes to musicianship and production values, and for the record, I dig the synth background on 'Angel Of Death' quite all right.What bothers me far more is that the actual melodies become so dang lifeless. Too many of them are based around one-chord riffs that don't do nothing for me, and you know how it goes with Thin Lizzy: since all Thin Lizzy records sound the same, the crucial difference is how much atmosphere Phil Lynott can raise within a song and how many interesting riffs does the band succeed in coming up with. Chinatown fared quite well in that department; Renegade just sounds like a far inferior re-working of that record. I'm not willing to ascribe this exclusively to Lynott's final slip into drugged-out "spiritual coma", mainly because I'm not sure of the correctness of that hypothesis, but it's clear something was not quite right within the band at the time. Still - whatever. Lizzy fans, don't stay away from this record. 'Angel Of Death' is actually a cool song, even if the concept is obviously borrowed from 'Sympathy For The Devil'; the speed-metal riff that the lads develop is one of the best in business, and the atmosphere is convincing enough for you to forget the idea of a second-rate wannabe Mick Jagger. I could do without the lengthy 'ominous' mid-section of Phil whispering his eerie pictures of death and destruction over synth loops, but supposedly it also adds up to the experience, so let it stay. Don't forget the title track, either: also stepping away from the formula, Lynott rips off Mark Knopfler and develops a very Dire Straits-like 'quiet' epic number with next to no original melody but boatloads of sincerity and heartiness that are right up Phil's alley. It's interesting to notice that both Lizzy and Dire Straits used to share the same record label (Vertigo), so I wouldn't be surprised to learn that both bands took something from each other. Finally, if we're speaking of songs that don't follow the formula, one has to mention 'Fats', a striking ode to Fats Domino, presumably, with a laid-back jazzy atmosphere and a great bassline, but spoilt a little by Phil's vile hoarseness - sounds like he's stuffed his throat with thistles. As for the rockers, well, I guess they're all right. They just aren't memorable - they all make some kind of impression on you while they're on, but after that, all you are left with is a feeling that Phil only recorded these songs because he wanted to keep the band afloat and/or satisfy the ardent fans' needs for further compositions. 'Leave This Town' is perhaps the only thing close to a classic, because it's the only time the band is able to lock itself into a fast, tight groove, like in the good old days, and the multi-tracked Lynott vocals seem to be a good idea; however, the song lacks any kind of deep emotional impact - unless you're placed in the same situation, perhaps, and are 'gonna leave this town behind'. Everything else is undescribable. Remember all those 'lapses of taste' that pursued Phil in the past? Well, if the Seventies mostly featured him sliding into silly MOR 'pop-metal' rubbish, the Eighties find him profanating the 'noble hard rock' ideals. 'Hollywood', for instance - what's up with that chorus? It's... ehh, it stinks, man. It's a cheap, pathetic form of arena-rock meets hair metal. And the album is full of these things. Or else the song just lacks any kind of hook, like 'No One Told Him' or 'It's Getting Dangerous', which closes the record for five and a half minutes but has not a single interesting thing to say... On the other hand, you gotta understand: Renegade is Thin Lizzy's seventh studio album in a row that tries to rework the old classic formula, and while I applaud Lizzy for holding up for the six previous records (apart from maybe the slightly inferior Fighting and Bad Reputation, which still had their share of goodies), it's obvious that in order to hold up forever, Lynott had to be a demi-god, which he wasn't. So even the slightest dropdown in quality - a wee bit less interesting riffs, a wee bit overlengthened songs, etc. - is reflected in a far worse way than, say, a slight dropdown in quality on a David Bowie album. It's, like, "I'm willing to put up with you guys remaking the same record over and over, but you better be sure it's all TOP quality, then!'. Therefore, if you're a limited-taste kind of person that deifies Phil Lynott, you'll certainly find Renegade to be a guilty pleasure, and are well-advised to pick it up.
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Year Of Release: 1983
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 10
You gotta learn to look behind the generic production here...Best song: BAD HABITS
Track listing: 1) Thunder And Lightning; 2) This Is The One; 3) The Sun Goes Down; 4) The Holy War; 5) Cold Sweat; 6) Someday She Is Going To Hit Back; 7) Baby Please Don't Go; 8) Bad Habits; 9) Heart Attack.
This is actually a hell of a lot of a hell of fun, and a rather cute way of going out, if you axe me. What turns so many people off Thunder And Lightning is that this time around the boys really decided to catch up with the times - the production on the album is typical of the general Eighties' metal style, you know, the kind of goofy hairy fuzzy mess that's all for speed and aggression and hardly for melody. Maybe this had to do with the new member, John Sykes, who replaced Snowy White, and whose guitar solos simply define "generic finger-flashing metallic rumble" - instead of the former beauty of Gorham/Robertson's interplay during the instrumental passages, you'll now have to cope with diddly-diddly-diddly-diddly-dee wankings whose only aim is to prove to the public that Thin Lizzy is just as technically gifted a band as Judas Priest and Twisted Sister.But look past the ridiculous guitars and look past the lack of interesting drumwork from Downey and look past the lack of great basslines and all that - try to find the good sides. I find lots, personally. I find that lots of the SONGS actually RULE - out of the nine numbers, maybe just one or two lack a distinct hookline (in my case, the worst offender happens to be the bland, utterly forgettable 'Someday She Is Going To Hit Back', and even that song is hardly disgusting in any of the half dozen ways I could define 'disgusting' for my psyche. How many ways do you have to define 'disgusting', kind gentlemen?). And it's nothing short of amazing that even from within this world of lifeless generic metal ambience, not to mention the world of drugs that would let him last for not more than three years, Lynott still had the force to come up with enough expressive ideas to make Thin Lizzy's last album resonant. I mean, there's nothing new on here as for what concerns resonance - all the themes had already been exploited to death, i.e. teenage rebellion (title track), personal angst ('Cold Sweat'), unhappy love stories ('The Sun Goes Down'), apocalyptic vision ('The Holy War'), etc., etc. But that doesn't mean they still aren't all just as actual as they were at the age of Jailbreak, and they're different enough in form to be appreciated. One just needs to get the vibe. Do you get the vibe from 'Bad Habits'? Anybody who accuses Thunder And Lightning of kowtowing too much to the gruesome god of hair metal has apparently missed this near-masterpiece that easily stands to any of the earlier classics. Which is equally strange, as 'Bad Habits', with its slightly ironic and slightly optimistic general mood, really stands out from the utter depression, gloom and suicidal anger of the rest of the tunes. Everything about the song is lovable - the chuggin' danceable rhythm, Gorham's solos that really take me back to Jailbreak, and, of course, Phil's echoey dreamy and at the same time lustful vocals: the mastodontic hook when he roars out 'I tell you this boy's insane, this boy's got bad habits-AAAARRRGH!' at the end of the third minute just can't be beat. At the very least the song really breathes with a certain amount of passion and expressiveness that I always found lacking in 'The Boys Are Back In Town'... However, even the totally Eighties-sounding rockers on this record turn out to be cool. 'Cold Sweat' holds second best place for me: hair metal or not, any song that features a classy memorable riff and a classy memorable vocal melody, not to mention an ounce of real angst and dedication, gotta qualify in my little black book. I could easily do without the pretentious arpeggios and hammer-ons in the middle and stuff like that, but then again, it actually turns out that even a generic solo cannot spoil a song that's really good. The title track is a bit more dubious because, frankly speaking, the main melody in the song seems to be lacking; Lynott goes for a rapid-fire speed-metal attack that borders on what today would be called 'rapcore' (eh?) and features the infamous 'It'll hit you like a hammer, GOD DAMN!' reprise that's pretty stupid even for a band whose chief lyricist was never the last dude to employ cliches and trivialities in his word-weavings. And, of course, more of those robotic guitar solos where they squeeze ten thousand notes in one second. Still, there's something really attractive about the song that I can't quite define. Maybe it's Phil's ultra-ridiculous 'rapping'. Maybe it's just the fact that our senses of pleasure sometimes call out for something like this - had the entire record been crammed with numbers like these, I would never have given it a second chance... Plus, I really like that ballad, 'The Sun Goes Down' or whatever it is called. I find it absolutely on par with any of Phil's previous ballads - the simplicity of the theme and the lyrics is really seducing, and the transition from dreamy romanticism to dreamy 'scariness' constitutes a hook in the little black book. Plus, out of all the 'technically glossy' solos on the album, the song's got the only one I find somewhat eyebrow-raising - my sixth sense was expecting something far more generic, something like the solo in 'Comfortably Numb', you know. Feel free to discuss. Then there's also the intriguing paranoia of 'Baby Please Don't Go' (Lynott's own number, not the Big Bill Broonzy cover - leave that to AC/DC) and the depression of 'Heart Attack' and something else, but no need to institute lengthy discussions on all that stuff. Suffice it to say that, unless you're a Poison fan, you'll need at least three listens to the album to get to its core where you will, to your big surprise, discover that such a huge chunk of the material stands up to regular Lizzy standards. Which is positively a miracle. Thus ends the story of one of the most consistent bands in Seventies' hard rock/heavy metal.
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