THIN LIZZY – Vagabonds of the Western World (2011 deluxe edition)
Thin Lizzy’s history is much like Deep Purple’s in certain respects. Both bands had an early period (three albums for both bands) with an earlier lineup, and a sleepier 1960’s-oriented sound. This is before both bands galvanized their sounds and boiled it down to rock and roll.
Vagabonds is the third of these three Lizzy albums, and the closest in sound to what they would later become. This is also the best of these three Lizzy albums. This deluxe edition of Vagabonds is also the best Lizzy deluxe edition that I have heard thus far. Both the remastering and bonus material is fantastic. Just listen to that bass intro on “Gonna Creep Up On You”. The original CD release did not reveal this much detail, the bass has so much depth now.
The album itself gets off to a slow start, with “Mama Nature Said”, “The Hero and the Madman” and “Slow Blues” which you will hear on this package no less than four times! None of these songs are personal favourites. However track four, “The Rocker”, is a pure Lizzy classic. It could have fit in easily on an album like Fighting, Jailbreak or Johnny The Fox. It is simply awesome with an extra dose of rocket sauce.
From there it’s pretty much non-stop. The title track is up next, a personal favourite with loads of atmosphere. The moody “Little Girl In Bloom” is a tale of a girl who finds herself with child, and must tell her father. Phil Lynott offers his advice on how to do this. Is this based on someone Phil knew? We now know that Phil had at least one son that didn’t know who his father was. Could his mother have been the little girl in bloom?
“Gonna Creep Up On You” and “A Song While I’m Away” end the album in style, a couple of great numbers.
That ends the orginal LP, but disc one is still filled with bonus material from singles and B-sides. One B-side from the original CD is missing, which was “Black Boys On The Corner”. This song however is available on the Thin Lizzy box set, so it can still be had. The other singles and B-sides include the raging classic “Sitamoia”, a song by Brian Downey with its chorus in Gaelic. “Randolph’s Tango” is another highlight, a song which vaguely reminds me of “El Paso” by Johnny Horton in terms of story. It is, not surprisingly, a tango with a fantastic flamenco solo by Eric Bell. You will also hear the funky “Cruising In The Lizzymobile” and the powerful horn-laden “Little Darling” on this disc. “Broken Dreams” and “Here I Go Again” round out the singles. Throw in a couple single edits (for “The Rocker”, “Randolph’s Tango”, and “Whiskey In The Jar”) and you have a near-perfect first disc. But there’s still more. The 1977 remix of “Slow Blues” featuring Gary Moore and Midge Ure is included, its first CD appearance. This track was lifted from a rare remix LP that Lizzy did to bring the sound of their early material in line with what they were doing later. It is vastly different and perhaps superior to the original “Slow Blues”, with Moore re-recording the guitars himself.
The second disc is entirely made up of live BBC recordings, and do they ever cook! Extra rocket sauce! They sound incredible and the band was playing great. Live material with the Eric Bell lineup is scarce and this is some of the first live stuff I’ve heard by them. Taken from multiple sessions, you will hear most of the original album performed live as well as earlier tunes such as a sleepy “Things Ain’t Working Out Down At The Farm”. Interestingly, there are also live versions of two later Lizzy tunes: “Showdown”, from Nightlife, and “Suicide”, from Fighting. I had no idea that they were written earlier with the Eric Bell lineup, until now.
Liner notes are great and there are a handful of pictures included. (There’s even a photo of the very, very rare Funky Junction album, which was basically Lizzy playing Deep Purple covers. Oh, my left nut for a re-release!)
This package is, for a lot of people, probably the only Eric Bell era album that they need. I am happy to report that it is simply a fantastic reissue.