REVIEW: Thin Lizzy – Vagabonds Kings Warriors Angels (2001 box set)

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LIZZY VAGABONDS BOX_0001THIN LIZZY – Vagabonds Kings Warriors Angels (2001 Mercury 4 CD set)

This is one of the best boxed sets that I own. Of course, it’s not a complete collection of rarities. Such a thing does not exist, the Lizzy catalogue is so labyrinthine with EP’s, singles, and Phil’s solo projects. It takes a scholar just to keep it all straight. This set however does include a very generous slice of rarities, including one rare exclusive. It also includes pretty much every Lizzy hit and album cut you could want. Everything from my own obscure favourites (“Hollywood”, “The Sun Goes Down”) to the biggest hits (“Jailbreak”, “The Boys are Back in Town”) are on here.

The set is divided into four discs, each one reflecting a phase of Thin Lizzy. From the Eric Bell power trio years (was “power trio” even a phrase back then?) to the final Phil single “Nineteen” (famously covered by Bad 4 Good), there is no era of the band overlooked. The liner notes are also excellent, with lots of photos and text, and detailed credits.

The rarities and B-sides are pure gold. It’s also important to remember that in Lizzy’s day, non-album singles were the norm.  Many of those singles are crucial tracks.  “Randolph’s Tango”, with its intricate flamenco solo, is one.  The storming “Little Darling” is another necessity.  I love the reggae of “Half Caste”. How hard it must have been being Phil Lynott growing up. “The boy ain’t black, the boy is brown,” goes the painful lyric. “Sitamoia” (written by Brian Downey) is a ferocious tornado as only Lizzy could do. “Sugar Blues” is a live jam blast, featuring the underrated Snowy White doing what he does best: the blues.

IMG_20141109_085733Most of the B-sides and rare tracks have since been released on the various Thin Lizzy deluxe editions.  Not necessarily in these versions though.  One track you won’t find on a deluxe edition is “Song For Jimi”, originally from a magazine flexi-disc.  This track features a reunited original Thin Lizzy with Eric Bell, recording in 1981!

With complete honesty, there isn’t one single track I would have changed on this set. I think of all my favourites (Lizzy, solo, and otherwise) and check to see if they’re on here. “Johnny the Fox Meets Jimmy the Weed”? Check. “Massacre”? Check. “The Rocker”? Check. “King’s Call”? Check. “Fool’s Gold”? Check. “Romeo And The Lonely Girl”? Check. “Dancing In The Moonlight”? Check. In fact the only thing I can think of that’s missing is the posthumous “Dedication”, but it’s arguable that it doesn’t belong, since it has a sort of early 90’s sound and was finished by Gorham and Downey on their own.

I wish Thin Lizzy became as big a name as some of their contemporaries, such as Zeppelin, Aerosmith, or Purple. They certainly had the musical chops, they had a multitude of influences and variety of sounds (all Lizzy though), and of course they had the unequaled lyrical talents of Phil Lynott. A poet like Lynott will never come again. Let’s celebrate his life, even though it’s too late for him to celebrate with us.

5/5 stars

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32 comments

    1. No worries dude! As Rich mentioned you can still buy it affordably.

      I didn’t mention in the review that I had to buy this on expensive US import, because it didn’t come out in Canada for another year.

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  1. I’m not the Thin Lizzy expert you are, but I agree that this is a fantastic box set. I thought by now it would be an expensive out-of-print rarity but there are reasonably priced copies out there. I’m still glad I bought it when it came out. Since you have all the deluxe editions, I’m curious about exactly how many tracks on this box set don’t appear on anything else you own. I know you would have bought this even if it just consisted of album tracks, but knowing there are exclusives had to make this a no-brainer purchase.

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    1. Always glad to see your smiling face in the comments Rich! Yes. there is one track that you can’t get on any deluxe edition, which is Song For Jimi, by the Lynott/Bell/Downey lineup, in a rare 1981 reunion. Obviously it’s a tribute to Hendrix.

      Like HMO, I wouldn’t trade this in. I enjoy for the listening experience that it is.

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  2. From Fighting (1975) until the end – Thunder & Lightning (1983), Thin Lizzy was the best band in the world and everybody should own every single album in between. If you don’t own Nightlife (1974), the first to feature Robbo and Scott Gorham on guitars, you’re excused. That is not a great album, but there are a few goodies on it. The sound is really bad also and guess what, Ron Nevison produced it. I guess he blew already back then…

    If you don’t own everything by the band – which you should – then I guess this is a good way to start. I’m not a big fan of the Eric Bell era so I’m not gonna purchase this, there’s no need, but your review was spot on!

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    1. Nightlife is one that never really “clicked” with me as much as the others. But, I did buy the deluxe edition, and enjoyed it for what it is. When your expectations are lower, it’s an enjoyable album.

      Once again Jon, interesting observation about Nevison. I’ve yet to find an album he produced that I like the sound of. What about Heart? Did he do good albums with Heart?

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      1. The songs were awesome but the sound on the albums is really thin and weak. A typical Nevison production. Heart were never a metal band or even hard rock, but they sure could have used a fatter production. Just compare Heart and Bad Animals to the Richie Zito produced follow-up Brigade. Huge difference.
        Same thing with Survivor. And Bad English.

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    1. Well Deke, I’m going to review some Lizzy hits albums in the coming months. That might be an easier place to break in.

      Having said that, Johnny the Fox and Jailbreak are both hard rock MUSTS. I’m serious. Nobody should be without them. To me, not having those two would be like not having Deep Purple In Rock, or Number of the Beast.

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      1. Word, Mike. But I’d like to go one step further.
        Everyting from Fighting up to Thunder & Lightning is a hard rock must! And in book, more important than both In Rock and Number Of The Beast!

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  3. Bonus-ception! Bonus tracks within bonus tracks! Or maybe your collection is meta. Whatever, you collection is awesome.

    I was so happy for you when you got this. And even better to know it’s AWESOME!

    Also, kudos for cramming 4CDs into a short post. My brevity is rubbing off? :)

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    1. Yes sir, absolutely! Doesn’t mean I’m going for brevity “from now on” or anything, but I have made a conscious decision to mix in some reviews that are not “track by track”.

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      1. I think of your Deep Purple box set extravaganza, spread out over multiple posts, crazy info. I can’t decide which I like better… the DP was great in a music geek sort of way, and this was great because it gets the job done and tells the world about this awesome set in a short post… It’s like Zep’s Moby Dick versus a 1:30 punk song. I like ’em both!

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        1. Yeah and I enjoyed the process of that Deep Purple series too. That being a new release, I think that was a motivating factor in being as intensive as I could get. And we’ll see more reviews like that, I guarantee it. I have one “Epic Review Time” review in the hopper for one of my Taranna scores.

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  4. Been wanting this for years, finally picked up a copy (for a very reasonable price, too). I’ve already got pretty much all the music on it, but I’m interested in the book and there are a couple of tracks that still elude me!

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      1. Well it hasn’t quite arrived yet, but it’s on it’s way :)

        The only thing that makes me sad is, from what I’ve heard, the version of “Song for Jimi” in the set is missing Eric Bell’s smoking lead guitar breaks. He really tears it up on the original flexidisc recording, but that stuff was nowhere to be heard when I sampled the version from the box set. Somebody told me it’s because they couldn’t find all the tapes when they were putting it together. It’s a real shame.

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        1. Wow I did not know that! I’m curious what you will think when you get the box to listen for yourself. Please let me know! I’d like to add that kind of obscure influence to the review.

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        2. The original flexidisc recording was on YouTube ages ago, but it got taken down. I managed to get hold of a copy of the felxidisc from eBay, actually, so once they’ve both arrived I can compare them to see if I’m right!

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        3. If you don’t mind me asking, how much did you pay for that Flexi? If it’s a different version of the song, then it’s automatically on my “want” list!

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        4. It was under $20. I’ve no idea how rare it really is – I kinda stumbled across it without really trying, so I couldn’t say how often they come up for sale – but I kinda feel that’s surprisingly cheap for something I imagine to be fairly rare. If I’m honest I’m a touch dubious, another reason I’m waiting to receive it and physically check it out, but I figured I couldn’t pass up the chance!

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        5. I paid a similar amount for an old Alice Cooper flexi from 73…Slick Black Limousine. Of course a flexi sounds like what it sounds like (not the best) so maybe that’s why $20 was the going rate for it.

          Regardless — that’s very cool.

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        6. Well, my stuff arrived yesterday, and yes, I can confirm the version of “Song for Jimi” in the box set is incomplete. Eric Bell rips it up with lead guitar fills almost the whole way through the song on the flexidisc, but only his rhythm guitar work is on the CD version – even his main solo in the middle of the song his AWOL. Big shame, he does some great stuff on the original release!

          Liked by 1 person

        7. Leigh, that is both great and bad news! Great that you have a seriously rare rare rare Lizzy item. Bad for me because now I want one too :)

          Added to my wishlist!

          Just got a copy of Lizzy’s Killers EP, that should arrive tomorrow or Friday!

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