FU MANCHU – “Jailbreak” / FATSO JETSON – “Blueberries & Chrome” (1998 split Sessions Records 7″ single)
Fu Manchu turn Thin Lizzy into Thin Sludge…and it works! Though it’s downtuned and slammin’, it’s still “Jailbreak”. Fu Manchu went to the effort to mostly duplicate the familiar lead guitar melodies. The hooks you remember are there. Vocally, considering that Phil Lynott often liked to speak/sing, Scott Hill from Fu Manchu’s natural approach works just fine. He’s different from Phil, more than you’d expect. He doesn’t really attempt to sing the vocal melody, he just applies his own style to it. Few people will pick this as their favourite Lizzy cover of all time, but Fu Manchu fans should adore it. Produced by J. Yuenger of White Zombie.
On the B-side, it’s Fatso Jetson with their own brand of stoner rock. “Blueberries & Chrome” rocks heavy with riff in your face and vocals buried deep. It doesn’t shy away from dissonant chords but it does allow the vocals by Mario Lalli to explode on the chorus. “Baby want sugar!” Let’s just say it’s probably better that you can’t really hear the lyrics. “He’s about to unwind, and it’s stuck in your face.” Good tune though, sludgey and heavy. The chorus is an awesome blowout.
THIN LIZZY – UK Tour 75 (2008 Major League Productions)
This album was recorded 21 November 1975, in Derby, England. Why it was recorded, for what purpose, and how it came to be released in 2008 are a mystery to me. But this good sounding live album has liner notes provided by drummer and original member Brian Downey, so that makes it seem official-ish enough for me!
In 1975, Thin Lizzy (consisting also of Phil Lynott, Brian Robertson, and Scott Gorham) had yet to release Jailbreak. This live album serves as an interesting reminder of a time when Thin Lizzy had yet to break out with some serious success. They were on the verge and you can hear the confident, competent band ready to take on all comers.
Thin Lizzy sails from classic to classic, effortlessly, and these songs are indeed classics. “The Rocker” sounds as great as ever, a song that will never get old. (I remember seeing a four-piece called The Meligrove Band cover this one in Kitchener, Ontario in the early 2000’s.) Lizzy were turning the corner from their earlier folksy beginnings and had galvanized themselves into a solid hard rock band.
“Fighting My Way Back” has always been one of my favourite Lizzy songs, and they open with this energetic number. “It’s Only Money” grooves like it never did on the Nightlife album. Downey plays a thundering tribal solo during a ferocious “Sha La La”. “Derby Blues”, also released on the recent Jailbreak deluxe edition, is an early take of “Cowboy Song”.
My favourite track is “Little Darling”. According to Brian, they dropped this song from the set forever shortly after this recording. It was an early non-album single from the Eric Bell era, accompanied by horns in its studio guise. Live, it’s explosive. (You can get the studio version on the Vagabonds of the Western World deluxe now.)
The packaging is decent. It comes in a sleeve-style case with a nice booklet inside. I don’t feel ripped off by the packaging the way I have with other semi-official official live albums in the past.
This classic underappreciated masterpiece of rock goodness has finally been expanded with bonus tracks. Underappreciated? Sure, while everyone knows at least two songs from this album, how many friends of yours actually own a copy?
Jailbreak‘s been given some cool bonus tracks. An entire disc’s worth in fact! The remastering sounds good enough to me. Until I got this deluxe, I hadn’t played Jailbreak in a while, and I had completely forgotten about great album cuts like “Running Back”. It’s a sweet little love ditty as only Phil can do it, romantic but classy all the way.
I think the second track, “Angel From the Coast”, is one of Lizzy’s greatest album cuts. It rides on top a rhythmic, rolling guitar riff, but it’s also one of Phil’s more memorable compositions. “Romeo and the Lonely Girl” is another one of Phil’s romantic classic rockers. The lyrics are kinda cheesey: “Whoah-oh, poor Romeo, sittin’ all on his own-e-o”. But it works, because it’s Phil, and everything he did sounded sincere and cool.
“Warriors” brings the metal. It’s a classic heavy rocker that I am sure people like Steve Harris studied meticulously to learn the mysterious art of songwriting. Multiple sections collide, thundering drums roll, and solos rage.
“Fight Or Fall” is a great ballad, acoustic and soulful. This is the kind of thing that Phil had done so well on albums like Nightlife. “Emerald” is another Phil historical epic. Once again, I feel that Steve Harris probably studied this song intensely. This really anticipates where Iron Maiden were going to go later on.
One of the true classics on Jailbreak was “Cowboy Song”, a song that melded live with Lizzy’s cover of Bob Seger’s “Rosalie”. In my mind, the two songs are one in the same now. They go together like peanut butter and jam. And that, friends, is a tasty sandwich.
I don’t really need to talk “Jailbreak” and “The Boys Are Back In Town”, do I?
Alright, I will. “Boys Are Back” is one I discovered initially through Bon Jovi. They covered it back in 1989 on a charity CD that I’ll cover another time. It was perfect for them. Didn’t Jon always sing about the boys being back in town back then? It had a tasty guitar harmony part for Richie Sambora to sink his teeth into, and it was melodic and radio-worthy. In a way, this is Lizzy’s Bon Jovi song, but it is no less classic for it.
And “Jailbreak”? Everything about it is perfect. The riff, the melody, but it really came alive in a live setting. As good as the album version is, it was live that “Jailbreak” burned.
The bonus disc kicks off with four remixes helmed by Joe Elliott, one of the biggest Lizzy fans out there. His strategy was simple: some subtle fixes to out-of-tune guitars and drums that were mixed too low. Then he and Scott Gorham added previously unheard lyrics, solos and fills. The result is some fine alternate versions that won’t replace the originals but serve as interesting companion pieces. I especially enjoyed the previously unheard lyrics from Phil.
The remixes are followed by some live takes. BBC recordings of the title track, “Emerald”, and others are nice and clean. Just as you would expect from the BBC. Then there is an extended cut of “Fight Or Fall” with some very tasty slide guitar brought up to the forefront. It’s a nice touch. “Blues Boy” is a completely unreleased track, a blues as you might have guessed. It is complete with some skeletal vocals from Phil, but this is essentially a blues jam. As an unreleased song, this is a valuable inclusion, albeit not a standout song. The album ends with a live take called “Derby Blues”, which is an embrionic version of “Cowboy Song”. “This is a new number, this one!” says Phil. “As yet untitled. We’ll call it ‘Derby Blues'”. It still has all the energy and fire that it would later embody. (“Derby Blues” is also on a more recent release called UK Tour 75.)
The liner notes to this edition are quite excellent, among the best I have ever run into in a deluxe edition. As an added bonus, there is a page of notes from Joe Elliott, explaining the included remixes.
If you don’t want to bother with the deluxe, at least make sure you own Jailbreak. 5/5 stars