phil lynott

#692: Summer of the Album

GETTING MORE TALE #692: Summer of the Album

I’ve had the same routine for over 10 years: get to work, turn on the radio, and listen. I would occasionally hear new bands that I had to get into. I wouldn’t want to do without Greta Van Fleet, Royal Blood, or A Rebel Few in my life. But every routine eventually gets stale.

For the last several weeks I’ve been trying something different. No matter how much radio tries to shake it up, you are guaranteed to hear certain songs and bands every single day. AC/DC, for example, are a radio staple. You will hear them on rock stations every single day, usually from a pool of 10 to 12 songs. In my regular daily album-listening life, I don’t actually listen to AC/DC that often. In fact, I’m less likely to listen to AC/DC when I hear them on the radio daily.

At the recommendation of Uncle Meat I’ve been loading up flash drives and bringing them to work instead. This has enabled me to not only listen to whoever I feel like, but also given me the ability to play full albums.

The first day without radio was an interesting experiment. In the morning, I played the entire Max Webster The Party box set in its completion. In the afternoon, an album I hadn’t played in years: Neil Diamond’s 20th Century Masters! Part of doing without radio is forcing myself to listen to albums that don’t get regular rotation at home. Especially multi-disc sets. It’s easy to listen to a box set when you’re seated at the same desk for eight hours.

A nice big flash drive means I have hundreds of my favourite albums available at a click, but there are pros and cons.

PROS:

1. The chance to spend my listening time with my own music; hopefully neglected music.
2. Hearing full albums.
3. The ability to “pause” when I am interrupted and have to do something else.

CONS:

1. No traffic or news reports.
2. A feeling of disconnection from the community and friends during the day.
3. Missing those new tunes and rarities that sometimes surprise you on the radio.
4. Going from a stereo radio behind me to a mono speaker in front of me.

It was really weird going without the morning radio news reports at first, but I’m used to it now.

This far into the journey I’ve played virtually every studio album by Kiss and Black Sabbath.  I’m working my way through Priest next, and a whole bunch of soundtracks. I actually played Jeff Wayne’s legendary War of the Worlds musical two days in a row, so enthralled was I with the album.  Featuring Justin Hayward, Richard Burton, and Philip flippin’ Lynott, it is an album I am glad to have finally caught up on.  It’s the kind of thing you need to have the time to play, the more the better.

Hopefully, listening to more albums will enable me to review more albums. The unfortunate thing is not being exposed to new and unfamiliar songs. I’ll just have to rely on readers and other sources for that.

With flash drives by my side, 2018 will be the Summer of the Album. Let’s see how this experiment works!

 

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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

REVIEW: Black Star Riders – All Hell Breaks Loose (2013)

BLACK STAR RIDERS – All Hell Breaks Loose (2013 Nuclear Blast CD/DVD set)

Epic Review Time again!  This time it’s a CD/DVD combo set, the debut album by Black Star Riders.  You might know the guys from Black Star Riders by another name they sometimes use: Thin Lizzy.  Scott Gorham put a Lizzy lineup back together in 1996, over the years utilizing Lizzy alumni such as himself, John Sykes, Darren Wharton, and Brian Downey.  But when it came to creating new music, why did they change their name?

Let’s begin by reviewing the DVD, which answers this question and any others you may have about who Black Star Riders are.

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Scott explains that he and Brian Downey really decided not to do a “Thin Lizzy” album because of their own discomfort with the idea. Without Phil, it didn’t seem right. The rest of the band were disappointed because they had written 17 new songs they were excited about. But they would not add a Lizzy album to the canon without Phil.  Singer Ricky Warwick (The Almighty) says that once that decision was made to record with a new name, he found inspiration from a western movie featuring a gang called the “Black Star” gang. He liked the gang mentality. But Brian Downey dropped out early in the proceedings (although he did participate in writing some of the material.)   New drummer Jimmy Degrasso (Megadeth) explains that Thin Lizzy’s special sound comes from a Blues/R&B swing, and of course the “dual guitar armies”. They aimed to keep these qualities with Black Star Riders. Guitarist Damon Johnson believes that Ricky Warwick’s lyrical prowess is exemplary, and carries the Lizzy spirit. I would have to agree.

Recruiting producer extraordinaire Kevin Shirley (Iron Maiden),  the album was done in 12 days. They did one song start to finish each day. It was recorded as live as possible, simply because they only had 12 days!

Unfortunately for me, there just isn’t enough behind the scenes footage on the DVD. There’s a little: brief glimpses of writing and recording sessions. The disc is made up mostly of interviews. Gorham, Warwick, Degrasso, Johnson, bassist Marco Mendoza and producer Shirley take turns in front of the camera. It is quite extensive; this is not a short DVD. (I don’t see a time listed anywhere but I’d guess it was an hour long.)  Subjects covered include Phil Lynott, songwriting, pressure, inspiration, guitar solos, Ireland and more. Each individual song is discussed in detail.


Now that you’re familiar with Black Star Riders, we can discuss the album All Hell Breaks Loose.  Which is a killer.

You could easily mistake the title track for an outtake from the Jailbreak album, or Johnny the Fox perhaps.  Though there is only one Phil, Ricky Warwick’s voice occupies the same range.  His lyrics are storytelling much like Phil’s were, and they both share similar interests in history and gang mentalities.  This is as close as anyone has ever gotten to Thin Lizzy (and no wonder).  I love when, just before the solo, Warwick cries, “Alright Scotty!”  But Johnson joins Scott for the second part of the solo, recreating the classic Lizzy guitar sound.  Then, the single “Bound For Glory” completely captures the goodtime vibe of “Boys Are Back In Town”.  It’s a great choice for a single, and once again you could easily mistake it for an outtake from Jailbreak.   Just like Phil would do, there’s even an Elvis reference in the lyrics.  You truly get the feeling that All Hell Breaks Loose is as much a new album by these guys as it is a tribute to Lynott.

“Kingdom of the Lost” captures the Irish spirit of Lizzy.  Traditional Irish instruments join the band, and it’s in the same vein as a Lizzy track like “Black Rose”.  I should mention now that while each song feels like an homage to Phil, none sound like a re-write.  They capture the spirit without being note-for-note ripoffs, and I think that is an extraordinarily difficult thing to accomplish.

“Bloodshot” gave me a different feeling, which is while the riff has Lizzy elements, it sounds more “southern rock” to me.  Nothing wrong with that either.  “Kissin’ the Ground” then has a more “hard rock” sound, almost like something Damon Johnson might have written with Alice Cooper (who he used to play with) in mind.  But then the excellent chorus is one of the most Lizzy-like.  Then “Hey Judas” (a play on the title “Hey Jude”) is pure Lizzy, 110%. There is no question that Scott Gorham has carried so much of the Thin Lizzy sound into the present.  “Hey Judas” often finds itself as my favourite song (alternating with “Bound for Glory” and “Valley of the Stones”).   Then onto “Hoodoo Voodoo”, where I think the album sags.  I don’t think this is a standout.  Since the aforementioned “Valley of the Stones” is next, the decline is only brief.  This metallic stomp is like a highspeed Mad Max race through the desert, searching for the mystical valley of the stones itself.  Fear not through, the guitar duels keep it within Lizzy Nation.

If things have been a bit heavy, then the gleeful “Someday Salvation” captures that “Dancing in the Moonlight” swing of early Lizzy.  Then “Before the War” has an appropriate military beat.  I’m sure this is an excellent song in concert; you can shout along.  The last song on the regular edition of the CD is “Blues Ain’t So Bad”, a dusky slow rock song.  But I think the better closer is the “bonus track” “Right to be Wrong”.  That “better believe it!” shout-along hook is just great, and this upbeat song just smokes.

As you can no doubt see, I would have found it an impossible challenge to write this review without comparing to Thin Lizzy.  But I don’t think that’s important; the band clearly intended to follow in those footsteps.  If anybody has a right to, it’s Black Star Riders.

4.5/5 stars

CO-REVIEW: Funky Junction – Play a Tribute to Deep Purple (1973)

AN INTERNET FIRST:  LeBrain and the Heavy Metal OverloRd have combined forces to bring you our very first co-review!  We have chosen the rare album album by Funky Junction — a little known outfit better recognized under the name Thin Lizzy!  Perhaps you have heard of them.

For the purposes of this review, LeBrain will be in black and HMO will be in blue.

FUNKY JUNCTION – Play a Tribute to Deep Purple (1973 Damont)

HMO: I like a challenge. Ever since hearing about Mike’s “Holy Grail” list of rarities I’ve been determined to find some for him here in Scotland. Given that I’m Scottish, this obsession with Holy Grails probably makes me Sean Connery to his Indiana Jones. Or something like that. At any rate, I’ll be calling him “Junior” from now on. I saw this record in Glasgow’s Missing Records and, knowing the hidden Thin Lizzy connection, I emailed Mike to see if he had it. He replied that it was on his Holy Grail list! Ya dancer! On closer inspection, however, the shop-copy looked too scratched to be worth even the £2.50 asking price. But the discovery gave me hope that I might find a better copy for him online… and here it is!

LeBrain: The band on the front cover wasn’t them. Their names appear nowhere on the LP packaging. All we’re told on the record jacket is that Funky Junction “are an exciting new group that has the pulse of today.” But for all intents and purposes, Funky Junction was Thin Lizzy:

Phil Lynott – bass guitar
Brian Downey – drums
Eric Bell – guitar
Benny White – vocals
Dave Lennox – keyboards

Since Phil Lynott couldn’t sing Ian Gillan’s high notes, and since Thin Lizzy didn’t have a keyboard player, the band hired members of another Irish group called Elmer Fudd to record the album, which they did in one day!

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“Fireball” is one of my favourite Deep Purple tracks. Even though Eric Bell referred to singer Benny White as an “Ian Gillan” clone, I don’t hear that at all. A Rod Evans clone, perhaps. “Fireball” is largely based on the drums, so we’re in safe territory here. Brian Downey is one of the few drummers who could give Ian Paice a run for his money in 1973. Not a bad cover I suppose, if you’re eager to hear was “Fireball” would have sounded like with Rod Evans singing.

Totally agree with you on the singer. The guy is so Rod Evans he was probably wearing gold lamé trousers while he was singing this. It’s an ok version in a “pub covers band” sort-of way. Brian Downey’s drumming is impressive, Phil’s bass solo… not so much.

“Dan” (credited to the German business man, Leo Muller, that conceived of and financed this project) is brief guitar instrumental. It’s supposed to sound like “Danny Boy” in a Hendrixian style, and I suppose that’s the right ballpark. Eric Bell fans will dig it, but as a song…next!

I like Eric’s tone here but it’s a lazy arrangement: just playing the melody and wanging his bar every now and again. It’s definitely the most Lizzy-esque song here though.

Funky Junction settle into a light groove on “Black Night”. This is a pretty faithful cover. What I like about this performance is Eric Bell’s way of improvising his own guitar solo within the style that Blackmore set for this song. The organ solo however is pretty caveman by comparison to Jon Lord. Pretty stock cover.

I’m actually fairly impressed by how faithful this one is, and a good approximation of the sound too. Eric Bell and Brian Downey are still the classiest acts here but it doesn’t have anywhere near the edge of the Purple original. Still, one of the more enjoyable outings here.

I like that I can hear Phil Lynott’s personal bass style on “Palamatoon” but the lame keyboards sound out of place on this album. I don’t know how to describe this instrumental original except to say that, as usual, Eric Bell’s soloing is a highlight.

It’s cool to hear Phil on this. His bass line reminded me of “Little Girl in Bloom” a bit. It’s just a shame that this tune is so bad. It’s like Emerson Lake and Palmer but pissed as farts. John Peel once described ELP as “a waste of talent and electricity”. He was wrong. But this song definitely is.

“Strange Kind of Woman” is pretty limp. Once again, if you were eager to hear this Purple classic performed by a Rod Evans clone, this is the one. Downey and Bell are the highlights of a pretty dull performance.

I’m finding the Rod Evans factor to be one of the more interesting aspects of this. If it wasn’t so workaday you could almost imagine these are some long-lost Deep Purple sessions from before they gave poor Rod the heave-ho. But apart from the “what if?” fantasising… dull.

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Side two commences with the Deep Purple Mk I hit, “Hush” (actually a Billy Joe Royal cover). I find this one irritating. The singer’s enunciation bugs me. Deep Purple decided to anchor their version with a long keyboard solo. Unfortunately Funky Junction struggle to make their solo as interesting.

I think I liked this one more than you, Junior. This and Black Night are the two best Purple covers here. Not very inspiring on record but if they were playing it live at a pub I think I’d get into it. Benny sounds totally at home here, finally giving it the full, glorious Rod Evans. Probably with bouffant hair and a frilly shirt now too! Gaun’ yersel’ big man!

Even though we all know “Rising Sun” is a cover of “House of the Rising Sun” (a traditional), here Leo Muller takes songwriting credit! I hope he enjoyed what little royalties he earned from the meager sales of this LP. This is another instrumental cover, with a snooze-inducing ending.

Cheeky scamp that Leo Muller, eh? I’m surprised he didn’t just change his name to Traditional and watch the money flood in. Nice sound and a decent performance on this song but mostly goes in one ear and out the other.

I appreciate that Funky Junction chose to retain that noisy, messy intro to “Speed King”. I’m afraid that of all the songs, “Speed King” suffers the most from the inadequate singer. Fortunately the Lizzy guys are talented enough to play the tune properly.

Everything we’ve mentioned previously seems to work against them on Speed King. The caveman keyboards, the tameness. And the poor Rod Evans impersonator sounding like all your worst Karaoke nightmares (but with the added embarrassment of those trousers). It’s cool that they included the noisy intro (I think Leo Muller wrote that) but this is the worst Purple version here by a good margin.

“Corina” closes the album, a vocal track credited to Muller. It’s a cool blues that fits in with a Deep Purple Mk I vibe. I don’t mind this track too much. It’s nothing special but at least it’s not overshadowed by a superior Deep Purple version.

An OK boogie. It’s still making me think of pubs mostly. The lead guitar is the best thing about this one.

2/5 stars. Recommended primarily to fans of Eric Bell.

2.5/5 stars. I agree with Mike but I’m going to throw in an extra half-point because I thought the Rod Evans impersonator was a hoot.

  1. “Fireball” (Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Jon Lord, Ian Paice)
  2. “Dan” (Leo Muller)
  3. “Black Night” (Blackmore, Gillan, Glover, Lord, Paice)
  4. “Palamatoon” (Muller)
  5. “Strange Kind of Woman” (Blackmore, Gillan, Glover, Lord, Paice)
  1. “Hush” (Joe South)
  2. “Rising Sun” (Muller)
  3. “Speed King” (Blackmore, Gillan, Glover, Lord, Paice)
  4. “Corina” (Muller)

Part 299: More Journals

RECORD STORE TALES Part 299: More Journals

A sequel to Part 244: Diary of a Mad Record Store Man.  I think the journal entries speak for themselves, so here they are.

Date: 2004/08/10
On this Marillion live disc, Fish just dedicated the entire Misplaced Childhood record to Phil Lynott…he must have just passed away when it was recorded.  That’s heavy, man.  My two lyrical heroes, Fish and Lynott…

Date: 2004/08/24
Crazy to think that I’ve been in this business for 10 years, and only now am I starting to listen to Buddy Holly. Sad to think what I’ve been missing all these years!  I can’t believe how great Buddy’s music was.  It’s really clicking with me, I just love Buddy Holly!

Date 2005/01/30
Some dude was just in here throwing a pencil at us because he didn’t have a receipt.  I AM TOO OLD FOR THIS SHIT.  I need to get THE FUCK out of here.

PENCIL THROW

 

 

 

REVIEW: Thin Lizzy – Thin Lizzy (2010 remastered edition)

THIN LIZZY – Thin Lizzy / New Day EP (2010 Decca, originally 1971)

Nothing against early Lizzy — I do like Vagabonds of the Western World. On this one, Lizzy’s first ever wax, they had not yet evolved into the dual guitar duelers that they were to become. A trio with Eric Bell, Brian Downey and Philip himself, the evolution of Lizzy is similar to that of Deep Purple. Both bands had to overcome three sleepy early albums with a prototypical lineup before they became the rock gods that they were destined to be.

Thin Lizzy includes a few good songs, my favourite being “Ray-Gun”. However, I must reiterate that this is a sleepy album. The component parts are all fine — great guitar work, great drumming, interesting riffs and lyrics scattered here and there. They never quite coalesce into memorable songs, except on spare occasions.

In fact, the bonus tracks on this CD version of Thin Lizzy are actually superior to the album itself! Their first single, “The Farmer” is better than most of the album tracks.  The cool thing is that “The Farmer” was recorded when Lizzy were a quartet with Eric Wrixton on keyboards.  Notably, “The Farmer’s” B-side, “I Need You”, is absent and I don’t know where else you’d find it.  It’s not on Lizzy’s excellent Vagabonds, Kings, Warriors, Angels box set either (although “The Farmer” is). Bummer.

NEW DAY EPThe New Day EP is here in its completion, containing some great songs. The mournful ballad “Dublin” and “New Day” are both great songs. Interesting is “Old Moon Madness”, a workout that sounds like Thin Lizzy meets Captain Beefheart without the growling vocals. “Things Ain’t Working Out Down At The Farm” is the final tune from the New Day EP, another decent track. What’s with Phil’s obsession with farmers? “Return of the Farmer’s Son” is another song title on the album itself….

The CD is closed by four remixes from the 1977 album The Continuing Saga of the Aging Orphans, where Gary Moore and Midge Ure overdubbed new guitar and keyboard parts to modernize the songs. These remixes are generally preferred by me to the original versions. I would love a proper reissue of The Continuing Saga of the Aging Orphans, as a handful of its tracks have yet to be issued on CD.

Not the greatest album. The bonus material is superior.

2.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Thin Lizzy – Thunder and Lightning (180 gram vinyl with bonus 12″)

THIN LIZZY – Thunder and Lightning (1983, 180 gram Back on Black reissue)

I love this album, it was actually the first Lizzy studio album I bought, on vinyl, from Tom’s store way back in the late 1990’s.  I’ve always loved John Sykes from his work in Whitesnake and Blue Murder.

Thunder and Lightning is the final Lizzy studio album.  It’s definitely the most metal, but it’s not the best sounding one (gimme Black Rose for that honour). It just strikes that chord inside. You know how certain albums just click with you and you don’t know why? That’s Thunder and Lightning for me, but I think it reminds me of that general vibe of heavy metal music in 1983.  There are times it reminds me of Judas Priest.

This is the only album from the Lynott/Gorham/Downey/Wharton/Sykes lineup.  It is produced by Chris Tsangarides (Anvil, Judas Priest). Wharton and Sykes both scored songwriting credits, which may be why this album sounds so much more “metal”.  Wharton’s keys are not obtrusive.

Best track:   Gorham and Lynott’s “Bad Habits”. If there was one track that sounded like old Lizzy circa Johnny The Fox, it’s “Bad Habits”. It’s just a rock and roller of a song with killer lyrics.  Phil’s voice is noticeably a lot more raw, worn, but he works within his limitations as always.  His voice remains as expressive as ever.  In “Bad Habits” he sounds like he’s jonesing as bad as the title implies.

“Cold Sweat” is the one that Sykes co-wrote, and it is very metal, featuring his trademark guitar squeals and yet more great lyrics from Lynott. “I got a whole month’s wages, I haven’t seen that much in ages, I might spend it in stages, and move out to Las Vegas.”  Love it.  Sung by Lynott, those lines tell a whole story.

IMG_00000235_editReally, there’s not a bad song on this album. “This Is The One” has some relentless pounding drums courtesy of Brian Downey (one of the true greats). “The Sun Goes Down” is a slower one with a keyboard solo, very atmospheric. It reminds me of the similarly titled “Night Comes Down” by Judas Priest. “Holy War” is another relentless pounder with a message to be heard. Not a bad track to be found.

If I had any complaints it would probably be the mix/production which at times comes across as a bit too bombastic and 80’s.  I mean, it’s still Thin Lizzy, one of the classiest sounding bands ever.  Thunder and Lightning is pretty evolved in sound from a classic like Jailbreak, and that may or may not be to your taste.

Some vinyl and cassette versions of Thunder and Lightning came with four bonus live tracks.  They are actually from the Renegade tour and feature Snowy White on guitar instead of his replacement John Sykes.  Thankfully, the current Back on Black 180 gram vinyl release restores the rare 12″ bonus EP.  The four songs are “Emerald”, “Killer on the Loose”, “The Boys are Back in Town”, and “Hollywood (Down on Your Luck)”.  These are great tracks.  It also has a gatefold sleeve with lyrics inside.  It’s a very nice package.

I’ve heard that 2013 will see the release of more Lizzy deluxe editions, including Thunder and Lightning.  If that’s the case I will pre-order it as soon as I hear about it.  There are still several B-sides from this period that are not currently available, such as “Angel of Death”, “Still in Love With You”, and “Don’t Believe a Word” live, and a remix of “The Sun Goes Down”.  I don’t have these tracks, but it sure would be nice to get everything on one deluxe CD package, wouldn’t it?  You guys paying attention, Universal?

5/5 stars

LIZZY

REVIEW: Thin Lizzy – Jailbreak (deluxe edition)

JAILBREAK FRONT

THIN LIZZY – Jailbreak (2011 deluxe edition)

Jailbreak!

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

REVIEW: Thin Lizzy – Johnny The Fox (deluxe edition)

JOHNNY FRONTTHIN LIZZY – Johnny the Fox (2011 deluxe edition)

When my copy of Johnny The Fox had arrived, it was the last of the initial three Lizzy deluxe editions that I required. For some reason, it took two months to arrive. The wait over, I eagerly devoured this new remastered edition.

As always with these deluxe editions, the packaging is impressive. The cover art looks great, there are liner notes galore, and a bunch of pictures. The remastering was crisp and clear. Job well done. Where this deluxe edition falls short is on the bonus material. I found the bonus material a bit tedious this time out, with some tracks being mere curiosities and nothing you’d really care to listen to more than a couple times.

Johnny The Fox, as an album, is one of my Lizzy favourites. It features the classic lineup of Lynott, Downey, Gorham and Robertson and has some of the best lesser-known Lizzy album cuts. “Massacre” is a Maiden-eque stomp through some bloody history (Maiden covered it later). “Fools Gold” is some fantastic mid-tempo storytelling. I absolutely love this song, emotional and strong. My favourite song, “Borderline”, is a ballad with a slight twang and Phil hitting all the right notes with a beautiful bassline. This is just a very well rounded rock album, with lots of great songs like “Johnny” and “Boogie Woogie Dance” that just jump out at you.

And let’s not forget “Don’t Believe A Word”, one of the best known Lizzy classics.  Great song, absolutely timeless.  Not to be outshone are classics such as the tough “Rocky” and the cool funk of “Johnny the Fox Meets Jimmy the Weed”.  This album was Lizzy at their peak, the classic lineup, and a record equally as powerful as the slightly better known Jailbreak.

Even the lyrics are Lynott at his prime!  Check out “Johnny the Fox Meets Jimmy the Weed”:

In the back of a black Cadillac,
The voodoo music travels,
Down Skid Row only black men can go,
The shady deal unravels

See how Lynott also gave a shout-out to his old band, Skid Row, with Gary Moore?

Listening to Johnny The Fox now, I hear no weak songs.  “Old Flame” is a pretty ballad with the dual guitar thing going on,  a ballad as only Lizzy could do it.  Only the slow “Sweet Marie” is as close as you get to a dud.

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The bonus disc starts off with two Joe Elliot remixes (“Don’t Believe A Word” and “Johnny”). Once again, Elliot has beefed up the sound while maintaining the integrity of the track. I know that they took great pains to fix every out of tune note, but you honestly don’t really detect it. I’m sure you could if you tried, but just enjoying the tracks, it doesn’t sound too messed with.

There are some good BBC Sessions up next, all very tight and sounding not too dissimilar for the album tracks. Unfortunately by now you have heard “Don’t Believe A Word” and “Johnny” three times each. You’re also about to hear “Johnny the Fox Meets Jimmy the Weed” a third time, this one a lo-fi instrumental take. There are four of these instrumental rehearsals in total, and honestly they’re extraneous. This kind of stuff, while interesting to listen to on an analytical level, were never meant for public consumption. Fortunately, this disc ends with a neat rough demo called “Scott’s Tune” that is a previously unknown musical idea by Scott Gorham. Nice find.

On the whole, I don’t regret this purchase, I’m glad to have the complete set of Lizzy deluxe editions. The packaging is very nice and the Joe Elliot remixes are strong. Some material I’ll be itching to skip over next time. It’s not the best deluxe edition ever.

4.5 /5 stars. (5 stars for album/4 for reissue)

REVIEW: Thin Lizzy – Chinatown (deluxe edition)

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THIN LIZZY – Chinatown (2011 deluxe edition)

Thanks again Amazon!  I recently collected all the Thin Lizzy Deluxe Editions.  Eventually, I’ll review them all.  Today, I’m doing one of the lesser known albums, 1980’s Chinatown.

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You know, it’s funny how perspective changes. When I first got this album a few years back, “Sugar Blues” was my least favourite track. Now, it’s my favourite. Just listen to that Snowy White guitar solo with headphones on, and dig into that driving rhythm.  Incredible.

In general, I enjoy Chinatown a lot more now. There are some strikingly great Thin Lizzy tunes on here, albeit a bit less complex than previous albums. “Killer On The Loose” remains a great heavy metal song with brilliant soloing courtesy of Gorham. “We Will Be Strong”, the slightly understated opener, is also a personal favourite. It may not be loaded to the gills with familiar songs, but Chinatown is still a fine Lizzy platter.

Another winner is “Genocide (The Killing of the Buffalo)”.  Some might wonder what right an Irish man has to criticize what the white American did to his land.  I think it’s a pretty straightforward and clear-cut position.   It’s also a great song, riffy and solid.

“Having A Good Time” is an enjoyable romp (Phil’s cheerleading being infectious) with yet another Snowy solo that just sails. It just rides the song beautifully and elevates the whole thing. Personally, I think Snowy’s work with Thin Lizzy has been among the most interesting.  He may not have been the “right” guy for Lizzy (discuss!) but his work cannot be dismissed.  As an interesting bluesy sideroad, the Snowy White era of Thin Lizzy is as compelling as the previous eras.

This deluxe edition adds a bonus disc of extra goodies that is well worth the price. (At press time, selling for about $17 on Amazon.ca, although I paid $32.50 CAD when it was just out.)  The B-side “Don’t Play Around” is stellar. While the live take of “Sugar Blues” is previously available on the Thin Lizzy box set (smoking solo by the way), “Whiskey In The Jar” is a really interesting version. Performed as a trio by Phil Lynott, Brian Downey and Midge Ure (apparently because Snowy and Scott don’t know the song?), it’s a very different, simplified version of the song but no less catchy.

As with all Thin Lizzy deluxe editions, there’s an extensive booklet with photos, facts, figures, interviews, and so on.  I enjoy reading along as I listen.

5/5 stars