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In the end of the 70’s, Thin Lizzy were one of the few surviving classic rock bands. Others were forced to break-up or change completely their original sound to face the new times and trends, and satisfy the strict music reviewers, journalists and fans. By the time this record was released, heavy metal already became fast, hard and powerful: Rainbow, Scorpions, Judas Priest and Motörhead drive all kids crazy with their destructive killer sound, their crucial influence would be vital for later sub-genres (thrash, speed, death, power...). What about Lizzy? They refused to make their sound heavier or tougher, just the opposite, they would get stagnant in their bluesy mellow rock music, in the same mid-70’s style. The result of the new album could have been boring and predictable if Gary Moore didn’t joined the group, fortunately Robbo was no longer with them.
“Do Anything You Want To” or “Waiting For An Alibi” became instant classics, it came as no surprise because that fresh enjoyable sound is the best Lizzy played in the last 5 years by that time (or even more). The melodic sweet riff series of the combo Gorham-Moore ar delightful and as catchy as the main chorus itself, well-developed and including proper alterations to avoid repetition and tediousness. Don’t expect an incredible technique and complexity, as usual, Lizzy’s intention is based on making music, not on making an impressive display of skills. The result is good, fun and it works fine, even if the tunes are simple and easy. “Toughest Street” In Town and “S & M” are the naughty fillers in the long-play; the music is kinda quite repetitive and humble, vocals become the main attraction, specially the kinky horny verses of Lynott about rape, bondage and BDSM (not explicit, rather subtle and sarcastic). However, there’s dexterous and solid riffs, licks and traces of funky influence in these that will make you enjoy, but the final result is kinda forgettable and generic. The ballad “Sarah” (nothing to do with the Eric Bell years song) and “Get Out Of Here” are more polished, sophisticated and the arrangements more remarkable, in particular the short but effective pickin’ parts and the perfect harmony of the string section. Lynott’s verses and rhymes are poetic and sensitive, but also sarcastic and funny, so there’s a good balance between romance and humor. The most intense moment of the record is “Got To Give It Up”, a completely different track from the rest, a melancholy dramatic ballad with Phil at his best, his tortured voice, sentiment and unforgettable words will make you shiver and shake. It’s about alcohol addiction as you can guess from the title. The amazing mid-paced rough riffs are really crude and deep, and the solo is pure art and talent, almost as emotional as the lyrics themselves in one of Lizzy’s greatest moments. But that’s not enough, they save the best for the last number: the title-track is an immense epic symphony of virtuosism and technique, plenty of outstanding melodic riffs and harmonies, magnificent solos with both Scott and Gary having a duel to see who plays the finest one, and both win. Somebody named these pickin’ parts the best in the history of rock, but as we all know, opinions are like assholes and everybody has one, although talent and creativity of Lizzy is undisputed and undeniable in that song, whether you like this band or not, you can’t deny the fact. Actually is a nice surprise to hear Lynott and co. performing such a difficult song with complicated structure and many rhythm changes; it was definitely unpredictable and fresh, away from their distinctive simple music style. Nothing to do with the weak and primitive filler “With Love”, for example.
Solid and convincing, those are the adjectives that describe better the stuff in this album. I have to highlight particularly the contribution of guitar virtuoso Gary Moore, he brought a lot of energy and passion to the band with his unique style and brilliant technique. His solos are the greatest and more creative this group ever had, away from Robertson’s predictable mediocrity and wah-wah pedal effect abuse. The rest of the personnel did a great job as well: remarkable Scott Gorham, probably the most efficient musician of the mid and late 70’s hard rock, his notable rhythm guitar parts and solos are always talented and admirable, on each second each track he seemed to get along very well with Mr. Moore and cope with his ego. The rhythmic section Lynott-Downey is more present here than in the previous long-play, both drums and bass are louder and more powerful than ever, Tony Visconti put a lot of emphasis on them in the final mix, so we can clearly hear the rhythm as much as the leading guitars and vocals. The weak spots in the pack this time are that trio of fillers I commented before, on which the band repeat the same chorus and lines to make them commercial and catchy (the typical tactic of pop), instead of putting attention in the instrumental passages. Fortunately, that only happens in a few numbers here, so the rest is fine. Visconti’s production and Kit Woolven engineering job are absolutely perfect, they deserve recognition and glory for the success of this album as much as the band, I mean, can you imagine the title-track with a mediocre weak production and mixing? It wouldn’t have got far at all! So thank you, Tony and Kit.
Thin Lizzy said goodbye to the memorable 70’s with a great record, although it was clear and predictable that the unstoppable changes in the rock scene would affect their success and reputation. It was obvious they couldn’t keep the old cliches in their music if they wanted to survive and compete with the new raw 80’s metal groups. They were too stubborn to admit their mistakes and avoid to introduce some changes. But in 1979 their future didn’t seem so uncertain yet and they could be proud and satisfied with this decent long-play: a classic hard rock album that any 70’s music fan must have. While Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Uriah Heep were drowning in mediocrity sadly, the Irish rockers were still having fun with his old formulas and style. But not for long...
It’s a heavier approach we find Ireland’s finest (sorry, U2) rock band swathed in on this effort, having since dispatched guitarist Brian Robertson (injured in a bar fight, he’d later gone to rattle cages briefly with Motorhead) in favor of Gary Moore. The man’s speed, weight and general all around breathtaking guitar abilities could never be anything but a boon to any band, and this wasn’t the first time Phil Lynott and company had called on him to pinch hit. He’d stepped into the breach on the Bad Reputation tour, and here he is as a full-blown member of the Lizzy lineup proper.
Material wise, it’s another straight shooting collection of material that continues the band’s ever upward spiraling legacy, although fewer and fewer dollars were forthcoming despite the overflowing art on display. A much thicker guitar tone than previous is immediately evident on “Do Anything You Want To,” a rumbling, bass driven number that’s fun, but a shade formulaic by Lizzy’s usually mould-busting standards. The real heat arrives with “Toughest Street In Town,” a tale of rough stuff in the city, fueled by Lynott’s visceral visions, and Moore’s relentless shredding. “Waiting For An Alibi” is a great twin-guitar motivated number; featuring some of the band’s most impressive six string layering ever. “My Sarah” is a lovely tune Lynott wrote for his young daughter, which is hardly appropriate for snarling rock, so Lizzy appropriately perform this one at half-mast, with melodious solos aplenty.
By this time it must be admitted that the man (Lynott) and the band’s drug addiction was on the brink of seriously addling their collective futures. Thus, the frankness with which said addiction is confronted in “Got To Give It Up” is startling, and would be downright morose, if not for boasting some of the band’s toughest riffs ever. It’s clear that whereas most rock stars saw drug ‘n booze excess as their right, Lynott saw it for what it was; a yoke he was sadly not able to walk away from, right up until his death. The far punchier and terse “Get Out Of Here” is a humorous detour, and a real relief, while “Roisin Dubh (Black Rose)” is metal greatness galore. Lyrically recalling “Emerald” from the band’s own Jailbreak, it’s another journey into Lynott’s learned Gaelic mind, and boasts some staggering incendiary guitar work from both Moore and longtime Lizzy accomplice Scott Gorham.
And so the Lizzy rampage rolls on, bloodied, intoxicated and still in search of a sizable audience. From here, there would be two more albums (Chinatown and Renegade) of varying quality and varying lineups (Moore would split, not being able to handle the heroin, whilst Snowy White and Midge Ure would have brief and odd tenures with the band). But just as the skies were darkest, the heavens crashed and suddenly there was Thunder And Lightning. Go directly to 1983, if you please, for Lizzy’s crushing coda.