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By 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 to satisfy the strict music reviewers, journalists and fans. By the time this record was released, heavy metal already became fast, hard and aggressive: Rainbow, Scorpions, Judas Priest and Motörhead drove 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 join the group – fortunately Robbo was no longer with them, as Gorham himself recalls:
“Brian had to go – Gary just pretty flawlessly stepped in. We didn’t miss a beat. And I don’t think Gary needed much persuading. This time, he really wanted to be in the band”.
“Do Anything You Want To” or “Waiting For An Alibi” became instant classics, it came as no surprise because that fresh, enjoyable sound was 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 are delightfully-played – as catchy as the main chorus itself, well-developed and including proper alterations to avoid much homogeneity. Expect no incredible technique or complexity – as usual, Lizzy’s intention is based on making music, not an impressive display of skills. The result is good, fun and working fine, even though music remains brutally simple and easy. “Toughest Street In Town” and “S & M” are the cool fillers in the long-play, on which the music stays kinda repetitive and technically-humble, with vocals becoming the main attraction (specially the kinky, horny verses of Lynott about fetishism, rape, bondage and BDSM – not explicit, rather subtle and sarcastic). There are some dexterous and solid riffs, licks and traces of funky influence in these as well that will make you enjoy, although the final result might be forgettable and generic. The ballad “Sarah” (nothing to do with the Eric Bell years song) and “Get Out Of Here” are, on other hand more polished, sophisticated – with more remarkable arrangements, in particular the short but effective pickin’ parts and the perfect string section harmonies. 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 his and Gorham’s druggy lifestyle at the time, as Scott says:
“I questioned the subject matter on that one. It was the unwritten rule: We tried to hide the whole drug thing, because if you got busted you couldn’t work in a lot of countries. But Phil said “It’s a cool lyric, I dig what I’m saying here and I really believe it”. That was Phil”.
The amazing mid-paced, rough riffs are really crude and deep, while the solos are pure art and talent, almost as emotional as the lyrics themselves in one of Lizzy’s greatest, darkest moments; but they save the best for the last: the epic 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 Lizzy displayed on that one speak for itself – whether you like this band or not, you can’t deny it’s a serious effort. Actually is a nice surprise to hear Lynott and co. performing such a difficult song with complicated structure-patterns and many rhythm shifts with a nice addition of Irish folk reminiscence, Celtic myth, history and imagination; it was definitely unpredictable and fresh, away from their distinctive, simple music style (nothing to do with the weak, primitive filler “With Love”, for instance, which was originally slated for Lynott’s solo album).
Solid and convincing, those are the adjectives that describe this stuff better. The contribution of guitar virtuoso Gary Moore must be highlighted, as he brought a lot of energy and passion to the band with his unique style and brilliant technique. His solos are the greatest, most creative this group ever had, away from Robertson’s predictable mediocrity and wah-wah pedal effect abuse. Gorham admits:
“He had a lot of ideas, and obviously his playing spoke for himself. His style of playing pushed everybody to become better players, to tighten up a little. Having a guy like Gary coming in, it got me up on my feet”.
The rest of the personnel did a great job as well: remarkable Scott Gorham, probably the most efficient musician of the mid-late 70’s hard rock, with his notable rhythm guitar parts and solos always talented, passionate and admirably-executed – getting along very well musically with Mr. Moore, able to cope with his partner’s huge ego. Rhythm section Lynott-Downey too is more present here than on the previous long-play, both drums and bass are louder and sounding 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 lead guitars and vocals. The weak spots in the pack this time are that trio of fillers I commented before, on which the band repeats the same chorus schemes and lines to make them commercial and catchy (the typical tactic of pop), instead of putting attention on instrumental passages. Fortunately, that only happens in a few numbers here, so the rest is pretty consistent. Visconti’s production and Kit Woolven’s engineering job are absolutely professional, deserving recognition and glory for the success of this album as much as the musicians themselves – I mean, can you imagine the title-track with a mediocre, fluffy production and mix?
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 soon. It was obvious they couldn’t keep the old clichés 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 introducing some changes. But in 1979 their future didn’t seem so uncertain yet, as 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, these Irish rockers were still having fun with his old formulas and style. But not for long...Gorham recalls:
“You can’t say that drugs aren’t fun, because they are. But when you start to have a problem with drugs, that’s when the fun stops. And when you’re doing heroin, you’ve got a big-ass problem in your hands…”
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.