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Considered by most of people the album of the drastic sound change of Thin Lizzy, this 5th release show a considerable progression from the 4 disastrous wrecks. The band couldn’t keep playing that inconsistent old-fashioned music, otherwise they would have been condemned to languish in obscurity forever, and they knew were aware of that. For the first time in their career, the group start to develop and own sound that hasn’t got much to do with their early 70’s lame imitation of The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Cream, although the influence of classic blues and ancient rock & roll is still notable in many of these tracks. Now Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham start to get along much better on their guitar parts and both also contribute in the song writing task.
“Fighting My Way Back”, “Suicide” and “Ballad Of A Wah-Wah Pedal” (that is its proper title) are the greatest tunes the band made in 4 years of mediocrity. Guitars take control and all attention during the elaborated instrumental passages with riff variations and extended solos and jams. Giving the string section more presence, importance and value was a sensible choice, we were getting tired of so many pianos, mellotrons, organs and mandolins. I must highlight the tough crude sound of the guitars in those tracks, that provide Lizzy’s music of an unexpected big dose of power and solidity. Better arrangements, more virtuosism and less vocals make the compositions sound coherent and skilled; the finest moments in the pack. “King’s Vengeance”, “Silver Dollar” and the Bob Seger cover “Rosalie” are not that vigorous or dynamic, rather clumsy and cold at times, with some lack of passion but enjoyable; vocals in these are catchy and more notable than the humble instrumental support to Lynott’s lines. “Spirit Slips Away” and “Freedom Song” are the quietest most relaxing tunes here; basic chords, whispering vocals and slow tempos is what those are all about, far from exciting or memorable. “For Those Who Love To Live” and “Wild One” mean an historic moment for the band, not because they’re splendid or magnificent (not at all), it’s because those are the first compositions to feature the distinctive and unique melodic guitar harmonies of Scott and Robbo, that would become an essential element in each song in later albums. Here, these harmonies sound slightly primitive and weak, both guitarist would develop their technique further after this record. However, that couple of songs are extremely repetitive in their main chorus, their structure is very basic and dumb, and verses too cheesy, so the final result is forgettable.
The album is not bad, just not aggressive and solid enough. Most of the numbers are amusing but not strong enough musically or impressing. The progression and improvement of the instrumental performance of each band member is huge, but Lizzy are wasting again their potential and possibilities in too many cheesy calmed bluesy tunes. I love blues, don’t get me wrong, it’s not incompatible with rock music, in fact we all know rock came from it. The problem is that they put so much emphasis on their blues devotion and obsession instead of working harder on playing and writing something of their own. I wonder once again why there are so many slow relaxing numbers, most sound like lullabies for babies and children with no power or attitude, so a big percentage of the music in this long-play is more like AOR rather than rock, that means it’s commercial, peaceful and inoffensive. But if we focus on the positive characteristics, it’s clear the songs are a bit more complex and skilled than before, however, they’re still easy and simple. Now they write guitar-based songs, making a proper use of Gorham and Robertson’s abilities and talent, so vocals are not that significant to develop the tunes. The lenght of the pickin’ parts is longer, and the quantity bigger, another sensible choice to give strenght and continuity to their music. The lyrics are not only talking about love, happiness and puppies, luckily, Lynott introduces some fantasy, suicide, rebellion and real life issues that are interesting, serious and believable. The Keith Harwood sound engineering is weak at times, other times tough, specially in the most raw and intense tracks but decent for the material of the group, which is far from hard or ambitious. The guitars in 70% of the long-play are non-distorted and totally clean, not dirty or heavy at all, rather sophisticated and polished, Scott and Robbo’s parts sound very similar to the early work of the fabulous Knopfler brothers of the late 70’s.
I have mixed emotions and impressions about this record, there’s strenghtful moments and forgettable moments, but I’m afraid the dynamic amusing cuts are the exception, rather than the rule. The progression compared with the previous abysmal release is enormous, but not big enough to excite or impress, nor make a difference from the ten thousand generic rock groups of those times. Still they had changes to make and hard work to do to reach their glorious future and success. Their empty cold studio work would get more passionate and astonishing in the next album, so I guess this is more of a phase of transition between old and new Lizzy. By the way, I could have lived without seeing Brian Robertson and Phil Lynott’s naked torsos in that Keith Morris cover photo.
Now to continue my one man quest to get you to put down your Viking metal albums and other silly things from Scandinavia and get you to listen to some Thin Lizzy! This is for your own good! Anyway, yes no reviews for this one either but than can be expected as ‘Fighting’ is one of the lesser known Lizzy albums which always struck me as odd as it’s a fucking corker.
‘Fighting’ is perhaps most significant as it’s the album where Brian ‘Robbo’ Robertson and Scott ‘Joni Mitchell’ Gorham discovered their signature twin guitar sound, meaning guitar harmonies a plenty. Also ‘Fighting’ can be considered the first truly focused and more importantly hard rocking Lizzy album, as previous albums weren’t really too consistent and showed a band trying and often failing to find their own identity.
Song wise Fighting shows a band truly hitting their stride, of course most will have you believe that ‘Jailbreak’ was the bands turning point, commercially this is true but ‘Fighting’ is a excellent collection of melodic hard rock songs that I must stress shouldn’t be overlooked. Bob Seger’s ‘Rosalie’ kicks things off and it’s a nice little rocking number, however when compared with the ‘Live and Dangerous’ version it sounds a tad weedy, but that minor gripe aside (‘Live and Dangerous’ absolutely destroys! Listen to it now!) it’s a still a classic fat slice of Thin Lizzy (Alan Partridge? Answers on a postcard). ‘For Those Who Love to Live’ is an overlooked masterpiece, and dedicated to another dead Irish legend George ‘Pist’ Best (an alcoholic football player, to those of you who don’t know), this is the first Lizzy song to display the twin guitar harmony sound that would prove so influential. ‘Suicide’ is the hardest rocking song on this album and well flat out rocks, Robbo’s guitar solo is one of my favourites especially the lick where he plays a double stop and then slides it up an octave, simply magic! ‘Wild One’ is simply one of the finest ballads the band, or anyone else for that matter has ever done. It’s steeped in Irish history and is sentimental and romantic without being sappy, something very few could pull off, but Phillip Lynott being god, of course could. Also take note guitar fans, the harmonised lead is absolutely magnificent it sends shivers down my spine, see I told you this was better than Viking metal! ‘Fighting My Way Back’ is another overlooked yet masterful Thin Lizzy track, upbeat and hard rocking. ‘King’s Vengeance’ yet again is exceptionally good, yet no ones heard the thing! Please, rock fans give this album a listen. ‘Spirit Slips Away’ is strangely ominous and during the songs recording Scott and Robbo supposedly discovered their guitar harmony sound but its one of the albums weaker moments. ‘Silver Dollar’ is just a bit of filler really, nothing too offensive but it doesn’t really warrant repeated listens. ‘Freedom Song’, sentimental and overtly romanticised but Phil and the boys pull it off in style, some lovely guitar harmonies and a story of a man being hung and shouting freedom (sounds like a Mel Gibson film!). ‘Ballad of a Hard Man’ is a funky hard rocker, but Lizzy could do funky quite well as Phil was black, however this rule doesn’t always work, for instance I don’t think Entombed could do funk…….but I digress.
This is without doubt the classic Thin Lizzy line up, the whole band shine and not a single note is out of place. Phil Lynott is not only the consummate songwriter but also a impossibly tight bassist with an instantly recognisable fat bass sound. Brian Downey, is one of the most underrated drummers in rock, hard hitting, neat and tight with a distinctive style. Now, at this point I must stress that Brian Robertson was actually better on guitar than Scott Gorham, but still Scott is still excellent although his playing is not quite as jaw dropping as on say ‘Bad Reputation’ or ‘Black Rose’. So Brian Robertson was the best guitar player in Thin Lizzy at this point, I can put this down to the fact that his playing is more balls out, than Scott’s, but then he was a whiskey drinking Scottish mentalist whereas Scott just looked like Joni Mitchell, so there you go.
Well if you want an excellent 70’s Rock ‘n’ Roll album look no further. ‘Fighting’ has it all great songs, exceptional playing and even a touch of romance, well what more could you possibly want?