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1976: Robert De Niro is driving his taxi through the New York wild streets looking for Iris to invite her for breakfast and save her from Sport and moral decadence. Meanwhile, Thin Lizzy were getting ready to record what would be their most successful album ever, after an extensive tour. By that time, the band didn’t find their own sound yet, the previous records with Gorham and Robertson already on guitars were decent but didn’t offer anything really special or memorable, so Thin Lizzy knew they should make something great if they wanted to survive their uncertain future and conquer the U.S. market. The band is now more mature, professional and experienced than before, after several tours and endless gig dates, and learnt a lot from the groups they supported and opened for, so the time was right to make something big.
The opening title-track, “Warrior” and “Emerald” are the finest and most dynamic cuts here, the band concentrate in the instrumental passages and lead breaks to show what they are able to create: pure hard rock at its best. There’s no aggression, speed or fury in these tunes, Lizzy still keep their sophisticated gentle style, but the energy and passion increased significantly since the last album. Gorham and Robertson have been working harder in their solos, now more elaborated and planned, not so improvisated and weak. Riffs are harder and tougher, very solid and well-chosen, coherent and strong, far from technical or marvelous, though. But now everything is working out, the band is in a fine moment and the compositions are strong enough musically to reach an unforgettable result. For example, the group’s biggest hit ever “The Boys Are Back In Town” or the tribute to old western movies “Cowboy Song”, both superb, exquisite and catchy, featuring an effective small collection of basic riffs, licks and perfect harmonies by the guitar combo, along with brilliant verses by Mr. Lynott, all those elements define the legendary sound in these classic rock anthems. The rest of numbers are fine and listenable, like “Angel From The Coast” and “Travis Bickle And The Lonely Girl” (that’s not the song title, but don’t deny it could have fitted the soundtrack of that same year Martin Scorsese movie!), which are the weakest and most inconsistent pop moments of the long-play, extremely mellow and simple but enjoyable; however, their pickin’ parts are as well-executed as any other in the pack. “Running Back” and “Fight Or Fall” are the slow and quiet tunes here, with lyrics taking control while the instruments are left behind as background support; the main chorus is insistent and slightly tedious.
Finally, Lizzy have left behind and forgotten about the bluesy cheesy style that used to define their music in the early 70’s; now the structures of the songs are more versatile and skilled, the riffs harder and more fierce, the tempos more dynamic and the lyrics more mature. Avoiding calmed relaxing love songs and writing more vigorous tunes were the best choices these guys could take, and it’s what makes this long-play so amusing and convincing. The creativity and talent in the group’s performance is also remarkable, in particular this is the moment when both Scott and Robbo’s guitars synchronize and make a difference from everything else we heard before from them or other 70’s bands before. Their distinctive melodic guitar lines and harmonies would make Lizzy’s sound unique, special and memorable from now on. Phil Lynott’s voice also develops and progress in this record, leaving behind his inconsistent lower voice tone to reach all notes properly and provide the music of passion, sentiment and emotion. I must highlight as well the great capacity and ability of these guys to get songs out of 4 notes or a couple of chords, like in most of numbers here that are completely basic and simple, and demonstrate that sometimes less is more when it’s about making commercial music. About the John Alcock production, it’s not that good, specially guitars sound overloaded, too loud and noisy when both attack together in the toughest parts of the compositions, making the music sound clumsy and sloppy, so it’s hard to hear the rhythmic section and voice at times. I can’t deny the lyrics are still cheesy and romantic, but not as comical and dumb as the earliest stuff or later embarrassing tracks. Phil tells some interesting stories and fantasies about sword, sorcery, western poetry and urban issues, his inspired words could have replaced Travis’ lines in some scenes of “Taxi Driver”! By the way, maybe some of you noticed that the original Jim Fitzpatrick cover painting has been modified in the deluxe 2CD reissue and only 3 of the guys appear in it, some hidden message maybe?
Is this Lizzy’s finest album? Well, there’s still some excessively notable cons and handicaps, although the final result of these 9 tracks is satisfactory. This is not a definitive development, because in next releases the Irish rockers’ sound would get much more polished and ambitious. In 1976 though, this was one of the most fresh and exciting records you could find in those critical times for classic rock, that was getting repetitive and predictable. But Lynott and co. still had talent and ideas to survive the fashion and trends and please and satisfy the fans with their classy hard rock. Their hardest rock can be found here, and it didn’t get any harder than this until 1983, that’s for sure! So if you like rock & roll, romance and Irish culture, then this is your album.
If I, one day, ask people about great hard rock bands, they will probably tell me that the greatest bands of that genre are, for example, Deep Purple, AC/DC, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Scorpions, etc. I'm pretty sure they will, unfortunately, never answer “Hard rock bands? Check out Thin Lizzy!”. Meh, world's unfair.
Indeed, this band shows a perfect blend of Irish folk music and country (check out the beginning of Cowboy Song) with the pure hard rock of the 70's. What a mix, isn't it? And, in the end, this mixture works very well, as this album turns out to be pretty good.
Phil Lynott's voice is very similar to the voice of Jimi Hendrix, probably because they are both black persons. So, if you are one of those that think that Hendrix is a fantastic guitar player but an annoying vocalist, forget this record, as you certainly won't enjoy it. Lynott is also the biggest songwriter of the band, as he penned almost every song of the record.
About the guitar work, wow, it's amazing. Unforgettable riffs and solos are present on almost every song; there is also a good use of acoustic guitars here and there, proving the folk edge of the album. The main riff of Angel from the Coast is catchy and one of my favourite riffs ever and, hey boy, that's saying something!
About the drum work... fantastic. I would even say that the drummer (called Downey) delivers the best performance of the record. His style is pretty original if you bear in mind that the majority of the hard rock drummers of the times were robots unable to play other drum pattern than the annoying kick-snare-kick-snare-kick-snare. Downey surely doesn't play complex beats all the time, but he sometimes adds unexpected accents or ghost notes (ghost notes RULE, bear that in mind) that keep the listener interested in the drumming. The best performance is the one on Angel From the Coast, probably - very dynamic and energetic.
So, highlights? The title track is a classic that influenced lots of metal (most notably heavy metal) bands out there. The guitar work is amazing (that main riff, oh my God...) and so is the chorus, which is catchy as hell. Well, in fact, EVERY track contains a good chorus, which shows that Lynott was a skilled songwriter and will keep you listening to the songs again and again and again.
Angel From the Coast is another highlight, perhaps the best song of the album. Boys are Back in Town, one of the biggest hit singles of the band (probably the biggest along the classic Whiskey in the Jar), is also an excellent rocker.
Those three are the best of the more aggressive tunes of the record, since this piece also contains some ballads and calmer songs. Flight or Fall is probably the best soft song of the album, being, again, very catchy and featuring some good instrumental passages.
The album ends with the consistent Emerald, a very good rocker, very much in the vein of the first two tracks.
About the production, wow, it's AMAZING; I don't think that there are albums out there, produced in 1976, that sound better than this one. Yes, it's that great!
This record is also a concept album about some futuristic subject, but I confess that I still don't understand the meaning of it. Anyway, every song stands out in its own way, so don't worry if you don't understand the concept too.
Concluding, this album is a true hard rock classic; although there are no “WOOO FANTASTIC MIND-BLOWING!” songs, every track is competent. The album is also pretty varied, so don't expect an unidimensional piece. Definitely recommended, if you like hard rock/early heavy metal.
Best moments of the CD:
-the beginning of Jailbreak and Angel From the Coast;
-the first vocal lines of Warrior;
-the solos of Emerald.
Pretty nice record, but, although every song is good, it lacks a real amazing track to keep things going. Anyways, good work, Thin Lizzy!
Whenever the metal community discusses the origin of the harmonized melody riff, the innovation is generally ascribed to Iron Maiden. Whether one of these riffs appear on some obscure Swedish death metal demo or as the main part of the latest metalcore favorite, childish accusations usually arise that the band ripped off those gods of British heavy metal. Some dissenters might say they ripped off Judas Priest; still others might say Blue Oyster Cult or Scorpions. But only the truly astute listener will have the foresight to say that they really ripped off Thin Lizzy. But this isn’t about who ripped off who (it’s not like anyone has those i-VI-VII progressions patented anyway) or even about who did it first. It’s about who did it best; an honor reserved for the finest band ever to come out of Ireland, the mighty Thin Lizzy. Fuck U2; they never stood a chance.
Jailbreak is the band’s most well-known album, but I also believe it to be their best. Sure these guys weren’t quite as heavy as some of the other 70’s metal acts at the time, particularly Priest, Sabbath, and Scorpions, but they were just as talented. Guitarists Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham both possess immaculate lead phrasing and a knack for ear-pleasing riffage, not to mention a silky smooth guitar tone. And of course, there’re those trademark harmony riffs that set this band apart from their peers. Phil Lynott’s bass rolls right along with them, but it’s his signature singing style that has earned him renown. His carefree, bluesy delivery and unique voice rule; he presents each song like he was just reminiscing out loud. Drummer Brian Downey rounds out the lineup with his half-classic rock, half-jazzy style. Alright, so they can play well together, but can they write well? A quick run through the album reveals this to be true beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Things kick off with the title track, a crunchy rocker about, what do you know, breaking out of jail. Lyrically, the song is based off the science fiction prologue in the album sleeve and the album itself seems to stick to this running plot, kind of a loose concept album. The song is fairly simple, but it rocks hard and serves as a nice prelude for things to come. “Angel from the Coast” is the first highlight, kicking forth some classic 70’s style rock in the vein of Eddie Money but way heavier. Note one of those trademark harmony riffs in the middle there. How these guys didn’t get as big as Deep Purple or Zeppelin is anyone’s guess. “Running Back” is a bluesier number, showcasing the kind of class these guys put into their songwriting. “Romeo and the Lonely Girl” is another good example of this, being no more than an upbeat acoustic rocker with a fiery guitar solo. “Warriors” could have been an early Motorhead track, as it sounds like it wouldn’t have been too out of place on “On Parole.” Then there’s the band’s biggest hit single “The Boys are Back in Town.” This features their most well known harmony passage between verses (with a great bass line underneath) as well as serving as yet another example of these guys talented songwriting. “Fight or Fall” is the mellowest one on here, but doesn’t feel at all out of place. “Cowboy Song” opens up like a story told around a campfire before busting into more upbeat rock. Overall, not a bad song in the bunch.
But just before the album wraps up, we’re treated to its masterpiece. If none of the other tracks screamed heavy metal to you, closer “Emerald” more than makes up for them. This is as proto-power metal as anything Priest or Scorpions were doing at the time and it’s only outshined by its live counterparts. One of the 70’s finest metal tunes.
Fans of the old-school would do well to add this to their collection. To say that it’s essential would be an understatement.
Highlights: “Emerald,” “Angel from the Coast,” “Warriors,” "The Boys are Back in Town"
Quick Editorial Note: I can't believe how few Thin Lizzy reviews are on this site. We need to fix this pronto!!! Editoral over.
An international conglomeration of musical visionaries, it took even geniuses like Thin Lizzy to find their way in every sense, not the least crucial aspect of their search being the very decision to perform the classy and instrumentally vivid metal that had become their trademark. Because the fact of the matter is that Jailbreak was no less than the band’s sixth studio album, most of their prior work being of a less than hard rockin’ quality, but quality all the same.
But with their sound verging into heavier, harder realms, Lizzy found their sound and meaning, and in only seven years they’d create one of the loudest and proudest legacies in metal ever. Spearheaded by Phil Lynott, bassist/vocalist/song writer/black man/Irishman/poet and all around butt-kicking tough guy, Lizzy had already sent original guitarist Eric Bell packing from the intensity of their ambition. His contributions to the band’s first three albums (Thin Lizzy, Shades Of A Blue Orphanage, Vagabonds Of The Western World) are fine indeed, and it’s with him that Lizzy scored their first hit single, a fiery version of the old Irish folk tune “Whiskey In The Jar.” But with his departure came the addition of two guitar slingers (American Scott Gorham and fellow Irish lad Brian Robertson) and the beginning of what would become Lizzy’s ever-popular often awe-inspiring twin guitar assault. Said forging began with 1974’s Nightlife, an album too mellow to be seriously considered in this volume, but it’s successor Fighting began to push the energy levels up, and Jailbreak was the obvious next puzzle piece in the band’s evolution.
Despite kicking off with it’s incendiary and unforgettable title cut, the album actually still has more mellow matters on it’s mind, as most of it’s first side can hardly be considered hard. Still “Jailbreak” is a classic, and features the band’s first real metal science at work. Also the album contains the band’s only American hit, “The Boys Are Back In Town, a song which never fails to bring a smile to my forlorn face. While it is a tragedy that this is the only Lizzy number the USA saw fit to fall in love with, we have to be grateful for it’s mere existence, as it’s one of the most joyful, exuberant hard rock songs ever, not to mention the song’s mesmerizing volley of dual guitar fire. The horny, sad and longing “Cowboy Song” has the tendency to sound a touch hokey at first, but just wait till that rhythm gets cookin’, and the aforementioned guitar heroes begin firing off solos to die for. Oh yeah, Lynott, he sounds good too, his soulful pipes bringing a world weary tone to even the most ribald of tales. But the real metallic glory is reserved for Lynott’s Irish was history lesson “Emerald.” A keen student of Irish folklore and history, it would be far from the last time Lynott would invoke this imagery to make his bands metal ever more keen.
While strong to the finish, it would be unfair of me not to stress that this is really the first of Thin Lizzy’s big back catalog for metalhead to pay heed to, and I promise things will only get harder, heavier and better as we follow the comet-like trail the band spread with all the strength the could muster. It’s a story of determination, but also ultimately one of chaos and collapse. But don’t sweat the bad stuff now. Think this: it’s ’76, the band is touring the world as heroes armed with a huge hit, and all is well. For now…
Some notes: Although Thin Lizzy’s early work is hardly metal, there are snatches of stuff within its grooves that need mentioning. Most of all, there exists (or existed) and album issued by Decca records called Rocker (1971-1974), which does a good job of squishing the harder material of Lizzy’s pre-breakthrough years together. “Whiskey In The Jar” is in attendance, as is a single version of “The Rocker,” a killer raw, early Lizzy snarl, as well as the almost punk blast of “Little Darling,” a track by Lynott but one that has Gary Moore’s guitar stamp all over it. Finally (whew!) you Lizzy newbies may want to pick up a good compilation of the band’s work before investing a week or month’s lunch money on the whole damn catalog. If so, hunt down a copy of the CD Dedication: The Best Of Thin Lizzy. It’s your best bet, trust me.