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Having awakened the world to the strength of their music with Jailbreak earlier that same year, Lizzy stuck while the public was hot, and issued an equally stunning, and possibly more polished and mature effort as their next salvo. Johnny The Fox is something of a concept album, if only in fragmented style, a tale of desperate, righteous but hell-bent urban characters, much like mini-biographies of band leader and voice Phil Lynott himself. Lynott, like most great song writers was deeply personal in his approach, and wither his tales are bawdy, regretful or just plain cool, they always reflect some aspect of the man’s own odd place in our world. Or do most black Irishmen find it easy to fit in? Maybe it’s just me reading too much into it.
Anyway, the album punts off with “Johnny,” a tale of tragic addiction gone berserk, fueled by the newly urgent guitar interplay provided by Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson. See these guys had played well on the band’s previous three albums as well, but here they’re like caged animals let lose to ravage. Robertson himself proves that on the unbelievably great “Don’t Believe A Word,” one of Lynott’s most confessional songs about his own infidelities and shame. Not only lyrically heart breaking (but honest) this track’s guitar solo is alternately bruising and healing, wielding the perfect mix of bravado and sorrow to match the lyric. Just awesome. Also similarly amazing from the guitar perspective is “Old Flame,” one of the more evocative songs on its title subject ever written. Not heavy, but just gorgeous. I defy any red-blooded lad to not relate to its charms and ability to invoke one’s lusty memory. There’s also a little terse funk on hand (“Johnny The Fox Meets Jimmy The Weed”) some tribal metal (“Boogie Woogie Dance,” dumb title I know, but this the still the seventies we’re into here! Kick butt guitar work here all the same) and a genuinely beautiful cut in “Sweet Marie.”
Ever evolving, each Lizzy release we encounter adds another batch of unforgettable songs to this band’s history, and indeed to metal’s. Johnny The Fox is history as far as this writing is concerned, but why stop here? Run, don’t walk straight to 1977’s Bad Reputation, one of the true jewels in the crowded Lizzy crown.