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The commercial failure and lack of direction of the band made Eric Bell leave Thin Lizzy, the group lost their original guitarist, the guy who suggested their name. The infamous greedy Decca record company had enough and didn’t trust in their possibilities no more so they were kicked out. Changes were coming in a completely uncertain depressing time for Lynott and Downey, who were strong enough to not give up and believe in miracles, though. They found proper replacements for Bell: Scottish guitarist Brian Robertson and Californian Scott Gorham, young blood, the future saviors of Thin Lizzy. And I said “future saviors” because by 1974, nobody could predict what these guys would be able to do later, specially this insatisfactory bad album made it harder to predict.
Different personnel but same lack of ideas and direction once again, the band got stuck in its soft cheesy pop style and it seems Lynott and co. were confused and lost, so they didn’t really know what they wanted. They experiment with several motley music styles, but don’t develop an own sound here at all, just wasting time. “Sha-la-la” (without drum solo) and “Philomena” are the most dynamic moments of the album, featuring an experimental primitive performance of guitar harmonies by both Gorham and Robertson, but still clumsy and incoherent, nothing to do with what they’d play later. Those are the only ones that might sound slightly similar to the late 70’s distinctive Lizzy sound, the rest take influence from the band members favorite music genres and artists. “Dear Heart”, the wah-wah madness of “It’s Only Money” and the title-track sound exactly the same than the slow blues numbers of the Eric Bell years: quiet rhythm, easy chords and melodramatic verses is all you will find in those, a completely old-fashioned tribute to vintage ancient 50’s and 60’s blues. Maybe 1 or 2 decades ago those tunes would have been fresh and enjoyable, but not in the almost middle 70’s when the true heavy metal of Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, and the hard rock of Led Zeppelin ruled the world. The acoustic decent tribute to Mother Mary “She Knows” and the short melodic instrumental display on “Banshee” feature good skilled arrangements, convincing guitar parts, sweet solos and talent, but that was not enough to compete with the supremacy of progressive rock of those times, the upcoming metal pioneers and the punk fever. The couple of numbers left to comment are very different from the others: “Still In Love With You” became a classic tune on stage, although the version in this long-play sounds absolutely primitive, sloppy and weak if you compare it to the live version. However, it features the best pickin’ parts in the album, with an inspired Brian Robertson trying to do his best in that emotional lenghty bluesy solo in the middle of the composition. Glasgow rock singer Frankie Miller sang along with Lynott in that song and his voice is horrible, lame and out of tune, making some moments of the ballad unbearable, unlistenable and inconsistent, a parody...that’s why we all prefer the live version, right? There’s some R & B, gospel and soul influence on “Showdown”, which is Lynott’s tribute to classic Motown stuff, very enjoyable, particularly that female choir reminds me of Gloria Jones and co. from T. Rex’s mid-70’s sound. This tune actually works and sounds good, with Lynott very confident and comfortable on his vocals and bass lines; some funny licks and hooks can be found in this unique number.
I can’t deny there’s some amusing moments in this record, Lynott’s sensitive emotional poetry is brilliant and superior at times in particular, you might break down and cry while listening those melancholy sentimental ballads, for example “Frankie Carroll”, with that sad depressing piano and dramatic lyrics, time for tears! But apart from that and a couple of riffs and solos, everything else here is mediocre, abysmal and comical poor music; less rock, more pop, blues and funk. There’s no magic, passion or creativity in both instrumental performance and basic song writing. Thin Lizzy have always been away from technical or complex, but some stuff here is the definition and epitome of the most scandalous simplicity and mediocrity since the 2 chords-based songs of The Beatles. The contribution of the guitar combo is disappointing, a total dissatisfaction; I’m sure Vertigo Records had serious doubts about the future of the Irish rockers after listening to this. The guitar parts are very inconspicuous and discreet, sometimes left behind Jean Roussell keyboards or Lynott’s bass and voice, and there’s no proper synchronicity between Robbo and Scott, at times one mutes his guitar to not disturb the parts of the other during a solo or riff sequence, so I wonder if there was a need to have 2 guitarists in the pack. Also too many slow mid-paced tempos with no energy or power that become easily repetitive, boring and tedious for the listener, probably the most enjoyable element in those cheesy songs are the solos, but they’re reduced to less than 15 seconds to let vocals take control and dominate. Luckily, they got rid at last of the incompatible regional Irish folk music influence.
Don’t look for anything similar to their glorious late 70’s sound here or similarities with the raw The Rocker tune from the previous long-play either, this is recommended for hopeless romantics and sensitive broken hearts only. Step by step and little by little, Lizzy would find their way but by the time this record was released, they had a long long way to go and many drastic changes to make if they wanted to progress and evolve. The tediousness and weakness here rivalize with their second terrible album, the sound didn’t improve significantly since the 1972 wreck either. This is the second sequel of the blue orphanage horror and lack of inspiration and grace. But that’s how this band became that great and big, learning from huge mistakes like this whole record, so please forgive them.
Thin Lizzy's "Nightlife" is often underappreciated or overlooked, due to the fact it lacks in the hard rock aesthetic of other albums, or the straight up heavy metal deliverance of their 80's albums. But to say they hadn't quite found their sound would probably be quite an ignorant thing for me to say, as I always found their earlier albums quite experimental at times leaning toward the psychedelic. There is no denying that this is quite a soft album, but it works because it is just so cool and calculated. It is like going on a night out on the town, with that friend who has a lot of knowledge for his years, who gambles and drinks but never loses that magnetic aura. I have always appreciated Phil Lynott as a lyricist, and I think most metal heads appreciate Thin Lizzy's contribution in the realm of rock/metal, Vader even covered one of their songs from the "Renegade" album. Every Thin Lizzy album is a reflection of Phil's life and experiences in some way or another, and that is still the case here but it is always obtainable, you can always connect with the lyrics and exchange war stories so to speak. I was too young to listen to this album at the time of it's release, seeing it wasn't until the early 80's when I got into rock and metal, but the moment I heard this album, it already sounded timeless and you know what? You may refer to this as having Thin Lizzy's weaker songs, but even if that is true, their weaker songs are better than most bands great songs.
Phil's vocals are a bit more lucid on this album, he seems to compliment every chorus or tempo change without any difficulty. This is a man who knows what he is doing with his words, he knows how to portray them, he knows how they MUST be perceived. His years writing and enjoying poetry surely pay off, and had any other band wrote this album from the era, we might just be pretending it never happened. Thin Lizzy have that magic to experiment, and still come out richer for it, even if they would never release another album that sounded like "Nightlife". There are a couple of ballads on here, and if there is one thing I know for certain is that Thin Lizzy write a good ballad. "She knows" is probably more uplifting, where as the tear jerker "Frankie Carroll" might hit home a little too hard for some people's comfort. "Show down" is stream lined and funky, without making one cringe over what was considered "hip" in the 1970's, and Phil's vocals seem to remain exciting even when they are almost restrained. Honestly if any other singer had done this, they would not be getting away with it, this review would be tearing them to fucking pieces, but no Phil had a powerful understanding of the impact of the spoken word. "Still in love with you" is drenched in the somber bluesy scales, and if you're not a fan of this style maybe one should steer clear, but the soloing and vocal performance leave my jaw on the floor. Raw emotion is not gay...hissy fits and breakdowns of the likes of Bring Me The Horizon are gay however. "It's only money" and "Nightlife" aren't gripping affairs like "Cold sweat" or "Rockey", but still very good in their own right.
I appreciate that people have different opinions and different tastes. If you prefer heavy metal then skip to "Thunder and lightning" but if you can stomach anything less heavy than "Bad reputation" or "Jailbreak" but with the same capable song writing, then I would strongly recommend you check out "Nightlife". And if it just isn't heavy enough for your friends, let them miss out and just listen to it on the ride to work or something.
If there was ever one album that truly epitomizes cool, calm, and stylish all at the same time, it would be Thin Lizzy’s Nightlife. This album is basically the final album of the old Lizzy era, before they unleashed their twin guitar attacks. This album was made to boogey, and that is just what it is going to do. Showdown, and It’s Only Money are very funk influenced tracks. These tracks are mostly what I was referring to in the opening sentence of this review. There are plenty of tasty leads and solos, despite the lack of another guitarist going note for note in another octave.
This album can kick out some rockin’ acoustic stuff too. Hard rock with acoustic guitar thrown in is great, no? Yeah it is, fuck you. The performer of the song She Knows is Phil Lynott, of course (But when isn’t he? There are some occurrences I’ll get to later in the review). Here he belts out one of his most passionate vocal performances from any album. Nightlife is essentially a sequel to She Knows, as it contains the same acoustic driven force, and it features some more of Phil’s most passionate vocals. Unfortunately, they picked it as a pretty calm tune to end the album. Oh well, it’s classic Lizzy. If there’s one thing you can truly count on from the early Thin Lizzy albums, it’s that they’ll still have the same driving force that is Phil Lynott. This man’s heart is in his goddamn vocal chords, I swear.
The riffing on this album seems more loose and more unrestrained than on later albums. The entire thing really is more laid back than what Lizzy would do later. It’s Only Money throws in a lot of progressive drum beats underneath Phil’s almost rapping of the verse. No, it’s not really rapping. It’s like rapid catchy singing.
Songs like Philomena sort of bring out the best in Phil. It’s a song named after his mom, and his Irish accent is heavy as shit on this one. I don’t know if it was done on purpose, but it adds a special flair to the song. You can tell Phil’s heart is firing on all gears during this song. It also features a little bit of twin guitar action, but with a single guitar and the bass following suit. Pretty cool, really. There are a couple songs that simply don’t deliver in balls, and I’ll have to take some points away for that. Still In Love With You is a classic song. It’s great live. It features Gary Moore sharing vocal duties, and he is at times better than Phil. They’re both phenomenal singers, any way you cut it. It wasn’t made for a studio environment, unfortunately. Dear Heart is a heartfelt piano driven ballad, but it’s kind of lame. Banshee is a slow twin guitar tune. It actually sounds like the predecessor to their amazing Cowboy Song. It has a very western/cowboy type feel to it. Makes me want to go eat some nachos and bang some senioritas, que?
Holy shit is all I can say about Sha-La-La. Despite the title, this song is in no way, shape, or form pussy. This song is really funky. Like really fucking funky. It also features twin guitar leads! The drumming is total speed metal! This song is simply a sign of things to come. This is the type of stuff the band would put out later into the mid to late 70s, and this early prototype is just as good as any other Thin Lizzy song you could pick. Oh, and remember when I said Phil wasn’t the top performer on all songs? Yeah, here that goes to Brian Downey. About 2 and a half minutes in, he breaks into this great drum solo. The only sucky thing is, the drum solo is a lot better (and longer) on Live and Dangerous. After switching back to some guitar leads for a second, the song fades out on another kickass drum solo.
This album contains shades of what would become Thin Lizzy. All of the elements are in the cooking pot, and Phil just had yet to stir them until they were completely mixed. He’ll get that done on the next album….and the 8 that follow!