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The homonym debut didn’t reach the charts or any kind of success, it didn’t took the attention of anybody either, so it was obvious Thin Lizzy’s beginnings were going to get harder and harder, and the pressure from the commercial record company Decca bigger. But the Irish trio seemed to be more focused on making honest music and have fun, rather than making any commercial attempt to get a hit single or anything similar. They were also determined to ignore the trends and fashion of those times and close their eyes to not look at the situation or what was going on the rock scene of the early 70’s. No matter what happened then, even if they failed to get any interest or support from the music press or the listeners, Lizzy would still believe in their old-fashioned style and formulas.
Those who are only into the mid and late 70’s stuff of this band and never heard any of the first albums yet will definitely get a trauma with this record. This is the biggest failure, the most scandalous mediocrity and the biggest lack of direction, creativity and grace in the history of Lizzy. Each song with no exception is completely vain, empty and very simple.“Buffalo Gal” and “Brought Down” are the most imperfect of all, basic compositions with a very ordinary weak instrumental performance and absurd lyrics; there’s not even a couple of decent riffs, guitar is only playing easy chords in the background, executing extremenly short pickin’ parts from chorus to chorus. Poor, inconsistent and incompetent tunes that you wish you’d have never heard. “Baby Face”, “Call The Police” and the lenghty funky track “The Rise And Dear Demise Of The Funky Nomadic Tribes” (the title says it all) are the best of the worst, featuring a much better instrumental display, some improvisated solos that are actually listenable and decent, and notable riffs, although the absence of continuity and a proper consistent structure in these tunes make them absolutely forgettable. “Chatting Today” and the unbearable long title-track are taking influence from the regional Irish folk sounds that the guys admire so much, so electric guitars and drums mute while acoustic guitars and vocals, particularly vocals, perform those unplugged melancholy words and music from Lynott’s melodramatic heart, who was getting more and more obsessed with stories of misery and poverty in the style of Dickens. The drama and tears go on with the depressing ballad a cappella “Sarah (Version 1)”, that only features the discreet piano of Clodagh Simonds in the background; the most simple and poorly arranged number here, along with the elegant classy 1 minute long “I Don’t Want To Forget How To Jive”, both different from the rest but still horrible and deficient. I guess that’s enough said about the songs, I wanna make clear that there’s not even a single good moment, solo, riff or verse that I could highlight in this abysmal unlistenable long-play.
The lack of direction and originality is as critical as on the debut, the group is trying so hard to sound like The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Lynott’s vocals in particular, and Eric Bell emulates Clapton in each solo with pathetic results in the end. The awful sound of the band is totally vintage and old-fashioned for the times when this album was made, probably it doesn’t seem like this was recorded in 1972, you might feel you’re traveling back in time to the 60’s, when everybody got high and stoned listening to psychedelic LSD acid rock. How could Lizzy face the new decade and compete with the legendary league of hard and progressive rock of the 70’s if their sound gets stagnant in the style of a decade ago? And blues again is omnipresent in almost each track, tortured voice and sad crying guitar solos, we have all heard it before and much better, why they don’t play something of their own style, attitude and ideas instead? Lizzy sound completely unconfident, uncomfortable and insecure on the whole long-play, you might noticed that Phil’s voice is mostly whispering and Bell’s guitars are discreet, inconspicuous in the background, at times it gets hard to hear and notice the string section, their volume is low so the performance is cold, with no energy of passion. On other hand, Brian Downey’s drum work is the greatest and only positive characteristic in the pack, very professional, skilled and technical, like you can check in that amazing rhythm and drum solo of the opening track. I wish I could say the same of the other 2 guys...Lynott’s vocals are sloppy once again, poor, too low and annoying; his lyrics dumb, repetitive and exceedingly cheesy, embarrassing and childish, nothing to do with his magic poetry and charisma in later albums. About Bell, I always liked his guitar work whatever the result of the first records was, he’s very versatile, creative and technical but not this time, rather clumsy, slow and uninspired here. The Nick Tauber production (yes, the same guy who produced the late 80’s Venom albums) is as bad and terrible as the songs themselves, so it fits them perfectly, I guess. Guitars, bass, drums, vocals: all of them sound too distant and cold, a tremendous disaster.
There’s nothing much left to say, I just want to warn everybody who hasn’t checked out this record yet about the danger of this deadly collection of pathetic symphonies of horror. Thin Lizzy are the greatest Irish rock band, that’s an undisputed truth, but they’d achieve the honours and glory much later, in the late 70’s when they rose while others fell. But in the dawn of the decade, nobody could imagine or predict what was yet to come. It took a huge effort and many disastrous experiments from the Irish rockers to evolve and progress into a solid classic melodic rock band. But in this orphanage of failure, there’s no sign of brilliance, talent or inspiration. Keep away from it or anything similar to it (those silly Decca, Spectrum and Universal Masters Collection compilations), that’s the best you can do.
I thought I’d be able to venture anywhere in Thin Lizzy’s discography and enjoy an album to a standard created by Lizzy themselves. This expectation is surely met with full-lengths in the popular era and even with the tail end of Eric Bell’s era on Vagabonds Of The Western World. Checking this one out, I can see why it isn’t exactly a popular one (not that I always adhere to popular opinion), even for core Lizzy fans. At this point it was still Eric Bell’s band, with Lynott only beginning to show his influences and Downey strutting what was on paper rather than what he felt (he does get his own drum solo on the first track, though).
Of course it’s normal for bands starting out to find a sound they’re comfortable with. Looking at bands like Neurosis or Katatonia (I know, nowhere near traditional heavy metal or hard rock), it takes a few releases to make something of a band’s sound. Well this one I was expecting hard rock since Lizzy only got harder as the years went by, but in fact this is lighter than hard rock. The heaviest tracks are the utterly funky “The Rise And Dear Demise...” and the two short punches of “Baby Face” and “Call The Police”. From most perspectives, these tracks are consistent in mid-paced rhythm with bluesy showmanship by Bell. Downey never strikes the kit with a ton of power, since Shades Of A Blue Orphanage is very laid-back, Americana in atmosphere, and warmhearted in attitude. This isn’t an aggressive album, and Lizzy is sticking within the small boundary of what they know how to play.
Lynott weaves between his thick, trademark yelling (“Chatting Today”) and soft-spoken croons (“Sarah (Version 1)”); both sides are rich in texture and true to his character. When I first heard this album, it sounded like his vocals were improperly recorded or mixed, as they sounded much louder and in front of the other instruments. This is most apparent on the overly long title track, but for the other songs it isn’t so bad. I assumed it was an issue with recordings from that era, but I have a couple Doors albums and of course Black Sabbath and Deep Purple had no problem, so that idea went crashing and burning. For an Irishman, Lynott’s singing doesn’t come across as that accented at all to me; that organic graininess this early in the game throws it off, I guess. On the throwaway track “I Don’t Want To Forget…”, Lynott’s doing a really crummy Elvis impression over some lame ‘50s rock & roll ultra-light rhythm.
So while a decent offering, this kind of music isn’t that appealing to me. It’s nice, but for me it’s too nice, and for non-hard rock kind of rock music, I can’t even measure it within its own genre because I don’t listen to anything else this light. The production’s warm and clear (Lynott’s bass lines are fat and bubbly), and that’s the kind of vibe it rubs on you – slow, humble, and carefree, especially for the time period it came from.