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Slowly fighting their way back.... - 82%

TrooperEd, January 27th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2006, CD, Universal Music (Japan)

...or at least that's my assessment of Renegade. Considering this album's lack of commercial success and the additional lack of metal fans willing to bring this up in the same conversation as Killers, Fair Warning, The Mob Rules and other solid slabs of 81 metal, it appears I'm in the minority. I suppose one big reason was starting with this album is where Darren Wharton shows up as a keyboard player. Unfortunately for him, 1981 was the time that keyboards were seen as a sign of wimping out in metal. Another problem was that like Chinatown before it, Thin Lizzy was now in the age of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, and while this album definitely has some metal moments, for the most part its standard twin guitar Thin Lizzy. Nothing wrong with that but coming up against a slew of hungrier bands, both young AND old, it needed a little bit more consistent fire.

I say consistent fire because I don't think anyone can start out with a song with more fire quite like Angel of Death. An absolute scorched earth policy General if there ever was one. There's a good reason Gamma Ray covered this 20 something years later, Angel of Death is where Gamma Ray was born. It would be intellectually dishonest to say its where power metal as a whole was born (that would be Rainbow Rising) but goddamn if this ain't a stepping stone. Diane Wharton shredding the keys to a dark and deadly galloping riff is what heavy fucken metal is all about! Does it top Slayer's Angel of Death? No, but it still fucking rocks and one could argue such a song with a title can't be topped without upping the intensity from heavy metal to thrash metal.

Other highlights include Hollywood (Down On Your Luck), which I think is the catchiest song the band has written since The Boys Are Back In Town. I'm honestly baffled as to why this bombed on the charts as its a fantastic pop gem! The singalong chorus delightfully soars into the mesosphere in a manner most bands would sell their souls for. The tempo change into guitar solo, as well as the guitar solo itself are especially delicious.

But one reason this album has a black sheep status is it delves into some really weird musical territory in the second half. Like, even for Thin Lizzy weird. The offending tracks in question are Fats and Mexican Blood. Be forewarned, these are NOT rock songs. While I could understand some punters being disgusted by Fats, I absolutely love the song, and more openminded rock fans will love it too. This is a wonderful four minute ode to Fats Domino, Louis Armstrong and other cool jazz cats of the past. It's executed with style, grace, and lots of taste, especially by Phil. This is one of his finest performances as a well rounded performer, vocally, and lyrically (Sigmund Freud, he gets very annoyed). But then there's Mexican Blood, and this is just the worst. It's a dull number about lost and dead lovers that Phil has done better a thousand times before. Especially with that clunky as hell chorus. "That little Mexican girl, That little Mexican girl, That little Mexican girl" What type of girl was she Phil? "That little Mexican girl" Are you sure she wasn't Phillipino? "That little Mexican girl" Brazilian? "That little Mexican girl" Argentinan? "That little Mexican girl" Portuguese? To say nothing of the insult to our intelligence of telling us what kind of blood she had. Mexican Blood is by far the worst Thin Lizzy song and probably the point where most metal/rock fans decided they had burnt out. It's Getting Dangerous, a dynamic uplifting rocker is a decent tune by itself that would have been fine in the middle of Johnny The Fox or Bad Reputation, but its not enough to salvage the album after that abortion.

The rest of the album is typical Thin Lizzy, which sounds pretty goddamn good despite their blades being dulled by excess and heroin. Alot of people blame Snowy White as part of the problem and to be fair, he is responsible for the more softer moments of the album, like Fats and the title track. It's been said he was more of a blues player than a rock player but I don't really hear any blues sensibilities in the album. I like Snowy's contributions to the album, particularly Renegade (with it's darkly melodic half ballad/half rocker/half Police feel), but if you're gonna say Snowy leaving and being replaced by John Sykes was the best thing to happen to Thin Lizzy, you aren't gonna get any counterarguments from me.

If Thunder & Lightning was Painkiller, Renegade is Ram It Down; an underrated and admittedly rough-edged piece of work, but still a very well crafted piece of work. Like Chinatown, in a buyer's guide I'd probably file this under "fans only" (even though its better than Bad Reputation in my opinion), but there are songs here no Thin Lizzy fan, nay, no metal fan should go without.

Their weakest - and its not their fault!! - 75%

Rainbow, December 14th, 2004

Ok, there are several factors that don't concern music that led to this album being sub-par in contrast to the slew of classics that preceded to it. Granted they are KINDA related to music, but still beyond anyone's control:

-the production. Flatter than an anorexic 5th grader. There was a new producer on board who obviously had NO idea how to handle the Lizzy sound. The reliance of keyboards and how they sound doesn't help either. All together the guitars sound TERRIBLE. A weak hum in the background when they should have been ballsy and up front.

-Phil addicted to everything. He is out of it. Most of the album he is partially flat in his peformance, and you can tell he is struggling. You can tell he isn't all there because this cd doesn't seem to have a drug song on it. Usually he sings about warning himself. Apparently he has lost control. Though this is only a minor part of the cd. The song writing is still solid. Which just proves Lynott was god.

-Snowy White should have never been involved with Lizzy. You could hear his weaknesses on Chinatown, and now they are even more apparent. Any other Lizzy guitarist would have made this album classic.

Alright now the cd. Remember, all songs suffer production. "Angel of Death" starts out with haunting keyboards and driving gallop that carries the whole song. Good epic here. Vader even covered this tune.

Renegade is really weak. It has potential, but it never goes anywhere, and the circles its runs in aren't very engaging. Its too long as well.

Pressure Will Blow. VERY SIMPLE. VERY EFFECTIVE. Production kills it, but this is a solid hard rocker that could be on any Lizzy affair.

Leave This Town. Catchy and rocking. Nothing annoying here except the spoken part at the end. Keeps the tempo up.

Hollywood. CLASSIC TUNE.

No One Told Him. Filler. But good catchy filler. Lynott's poetry really picks up an otherwise dead song musically.

Fats. Filler. Jazzy filler. Its good for experimental sake. If you like that sort of thing...

Mexican Blood. I love this song, a nice little tale of a mexican girl and her criminal boyfriend. Very enchanting. Weak part is again, production.

Its Getting Dangerous. Good tune. I guess this is kinda the "warning" song of the album, but it doesn't really pick up and do anything noteworthy.

Overall the album is fine. For Lizzy fans it is definitely a must, but thats a give in. For casual hard rock fans, it has some of that Lizzy charm, but of course you are much more suited for Jailbreak.