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You Can Rest Easy Knowing you Haven't Heard it Yet - 56%

Superchard, February 2nd, 2019

After hitting a home run on their first try with their self-titled debut, Thin Lizzy established an anything goes folk rock mentality that's sure to leave most fans to feel alienated upon listening to it that Shades of a Blue Orphanage isn't going to reprimand, but rather rub salt into the wound if their debut really wasn't your cup of tea. I would say this album, despite starting strong with "The Rise and Demise of the Funky Nomadic Tribes" will soon become an even harder listen for Thin Lizzy's typical fan base expecting something more along the lines of "The Boys are Back in Town" or even the harder and faster "Thunder and Lightning". This is an even more chill album than the last where we at least had "Look What the Wind Just Blew In" and "Ray-Gun" to keep things moving in a direction that's at least somewhat familiar despite Eric Bell's off-kilter bass-filled guitar tone due to only using the back pickup on his guitar.

Bell's guitar tone sounds much more normal and distorted on their sophomore outing, but the amount of hard rock here is still pretty infrequent. I'm all for Thin Lizzy doing anything and everything under the sun as they've shown pretty convincingly on their debut that they're more than capable of doing so, but Shades of a Blue Orphanage actually suggests the contrary. With the drunken honkytonk swagger of "I Don't Want to Forget How to Jive" being under two minutes and not being laid out well enough to feel like much more than a skit or a parody of that style of country music. "Sarah" follows it, and it's one of the most emotionless and wimpy ballads I've ever heard. This is hard to stomach, and unfortunately the album doesn't redeem itself too often.

"Buffalo Gal" is an oddity that incorporates subtle use of what we often postulate native American music was comprised of, and I would say quite accurately at that. Much more so than Mike Patton's Tomahawk could obviously, but we'd be missing the point if we were to assume Mike Patton were trying to be culturally accurate. While the heavy experimentation on Thin Lizzy was entertaining, this is a little more on the pretentious side of things. Different for the sake of being different and not at all engaging in the way that some of the more simple hard rock tracks like "Baby Face" or "Call the Police" are. Perhaps it was around this time that Thin Lizzy learned through experience that "if it ain't broke, don't fix it", because seriously, are they going to throw tracks like "Buffalo Gal", "I Don't Want to Forget How to Jive" or "Sarah" into their live sets? Methinks not.

That being said, I don't think ANYTHING from Shades of a Blue Orphanage would go on to be used in Thin Lizzy's live sets, and for good reason. Some of this stuff would be quite a bit harder to perform in a live setting. The sweeping Santana caravan hippie acoustic track that is "Chatting Today" is awesome despite ending in a God forsaken fade out, and once again in my own personal opinion, it could've been much better had they spent more time on it, similar to that of "I Don't Want to Forget How to Jive". It shows just how obtuse Thin Lizzy could be, but unfortunately doesn't entirely sell itself. As a matter of fact, the only really great song on their sophomore album that would showcase just how far the trio had come as musicians since their debut be the opening track, "The Rise and Demise of the Funky Nomadic Tribes". Seven minutes long, drenched in funk rock and Brian Downey going absolutely nuts with the percussion and drums. I once had a neighbor that said Thin Lizzy's drummer couldn't play worth a shit. If only I could've shown him this very album, more specifically what Downey does on the album opener, I'm inclined to believe he would be forced to change his mind lest he look like he were in denial.

Unfortunately this album doesn't do it for me the way that Thin Lizzy did. I'd recommend listening to that album and Vagabonds of the Western World before sinking your teeth into Shades of a Blue Orphanage if interested in the Eric Bell era of the band. This album continues the experimental style of its predecessor, and casts a wide net, but ultimately comes across as a meandering, aimless and even at times pretentious album. With only four tracks on the entire album that range from good to great, this is a non-essential Thin Lizzy album that you can rest easy knowing you haven't heard it yet.

Superchard gets super hard for:
The Rise and Demise of the Funky Nomadic Tribes
Baby Face
Brought Down
Baby Face

They Weren’t There Yet - 49%

OzzyApu, December 27th, 2010

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.