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Very 'Umble, Not so 'Eavy - 90%

Superchard, September 11th, 2018

Among the earliest of albums within heavy metal's history, Thin Lizzy's self-titled debut sits pretty and overlooked by just about everyone along with Judas Priest's Rocka Rolla and Deep Purple's first album all the way back in 1968. Of these earlier recordings, Thin Lizzy is by far the furthest thing away from heavy metal, it's not even hard rock. More along the lines of folk rock, having very thin distortion on the electric guitars, but using more acoustic guitars. It has more in common with an album like Rubber Soul by The Beatles, except there's actual songwriting involved (sue me, that album sucks). By far a much less linear album than some of their later albums, Thin Lizzy were off to a good, humble start; the polar opposite of Uriah Heep's debut album if you will. It's been criminally overlooked, unfortunately left forgotten. Unfortunately it seems that's what humility will get you in this industry, even back then.

Then again, the fans of some of Thin Lizzy's later albums like Bad Reputation and Jailbreak might lack the ability to appreciate it anyways. I can relate, I came from such albums hoping their debut would do much the same for me only to initially disappoint me. I thought it sucked too, but have recently come back to listen to it again to find it wasn't even half as bad as I remembered it. In fact, this is Thin Lizzy at most experimental if anything. On what other album can I tell you they open up with soft jazz and spoken word poetry that blossoms into a funkier variety of melodic jazz? The guitar solo kicks in, but this time instead of being the kind of shred you'd expect off of later albums, it's a trippy harmonized solo. The next song, "Honesty is No Excuse" comes in with acoustic guitars and violin, and Phil Lynott sings more passionately than a song like "The Boys are Back in Town" could ever hope to possibly convey. It even has that vinyl sound you can only get from old 'inferior' recording equipment of an era I had thought died out about a decade before this album's release.

Shred enthusiasts on the other hand are going to be left with a giant gaping hole in their heart after listening to this album. If you're coming from their later works, it can be hard to get used to the fact that this is their roots. Deep Purple fans at least have "Mandrake Root", Black Sabbath fans at least have "Black Sabbath". Hell, even Judas Priest fans at least have "Rocka Rolla". Thin Lizzy has no indication whatsoever of what the band would evolve into, the heaviest part of the album perhaps coming from an instrumental section during the acoustic folk rock song, "Diddy Levine". There is some really funky guitar on "Ray-Gun" that won't scratch that heavy metal guitar itch either, but at least will pick up the pace and give fans something more accessible to listen to, along with "Look What the Wind Blew In". To keep it brief, Eric Bell's guitar playing was much more stuck in the 70's than his replacements. There's some really bizarre riffs that are a really refreshing change of pace from what you'll know to expect after his departure from the band.

Then you have a song like "Eire", which is so far ahead of its time only later to be essentially redone by Black Sabbath on Tyr almost twenty years later. It's unfortunately a bit too short, but it's fascinating to hear a band all the way back in 1971 singing about a subject as far removed as vikings. Sometimes I have to wonder how much this album may have inspired other musicians such as the aforementioned Black Sabbath or whether it's just simple coincidence and conjecture. You'll also notice Switzerland's Coroner would have a strikingly similar cover art for their debut album, R.I.P. for example. Then again, it's just a scenic shot squished in a fish-eye lens, something most any band could do relatively cheap for a debut album to get them started as opposed to hiring an artist.

If you have the original version, your journey through this more sincere Thin Lizzy ends with "Remembering" where they start to go full throttle in the way of progressive rock. We're not talking dabbling here, we're talking two different guitar solos going on at the same time, a bass solo and a climactic finish. If you happen to have the expanded version though, you're in for a much longer album that's just short of an hour. Ultimately four tracks were omitted and while they're weaker than what was originally left on the album; with the exception of "Thing Ain't Workin' Out Down at the Farm", they still bring some extra character to the album. I will say though, a song like "Old Moon Madness" makes me wish Eric Bell would flip the switch on his guitar so that all of the tonality wasn't just riding on his back pickup, resulting in a guitar that sounds washed out and has very little treble. It's hard to have your cake and eat it too, so at least his higher end leads and solos sound great; the ultimate sacrifice he chose to make. It's an unpopular choice that most guitarists won't make and something listeners don't get to hear often.

Just be forewarned that if you're coming from Thin Lizzy's more popular, later releases that their first few albums, their debut especially are going to be a shock. I feel I may have an unpopular opinion on this album, but I think it's fantastic. I do wish that Eric Bell would use more distortion and use his front pickup on his guitar, though. For all I know, his front pickup didn't work or perhaps there was some interesting lore behind creating the album. Still though, his guitar playing is great and honestly more inventive than much of what John Sykes, Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson would come up with, sometimes his riffs are just downright weird, demanding the listener's attention. Perhaps their most modest album ever, sometimes you almost get a feel for what Ireland was like in that day and age since many there are many references to things exclusive to the country, a true gem overlooked by even Thin Lizzy's most die-hard fans.

Superchard gets super hard for:
The Friendly Ranger at Clontarf Castle
Honesty is No Excuse
Ray-Gun
Look What the Wind Blew In
Things Ain't Workin' Out Down at the Farm