This week’s WAV is from arguably the most underrated rock band of all time, Thin Lizzy. Always proud of his Irish heritage, Phil Lynott (RIP) and crew were so mis-marketed in America it was ridiculous. Because of this, they could never really follow up the success of that song (you know the one I’m talking about). They were never a heavy metal band, yet their marketing was aimed at metalheads. They were ultimately too diverse and not really heavy enough to be metal. Just a great rock band.
Lynott always commanded the most attention, followed by the trend-setting guitar duo of Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson…the guitar duo most responsible for bringing twin lead harmonies to the forefront and making them important to the hook of any given song.
And then there’s Brian Downey…a drummer who seems to have always been under the radar and completely escaped my attention. You rarely see his name mentioned with the great rock drummers, yet he absolutely deserves to be mentioned with them…a fact that is obvious on the Live and Dangerous video. Downey is a champion.
From that video is one of my favorite Thin Lizzy tracks. One that captures the diversity of their sound and Phil Lynott’s penchant for painting vivid pictures with his storytelling.
As a chaser, I found this cool version of the song as done acoustic by Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins…
This album proved to be Thin Lizzy’s studio swansong, any hopes of a reunion dashed when band leader Phil Lynott died after years of heroin abuse within 2 years of its release. Fortunately for all of us, it’s a fine final testament to a band that, while being headliners in Europe for years, was never able to live down the notoriety of that song in the U.S. That song, of course, being “The Boys Are Back In Town” from the classic ‘Jailbreak’ album in 1975.
Kicking off with the relentless “Thunder and Lightning,” Thin Lizzy rocks harder than ever on this disc with the addition of keyboards not diminishing the power of the sound one bit. In fact, Darren Wharton’s keyboard work adds some nice textures to some of the tracks.
“This Is The One,” “The Sun Goes Down,” and “The Holy War” form a trifecta of texture, diversity and pure rock that rivals a similar trifecta on the previous album ‘Renegade,’ while Phil Lynott’s heart is on his sleeve throughout every song.
Sense of humor is a welcome part of the mix, too, as evidenced on the playfulness of “Bad Habits”: “Boys will be boys and girls will be trouble…and I’m a man of bad habits.” You just can’t get any more honest than that.
If all you know of Thin Lizzy is ‘Jailbreak’ or their mid-70’s output, I encourage you to experience what I think are Thin Lizzy’s 2 finest albums…’Renegade” and this one. You’ll be glad you did. I know I am.
Thin Lizzy will forever be most remembered for “The Boys Are Back In Town,” a song revered by every rockhead from stuffed shirts to rednecks. As good as that song is, and as good of an album as ‘Jailbreak’ was, ‘Renegade’ and “Thunder and Lightning’ are the cream of the Thin Lizzy crop and by all means brought their career to an end on a creative high note.
I was first introduced to this album in high school by my friend Mac Haik, who was the first to tell me that it was the best Thin Lizzy album ever. When I first listened to it, I didn’t agree, as all I knew of Thin Lizzy was “The Boys are Back in Town” and “Jailbreak.” I was expecting more of the same and while there’s plenty on this disc that rocks, it’s the emotional texture and dynamics that make it stand out and ultimately brought me to agree that it’s an amazing album.
The only real complaint I have is that Chris Tsangarides’ production smooths out the edges a bit too much. However, on some songs like the chilling “Renegade” that smoothness is just what the doctor ordered. Opener “Angel of Death” rocks intense while “No One Told Him,” “Fats” and “Mexican Blood” form a trifecta that just bursts with emotional honesty and personality.
While some of his lyrics are dodgy (the rhymes on “No One Told Him” are almost painful) band leader Phil Lynott (RIP) is still an amazing storyteller and “Hollywood (Down on Your Luck)” stands to this day as my favorite Thin Lizzy track ever.
Much in the same way that UFO’s 2 best albums came after the departure of Michael Schenker (some will argue that I’m out of my mind saying that), Thin Lizzy’s 2 best albums came after their universally recognized “classic” era of the mid-to-late 70’s…’Thunder and Lightning’ and this one, which is perhaps their masterpiece.