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Getting Into: Thin Lizzy


Written by: ScreamingSteelUS, RaduP
Published: 24.09.2022


SSUS: Thin Lizzy is known around the world as the band that wrote the song “The Boys Are Back In Town.” More precisely, the song “The Boys Are Back In Town” is known around the world and Thin Lizzy is the band that recorded it. Music fans who keep one foot in the metal sphere may also know this Irish rock outfit as the inspiration for the lead guitar harmonies that have become a trademark of dedicated followers Iron Maiden, and music fans who keep two feet in the metal sphere may also know that it was, in fact, Wishbone Ash who were the more direct inspiration, though Thin Lizzy certainly had their part to play.

Those things are factually correct, but what an anemic assessment of a rich, ground-breaking, and all-too-short career: Thin Lizzy was one of Ireland’s first and most eternal contributions to the rock world and to the nascent heavy metal genre, growing out of an idiosyncratic blues trio into an electric ensemble with an instantly recognizable style. Just as the band brought together members both black and white, Catholic and Protestant, and republican and royal at the height of Ireland’s Troubles and amidst a changing social landscape, so, too, did they combine the influences of Ireland’s rich musical and poetic traditions with the modernizing sounds of hard rock and heavy metal.

The band’s early years as a trio were marked by a sense of aimlessness and a rather timorous mode of composition; lukewarm reception and uninspiring sales stalked them for several years, but the band ultimately grew more comfortable taking a heavier approach. Upgrading from a three-piece to a four-piece to double their guitar strength (on more than one occasion with assistance from renowned virtuoso Gary Moore), Thin Lizzy evolved into a versatile hard rock quartet, proudly Irish and increasingly heavy. With a charismatic frontman in Phil Lynott, whose dusky, emotive voice could spin sensitive lullabies and inane antics alike, and the locomotive strength of two adventurous guitarists always on hand, Thin Lizzy’s golden era yielded numerous classic singles and several foundational albums. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, success brought discord: crippling drug addictions, internal tension, and focus on outside projects caused Thin Lizzy to splinter in its final years. After a farewell tour in support of their final album, Thin Lizzy officially broke up in 1983, and in 1986, under the strain of years of alcohol and drug abuse, Lynott succumbed to pneumonia. Over the years, numerous combinations of former members and new collaborators would tour under the name Thin Lizzy – not without controversy – but in truth the band died forever with Lynott, who had always been its driving force.

In this article, we’re going to explore the good and the bad of Thin Lizzy, as well as some of the associated projects that preceded, succeeded, and coexisted with the band. Before we start, I (SSUS) would also like to thank my father for his input, as he is a longtime Thin Lizzy fan and provided context for and opinions of the band’s career. Pictured below are two ticket stubs from Thin Lizzy shows he attended: one headlining in 1977, and one in 1978 with Gary Moore opening for Queen.











Thin Lizzy (1971)


Thin Lizzy marks a heady but humble start to the band’s career; largely devoid of the gutsy and stylish hard rock that would become their forte, this album instead revels in warm, round tones and a lackadaisical swing. Soft-serve romance and poetic blues jams predominate, and in these extended exchanges of musical technicality the clearest distinction is drawn between early and classic Thin Lizzy: the band was a trio at this stage, with Eric Bell as the sole guitarist. His gossamer-smooth solos are impressive, but Phil Lynott and Brian Downey match his virtuosic aspirations with eagerness and chops that would fade into the background as the band became more comfortable performing in a harder rock mode and focus shifted. On Thin Lizzy, the bright and snappy “Look What The Wind Blew In” accounts for the only adumbration of that classic and forthcoming sound, with cool restraint otherwise defining most songs; this is an album of meandering ballads whose early iterations of recognizable trademarks are ephemeral and strange. Viewed more charitably as a competent yet quirky blues rock album, Thin Lizzy is a solid, sometimes adventurous work whose dearth of outstandingly heavy moments allows it to flow more smoothly than subsequent releases. The album’s ultimate undoing may be its modest self-absorption, which surfaces in some instances as flecks of ‘60s-holdover psychedelia but usually as superfluous wandering.

Standout Tracks: “Look What The Wind Blew In,” “Honesty Is No Excuse,” “Diddy Levine”

by SSUS





Taken in the context of later recordings, Shades Of A Blue Orphanage is a curiously edentulous collection of diffident rock numbers, a more terrestrial successor to Thin Lizzy that acquired some degree of focus at the cost of an equal portion of personality. There is less obvious excess and more cohesion between songs, with less of the ebb-and-flow of the debut, but the more conventional and grounded approach also forces a decline in power, musicianship, and intriguing writing. The lengthy instrumental passages and chintzy, starry-eyed balladry are not as engaging this time around, coming off as the sound of a band too uncertain in its own direction to commit to either the streamlined rock sound it is heading towards or the folk-blues sound of its roots. “Sarah,” written for Phil Lynott’s grandmother, ranks among Thin Lizzy’s most beautiful and heartfelt songs and is the only true highlight of Shades Of A Blue Orphanage, aside from one legendary single: while not actually included as part of the album until later rereleases tacked it on as a bonus track, originating as an off-the-cuff arrangement to pacify the record label, the band’s famous cover of “Whisky In The Jar” preceded Shades Of A Blue Orphanage and dominated the Irish and British charts for weeks on end. An unexpected success, this cover was one of the earliest translations of a traditional Irish song to an electric format and made Thin Lizzy not merely a rock band but emblematic of popular Irish music in general.

Standout Tracks: “Whisky In The Jar,” “Sarah,” “Call The Police”

by SSUS





1973 is still a few years away from what is the trademark Thin Lizzy sound, with a lot of blues, jazz, and psychedelia still seeping into the sound, and with the band still in its early trio days, the dual guitars are missing. But Vagabonds Of The Western World subdues the folky undertones of the previous two albums, makes the material a bit less meandering, and finally infuses a bit of harder rock into the sound. There’s still a lot that still meanders, like the cheesy narration in “The Hero And The Madman” or the anticlimactic closer, but the album makes up for those moments by being overall more focused while still maintaining a pretty varied sound. Eric Bell makes for a great blues guitarist and he can certainly fill the space as the sole guitarist, more so than on the previous two albums; for the first time the band sounds like it’s setting the stage for the classic sound with the harder songs like “The Rocker”, the title track, or the funky “Gonna Creep Up On You”, pretty much making Vagabonds Of The Western World the most worthwhile of the early albums. Transitional albums like these sometimes get a bad rep for being examples of a band not yet having found their footing, but Thin Lizzy’s sound would never have such varied infusions in their rock sound ever again. Also, fun fact: the band were so broke during the recording of this album that they took an offer to record a Deep Purple covers album using the name Funky Junction and with a different vocalist, though Play A Tribute To Deep Purple is more of an interesting historic oddity than a worthwhile album, hence why we didn’t even bother giving it a separate writeup.

Standout Tracks: “The Rocker”, “Vagabonds Of The Western World”, “Slow Blues”

by Radu




Nightlife (1974)


Vagabonds Of The Western World advanced to the precipice of a new hardness; Nightlife backed away gracefully, diverting the flow of burgeoning confidence into a mellow medley of swaying soft rock. Thin Lizzy’s first album with two lead guitarists – the classic duo of Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson – shies away from the most electric adventures of Vagabonds, instead more consciously embracing country, blues, and soul influences to effect a lighter sound reminiscent of the first two albums. Gorham and Robertson operate primarily as alternating soloists, focusing on accents rather than definition; the swooning strings that frequently accompany their conservative plucking convey the sense that Phil Lynott’s idea of “nightlife” at this stage is still Parisienne walkways and Vienna cafes, not so much the seedy rock bars and rowdy clubs where they would soon be stars. With the lead duo still finding its footing, the most expressive guitar work on the album comes unsurprisingly from guest Gary Moore on the successful single “Still In Love With You,” which provides an accurate summation of the character of this album’s sound: slow blues, half-acoustic, still intent on preserving the pure, pastoral looseness of the early records in the face of a growing potential to be loud. The obligatory funk rock fracases of “It’s Only Money” and “Sha La La” make for memorable forays into the wilderness at the edge of convention, but aside from the sensational solos of “Still In Love With You,” Nightlife is doomed to be remembered as another Thin Lizzy album where they were “almost there.” “Philomena,” written for Lynott’s mother, is Nightlife’s most enduring cut, a strikingly Irish and lyrical rock ballad that moderates the album’s sentimentality with a determined pace, a curt twang, and infectious riffing – the clearest sign of budding inspiration that the band had yet produced.

Standout Tracks: “Philomena,” “Sha La La,” “Still In Love With You”

by SSUS




Fighting (1975)


Fighting is the last Thin Lizzy you can still call “transitional”, from the band’s early blues-inspired sound to something more hard-rocking, although the band never really did away with the blues influence; it is still quite strong on Fighting. Fighting pushes further into heaviness than either Vagabonds Of The Western World or especially Nightlife did, while still leaving room for Jailbreak to complete the transition. At the same time, it continues the classic Lynott/Downey/Robertson/Gorham lineup that was established on Nightlife and makes more use of the dual Robertson/Gorham guitar playing that became a Thin Lizzy trademark. The album opens with a cover of Bob Seger’s “Rosalie”, but given how late in my journey I found out that it’s actually a cover it’s safe to say which version of the song got more popular. Other than Thin Lizzy having the guts to open with a cover that they made their own, there’s a bit of a divide between Side A having more of the heavy material, including the quasi-title track and obvious highlight “Suicide” and Side B being a bit bluesier, including a piano feature from Small Faces’s Ian McLagan on “Silver Dollar”. The album is a bit front-loaded as a result, even if it never really drops the ball. From the cover art to its newfound musical heaviness, it oozes macho bravado and drips coolness and toughness, but never gets lost in its own ego. Thus, it is the first album of theirs that one could unquestionably call “hard rock”.

Standout tracks: “Suicide”, “Rosalie”, “Fighting My Way Back”

by Radu




Jailbreak (1976)


By the release of Fighting, Thin Lizzy had grown eminently capable of playing hard rock the way other people played it. On Jailbreak, for the first time, they played hard rock the way only Thin Lizzy could play it - and that entails a substantial overhaul in structure. Most of the previous albums contained only two or three fully electric tunes, chance visitations of volume outnumbered by the blues and the ballads that contained the band's heart and soul. While Thin Lizzy would never ditch that tonal variation on their records altogether, Jailbreak makes the hard rock sound its identity, positioning its heaviest tunes in key places and boosting the offensive energy of its borderline-rock tracks to make them appear more complementary; the chipper and bouncy "Angel From The Coast," the lackadaisical swing lament "Running Back," and the lonesome character ballad "Romeo And The Lonely Girl" are all familiar song types with roots in Lizzy's softest influences, but they've been embellished and tightened by the shift in mentality. And when the band sets out to write heavy from the outset, the yield is revolutionary. Guitars run the show on Jailbreak, and the rhythm section and Lynott's husky vocals are somewhat reined in from the free-floating jamminess that defined Lizzy's earlier sound - not so much that it suffocates the unaffected coolness that emboldens "The Boys Are Back In Town," for example, but enough that the confined, aggressive production is able to optimize the band's attack power. Gorham and Robertson are a stream of green lightning, doubling and harmonizing with each other for adrenalizing fusillades of melody and growling riffs that punch in a different weight class entirely from the band's first five albums. Those rich and colorful guitar harmonies are what make Thin Lizzy's best tracks instantly recognizable, and their implementation on this album is one of the major reasons why Jailbreak is remembered so fondly: to some their signature album, to some their magnum opus, but at the very least one of the defining rock albums of the '70s. And while it's "The Boys Are Back In Town" that steals all the spotlight, and to some extent the title track, the real jewel of Jailbreak is the closer, "Emerald," which epitomizes the band's sense of style with some of their flashiest - and most Irish - instrumental and lyrical exhibitions.

Standout Tracks: "Emerald," "Cowboy Song," "The Boys Are Back In Town," "Jailbreak"

by SSUS





A loose concept record, some say inspired by the Irish folk musician Johnny Moynihan of Sweeney's Men fame, but most likely just inspired by Lynott’s life, Johnny The Fox comes quite a short time after Jailbreak. That leaves both feeling like the kind of album that should’ve had a bit more time to get fleshed out. I still wouldn’t call Johnny The Fox half-baked, because some of the songs here are pretty strong, but there’s also quite a few I’m not so keen on, like “Fool’s Gold” or the closing two tracks, which I’d actually call half-baked. Though the folk and blues infusions seem to have been amped up in this record, this is at times also the closest I’ve felt that Thin Lizzy have sounded to something like Bruce Springsteen, while some songs like “Borderline” resemble a Rolling Stones ballad. The best moments come in the funk rock moments of “Johnny The Fox Meets Jimmy The Weed”, the hard-rocking opener, the guitar harmony riffing in “Don’t Believe A Word”, the slightly too sweet “Old Flame”, and the underrated early metalness of “Massacre”. The contrast between the highs and lows is perhaps at its most frustrating here, because it’s also the classic lineup, it comes right after the breakthrough record, and the band’s performance is in top shape. Do I love Johnny The Fox because of how awesome “Massacre” is, or groan because they follow that song up with two lukewarm songs? Worth noting is that Phil Collins (yes, Genesis Phil Collins) does percussion on some tracks, mostly because Lynott was friends with him and wanted the name drop, but nobody can actually remember which songs he played on.

Standout tracks: “Massacre”, “Don’t Believe A Word”, “Johnny The Fox Meets Jimmy The Weed”

by Radu





Wrapping up both a very lucrative period for Thin Lizzy as well as their most revered lineup, Bad Reputation is the last Thin Lizzy record to feature guitar playing from guitarist Brian Robertson (who would join Motörhead a few more years down the line) albeit only on a couple of tracks. On the rest, as the album cover suggests, the band is back to a trio formation. Despite the guitar harmonies being one of Thin Lizzy’s biggest selling points, Scott Gorham does a really good job of making enough noise and melodies for the both of them. Following up an album that gets accused of being half-baked and overly ambitious (but still really great) with one where the lineup changed midway through should be a disaster, but Bad Reputation finds Thin Lizzy in tight form. Half of it is still Lynott’s charisma, but there’s also the mix of great performances from everyone involved, tight and focused songwriting, and slick production. The R&B-inspired “Dancing In The Moonlight” might be the most well-known track from this one, complete with saxophone performed by none other than Supertramp’s John Helliwell, while also sporting some rockers with the title track and “Killer Without A Cause”. But the one deep cut that I find most interesting is how the guitar harmonies work in “Opium Trail”, one of the only songs to feature Robertson. A great final ode to a classic lineup, a successful lineup transition, and yet also a harbinger of things even better to come. Which brings us to…

Standout tracks: “Opium Trail”, “Soldier Of Fortune”, “Dancing In The Moonlight (It's Caught Me in Its Spotlight)”

by Radu





After years of intermittent involvement with Thin Lizzy in the studio and on the road, Gary Moore finally joined the band whole-hog for Black Rose: A Rock Legend, an album that would become one of Thin Lizzy's signature releases due in great portion to Moore's own fulgent musicianship. The presence of Moore activates an inspiration to greater showmanship on the part of all of Thin Lizzy's members, marking Black Rose rightfully as one of the band's flashiest albums instrumentally speaking. The rock legend runs deeper than a few great solos, however: the album is characterized predominantly by a rich, confident sound that outshines anything Thin Lizzy had released before, evident immediately from the rushing wind of purposeful anticipation that opens "Do Anything You Want To." The unusually rock-heavy track list is one of the band's most consistent, flowing from hit to hit with unflagging zeal. Lynott offers perhaps his best vocal performances on record, aided by his guerrilla rhyme schemes and fluid line structures; this is Thin Lizzy's most lyrical album, driven by Lynott's characteristic half-clever, half-silly phrasings, and his voice is always smooth and charismatic whether he's shouting out rough back-alley chronicles on "Toughest Street In Town" or crooning the glowing paternal ode "Sarah" (written for his newborn daughter, not to be confused with his grandmother's "Sarah" from Shades Of A Blue Orphanage). Black Rose is rightfully subtitled "a rock legend" just for the strength of its first eight tracks, but the true highlight is the final track, perhaps Thin Lizzy's greatest composition: "Roisin Dubh (Black Rose): A Rock Legend," an effusive ode to Ireland and its myths built on a bounding medley of folk melodies. The song's journey into the archives of the Irish musical canon shows Gary Moore at his most explosive and Thin Lizzy at its most passionate, serving not only as a milestone in the fusion of traditional and modern musical styles but as one of the best guitar songs in rock history.

Standout Tracks: "Roisin Dubh (Black Rose): A Rock Legend," "Do Anything You Want To," "Toughest Street In Town," "Sarah"

by SSUS




Chinatown (1980)


Chinatown inevitably comes as a disappointment after Black Rose, succeeding one of the band’s signature albums without the gravitas to be called the same, and it suffers from several interlocking trends that, while not yet disastrous, hint at Thin Lizzy’s imminent combustion. Gary Moore had cut loose from the band for the final time during the Black Rose tour, frustrated with Phil Lynott’s and Scott Gorham’s heroin usage on the road; though replacement Snowy White operates in a neat lockstep with Gorham, Black Rose was the ne plus ultra for Thin Lizzy’s guitar team, and Chinatown feels merely adequate by comparison. Likely due to similar personal distresses, Lynott’s vocal delivery lacks the ambrosial cool of his earlier persona; not only less prominent in the mix, his voice sounds harsher, hoarser, less voluminous. Gone as well is the free-wheeling attitude, the Hibernian bonhomie that electrified Black Rose, Bad Reputation, and Jailbreak: the heat-seeking swagger that once flowed freely is sewn up shut in an album of austere repetition, and most lethally Chinatown does not feature any true knockout tracks to inspire replays. All these circumstances conspire to make Chinatown one of Thin Lizzy’s less fondly remembered works. On further examination, however, it is worth rehabilitation; what Chinatown lost of the dynamic green-blues of the ‘70s, it replaced with early heavy metal severity. The tightly wound riffing and brittle distortion have a lot in common with Judas Priest’s Sin After Sin and Black Sabbath’s Sabbath Bloody Sabbath; the guitars wield an intimidating sharpness that, if not as “alive” as on the band’s classics, make Chinatown an engaging development considered from a metal perspective. Chinatown sounds more like a desperate punch than a thoroughly put-together album like its most auspicious predecessors, and sometimes that lack of polish yields something viscerally gripping.

Standout Tracks: “We Will Be Strong,” “Chinatown,” “Genocide”

by SSUS




Renegade (1981)


Chinatown and Renegade have a lot in common. Both stuck between Black Rose, one of Thin Lizzy’s best albums, and Thunder And Lightning, one of Thin Lizzy’s best albums. Both have Snowy White as a guitarist alongside Scott Gorham. Both have Darren Wharton as a keyboardist, though he was more of a session musician on Chinatown compared to the full membership he got on this album. Lynott sounds gruffer on both of them, on both heavier and lighter tracks. Both have shifted the sound towards something more in line with the heavy metal of the time, neither doing it as well as Thunder And Lightning. Both have Lynott wondering whether to keep songs for his solo career or use them for Thin Lizzy. So it’s easy to see why both get lumped together and why they may be a bit overlooked. But there’s still some things I find pretty curious about Renegade. First, the opener, “Angel Of Death”, is so much better than the rest of this album that it’s not even funny. Not only arguably the heaviest Thin Lizzy song, but also the second best metal song of that name. Then, even though the album is heavier, the band still keeps some of the bluesier side, and it’s odd to hear Lynott at his gruffest in the chorus of “The Pressure Will Blow” contrasting with the band sounding the closest to Dire Straits they ever had (which makes sense since Lynott worked with Mark Knopfler on his solo albums). There’s some more AOR-like choruses in songs like “Hollywood (Down On Your Luck)” and “No One Told Him”, and a jazzy number with “Fats” and a folky one with “Mexican Blood”. There’s a bit of unevenness in the album, also a result of changes in production teams and studios during the recording, and with such an obvious highlight, the rest of the album isn’t really on par with Chinatown, let alone the rest of Thin Lizzy’s catalog.

Standout Tracks: “Angel Of Death”, “The Pressure Will Blow”, “It’s Getting Dangerous”... did I mention “Angel Of Death”?

by Radu





Thin Lizzy’s star had fallen to its lowest by 1983: internal tensions had gutted the band, stiffening reception stymied the chances for new success, and the members were drifting away into other pursuits. By rights, Thin Lizzy’s final studio album should have been a distemperate flop forgotten in the rubbish bin. Instead, by whatever merciful intervention, Thunder And Lightning emerged as one of the best albums ever to bear the Thin Lizzy's logo: it is swift, stern, and steely, charging the metallic sound of Chinatown and Renegade with all the obstreperous overdrive that it can wield. To compare Thunder And Lightning too closely to thrash would be to mischaracterize the album's intent, for it is still more of a violent rock album than anything so prescient as extreme metal, but it does range very far into a nascent breed of metal that was faster, nastier, and more ruthless than the laden processions of the '70s and anything else in Thin Lizzy's own catalogue. Lynott furiously pelts the audience with shouted chants; harmonic squealing and tapping outbreaks supplant the warm harmonies of old; the fleet-footed vigor of the title track, "Cold Sweat," and "Baby Please Don't Go" raise questions of whether Iron Maiden wasn't influencing Thin Lizzy rather than the other way around. The punishing pace is broken up, as all Thin Lizzy albums must be, by a slower, calmer track, but "The Sun Goes Down" is far from the idyllic sweetness of old ballads: this was the last song that Thin Lizzy would ever record, and its poisonous, fatidic gloom adumbrates Lynott's own passing not long thereafter. It is a haunting addition that gives much weight to an otherwise lean and vicious album. Thunder And Lightning never totally abandons the groove ("The Holy War"), good-vibes rock ("Bad Habits"), and guitar-centric style that make this recognizable as a great Thin Lizzy release, but it is also the one that holds perhaps the most appeal for more traditional metal fans, and it ranks among their most outstanding and most consistent works.

Standout Tracks: "Thunder And Lightning," "The Sun Goes Down," "The Holy War," "Cold Sweat"



Where To Now?


Radu: Great, so you’ve finished Thin Lizzy’s studio albums and you’re thinking “Where to now?”. Well, the good news is that there’s more than that to Thin Lizzy. You have plenty of live albums to choose from (out of which we picked one) as well as a bit of Thin Lizzy in several related projects. Or you can just start getting into more Irish rock, blues, and folk instead.





Accounts vary greatly as to how much of Live And Dangerous actually was live, with some rumors alleging that the drums alone survived the original recording unabridged. Other sources contest this, stating that the recordings are mostly original and there are only occasional overdubs. The debate has been hot since the original release, but corroborating evidence for the minimal-overdub side does exist in the form of the much-later-released Still Dangerous; recorded on the very same tour, Still Dangerous did not see the light of day until 2009, long after Phil Lynott’s death and Brian Robertson’s excision from Thin Lizzy’s wake, and thus contains no studio alterations whatsoever. It is, if anything, the superior recording – but Live And Dangerous was the original, and therefore the one to catch the glint of spotlight. Regardless of how live it is, it is still very much dangerous, and enjoys renown as one of the best live albums in rock history. The set list includes some of Thin Lizzy’s less aggressive tunes just to change up the pace now and then, but mostly it’s a gathering of the band’s loudest, heaviest material as of 1978, and that played with thunderous energy that emanates confidence. Phil Lynott’s honed frontman persona is on display here, as is his oft-overlooked proficiency on the bass (just listen to “Emerald” for a taste of his power and fluidity); Brian Downey, too, is at constant risk of outdoing himself behind the kit, and this album also marks the last hurrah for Thin Lizzy’s classic guitar team of Gorham and Robertson (the latter of whom would shortly depart and leave Gary Moore to fill in). Live And Dangerous offers a glimpse into Thin Lizzy at its best, as a formidable stage-crusher brimming with talent and eager to show off its roster of generation-defining rock hits. As a greatest hits album, as an intro to Thin Lizzy, and as a monument to the band’s talents, it is an excellent selection.

by SSUS




Skid RowSkid (1970)


Skid Row (no, not that Skid Row) was the first band that Phil Lynott and Gary Moore played in professionally. Though Lynott had already departed the band by the time the band’s first album was released, only appearing on a single in 1969, Gary Moore remained as a guitarist and vocalist on both of the band’s albums (and a third one that was unreleased for twenty years), and after his 1971 departure the band went on and off between changing lineups and faded into obscurity, while Lynott and Moore became some of Ireland’s biggest musical exports. But in 1970, their debut was released, and it’s a pretty nasty showcase of progressive psychedelic blues. Even with Phil’s absence, I can only assume there was some input of his in the writing of Skid before his departure, or that it influenced him in the first Thin Lizzy albums, because Skid sounds like a wilder and dirtier version of Thin Lizzy. Some of these songs are really heavy for 1970, coming from both a blues rock and a psych rock place, with plenty of long-form in each side’s closer, and some playing that feels both raunchily energetic and progressive, hinting at some Zappa-ish weirdness while at it. You can kinda tell how young everyone involved is by how blatantly they mess up the notes that they do mess up (something that’s less of an issue on the more straightforward 1971 34 Hours), but the notes that they don’t mess up create a pretty fiery experience. Not the best out there, but certainly more deserving of recognition than it currently is.

Standout tracks: “Unco-Up Showband Blues”, “For Those Who Do”, “Mad Dog Woman”

by Radu




Philip LynottSolo In Soho (1980)


While Thin Lizzy was moving steadily into heavier spheres, Phil Lynott shifted the embers of soulful texture to another vessel. Solo In Soho savors the velvety suaveness that was being leeched out of Lizzy’s ‘80s releases; the album’s best tracks are the low-key rock numbers “King’s Call” and “Dear Miss Lonely Hearts,” songs that meld the urgent tempos of hard rock with the delicate nuances of the blues in the manner of Thin Lizzy’s earliest recordings. Despite the evident continuity with the parent project and the appearance of numerous contemporary and erstwhile members of Thin Lizzy throughout the album, however, Solo In Soho is more than a repository for Lynott’s recycled rock templates; the album luxuriates in cool hues and sincere performances that can slide into light disco (“Tattoo”), gloomy new wave (“Girls”), cheery synth pop (“Yellow Pearl”), and even oozy-synth reggae (“Solo In Soho”) depending on the inclinations of the song. The variety of styles represented makes Solo In Soho not terribly dissimilar from an average Thin Lizzy album in spirit, but the lack of a consistent band to ground the recordings and fluctuating degrees of success in each style cause the album to come off sometimes as a collection of experiments. It is, however, interesting to hear those experiments, especially given that some of these tracks never would have gotten off the ground in a Thin Lizzy context, and yet we still get the benefit of the band’s presence, as well as appearances from Gary Moore, Huey Lewis, Jimmy Bain, Mark Knopfler, and others.

Standout Tracks: “King’s Call,” “Dear Miss Lonely Hearts,” “Yellow Pearl”

by SSUS




Philip LynottThe Philip Lynott Album (1982)


Just as Thin Lizzy was approaching its most heavy metal-inspired form, Phil Lynott embraced the other side of his musical inclinations with his solo career. It’s not like Thin Lizzy’s music wasn’t diverse and pop-oriented in the first place, but his solo career emphasizes that even more, being first and foremost pop, while also maintaining its share of diversity with its new wave, blues, disco, funk, R&B, Motown, and soft rock leanings. Not all of them work with Phil’s vocals, but you can tell he wasn’t shying away from trying his hand (his voice rather) at different styles, and some of these feel like they work on his charisma alone. A lot of the backing musicians are the same as the ones on the previous album, including some Thin Lizzy bandmates, Midge Ure, Mark Knopfler, Huey Lewis, and, most surprisingly, King Crimson’s Mel Collins. It is the mix of Lynott’s vocals and Midge Ure’s synths that feels most jarring at times, so I’m more into the less synthpoppy tracks here. And even the highlights aren’t anything close to showstoppers, so aside from “Old Town”, leave this one as a “curious completionist” thing.

Standout tracks: “Old Town”, “Growing Up”, “Ode To Liberty”

by Radu




Grand SlamStudio Sessions (1984/2002)


Grand Slam was one of several projects adjacent to Thin Lizzy that was truncated by Phil Lynott’s death; although the band was revived some decades later and released a proper studio debut in 2019, no formal album materialized during Lynott’s tenure. Instead, Studio Sessions exists as a record of the band’s beginnings, compiling assorted songs from Grand Slam’s 1984 recording sessions. As such, this compilation is a somewhat messy assortment, largely of demo quality or otherwise evincing a “first draft” feel (as an example, see the early version of “Military Man,” which would later be rerecorded in much more dynamic fashion by Lynott and Gary Moore for Moore’s Run For Cover). Aside from opener “Nineteen,” which could have fit into the Thunder And Lightning era, very little of Grand Slam sounds much like Thin Lizzy, which is not a criticism – rather, much like Lynott’s solo albums, this material sounds like a collection of new ideas being tested, with the added irony (for this never reached fruition) that it is in general a more successful collection of such larks. Many of the songs were cowritten by keyboardist Mark Stanway (more famously of Magnum), so increased presence of keys relative to other albums in this article is common, as is a persistent flavor somewhat distinct from Lynott’s other ventures, but the tracks featured on Studio Sessions generally have a familiar spark of inspiration: the tranquil funk of “Harlem,” the grim and grimy blues of “Crime Rate,” and the dark and urgent swing of “Gay Boys” all bear something of Lynott’s poetical storytelling and distinct musical voice. Though Studio Sessions may be merely a glimpse of an unfinished project, it testifies to Lynott’s persistent talent and just how much potential lay within Grand Slam as a band; even as a rough sketch, it’s worth hanging on the wall.

Standout Tracks: “Crime Rate,” “Sisters Of Mercy,” “Gay Boys”

by SSUS





As awesome as it is that Gary Moore appeared on the best Thin Lizzy album, his stint in Thin Lizzy pales in comparison to his solo catalogue: he released his first album in 1973 (the only one released as The Gary Moore Band) and in total released 17 solo full-lengths before his death in 2011 (and one posthumous one). His catalog went from progressive rock to hard rock, blues rock, heavy metal, an electronic detour, and everything in between. Picking just one to spotlight is quite a hard task. Run For Cover is not the best (that would be Wild Frontier), not the heaviest (that would be Corridors Of Power, not the bluesiest (that would be Still Got The Blues), not the most accessible (that would be Back To The Blues), and it’s not even the one with the most input from Phil Lynott, since a lot more of 1978’s Back On The Streets was co-written and co-performed by Lynott. But Run For Cover is in the top 5 Gary Moore albums, and most importantly for the purposes of our article, contains the last release to feature Lynott that would be released in his lifetime. Lynott co-wrote and does (co-)lead vocals on two songs: “Military Man” and “Out In The Fields”. Also present on this album are Glenn Hughes doing bass and vocals on multiple songs, Don Airey doing keys on two, Paul Thompson on drums, and Bob Daisley doing bass on one. The album is less on the blues side that you’d expect, instead being more focused on the ‘80s AOR style of hard rock that borders on heavy metal, especially on the Hughes tracks. The production and the synth-heavy sound on a guitar record in the ‘80s makes Run For Cover sound quite dated, and I swear I’m not saying just because this is a Thin Lizzy article, but it’s the Lynott songs I like most. And yet it also shows why some people call Hughes “the voice of rock” and why Moore gets so much praise as a vocalist even outside blues circles.

Standout tracks: “Military Man”, “Out In The Fields”, “All Messed Up”

by Radu





Thin Lizzy formally disbanded in 1983, and Phil Lynott’s death in 1986 etched this bitter finale in stone – or so it seemed. Beginning in 1996, a band called “Thin Lizzy” toured extensively in various iterations, featuring a cast of erstwhile members and journeyman performers that rotated throughout the years; the use of the name Thin Lizzy in the absence of the band's founder and visionary generated mixed feelings throughout those tours, and so when the prospect arose of releasing new material, the interested members elected to formally shelve the old name and operate as a new entity. Featuring Scott Gorham from the classic lineup and several members from Thin Lizzy's then-current touring lineup, Black Star Riders debuted in 2013 with an album that keeps continuity with its origins and injects a dash of anachronistic charm. All Hell Breaks Loose is best understood as something in between a new Thin Lizzy album and a modern imitation of Thin Lizzy, for its simultaneous inheritance of and indebtedness to Thin Lizzy’s classic sound make it inseparable from its source material, but it does make efforts to achieve a conscious distinction. It is part update, demonstrating growth from Thin Lizzy without succumbing (mostly) to overt imitation, and part tribute, which gives it a little bit of sentimental value. The sound of Black Star Riders is quite familiar, for it addresses a general nostalgia for earthy and earnest hard rock of the ’70s; vocalist Ricky Warwick is not a dead ringer for Phil Lynott, but his timbre and articulation are similar enough that it’s easy to imagine what a good fit he would be for classic Thin Lizzy material. In spite of the high energy and aggressive title, Black Star Riders have an easygoing cool underpinning all the upbeat rock that freshens up their sound a bit. Black Star Riders has since continued and established itself as its own independent entity, but the Thin Lizzy association will probably always remain, and All Hell Breaks Loose is a great next stop for anyone coming off Thin Lizzy’s discography.

Standout Tracks: “Kingdom Of The Lost,” “All Hell Breaks Loose,” “Valley Of The Stones”

by SSUS



Overview


Radu: Even though Thin Lizzy's discography has what we consider obvious highlights and lower points, there's not really such a thing as a bad Thin Lizzy album, and each of them I could see as someone's favourite, just some more than others. You can see a running thread of variety in songwriting that also affects quality, so even within each album itself you have obvious highlights and lower points, where even the worse points you could see as someone's favourite. Albums may be frontloaded, having a couple of fantastic songs, and yet not live up to it as a whole, like Johnny The Fox, or may not have such obvious highlights but still impress with how the overall sound sits in the discography, like Chinatown.

Bottom line is: even for the albums that received a bad rating, that’s only relative, and there's at least something worthwhile in each album. But now you know which ones we think you should either start with or pay more attention to.






Written on 24.09.2022 by I'm the reviewer, and that means my opinion is correct.


Comments

Comments: 16   Visited by: 103 users
24.09.2022 - 22:24
The Galactician

In my top of top bands. Phil was a hell of a songwriter. Thanks for doing this one!
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25.09.2022 - 08:52
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
I like intro part... Article also unites protestant and orthodox, American and Romanian.
SSUS are you Irish origin?
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Life is to short for LOVE, there is many great things to do online !!!

Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''

I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing
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25.09.2022 - 09:56
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
Such a legend, came from poor Dublin streets where stronger survive.
I like them more from Jailbreak, more rock band, my blues days are over due time problem. I lile old bands, they drunk, jammed and wrote different songs whit totally different song structure. Now whole album sounds same. Then all was different. Skid Row no not LA street band, but Irish one good one. I am not big Gary fan, only Wild Frontier, Run for cover and After the war. But thinking what kind a legends they are, Cúchulainn I mean Lynott will live forever, seems only Primmordal can cary on, but nobody van be bigger as Thin Lizzy... And that band what plays still, is not real TL. Change name to Lizz Thinny
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Life is to short for LOVE, there is many great things to do online !!!

Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''

I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing
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25.09.2022 - 11:05
JoHn DoE

Now i want to find time for a little TL marathon.
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I thought the two primary purposes for the internet were cat memes and overreactions.
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25.09.2022 - 11:28
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
Written by JoHn DoE on 25.09.2022 at 11:05

Now i want to find time for a little TL marathon.

Its Sunday, you gave time.. I am at work, listen this band atm
----
Life is to short for LOVE, there is many great things to do online !!!

Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''

I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing
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25.09.2022 - 11:30
Chidder

I've seen Thin Lizzy with Gorham and Downey and I had a blast. Sure, it was more of a tribute-band without Phil, but still: it was pure fun "Cowboy Song" in live version is just a masterpiece
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25.09.2022 - 11:34
JoHn DoE

Written by Bad English on 25.09.2022 at 11:28

Written by JoHn DoE on 25.09.2022 at 11:05

Now i want to find time for a little TL marathon.

Its Sunday, you gave time.. I am at work, listen this band atm


I want to listen to so many things, time is what I can hardly find...
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I thought the two primary purposes for the internet were cat memes and overreactions.
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25.09.2022 - 12:04
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
Written by JoHn DoE on 25.09.2022 at 11:34

Written by Bad English on 25.09.2022 at 11:28

Written by JoHn DoE on 25.09.2022 at 11:05

Now i want to find time for a little TL marathon.

Its Sunday, you gave time.. I am at work, listen this band atm


I want to listen to so many things, time is what I can hardly find...
I have same problem whit time, since I work mainly alone, I do all days work fast rest of time sit and listen to music, even i can not do it by the book
----
Life is to short for LOVE, there is many great things to do online !!!

Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''

I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing
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25.09.2022 - 15:04
AndyMetalFreak
A Nice Guy
Great article I like the band Thin Lizzy, It's been ages since I last listened to them but I've never really been massively into them, I might have to rediscover some of these albums. However, Gary Moore has always been one of my all time favourite guitarists
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25.09.2022 - 16:01
ScreamingSteelUS
Editor-in-Chief
Written by Bad English on 25.09.2022 at 08:52

I like intro part... Article also unites protestant and orthodox, American and Romanian.
SSUS are you Irish origin?

You might say that. My most recently arrived ancestors made it to the US about a century ago, so I don't really consider myself Irish, but it's true that if you go back in the family history you'll find a lot of Irish people.
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"Earth is small and I hate it" - Lum Invader

I'm the Agent of Steel.
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25.09.2022 - 16:17
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
Written by ScreamingSteelUS on 25.09.2022 at 16:01

Written by Bad English on 25.09.2022 at 08:52

I like intro part... Article also unites protestant and orthodox, American and Romanian.
SSUS are you Irish origin?

You might say that. My most recently arrived ancestors made it to the US about a century ago, so I don't really consider myself Irish, but it's true that if you go back in the family history you'll find a lot of Irish people.


All white Americans (I don't mean anything racistic ) has ancestors from Europe, same half of Latin Americans.
But in USA, Canada has more variations from origin countries there.
Most Irish probably whit new Americans do is watch st. Patricks dy parade and gave some pint Guinness or Killkaney, and share English language where even accent is gone. To me 3th generation is pure American..
----
Life is to short for LOVE, there is many great things to do online !!!

Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''

I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing
Loading...
25.09.2022 - 21:13
Dream Taster
The Enemy Within
Awesome article and I wholeheartedly agree with the key message: Not a single bad album from Thin Lizzy!

Solo in Soho is also a grand album for sure. Lynott was so talented.

If you ever visit Dublin, the Phil Lynott statue is like a pilgrimage point (and not too far from Rory Gallagher Corner). I have been there a few times.

Thanks guys for the detailed article!
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25.09.2022 - 22:18
ScreamingSteelUS
Editor-in-Chief
Written by Dream Taster on 25.09.2022 at 21:13

Awesome article and I wholeheartedly agree with the key message: Not a single bad album from Thin Lizzy!

Solo in Soho is also a grand album for sure. Lynott was so talented.

If you ever visit Dublin, the Phil Lynott statue is like a pilgrimage point (and not too far from Rory Gallagher Corner). I have been there a few times.

Thanks guys for the detailed article!

I spent my junior year of university in Dublin and I saw the statue quite a few times. In fact, that pub where the statue is, Bruxelles, is where I had my first beer. I figured nothing could possibly be more Irish than having my first beer in Dublin on St. Patrick's Day in the basement of a pub with Phil Lynott outside (and it was a Guinness, too).

Then again, I remember drinking the pint (it was gross, I don't like Guinness), so I suppose it wasn't the most festive time I could have had.

But anyway, the statue was always a nice sight.
----
"Earth is small and I hate it" - Lum Invader

I'm the Agent of Steel.
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29.09.2022 - 18:10
nikarg
Mod
Great article, congrats! My first contact with Thin Lizzy was through Skyclad's cover of Emerald. This was the song that made me check out TL. I still haven't really dived deep in the discography and I think I should.
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29.09.2022 - 23:38
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Written by nikarg on 29.09.2022 at 18:10

Great article, congrats! My first contact with Thin Lizzy was through Skyclad's cover of Emerald. This was the song that made me check out TL. I still haven't really dived deep in the discography and I think I should.

Listen to "Angel Of Death" and "Massacre" this very instant.
----
Do you think if the heart keeps on shrinking
One day there will be no heart at all?
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17.10.2022 - 10:52
Toizumi

I dated an Irish girl for a few years. During every family visit her aunt would proudly tell us that she dated Phil when she was young. Her husband seemed proud of this fact as well. Anyway, TL is legendary and each one of their albums has a couple of really fantastic songs. For example, Renegade is not their best album, but the first three tracks are amazing and the rest of the album is fine. I'm always happy to give the record a spin. With plenty of bands I only play one or two of their albums and skip the rest of the discography. Not with TL. Their guitar harmonies always hit the spot.
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