Someone you love
deserves some Lynott for Christmas: Decca/Universal does the boys from Ireland right
on three choice reissues.
other day, I was sitting around watching some Thin Lizzy videos with my kids –
you know, bonding – and upon learning
that the band was Irish, my oldest boy proclaimed “Really? They don’t
sound Irish.” Now, I’m fairly proud he didn’t say “they don’t look Irish” after gazing upon the
browned lankiness that was Phil Lynott, and that he was more surprised that
hits like “The Boys Are Back in Town” and “Jailbreak” could
have come from anywhere other than the USA,
but I really wondered what he thought an Irish rock band *should* sound
like. U2? The Clancy Brothers?
answer – or at least one of the answers – can be found on the first few Thin
Lizzy albums, especially the band’s self-titled debut. Before Lynott and the
band had fully embraced their potent rock ‘n’ roll power, there was a
considerable bit of identity experimentation, and on 1971’s Thin Lizzy (6 out of 10 stars), it’s
interesting to hear the band that, in just a few years, would be roaring
through a Bob Seger cover on the way to chart success, diddling about on a
track like “The Friendly Ranger at Clontarf Castle.”
would weave Celtic themes throughout his lyrics during most of Thin Lizzy’s
existence, but on these first three albums – the band sounds quite a bit like
“an Irish band,” albeit one that’s working toward a distinctly
Americanized sound notably devoid of those very lyrical themes. Eventually,
Lynott gets there, and by 1973’s Vagabonds
of the Western World (8 stars) Thin Lizzy is beginning to resemble the band
that is so well-known, with cuts like “The Rocker” and one of
Lynott’s several near-creepy tunes, “Little Girl in Bloom” (one of
the others, “Sarah,” is on Shades
of a Blue Orphanage, 7 stars, from ‘72).
deluxe edition reissues are quite overdue, yet they do not disappoint. The remastering job is more than welcome,
adding a depth long missing from previous CD editions, but it’s the bonus
material that’s the real prize. The first two albums are nearly doubled in
length with singles (yes, “Whiskey in the Jar” is on Shades), EPs, outtakes, and alternate
versions, while Vagabonds adds ten
bonus tracks and an entire disc’s worth of BBC sessions; of those sessions, a
five-track concert from 1973 is a highlight.
Also worth noting: several of the singles featured as bonus tracks on Vagabonds are some of Gary Moore’s first
appearances with Thin Lizzy.