Thin Lizzy are a hard rock band that require no introduction, as they helped to introduce twin lead guitar harmonies that were later championed by bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest as well as the burgeoning NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal) scene, which relied so heavily on this. Their most famous albums Jailbreak and Bad Reputation made the band helped solidify their brand and make a name for themselves, due in no small part to the massively popular “The Boys Are Back In Town” . What is often forgotten about the band is that they are much more than one song or one album; their career was strong throughout the 70′s and part of the 80′s before the untimely demise of vocalist/bassist Phil Lynott. Perhaps the beginning of their sound was found an album earlier in 1975 with Fighting. Let’s examine this relic in honour of St. Patrick’s Day.
Opening with the upbeat “Rosalie” ,we find the same core 4 band members consisting of Lynott, guitarists Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson as well as drummer Brian Downey who would put out their most successful work only a year later. The sounds of their future album were present with the constant melodies punctuating the empty air left behind from Lynott’s strong vocal performance. “For Those Who Love To Live” features a very blues oriented vocal style as the band revisits a common lyrical theme of the downtrodden and being able to give hope to a tragic character. The band flat out jams towards the end seeing Gorham and Robertson rip up their surroundings in favour of a more uplifting sound.
Shifting gear,s the band puts “Suicide” next on the album’s fight card. The basic structure of the narrative seems to be featured around the band’s obsession with street gangs and would later be revisited on the next album’s “Warriors”. The song is a true hard rocker that is riff driven and very often delves into the dual harmonization as well as Lynott’s tough guy sound and bass playing; I’d bet that nary a hard rock band played with as much attitude as Thin Lizzy did then, at least as far a band that “made it” did. “Wild One” is a more vocally driven ballad and a common occurrence for any of the middle era of Thin Lizzy, using the band’s well thought out melodies to paint a picture of beauty for the listener.
Back in gear to the kick ass rock attitude we see “Fighting My Way Back” which features gruff vocals and guitars that pull no punches as the melody is pretty much guaranteed at this point and since it carries so much weight for the band it is nice to see it pulled off to such perfection. “King’s Vengeance” shows off more of the vagabond type of person the band seems to relate so closely to; as well as the tyranny he is also surrounded by. The ear candy towards the end is always a nice touch as this band was especially tough to top when creating a great and positive image in one’s mind.
Melancholy is felt throughout the appropriately titled “Spirit Slips Away” that takes on a more sombre attitude to their guitar playing in the middle. Moving to “Silver Dollar” gets going by the little gallop of the main guitar riff, the song remains quite simple and sees the band coming off as very American due to lyrical content; not quite as obvious as the future song “Cowboy Song” but damned near close.
Ending my analysis with “Freedom Song” and “Ballad Of A Hard Man” you get a great taste of exactly the sound the band would have on their next 3 albums (now including Johnny The Fox) as the components are all there- expert rhythm bass, spectacular and soaring guitars and the drums to lay down the aural foundation for the band, whilst fighting off injustice; what a great message for bands in the future to learn from. Thin Lizzy continue to be a focal point of Irish rock music and I’m sure many of the other bands from the area should be judged on the same criteria.
The harmonization of heavy metal owes quite a bit of gratitude to this band and Wishbone Ash among others as the dual leads would be dead central on any person’s analysis of the band’s material. The unfortunate passing of Lynott to substance abuse short-circuited a band that had a ton of more potential and yet was never able to realize all of this.
Feel free to drop me a comment about a band you’d like to see covered, or just leave one as a sign of good faith. For what I’m currently listening to you can always check out my Last.fm page Let’s keep plenty of melody alive in this column and celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in style!