Thin Lizzy: Thin Lizzy, Shades of a Blue Orphanage, Vagabonds … CD reissues reviewed

Let Us All Praise Thin Lizzy

The 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?


The 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.”


Lynott 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).

These 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 onVagabonds are some of Gary Moore’s first appearances with Thin Lizzy.

First appeared Dec. 23, 2010 at Blurt.


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