Welcome to THE FIRST Album by Album Challenge of 2016. For those that are new here, the “Album by Album Challenge” is where I take a band’s entire discography and listen to every album in order of release from front to back. With my unforgiving and well-aged ear, I call it how I hear it. In some cases, I find that what I once thought was good is actually pretty crappy and sometimes crap manages to age into something pretty kick ass. And in some cases, face melting is still just good ol’ face melting.
This time around I have chosen Irish hard rock masters, Thin Lizzy. I’ll be honest. Before going into this challenge all I had by these guys was the greatest hits compilation, Dedication and their live album, Live and Dangerous. Diving into their catalog was so much fun and I feel like I learned so much about this amazing band that I didn’t know before. Through line up changes and changes in the musical landscape of the times, Thin Lizzy was there and regardless of the outcome always stuck to their guns and stayed true to being a rock n’ roll band first and foremost. This was a great time for me and I hope you all enjoy this one.
Please share your opinions, thoughts and comments in the comments section below!
Title: Thin Lizzy
Release Date: April 30, 1971
The Good: The Friendly Ranger at Clontarf Castle, Honesty is No Excuse, Diddy Levine, Ray-Gun, Look What the Wind Just Blew In, Eire, Return of the Farmer’s Son, Clifton Grange Hotel, Sage of the Ageing Orphan,
The debut Thin Lizzy album is something that I have never listened to and I have to say that this is a stellar fucking album. The opening spoken word of “The Friendly Ranger” was such a great way to open things up but it almost had me laughing a little bit as it totally reminded me of Stonehenge. From there, the album is just chock full of amazing songwriting and playing.
I’m also kind of surprised by how it doesn’t really sound like that signature Thin Lizzy sound that I know so well. While this album does have some rocking moments Like “Diddy Levine”, “Ray Gun” and “Look What the Wind Blew In”, songs like “Erie” and the absolute stellar “Saga of the Ageing Orphan” have this beautiful traditional Irish Folk tone to them. As a matter of fact, the album even sounds like a kind of Irish Folk Hard Rock album. All in all, this is a spectacular album that I am so happy has found its way into my life. This is an album I will definitely be revisiting.
Title: Shades of a Blue Orphanage
Release Date: March 10, 1972
The Good: Buffalo Gal, Sarah – Version 1, Chatting Today, Shades of a Blue Orphanage
The Bad: I Don’t Want to Forget How to Jive,
The Indifferent: The Rise and Dear Demise of the Funky Nomadic Tribes, Brought Down, Baby Face, Call the Police,
Being that I’m not a long time Thin Lizzy fan, I’m very curious to hear from the diehards just how this album ranks for them. In my opinion, this was a weird fucking album. The first song, “The Rise and Dear Demise of the Funky Nomadic Tribes” was just as fucking bizarre as the title. There were quite a few songs on this album that I just didn’t know what to make of. Songs like, “Brought Down”, “Baby Face”, and “Call the Police” just left me scratching my head while “I don’t Want to Forget How to Jive” just flat out sucked. It sounded like a mockery of Elvis or something.
The songs that were truly good on this album were just that. They were good and not much more than that. The title track struck me as the best song on the album but it just seemed to stick out like a sore thumb. I’m really not quite sure what to make of this album other than the fact that it sounds like a band who is seeking some sort of identity. It’s very inconsistent and seems to lack any kind of cohesive identity. I’ll definitely pass on this album again in the future as it’s not even a “grower” to me.
Title: Vagabonds of the Western World
Release Date: September 23, 1973
The Good: Mama Nature Said, Slow Blues, The Rocker, Vagabond of the Western World, Little Girl in Bloom, Gonna Creep Up on You,
The Bad: A Song for While I’m Away
The Indifferent: The Hero and the Madman,
Wow. So sometime in the year between this and the previous album, Thin Lizzy seemed to really find their groove. This album is pretty much right out the gates balls to the wall rock n’ roll. At this point, the band hasn’t started with those twin guitar harmonies that they would become so famous for but there are so many songs on this album that show just how close the band was to getting to this signature sound.
“Slow Blues”, “The Rocker”, and “Little Girl” all sound like songs that would’ve been perfect for that twin guitar line up. “The Hero and the Madman” was just a bit too strange for me but it didn’t suck. It just didn’t click with me. “Gonna Creep Up on You” is by far one of the most uncomfortable songs I’ve ever heard. It’s so creepy but I love the nasty, funky vibe of this song. “A Song for While I’m Away” is the absolute worst album closing song. Actually, it’s probably one of the worst songs I’ve ever heard. It’s so hard for me to believe that they could write a song this bad. All in all, this album isn’t horrible but again, I don’t necessarily think it’s anything you’re missing out on by not having.
Release Date: September 21, 1973
The Good: She Knows, Night Life, It’s Only Money, Still in Love With You, Frankie Carroll, Showdown, Banshee, Philomena, Sha La La, Dear Heart
So I kind of figured out that Nightlife is Thin Lizzy’s mellow down easy album. Just about every song on here is a mellow late night kind of jam but this isn’t a bad thing by any stretch. This is the first album to feature guitarists Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson and here is where we get the first taste of that classic guitar sound that we would come to know and love Thin Lizzy for.
I already knew “She Knows” and “Showdown” thanks to the Dedication compilation but the rest of the album was a first for me and I found myself really loving this album. It is really pretty mellow and I also get the feeling that with this being a new line up, the waters were still being tested a bit. “Sha La La” is the only real “rocker” on this album and it’s a fucking great one but honestly, “Philomena” is the stand out track on this album with some goosebump inducing guitar work. All in all, this is a really remarkable album that will definitely get more spins from me in the future.
Release Date: March 26, 1976
The Good: Rosalie, For Those That Love to Live, Suicide, Wild One, Fighting My Way Back, King’s Vengeance, Spirit Slips Away, Silver Dollar, Freedom Song, Ballad of a Hard Man
Wow. Just wow. You want to talk about a band finding their stride and firing on all cylinders? Well, this is that band. From start to finish, Fighting totally lives up to its name . Right out the gates with the Bob Segar penned, “Rosalie”, Fighting is an unstoppable force. Those twin guitar harmonies are in full effect and in my opinion, up to this point, THIS is the album that sounds like Thin Lizzy as I always knew them. I’m just trying to wrap my head around just why this album seems to not get anywhere near the amount of praise it deserves. Fighting is also a very versatile album. From the Rocking “Fighting My Way Back” to the beautiful “Wild One”, Fighting really covers quite a bit of ground.
Let me also mention that this is a perfectly sequenced album. The track order just seems to so well thought out and closing the album out with “Ballad of a Hard Man” with its “Working Man” kind of groove just left me wanting more. Fighting has such an amazing flow to it and honestly it struck a chord with me. I really wasn’t prepared to have the feelings toward this album that I have. Being that this was the first time I had ever heard this album start to finish, I feel like I just found the most precious of hidden treasures. This album is truly amazing and this just may be one of my all time favorite records.
Release Date: March 26, 1976
The Good: Jailbreak, Angel From the Coast, Romeo and the Lonely Girl, Warriors, The Boys are Back in Town, Fight or Fail, Cowboy Song,
The Indifferent: Running Back
At this point in the game, Thin Lizzy is an unstoppable force. Jailbreak definitely has the band establishing their signature sound and where Fighting was a total balls out album, Jailbreak definitely mixes it all up just a bit more stylistically. Much like with Fighting, Jailbreak has a great flow to it and you can tell that the band really put a lot of thought into the sequencing of this album.This album also features some of Thin Lizzy’s best known tracks like “Jailbreak”, “The Boys are Back in Town”, and “Cowboy Song.” Can we also just talk about how much “Emerald” sounds like Iron Maiden? It would be no surprise to me if Thin Lizzy was definitely part of the Iron Maiden blueprint!
The lesser known tracks such as “Angel From the Coast”, “Romeo and the Lonely Girl”, and “Warriors” are all extremely strong, stand out tracks on their own but it was “Fight or Fail” that really struck a chord with me more so than the others. This just may be one of the all time greatest ballads that you’ve never heard. The only song I didn’t really like was “Running Back.” For a band that was so heavy on guitar power, it just seemed to drag things
Title: Johnny the Fox
Release Date: October 16, 1976
The Good: Johnny, Rocky, Borderline, Don’t Believe a Word, Fools Gold, Johnny the Fox Meets Jimmy the Weed, Old Flame, Massacre, Sweet Marie, Boogie Woogie Dance
Johnny the Fox. This is a really fun album to listen to and while it has a bunch of really good songs, the album as a whole just failed to grab me like the previous couple did. I’m not sure why this is. Maybe it was the “loose” attempt and being a concept album or something but there is just something about this album that didn’t pull me in and shake me up. “Johnny the Fox Meets Jimmy the Weed” was a little weird but I dug it quite a bit.
In my opinion, the slower, more mellow songs such as “Fools Gold”, “Old Flame”, and “Sweet Marie” were the stand out tracks. Thin Lizzy really amazes me in that when they rock, they rock harder than most but when they bring it down mellow, they do it better than most. Over all, this album has a lot of great songs but it also seems to not have the flow that the previous few did. The songs just seem kind of all over the place but again, this really is a great album. I think I would probably pull the mellow tracks out and add them to playlist since they are that good.
Title: Bad Reputation
Release Date: September 2, 1977
The Good: Soldier of Fortune, Bad Reputation, Opium Trail, Southbound, Dancing in the Moonlight, Killer Without a Cause, Downtown Sundown, Dear Lord
The Indifferent: That Woman’s Gonna Break Your Heart
Coming off the heels of slightly odd Johnny the Fox, Thin Lizzy came back to form with Bad Reputation. This album also marked a change in the lineup as Brian Robertson was out of the band at this point leaving Thin Lizzy as a three piece. With Scott Gorham performing double duty on guitar, I’ll be honest that while that twin guitar element is somewhat missing at times, the songs on this album are extremely strong and actually, some of the bands strongest.
Bad Reputation definitely rocks in a huge way but I also love the diversity of this album. From the balls out attitude of “Bad Reputation” to the strutting groove of “Dancing in the Moonlight” to the almost folk rock tinged “Southbound”, Bad Reputation covered a lot of ground with not one week track in the bunch. “Dear Lord”, closing out the album, definitely is the showstopper here. Goosebumps for sure as Phil really seems to be calling for help and you can totally feel it in the song. This is a great album and one definitely worth digging into.
Title: Black Rose: A Rock Legend
Release Date: April 13, 1979
The Good: Do Anything You Want to Do, Toughest Street in Town, Waiting For an Alibi, Got to Give it Up, Get Out of Here, With Love, Rosin Dubh (Black Rose): A Rock Legend
The Indifferent: S&M, My Sarah,
Before I even listened to this album, I did some reading up on it. It turns out that this album didn’t really get a whole lot of critical acclaim with critics saying that it wasn’t as “catchy” or “hook laden” as the previous albums. In all honesty, I have to say that I don’t think this couldn’t be further from the truth. I found the songs on this album to be really fucking well done. The opening track, “Do Anything You Want to Do” has to be one of Thin Lizzy’s greatest pieces. You want to talk about motivational music? This song has pretty much become my new soundtrack and theme song. Thanks, Phil. “Got to Give it Up” is also another fantastic song that, once again, sounds like Phil’s reaching out for help with battling whatever demons he may have had. I always loved how Phil seemed to personify his struggles and manifest them into characters of sorts and this song does just that. This was also the first album to feature, in full, Gary Moore. To be honest, I couldn’t tell much of a difference but maybe I’m missing something but regardless, the guitar work is as stellar as always.
As a whole, Black Rose is a truly great record with only a couple of minor “meh” moments. This is totally an album worth owning because the songs that are “good” are pretty fucking fantastic. There were only a couple of “so so” tracks and even those didn’t suck as much as they just seemed a bit out of place. The closing track which critics seemed to call weak I felt was fucking brilliant. I mean, combining a bunch of traditional Irish songs into one big rock n’ roll opus? Yeah, epic as fuck in my book. This is definitely one worth owning.
Release Date: October 10, 1980
The Good: Chinatown, Sugar Blues, Didn’t I
The Indifferent: We Will Be Strong, Sweetheart, Killer on the Loose, Having a Good Time, Genocide (The Killing of the Buffalo), Hey You
Oh, Chinatown. Now this sounds like an album by a band who is starting to lose some steam. The songwriting in general on this album just seems to be some of the weakest material that they had put out up this point. When I read up on this album, some people said that they felt that the weakness of the album came from having Snowy White on guitar. I do feel that his playing definitely didn’t match the overall vibe and sound of Thin Lizzy but again, it’s the weak writing that kills this album. “Having a Good Time” has to be one of the absolute worst songs I’ve ever heard. “We’ll be having a good time! It’s a rock n’ roll past time.” It’s like they ran out of ideas.
While Chinatown for the most part is absolute weaksauce, there are some pretty cool moments. The title track is a classic for sure and the ballad “Didn’t I” is pretty much the only song on this album that resembles the Thin Lizzy I’ve come to love so much. As a whole, Chinatown isn’t really an album that I feel like is one that is an essential album to own. If I’m not mistaken, the song “Chinatown” is available on the compilation “Dedication” so if you don’t have that comp, maybe even just download that song and “Didn’t I” and you should be good to go.
Release Date: November 15, 1981
The Indifferent: Angel of Death, The Pressure Will Blow, Renegade, Leave This Town, Hollywood (Down On Your Luck), No One Told Him, Fats, Mexican Blood, It’s Getting Dangerous
Renegade is such a strange album. It’s strange in that of all the albums they’ve put out, this is the first one of the bunch where every song is just “meh.” Nothing in particular sucks on this album but it’s all just very week songwriting. Musically it’s also very drab and very boring. There are a few songs that are better than others but for the most part, nothing jumps out at me or makes me feel like I’m hearing anything spectacular.
Renegade sounds as if this album was made up of nothing but throw away, cutting room floor b-sides that weren’t good enough to make the album. Performance wise, Phil is sounding really week. His voice is starting to sound lifeless, tired, and worn out. This album just sounds totally uninspired and I just can’t help but feel that this album is taking the band so close to the end of the line.
Title: Thunder and Lightning
Release Date: March 4, 1983
The Good: Thunder and Lightning, This is the One, The Sun Goes Down, The Holy War, Baby Please Don’t Go, Bad Habits, Heart Attack
The Indifferent: Cold Sweat, Someday She is Going to Hit Back,
Ok. So maybe I spoke too soon. Just when I thought they Phil and Co. were running out of steam, here they come with Thunder and Lightning. Right out the gates with “Thunder and Lightning” I felt this fire, energy, and attitude that I hadn’t heard in a few albums from Thin Lizzy. I honestly have to say that this is more than likely attributed to the fact that John Sykes had moved in to replace Snowy White on the guitar. This move seemed to really inject the band with a bit of youthful energy. This is also where I can see where Thin Lizzy gets thought of as a metal band sometimes.
Thunder and Lightning has some really great material on this one but the show stopper on this one is “The Sun Goes Down.” What a fantasic song. This particular album has such a heavy edge to it but at the end of the day, it fails to capture that magic sound that the team of Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson. While that is the case, this really is a great album in its own right and, in my opinion is a great way to go out. Listening to this album, I feel like Phil must have felt like he was going out on a truly great note and leaving behind a legacy to be truly proud of.