I’ve decided to set myself a challenge and give myself five days to review five albums from one seriously underrated rock act. That act is Thin Lizzy, and I’ll be reviewing, what I believe, to be their classic albums, Fighting, Jailbreak, Johnny the Fox, Bad Reputation, and Black Rose. I’m avoiding doing Live and Dangerous as that’s too obvious, and there’s not much you can say about that album that hasn’t already been said.
Most hardcore Lizzy fans will argue, I’m sure, that their classic days began with the album previous to Fighting, Night Life. But while that is a lovely album, I believe that Fighting is where the Lizzy we know and love today really began kicking at the shit. So without further ado, here is part one.
Fighting does what it exactly says. It’s the sound of a band growling and gnashing away with full force at a world who, by their break up, wouldn’t give them the due they so rightfully deserved. The album kicks off with their fabulous cover of Bob Seger’s Rosalie, ironically now one of Thin Lizzy’s (!) best known songs. But it’s on the next track, For Those Who Love To Live, that the band really takes flight. Brian Robertson’s and Scott Gorham’s guitars truly meld together, as if lead singer, bass player and chief songwriter Phil Lynott were some kind of alchemist bringing the two, and drummer Brian Downey, together.
Robbo’s and Scott’s guitars continue to give thrilling harmonies, soaring leads, galloping rhythms and fierce solos throughout the album, as if they were two young reckless princes (Robbo was only 19 when they did this album), prancing their way through the album sprinkling it with sheer force and momentum.
But if they’re the princes, then Phil Lynott is surely the king. It’s on this album that he truly establishes his trademark vagabond heart, a poet and free spirit lost on the road of rock and roll. His singing and his lyrics are equally dulcet and raging, often at the same time. His soft crooning on Wild One meshes nicely with the raw, whiskey-flavoured shouts on Fighting My Way Back, as he sings with the same tough vulnerability.
And the songs, boy, the songs! Phil being the band’s visionary, he naturally contribute the best songs. And it’s hard to imagine any other band that could be tagged as ‘heavy metal’, pulling off the sparkling acoustics on King’s Vengeance, the melancholic hopefulness of Freedom Song, Fighting My Way Back’s scratchy funk, the heavy-handed boogie of Suicide, and the eerie Spirit Slips Away.
Robbo and Scott contribute songs as well, but sadly, when you listen to them you understand why their guitarists and not songwriters. Even though they do lend their song-writing chops to Phil’s own songs, Robbo’s Silver Dollar has a characterless ZZ Top-esque boogie to it, and Scott’s headbanger Ballad of a Hard Man, while a better song, is still not much more than a disposable slab of hard rock.
But that said, this is one hell of a rock and roll album, because it both embraces and expands on what being a bunch of rockers is all about. Sure, you can be tough and raw, but you can also be melodic, sensitive, vulnerable, and all the while still manage to rock the hell out of everything you have.