I was playing this album last night, ready for writing the review, when it gradually dawned on me, is this the weakest of the classic Lizzy albums? It’s a question I’m still not quite sure about. So let’s get stuck in and see if we can find an answer. To start with, this is the Lizzy studio album everyone has. Were it not for Live and Dangerous, this would be their Dark Side of the Moon, their Exile on Main Street.
This is most probably because it features a trilogy of classic Lizzy-anthems, the gritty title track and two other, more hymnal numbers, Cowboy Song and The Boys Are Back in Town. The rest of the songs, to put it mildly, are on different levels.
A huge asset to this album is that in addition to THAT trilogy, it also features two other songs that surely rank as the most fearsome rockers the band ever made. The stomping Warriors and the Black Sabbath-on-steroids closing number Emerald. All five of these numbers made for killer live showcases, as evidenced by their inclusion on Live and Dangerous.
The reaming four numbers offer a side to Lizzy that we rarely heard again. Angel from the Coast, the second track following Jailbreak, reprises the sparkles of King’s Vengeance into a full-blown heavy rock assault, whilst still retaining some of the most pleasant, upbeat melodies the boys ever played.
Next though, is perhaps the weakest song in Lizzy’s catalogue. Running Back does nothing for me at all. There’s an infamous story where Brian Robertson took great offence to Phil’s overly-commercial take on the song, and indeed, it doesn’t sit well with the other songs on the album at all.
But next up is another unique Lizzy number, and a corker at that. Romeo and the Lonely Girl is a beautiful piece of classic rock. Phil croons away a tale of star-crossed lovers while the band play ferociously being him, yet keeping things in a minor key, and Robbo spits out one of the finest solo’s he ever performed whilst in Thin Lizzy.
That just leaves Fight or Fall. Again, its a pleasant song, but one without much of a character of its own, barely acting as more than a sweet, temporary rest between the two epics The Boys are Back in Town and Cowboy Song.
So this doesn’t really answer my question as to is this Lizzy’s weakest album, does it? Aside from a couple of weak numbers, this album stands up immensely well. It takes the energy and charisma of Fighting and amps it up to eleven, holding no barrels and generally expanding on what made Fighting such a good record.
So I guess the reason for me calling this album weak is its apparent looseness in theme. On the back of the album, there is a short piece of prose written by Phil that seems to connect with the various songs on here.
Also, characters and events, while not named, are mentioned throughout the album, almost as if Phil is taking advantage of the ‘concept album’ craze of the day and attempting to tell a story. If any rocker could tell an engaging story, it would defiantly be Phil Lynott. But the story here, if there is one, is far too vague to even begin to understand.
But with that said, Jailbreak is still a near-masterpiece of an album. Its frantic yet melodious energy still sounds fresh to this day, and vague stories and weak numbers aside, the individual stories on each song make for engaging listening, further cementing Phil’s vagabond heart. Like Fighting, its one of the greatest rock albums ever.
And what’s even better is that there were still three more stellar albums to come!
Tomorrow, Johnny the Fox!