Music review – Thin Lizzy’s classic years part 4, Bad Reputation

    And so here we are, on the home stretch! But before we can spot the finish line, we’ve yet to dive into a new path Thin Lizzy would take with their sound. So here we go…

    Bad Reputation lives up to its title marvellously, with no small help given by the album’s producer, Tony Visconti. In fact, the album’s itself is perhaps overshadowed by its production, or even for people who don’t know this album very well, the fact that Tony was the producer.

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    Having previously worked with the two kings of glam, David Bowie and Marc Bolan, Tony’s production style translates well from the trashy pop of Bowie/Bolan to the slick, heavy style of Lizzy. And Tony takes advantage of Lizzy’s slickness to almost maddening proportions, amping up the material so that it sounds more alive than any other Lizzy album up to this point.

    And the material itself is uniformly fab. The opening and closing tracks, Soldier of Fortune and Dear Lord, are two of Lizzy’s most majestic titles, while other rockers such as the rattling Opium Trail, the quirky acoustic/harmonica flavoured riff-rocker Without a Cause, the minor-key thunderings of That Woman’s Gonna Break Your Heart, and the grinding title track sound positively lethal! The title track specifically easily defines the sound and style of the album, perhaps the slickest rocker ever made.

    There’s much less in the way of ballad-like numbers here than on the previous album, only offering South Bound and Downtown Sundown, and they are both pleasantly pretty numbers, given even more welly and not much schmaltz by Tony’s battering ram production techniques. South Bound itself made for a fine addition to the live show, as did Bad Reputation and Opium Trail, while Downtown Sundown is easily the most gorgeous song on here.

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    The remaining number, Dancing in the Moonlight, is the most commercial sounding track on here, and indeed was a hit single on its release. In my Jailbreak interview, I noted how Running Back was an ill-conceived attempt at having a hit single, but here, it works. Like the rest of the songs on here, its slickness offers no bounds, and it’s a fabulously swinging number, complete with Phil’s nostalgic lyrics of being a younger man back home.

    And that’s another point for the album. Both jailbreak and Johnny the Fox had some form of story to them, but those stories were never made clear. Here, Phil abandons these ambitions in favour of a collection of unrelated songs, and it works much better than trying to fit in a story within the album. His lyrics range from the feelings of returning from war (Solider of Fortune), the dangers of drugs (Opium Trail), leaving the safety of home for the wide world (South Bound), more innocent times (Dancing in the Moonlight), loosing a loved one to someone else (Downtown Sundown), and of course, an autobiographical song which could apply to the band itself (Bad Reputation).

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    This album is also the only classic Lizzy album where the band is stripped down to a trio, on most tracks. Robbo only appears on Opium Trail, Killer Without a Cause, and That Woman’s…, his arrogant and aggressive behaviour finally reaching the end of Phil’s tether.

    Brian would soon be replaced by one Gary Moore, which would propel the band to new heights and even greater success, but that success would only be short-lived. And when you’re up so high, there’s only one way you can end up going…

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    Tomorrow, the finale! Black Rose: A Rock Legend.

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