Thursday, February 14, 2008

When the Shillelagh
Meets the Hood
Part Eight: From

Ireland With Love

Thin Lizzy,
Thin Lizzy,
Deram/Decca (1971)

Me mother is Irish and me father is from Rio. I haven't
seen him since I was four. He's a real lover. He loved them
and left them. I think that's the only thing I learned from
him. Being a black in Dublin wasn't a problem. The Irish

never showed me any prejudice. Besides, I'm a big lad
and I'd deck anybody who said anything nasty to me.
-- Phil Lynott (from John Tracy's liner notes)

Click here for part seven

Ah, but what if Lynott hadn't been a "big lad"? If Micks gave
him a hard time, and he couldn't give as good as he got, Lynott
might've left the country, or tried his hand at a different trade.
Ireland's music history wouldn't be the same. Since 1970, Thin
Lizzy has reined as the biggest hard-rock band to emerge from
the Emerald Isle, a status unchanged for almost four decades.

Often described as "folk-oriented," Lizzy's first full-length is
still a rock record—no qualifiers necessary. I'm not sure how anyone could confuse this 14-track set for a folk-rock enter-
prise. In fact, the Eric Bell-penned "Ray-Gun" more closely resembles funk-rock. (According to the liners, the Northern Ireland-born guitarist once played with Van Morrison's Them.)
Since Lizzy used to cover Hendrix's "If Six Were Nine" and "Fire"
in concert, it seems likely they were familiar with his later Band
of Gypsys repertoire, like the similarly titled "Machine Gun." In fact, the guitar-saturated "Return of the Farmer's Son" could al-
most be a Hendrix cover—except for the story-like lyrics, which
are 100% Lynott (and he almost played Hendrix in a biopic).

As for the rest, "The Friendly Ranger at Clontarf Castle" and "Old Moon Madness" begin like 1973's "Vagabonds of the Western World" with spoken-word introductions—and what a lovely speaking voice Lynott had! These tunes, Celtic fantasia "Eire," and acoustic reveries "Dublin" and "Saga of the Ageing Orphan" conjure up a cross between mellow-mood Zep and Moondance-era Morrison.

On "Clontarf Castle," Lynott even does a little Morrison-style mumbling. Then, on "Saga," he engages in some Robert Plant-
like phrasing, making him sound more British than Irish.

As a singer, Lynott was still finding his voice, though he's far
from bad. He also pushes too hard on the ravers. Chances are the
band had limited studio time—they recorded in London—and
Lynott may not have gotten the number of takes he wanted. On
the epic "Diddy Levine," in particular, it sounds like he could use a
break for a hot toddy (whiskey and lemon, Ireland's cure-all).

This CD reissue includes the rare "New Day" EP, resulting in a
total of 14 tracks, or 53:45 minutes of music. If Thin Lizzy
doesn't have the immediate impact of the underrated Vaga-
bonds of the Western World or the mega-platinum Jailbreak,
it proves the Irish outfit, including Lynott's Dublin mate Brian
Downey on drums, established their basic template from the start.
The three experienced players didn't have to grow into their
sound, but rather to harness it to more radio-ready material.
There are no embarrassing lapses or false steps, but nor is there
a battle cry like "The Boys Are Back in Town." Listen closely,
though, to "Look What the Wind Blew In" and "Things Ain't
Working Out Down at the Farm," and you can hear it coming.

Endnote: Images from Norman Hood Cartoons and The His-
tory of Phil Lynott
. The first pic features the original Lizzy line-
up, the second features Lynott's early band the Black Eagles.

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