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Fluffernutter Friday

June 7th, 2013
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Black Star Riders are what remains of the recent touring version of Thin Lizzy. Their new album, All Hell Breaks Loose, is no Thin Lizzy in their prime. But it does prove that yes, they do still make music like that. Someday Salvation is the absolute highlight of the album, but Bound for Glory isn’t bad either.

And just in case you forgot how good they are, here’s the real thing.


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The Freedom of Music: Jailbreak

May 23rd, 2010

freedom-of-music-header

One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

In his classic heavy metal treatise, Fargo Rock City, Chuck Klosterman says in the Prologue:

…if you wrote an essay insisting Thin Lizzy provided the backbone for your teen experience in the mid 1970s, every rock critic in America would nod their head in agreement. A serious discussion of the metaphorical significance of Jailbreak would be totally acceptable. I just happen to think the same dialogue can be had about Slippery When Wet

sidebar-1Critics, start your nodding.

 I missed Jailbreak when it came out in 1976. In fact, I only discovered it in the past few weeks. Who knows why, I was 13 that year, certainly into music. I knew who Thin Lizzy was, liked the songs Jailbreak and, of course, The Boys Are Back in Town. But I never owned the album, still don’t own it although I did recently acquire the album on MP3.

 Avast, and how would you be acquiring that? you ask. Fear not, acquiring a legal copy during my infrequent visits to my local record store is on my agenda. Bad news if you’re Phil Lynott’s survivors, I’ll be buying a used copy. The only reason I can figure I never owned it is that I have a Thin Lizzy Greatest Hits album, that returned with my mother from one of her occaisnal trips home to Ireland. I had all the Lizzy songs I’d need, I must have reasoned. That’s where I reasoned wrong.

Sure the hits are good: Jailbreak and The Boys are Back in Town are both great rock songs, classics even. And Cowboy Song, which I’m not entirely sure was ever released as a single or was a hit, but is a standard of the classic rock canon. “It’s just like Wanted, Dead or Alive,” people always say. It was the jumping off point for Chuck Klostermans comparison of the two above:

…the car radio played Thin Lizzy’s “Cowboy Song“. I was struck by how much it reminded me of Wanted, Dead or Alive.

Yes, it is just like Wanted, Dead or Alive, in that both songs use the word “cowboy,” a lot, and both have electric guitars in them, and Wanted, Dead or Alive uses the cowboys as a metaphor for being a rock star and Cowboy Song uses cowboys as a metaphor for people who work on ranches in the American southwest, and Wanted, Dead or Alive is in the key of D, and Cowboy Song the key of A and that’s only like, four apart. Otherwise, there’s not that much the two have in common that they don’t also have in common with Stairway to Heaven and Kiss’s Black Diamond and Chilliwack’s My Girl (Gone, Gone, Gone) or any of the 1,000 other songs that starts slow before kicking it up.

 What makes Jailbreak such a good album though, is the non-hits. The real magic lies with the unheard songs in the collection. Romeo and the Lonely Girl might be the best song I never heard before. In the last week, it’s been the song that I’ve played over and over. Running Back is what amounts to a love song in Phil Lynott’s world. Not a ballad by any stretch, but a pretty song. And how can you not love lyrics like the following:

I’m a fool now that it’s over
 Can you guess my name?
I make my money singing songs about you
It’s my claim to fame.

That’s what almost every rock singer is trying to say in about half the songs they do: “I make my money singing songs about you.” They just can’t quite get those words out, and waste 3 1/2 minutes of your time not quite saying it. Angel from the Coast is a piece of guitar genius from start to finish. Different and original, yet unmistakably rock and roll.


Even the weaker songs, and Jailbreak has a couple of weak songs, have their moments. Warriors is just another hard rock song, the kind hundreds of bands were doing at the time, and would do for ten more years. But the guitar solo is a monster. One of those stunning solos that make you appreciate why so many songs have the guitar solo. Fight or Fall is weak, derivative work. But listen closely, because what’s unmistakable is that Elvis Costello was. Hell, who am I kidding here, listen to the echo section at the 1:25 mark: I’m tellin’ myself, tellin’ myself, tellin’ myself, tellin’ myself, tellin’ myself, tellin’ myself. Akon was listening. And this band’s real magic was there deft sense of melody. The delicate little solo in Fight or Fall is note perfect.

Listening to Thin Lizzy’s Jailbreak this week, I can’t help asking myself: how was this band not one of my top three bands growing up? How did I miss these guys? And how did I ever miss this fabulous album?

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