When people think of hard rock, chances are that some names come to mind first- Guns N Roses, and Deep Purple being two obvious choices. I, bluntly, find it shameful that Thin Lizzy does not receive the credit that they so richly deserve, for basically inventing the genre. If it weren’t for Thin Lizzy, guitar rock wouldn’t be what you think of it. Earning only an iota of fame, for two singles, “the boys” are possibly the most underrated band from the 70’s era. And it really is a shame, because Phil Lynott and company deserve far more respect. If there was an album that I could choose that just plain out rocked, it would be “Jailbreak”. Not only does it feature some awesome lead guitar playing, and flooring guitar solos, but the riffing and the songwriting just rock hard. That’s really the only word that can describe it well, at least.
Churning out two hit singles that earned the band some airplay, the infamous “The Boys are Back in Town” and the gritty title song, as well as a master plan of pure rocking riffs. But Lizzy is much more than just some generic rock band. Front man Phil Lynott had a cunning plan for the album prior to its release, based solely on war. However, this plan folded, and the song meanings changed. “Boys are Back in Town” was originally a tale of Vietnam vets returning to their homeland, but was altered into a tale of bar hopping and heavy drinking. But not every song’s connotation was tampered with. For instance, “Warriors” remained an epic narrative about the bravery of killing a man, as did “Fight or Fall”. But Lynott delivers with full attack and his lyrics range from soft and poetic, to hard-shelled and dirty. A multi-talented man, Lynott was, and his basslines are not shabby, either. However, undoubtedly, the highlight, as well as main focus aspect of Thin Lizzy, were and always will be, guitar leads. The two guitarists, Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson, trade some pretty sweet leads, and use some special effects pedals to shape their tones. Both guitarists strut their stuff in very cool ways, as well as some incredible soloing skills. Songs like the hard rocking “Emerald”, which was written about Lynott’s home country, Ireland, and my personal album pick, ‘Warriors’ are two examples of fine guitar playing. The two dueling guitar riffs are one of a kind.
If you had in mind that Thin Lizzy was a blues-driven rock band, and only had one sound, you are being close-minded. There are some very diverse sounds on this album, and it clearly shows. “Running Back” has a very soft, folksy vibe to it, but adds some color with skatting and a subtle saxophone, while “Angel From the Coast” has something that many bands today lack- killer groove. “Romeo and the Lonely Girl” was a Shakespeare-esque tale with a shuffled rhythm and some clean guitars, and “Cowboy Song” which is arguably one of the best songs Thin Lizzy ever produced, hints a bit of a southern country vibe, which is easily the most unique song on the album. But whether the song is dirty blues, mellow folk, crunchy rock, or boogie flavor, every song can be traced back to hard rockin’ blues with the guitar playing. The influence of Thin Lizzy on today’s music is quite evident. Coheed and Cambria have praised them in numerous interviews, and even ripped off the lead riff to ‘Boys’ for their new album. It goes without saying that nearly every song on ‘Jailbreak’ is a pure, hard rocker with little to no flaws. If you are looking for a great hard rock band, who isn’t as media-whored out as most other rock bands of that time, and want great songwriting with great guitar work- look here. Phil Lynott’s untimely death might have been a horrible thing to bear, especially for the few Lizzy fans out there, but at least before he died, he and his band mates produced one of the best albums in rock n roll. Not bad for an Irish dude with an afro and a bushy mustache.