Review Summary: A far cry from what most would come to know as Thin Lizzy, this nonetheless stands as an interesting piece of history documenting the humble beginnings of one of rocks most iconic actsLepreCon Presents: Rock Legends
Legend In Focus: Philip Lynott- THIN LIZZY
Part One: Dundundun Diddly-Aye
Thin Lizzy were a hugely influential Irish hard rock band formed in early 1970. After guitarist Eric Bell and organist Eric Wrixon, both formerly of the Irish Van Morrison-led psychedelic group Them, saw bassist and singer Phil Lynott and drummer Brian Downey playing with their band known as Orphanage, the four decided to form a band. However, Wrixon left soon after to rejoin Them. The remaining three adopted the name Thin Lizzy and recorded their eponymous debut album with Decca Records in 1971.
Today, Thin Lizzy are well known for being a key innovator of hard rock, particularly the signature twin guitar lead attack which they developed alongside the classic metal band Judas Priest, proving to be very influential on giants of rock and metal such as Iron Maiden, Metallica, Guns N Roses and many, many more, and, arguably, the world of heavy music would be a lot different had this band not existed. They stand alongside acts such as Aerosmith, ZZ Top and Black Sabbath as a definitive guitar band of the 70s. Therefore it would come as a complete shock to those familiar with their later work to find that their debut, as well as a couple of albums to come afterwards, sounds nothing like the Thin Lizzy they are more accustomed to.
A far cry from the aggressive twin-guitar rock they would come to be known for, Thin Lizzy were originally a power trio much in the vein of Cream and, to a lesser extent, The Jimi Hendrix Experience. However, whereas these aforementioned bands had a charismatic guitarist at the helm, Eric Bell did not quite have the same stage presence as Eric Clapton or Jimi Hendrix, therefore leaving it up to the main songwriter Phil Lynott to be the face and personality of the band. Lynott was quite an iconic figure even back then, a black Irishman with a gigantic afro and a charismatic voice that complemented his lyrical abilities. Of course, this being his first serious project, Lynott was young and relatively inexperienced, only truly in the developing stages of being a rock songwriter. At this stage, the band were noticeably unsure of what exactly they wanted to be- a hard rock band with folk leanings or a bluesy Irish folk band.
However, most of the time this indecisiveness remarkably works to the record’s advantage, displaying a wide variety of influences, keeping it from leaning too far in any one particular direction, displaying a sense of diversity that is quite an achievement for a debut album. This gives the music a laid-back feel, something one can kick back and have an enjoyable listen of on a late night. The naivety of it all brings a smile to one’s face as they take in the poetic spoken word intro of the opening track, The Friendly Ranger At Clontarf Castle
, over a soothing blend of atmospheric acoustic guitar work and an echoed drum pattern, before bursting into a more folk rock number. A moving ballad, Honesty Is No Excuse
, is a further display of the band’s versatility, backed by guest Ivor Raymonde on the mellotron. The epic Diddy Levine
is a surprisingly progressive number that blends their folk and blues influences to great effect.
Throughout the album, one realises that, while a competent guitarist, Eric Bell is not quite comfortable in his role as the melody carrier in the instrumental department. Tracks such as Ray Gun
and Return of The Farmer’s Son
sound far more subdued on the six strings than they ought to be. Other songs, however, such as Look What The Wind Blew In
and Clifton Grange Hotel
are simply a bit of distortion away from being exactly like the Thin Lizzy most people know and love. Also, Saga of an Ageing Orphan
is fittingly subtle with relaxed plucked acoustic chord patterns complemented by Lynott’s soothing vocals and relatively simple bass line. Downey’s drumming has psychedelic elements throughout, utilising unusual beat patterns consisting of toms and hi-hat that sound like they would not be out of place with his old band, Them, but this was his style of the time and he would eventually develop a more aggressive rock persona. However his beats and fills suit the music here quite well.
Although their later albums would be more focused, Thin Lizzy’s eponymous debut is quite an interesting piece of history, documenting the simpler, humble beginnings of one of the most iconic acts of hard rock. Although Eric Bell would leave after two more similarly styled albums, Lynott and Downey pressed on, developed further as songwriters and crafted one of the most influential bands of all time. Not exactly essential listening for anyone except die-hards and those interested in the history of Irish rock music, this is nonetheless and interesting listen and quite a remarkable achievement on the part of the band who were still quite an obscure act on a tightly-limited budget.
The Thin Lizzy Lineup Was:
Philip Parris Lynott- Vocals
and Bass guitar
Eric Bell- Guitars
Brian Downey- Drums
Ivor Raymonde- Mellotron
To Be Continued In Part Two: Shades Of A Blue Orphange...