Thin Lizzy: Jailbreak, Johnny The Fox & Live & Dangerous Deluxe Editions (Universal)

Universal has just reissued, what many fans consider, the heart and soul of the Thin Lizzy catalogue. All three albums have been expanded to double CD sets featuring remastered audio and a healthy serving of outtakes, BBC sessions and, somewhat controversially, new remixes of several very well-known tracks complete with newly-recorded guitar parts by guitarist Scott Gorham. The live Deluxe Edition also includes a DVD of the band recorded in concert in 1978.

First, a little background. Thin Lizzy was formed in Dublin, Irelandat the tail end of the 1960s by bass player and frontman Phil Lynott and drummer Brian Downey. The original guitarist was Eric Bell. This version of the band recorded a handful of album and landed one minor hit, their version of Whiskey In The Jar, released in 1972.

After a series of personnel changes the re-jigged band settled on the “classic: line-up of Lynott and Downeywith the twin guitar attack of Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson. This is the version of Thin Lizzy represented on these discs. As the expansive liner notes explain, the band was in “make or break” mode with their record company when they recorded Jailbreak. Fortunately, they rose to the challenge and the album has long been considered one of the great hard rock albums of the 1970s. Along with the urgent title track, the album contains The Boys Are Back In Town, the band’s international break-through single, along with other choice cuts like Cowboy Song, Warrior and Romeo And The Lonely Girl. Listening back to it more than 35 years after it was recorded, it still rocks.

On the bonus disc, both Jailbreak and The Boys Are Back In Town have been remixed…the latter twice. These remixes were done by Def Leppard front man Joe Elliott with the blessing, assistance and co-operation of Brian Downey and Scott Gorham. Apparently Gorham was never totally satisfied with the guitar sound on the original album and has taken this opportunity to beef things up a bit. The result is OK, but not particularly mind-blowing. Most interesting is the second remix of The Boys Are Back In Town featuring an alternate vocal take by Lynott.

Johnny The Fox was released just 7 months after Jailbreak, and in retrospect, sounds like too much too soon. Lynott had been sidelined with hepatitis on the eve of an American tour in June of 1976, so instead of touring, he found himself bedridden, with time on his hands for songwriting. He chose to expand on his storytelling abilities with his lyrics on songs like Johnny The Fox Meets Jimmy The Weed and Fools Gold that features a spoken intro by Lynott. It sounds like Phil was moving toward a Springsteen, blue collar style and away from the hard rocking riffs that defined Jailbreak. Although some folks consider Johnny The Fox to be the better album of the two, I still prefer Jailbreak.

Live And Dangerous consists of performances recorded in 1977 and 1978 while the band was out plugging their Bad Reputation album. At this point they were a killer live unit and it comes across in these recordings. Gorham and Robertson’s trademark twin guitar sound is even more effective live, when put in the context of their stellar solos. Lynott andDowney are no slouches on the stage either. The accompanying DVD is particularly good. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone sweat on stage as much as Phil Lynott.

When the great hard rock bands of the 70s are mentioned, Thin Lizzy is often overlooked. But these three reissues should do something to reignite interest in the band and help build their legacy.

Marty Duda

Click here to listen to the alternate vocal remix of The Boys Are Back In Town