Thursday, December 15, 2011
Thin Lizzy - At the BBC
This holiday season there are some very cool presents for the heavy rock fan in your life (i.e. yourself, your dad, older brother, the dude you buy weeed from behind the gas station). Deep Purple has a killer looking 2LP/2CD collection of all their BBC sessions and there's a box set of all the good Whitesnake albums (meaning the ones up to 1982). But number one on everyone's wish list should be this monster 6CD/1DVD Thin Lizzy box set of all their BBC recordings. Jeezus, these guys were busy! Thin Lizzy was pumping out albums on a regular basis and touring constantly but still managed to do all of these killer radio sessions and concert broadcasts.
Thin Lizzy did a total of eighteen sessions for the BBC between 1971 and 1977 and all of them except four are represented here. Given the BBC's tendency to erase tapes from the library it's a miracle we have 3 very full CD's of primo performances in excellent fidelity. Disc one is with the early trio version of the band with Eric Bell on guitar. This is an era I'm the least familiar with so it's great to finally get acquainted with songs other than "The Rocker" and "Whiskey In The Jar." This line up was clearly Hendrix inspired but also trying to find their way. The playing is top notch and the songs are good but it's easy to see the band still had a ways to go before becoming the powerhouse unit we all know and love. Disc two is killer because about half of it is still the trio but with Gary Moore as the guitarist. I'd always wanted to hear more from this line up and now I finally have it. Too bad they never did a full album together in 1974 but the 12 songs here are the closest we'll ever get until we join Gary and mainman Phil Lynott upstairs. Gary smokes on a raunchy sounding "Little Darling" and the VD inspired "Sitamoia." There are very funky versions of "Showdown" and "It's Only Money" that hint at what Thin Lizzy would later do on "Johnny The Fox Meets Jimmy The Weed."
The second half of disc two and all of disc three is the classic line up with Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson on twin lead guitars. Phil was tired of guitarists quitting the band leaving him as a duo with drummer Brian Downey. It's fun to compare their version of "It's Only Money" from just a few months after Gary's version and hear how it changed. It took awhile for this group to find their niche but when they did, they were totally unstoppable. I don't care how many times you've heard "Rosalie," "Emerald," "Warriors," "Killer Without A Cause" and all the other classics before, having different KICK ASS performances of them is totally mandatory. The arrangements are the same as the records but the takes are more raw and a bit faster.
Speaking of fast and raw, the other three CD's are all live recordings. It's well known that I love live albums and this is definitely my favorite half of this great box set. There's a show with Eric Bell from 1973 that opens with an excellent version of "The Rocker" and a Jimidelic "Gonna Creep Up On You." Brian Downey really pounds his drums hard and young Phil's voice is spectacular. A 1974 concert with Gorham/Robertson finds the band playing with even more confidence and laying down a heartfelt "Still In Love With You." The solos on "Showdown" are very funky. By 1981 Brian Robertson had been replaced by Snowy White and disc five contains a full hour from Hammersmith Odeon in London. The albums this line up made are kind of a mixed bag but they were still a potent live band. Heavy versions of current songs like "Angel Of Death," "The Pressure Will Blow" and "Killer On The Loose" mix well with the older classics. Disc six from 1983 captures the line up with John Sykes replacing Snowy White. Sykes definitely gave the band a heavier sound and he plays great. Sometimes he plays a bit too much and his use of pinch harmonics can be a bit annoying but that's a minor complaint. The addition of keyboards to the band was never really a plus in my book, either, but there's really no reason to complain about any live Thin Lizzy, is there?
The DVD contains the same "Live And Dangerous" show you've owned for years as well as the 1983 show that came as a bonus on the original DVD. There are appearances on Top Of The Pops from 1973 through 1981 that's the band lip synching to their current hits. It's cool but nothing you're going to watch too often. The footage of Gary Moore & Friends from 1979, however, you'll watch all the time. You've probably been drooling over it on youtube for a few years now but now you can enjoy it in better quality. Gary Moore, Cozy Powell, Scott Gorham and Phil Lynott make an incredible team. Too bad they didn't do more together.
Anyway, 2011 has been a pretty crappy year but you've been good. Do yourself a favor and end the year with a bang and treat yourself to this. You won't regret it. Special thanks to Joerg in Germany for hooking me up with a cheaper copy due to the shitty US economy and favorable exchange rate for Europeans. Cheers!