This is the thirty-Sixth entry of my blog series ‘First Impressions.’ In each entry of the series I write about discovering an influential or genre-classic album for the first time and then write about that experience in a semi-planned, semi-stream of consciousness manner that is less helpful than a traditional album-review, but which does contain more personal flavour.
I prefer my reviews to be serious and informative. ‘First Impressions’ allow for a more director’s commentary approach. I can be silly and talk bollox, or make points that only a handful of people will understand. Usually I will deliver insights into my history with similar music as well as into how my mind works and how both of these things change over time. You will have to either possess a fairly detailed understanding of Rock and Metal history and Subgenre conventions or have a second tab open at Wikipedia to fully follow every single point that I make, but don’t let that put you off…I’m not honestly expecting you to know every single riff or tone I’ll point out off by heart.
If you want your own First Impressions article done, just suggest it in the comments. I’ll give anything a shot.
This time I’ll be listening to Thin Lizzy’s sixth second studio album Jailbreak, from 1976. I was meant to be writing about Van Halen’s 1984 album, but I “accidentally” came home with a boxset of Thin Lizzy albums. I’ve been on a really stupid binge of buying too much music at the minute. It started off with two AC/DC albums, then two W.A.S.P albums, then five Van Halen albums, then two Quiet Riot albums, then five Saxon albums and five ZZ Top albums, with albums by Pulkas, Dream Theater, Porcupine Tree, Savatage, Alice Cooper, Black Label Society, Gallows, Anathema and Ozzy Osbourne in between, on top of the priority new Clutch, Bring Me The Horizon, Hatebreed and Killswitch Engage albums. And I guarantee that if I saw a Twisted Sister boxset I’d snap it up in a second.
I still haven’t fully given time to my last influx of two Riverside EPs, three Stratovarius albums, three Prong albums, Gojira and Dream Theater Blu-Rays and whatever else along the way (Periphery II, Monster Magnet Bsides and EPs, Jurojin’s debut, certain Savatage albums etc). To be honest I’ve never given Faith No More enough time either despite buying those albums in the summer. Or, from two years ago, Foghat and Mountain could’ve got more time. Equally, After a few weeks of really caring about Kiss’ Monster album this autumn, it fell absolutely out of my rotation in favour of the new Down, Coheed & Cambria, Black Country Communion and Parkway Drive albums.
I guess my point is my rate of getting new music is faster than my ability to really absorb new music.
My approach to coping with all this is to put it all on my phone, minus any intros or live bonus tracks, and listening to the phone’s content of shuffle, usually when walking to and from Uni or Work, or on the two-bus journey to work-placement. (Also in an iTunes ‘Smart Playlist’ which I listen to whilst lifting weights or in long car or train journeys) I’ve been doing this since September and adding the new stuff as it comes in. Usually however, I just hear a lot of Gamma Ray on my phone. My phone is predisposed to playing Gamma Ray for some reason. I’m not complaining on the one hand, because Gamma Ray are great, but it doesn’t get me as good a spread of all this music as I’d like, in a ‘I want value for money out of all these ridiculously-close together-purchases’ kind of way.
The shuffle thing is a bit flawed though, because while I get to hear lots from all these albums, I never feel like I’ve got my money’s worth from the individual album, so even after playing 50 Motorhead tracks on shuffle on my phone, I’ll think, ‘I really haven’t listened to Motorhead enough for the amount of money I spent on them.’ Just a weird perception issue. Sitting through the Ace Of Spades album ten times in a row would feel like value for money even though it’d work out as the same number of tracks listened to. Whatever brain, you just keep on making up these arbitrary rules to trip me up.
Its also flawed because I always put three Rishloo albums on my phone, and lots of Queensryche. And I love Rishloo and Queensryche so much I’d rather just sit and enjoy that than get through all the new music. I also usually load a bunch of Pantera and Judas Priest on there too. Because, Pantera and Judas Priest, innit.
Anyway. I’m going to have to delete everything off my phone and start again to fit these 17 new albums on (Thin Lizzy, Saxon, ZZ Top and Quiet Riot) so all the ‘existing music’ like Judas Priest and Pantera will go, and it’ll all just be new stuff. I may even take off Gamma Ray to give the new stuff a sporting chance.
Ok. Speaking of new music. Thin Lizzy. I don’t know a lot about Thin Lizzy. I know that they were important for the direction of twin lead guitar in Hard Rock and Heavy Metal music, and I know they influenced Baroness, Mastodon and The Darkness.
I’ve heard Mastodon cover their song ‘Emerald’ which I absolutely love. I’ve heard Anthrax cover their track ‘Cowboy Song’ which I didn’t really spare any time for despite owning it since 2005, and I’ve heard their two most famous singles ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ and ‘Jailbreak’ on TOTP and TOTP2 a lot in my lifetime, as well as always in BBC advertisements for Toy Story. Over the years I’ve gone between liking them and disliking them.
I always wanted to buy their Live And Dangerous album just on its reputation and album artwork, like I did with Kiss’ Alive record. Never got around to it though. Probably because I was going through a phase of not liking ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ at the time.
I had a quick look on Wikipedia beforehand. I saw that the whole band are from Ireland. That surprised me a little. I know that the singer had lived in Ireland and that there’s a statue of him there, but I didn’t realize that they were a full-on Irish band. [Edit – turns out they aren’t, just like I expected. Thanks Wikipedia!]
An amusing story from that. In 1972 they recorded an album of Deep Purple covers, called ‘Funky Junction Play A Tribute To Deep Purple’ with a different singer and an extra keyboard player. How weird is that? The Irish music scene of the 1970s is seemingly pretty odd in general. Horslips (who are responsible for three of my favourite ever songs, ‘Trouble With A Capital T,’ ‘Sure The Boy Was Green’ & ‘Homesick’) originally formed as the fake band to play in a TV advertisement for Guinness. Odd.
I also see that one of the members of Thin Lizzy is called John Sykes and I remember people mistakenly thinking that Ollie Sykes from Bring Me The Horizon was his son (in an Austin Dickinson of Rise To Remain being Bruce Dickinson’s son sort of a way) but when I was told that I assumed John Sykes was the lead guitarist for Whitesnake for some reason. [Edit – I now know why. He WAS in Whitesnake for a while, and also, Tygers Of Pan Tang, but that’s not strictly relevant to my confusion.]
Anyway, John Sykes isn’t on Jailbreak. Brian ‘Robo’ Robertson is. Who I’ve heard before on Motorhead’s underrated 1983 Another Perfect Day album. I remember he got made fun of for wearing shorts. Like State Of Euphoria era Anthrax did. Who later covered ‘Cowboy Song.’ Wow. Its all full circle round these parts, isn’t it?
‘Jailbreak’ kicks in with a big stab, some silence, then the classic riff. Phil’s vocals are more melodic than I remember. He has a strange mixture of Roger Waters, Peter Criss and Freddie Mercury shades in his multifaceted and evocative vocals. I like his unusual and unpredictable vocal patterns. I like the bits where the drummer chups (chups!) the hi-hat three times in a row. I’ve never mentally recorded that bit with the police sirens before. It’s a cool song. It’d be really good with a Dio guitar tone. It ends kind of anti-climactically, but not annoyingly so.
Next up is ‘Angel From The Coast,’ which reminds me of early Rush. Interesting guitar patterns. The ‘Stereotype Thin Lizzy’ lead sounds like the Baroness leads that you say ‘those bits sound like Thin Lizzy’ to. Theres a break with lots of fills that reminds me of Rush again.
This is followed by ‘Running Back’ which is a bit softer, and has some soft backround keys and sax, and a lead line that sounds very Irish. It reminds me of The Saw Doctors a lot. Its not a ballad, but it’s the kind of peaceful rock song you could play in te background of a primary school vhs that taught you how to paint a daffodil, one presented by a soft-faced man with a sleepy pet dog sat in a cushioned basket constantly on screen in the background, not really adding anything to the video except his warm doggly presence.
‘Romeo And The Lonely Girl’ comes in next. It reminds me of quite a few Libertines songs like ‘Skint And Minted’ and ‘Tell The King’ only if they’d never heard punk. Its got a great solo that sounds like a couple hugging tearfully of a small wooden boat, after not having seen eachother in a few months. The song is pretty much as soft as the last one, with maybe 5% more speed and 10% more volume. Its sweet and melodic, but not a ballad. If it were a Pearl Jam song, it’d be ‘Down.’
This is followed by ‘Warriors’ and with a name like that I’d expect something that sounded like Sad Wings era Priest. It opens with some soft rumbling that could go either way.
….Yay. A fill then some hard rock. Its not sonically as heavy as Master Of Reality era Sabbath, but its as Rhythmically heavy as Heart and Rock N Roll Over era Kiss. When the wah filled guitar solo comes in its very ballsy and loud. Kind of like ‘D.O.A’ by Van Halen (see, I do listen to some of this music again). The guitar in the back of the tom fills section reminds me of Zeppelin’s ‘The Rain Song’ and the vocals in the background of the big build up that follows remind me of Bon Iver, despite the fact that the song is taking a heavy turn. Like the way Camel’s ‘Lady Fantasy’ does at the end.
The very famous ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ comes in. It made me a bit sad and nostalgic. I remember being about 15 and having my friend Stevey describing The Undertone’s lyrics to ‘My Perfect Cousin’ to me for some reason. I don’t understand the connection but now I feel a bit sad. Thanks song. Thanks for that, you jerk!
Theres lots of little touches, be it bass runs, or drum fillsm that I never noticed before. The vocals remind me of Van Morrison. ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ in particular. That makes me sad too. STUPID BRAIN!!
The bit where they really hang onto the guitar harmonies reminds me of ‘Pantagruel’s Nativity’ by Gentle Giant. Then when they speed up it sounds very fun, like an excited baby elephant teddy seeing a pot of honey in a children’s stop motion show. Like that one that was about toys and one of them was a remote control car. Its like Live Action puppets as opposed to a cartoon. It wasn’t Brum.
Next song is another bittersweet, semi slow track. ‘Fight Or Fall’ its called. Its cool. The kind of little hidden gem you’d like when you listen to the album, but the one you’d not think of adding to a playlist because you only add ‘The Rockers.’ – Another song like that is Queen’s ‘And You And I’ and so I always make a point of giving it the same priority as “a rocker” because its so good it needs to not be forgotten. The bit where they sing ‘brother brother’ towards the end reminds me FOR NO REASON of Jetplane Landing’s ‘My Father’s Hands.’
‘Cowboy Song’ comes on next. It sounds like John Bush should be singing it. It really sounds like Lynyrd Skynyrd in parts. It reminds me a bit of their ‘Railroad Song.’ Also of Blackfoot’s ‘Stars.’ It definitely sounds a bit southern rock. Which’d make sense with a 70s rock song about cowboys to sound like really.
Next up is ‘Emerald.’ There’s no way it can ever live up to the Mastodon cover, but damn, it’s a fine song indeed. It reminds me a bit of Genesis’ ‘The Knife’ mixed with a Jethro Tull’s ‘Locomotive Breath’ and Black Sabbath’s ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.’ There’s a drum-free bit that reminds me of Iron Maiden’s ‘Dance Of Death.’
The guitar solo trading bit is absolutely fucking brilliant. It has that amazing X Factor of the ‘as we wind on down the road our spirits taller than our souls’ part of Stairway To Heaven or the Comfortably Numb guitar solo. Those bits when your soul jumps out of your skin. What a massive way to end the album on. Although the rest of their cover is better to my ears, Mastodon sure as fuck don’t do that ending justice. They do a similar level of skin-jump on ‘The Czar’ when the Randy Rhoads riff kicks in, but they don’t do it on the ‘Emerald’ cover.
Ok. So that’s the album. Thoughts. First of all, none of it reminded me of Another Perfect Day. Secondly; Overall its a bit short. A Bit lightweight. Not enough “rockers.” Not enough super memorable bits. It wasn’t like hearing Aqualung for the first time, and just going “damn, this sounds fucking important.” It hasn’t instantly become my new favourite album, and I wouldn’t rate it as highly in the classic rock stakes as anything I already own by Deep Purple, Kiss, Heart, Led Zeppelin or whatever else.
It wasn’t a waste of time either. It wasn’t like I bought the Elf albums because Dio was on them, and then instantly knew that no matter how hard I try I’ll never get into them.
Jailbreak seems decent. There’s a few good moments, but since its so short and low on the heavy-riff count, you’d need more than one Thin Lizzy album to get your umph’s worth if you were me. If you were me, you’dve got five Thin Lizzy albums in one go though, so that’s probably sorted then. I hear Black Rose is meant to be pretty good…
Stay tuned for more First Impressions. I’m thinking Wheels Of Steel and Metal Health. Also suggest any you want to read. I’ll happily try out anything from Sisters Of Mercy to Anal Cunt and anything in between. Want one on The Bezerker or The Crzay World Of Arthur Brown? then just let me know.
(Lets just hope I don’t begin the next one by telling you I’ve just bought a boxset of every Rolling Stones, Beatles and Elvis track ever recorded.)