Sunday, June 3, 2018

Tonight There's Gonna Be Trouble

Thin Lizzy : Jailbreak (live)

On June 2, 1978 Thin Lizzy released the year's best live album, Live And Dangerous. The tracks were selected from recordings made in London, Philadelphia and Toronto and were then cleaned up with studio overdubs recorded in Paris. How much they were cleaned up has long been a matter of dispute.

 The band's manager Chris O'Donnell has said the recording is "75% live" with most of the overdubs correcting Phil Lynott's overdriven bass and adding backing vocals from guitarists Steve Gorham and Brian Robertson. But producer Tony Visconti says in reality everything was erased except for the drums: "Even the audience was done again in a very devious way...'Southbound' was recorded at a sound check, and I added a tape loop of the audience".

"We are a very loud band," guitarist Brian Robertson responded in Guitar Player in 2012, "me being the loudest of all of us. So how are you going to replace my guitar when it's so loud that it's going to bleed all over the bloody drum kit?"

Such practices were common then. ( How Alive is Kiss Alive really?) That's why NME reviewer Tim Chester declared Live and Dangerous "the best live album we ever heard" despite the alleged overdubs, which he dismissed as irrelevant. Today it's regarded as one of the greatest live albums of all time and the one Thin Lizzy album everybody needs to own.

Here is John Milward's contemporaneous review for Rolling Stone:

Live and Dangerous is Thin Lizzy's first album for Warner Bros. While it effectively documents the boys-with-blazing guitars style of the five previous Mercury discs from which most of these songs were taken, it's also clearly meant to be the breakout, double-LP sampler from a group that failed to consolidate the front-line success of their 1976 single, "The Boys Are Back in Town." Though such a package is ideal for those who passed on the earlier records, it's still a baby step by a band that needs a giant leap.

 The attractions are the same: the twin guitars of Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham combine the power-chord dynamics of British blast with the single-line harmonics common to Southern and California rock, as the smooth segue from Bob Seger's pile-driving "Rosalie" to "Cowgirls' Song" deftly illustrates. Singer Phil Lynott, captured in his characteristic daddy-longlegs pose on the cover, is in fine form, though like the group's arrangements, he rarely adds new color or direction to material we've already heard. But that's okay, because the band thankfully has erased most of the excess that crippled their live shows after the release of Jailbreak. The songs here are lean and tough, with lethal firecrackers like "Don't Believe a Word" performed with breathtaking brevity. 

 Live and Dangerous works as a cogent commercial vehicle by avoiding filler, not because anything significant has been added. But the holding pattern that Thin Lizzy established with Jailbreak is indicative of the stylistic problems inherent in many solid but unarguably derivative rock groups. These guys have their roots down cold, and have embroidered them with a neat, guitar-toting street-gang image. But so far, they've yet to give us an album upon which future rockers will build.

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