Last week saw my absolute favorite album on this Eugeology list thus far, with the caveat that it was already one of my faves. But, it was a long review, because I had a lot to say. Eugene is catching up (or trying to) and Jon is falling way behind. But, he’s been out of town, moving, getting indoctrinated in the ways of the Rotary via its presidency and all kinds of things, so it is no wonder. But, let’s move on to this week’s entry…
#26 – Black Rose: A Rock Legend by Thin Lizzy.
One of the obligatory entrants, at least as far as the artist goes, that I was expecting. I just never know which one from those. This is a good one.
I have never given Thin Lizzy credit. I know and am tired of “The Boys are Back in Town” and “Jailbreak” to the point that I got to loathe the whole band. That was unwarranted and I apologize to them, their memory, their legacy and Eugene. Now, they’re still not anywhere near my favorite band, but, I have enjoyed listening to this.
I will also give the caveat that being that this was a holiday week, with said holiday right in the middle of the week, my listening schedule has been thrown off a little. I try to listen at least six times to make sure I can make the best assessment possible of the album. I’m only on listen four as I write this and will probably restart it, so I may reach six, but I doubt it. I don’t think I need six times, but let’s get on with it.
This album saw the flighty guitarist, Gary Moore hang around at least long enough to record an album. He was in and out of the band left and right, you’d almost think he was a drummer. In fact, he left the band during the tour for this album. During, I said. He always just looked like he was ticked off all the time.
The song selection was pretty varied and in a good way. Styles range from funky to heavy rock to ballads and traditional Irish story tunes. It starts off with a thundering drum and bass cluster that I half-expected to hear Jeff Lynne to start singing. It reminded me of “Turn to Stone” from Electric Light Orchestra. But, soon the triumphant and familiar dual guitar parts cranked in and you knew it wasn’t ELO but, of course, Thin Lizzy and the opening tune, “Do Anything You Want to Do.” Phil Lynott’s undeniable voice breaks through and you’re on a Lizzy trip. The melodies in this song and the follow-up, “Toughest Streets in Town” are some of his best.
“S&M” is a funkier slice. It’s a bit of debauchery, as well. Sleazy and swanky and is pretty much about what you think it means. The music starts off like the theme from “Shaft” with that 70s scrappy funk. I liked it. “Waiting for an Alibi” is back in-your-face rock. It’s straight forward.
On the first pressings of the album, the song “Sarah” was mislabeled as “My Sarah” and Napster, follows that tradition. It’s just “Sarah” the song is about Phil Lynott’s daughter, but I can’t remember what her name is/was. It’s a bouncy pop ballad that perhaps shouldn’t fit on this album, but it does. While it has no flow in the scheme of what the album is all around it, it’s a good departure from the heaviness. It fits the time, though.
The band was in slight disarray at this time (again, Gary Moore bolted right after) and Phil along with guitarist Scott Gorham (remember him from the Black Star Riders review all the way back at #6? If not you can read it HERE) was entering dangerous territory of drugs and alcohol. The song “Got to Give It Up” is reflective of that, whether it was meant to be autobiographical song or not. They should have given it up. Phil didn’t make it another eight years. Scott somehow managed. A good song, nonetheless.
“Get Out of Here” is aggressive and does what you’d expect a Lizzy song to do, rock. “With Love” is the anomaly here for me. I’m not sure how I feel about it. I don’t like the melody Phil sings. Musically, it’s okay and the solo is smoking yet tasteful. I do like the backing vocals but the Phil’s part, I’m not a fan of. It’s worth listening to, but it’s probably my throwaway, if I had to pick one. Luckily, I don’t have to.
Thin Lizzy were proud of their Irish roots and that shows on the closing track, “Róisín Dubh (Black Rose): A Rock Legend.” It’s a mix of traditional Irish tunes and music pieced together, in a suite, with four movements: I. ‘Shenandoah’ (which confuses me there’s no Shenandoah that I can find in Ireland – it’s all in WV and VA here); II. ‘Will You Go Lassie Go?’ (F. McPeake); III. ‘Danny Boy’; IV. ‘The Mason’s Apron.’ I read the lyrics and couldn’t figure out what the heck he was talking about, but it doesn’t take away from it being a good listen.
Production is pretty good on this album. I have to say that after a while the dual guitar thing starts to get old. They did it better than just about anyone, but it gets old. Lynott’s bass playing is solid, he can’t do a lot of extra riffage because he’s singing. I’m not saying he’s slouching, I’m just saying he does what he needs to and does it well. The fun instrument to hear here, though, is the drums. Brian Downey had come back to the band just in time to record this fine album; and fine it is.
I was indifferent, really, when I saw this being assigned, but I’m glad we had it. I liked it and I recommend people to listen to it. I’m surprised, and delightfully so. Thanks, Eug, for introducing me. Two weeks in a row that I’ve liked your entries. Can’t wait to read your assessment, as always, and Jon, well, here’s hoping you’re not too far gone.
Until tomorrow, slàinte!
“Tell me the legends of long ago, when the kings and queens would dance in the realm of the Black Rose. Play me the melodies I want to know so I can teach my children, oh.” – “Róisín Dubh (Black Rose): A Rock Legend” (traditional, arranged by Moore/Lynott)