THIN LIZZY Jailbreak (Vertigo)
The endearing cluelessness of this classic rock rock classic is laid bare in its opening lines’ revelation: “Tonight there’s going to be a jailbreak/Somewhere in this town”…in the vicinity of the jail, perhaps? If it’s a little more difficult to take Thin Lizzy seriously after that, what surprised me most on first acquaintance with this album is how much like Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ contemporaneous eponymous debut it sounds. With all their shared interests – leather, guitars, long hair, bare-chested posing – doncha think “The Boys Are Back In Town” and “American Girl” would make great penpals?“Angel From The Coast” and “Romeo And The Lonely Girl” sound like crude line-drawing storyboards for the cinematic epics that sprawled luxuriantly over Springsteen’s early albums, and it’s difficult to stifle a smirk at the posed thuggery of “Warriors” and “Emerald”’s Celtic blarney. “Fight Or Fall” is admirably fluid and lyrical considering its title, and the empirical brilliance of “The Boys Are Back In Town” is always worth celebrating. For all its dumb, misogynistic wish-fulfilment fantasy “Cowboy Song” is possibly the album’s final moment, as much a product of childhood Saturday morning cinema as Elton and Bernie’s “Tumbleweed Connection”.
“Jailbreak” is another entrant in Universal’s Back To Black reissue series. Thanks are due for the diecut sleeve (if not for the wretched sci-fi sleevenotes) and the bundled MP3 download; no thanks for the way the album’s been slapped onto 180 gram vinyl without due care and attention rather than properly mastered and cut. This is an utterly uninvolving-sounding record; it’s CD with scratches and end-of-side distortion, which isn’t going to explain vinyl’s sonic pre-eminence to anybody.
THIN LIZZY Live And Dangerous (Friday Music)
There's something playfully ironic about the way the album's title is shrouded within quotation marks on the front cover, given that, depending on whom you believe, "Live And Dangerous" was either recorded 75% in concert or 75% in the studio. Members of the latter camp contend that at least the drums and audience are live.
When reissue producer (we know he's the reissue producer because he's shoehorned the credit onto just about every other flat surface in the package) Joe Raegoso claims "this album captures a lot of the emotion and sheer excitement that these four master musicians brought to the stage" I have to wonder what he's hearing, because to me "Live And Dangerous" is the sound of stadium rock rapidly congealing into cliché. Of course, Lizzy's greatest moments remain indelibly so, the likes of "Jailbreak", "The Boys Are Back In Town" and "Cowboy Song" having long ago and deservedly earned their jukebox immortality. But wait a minute - aren't they all on "Jailbreak"? Somewhat less appealing, though, are the cod-historical macho bluster ("Emerald", "Massacre", "Warrior"), sub-sub-Springsteen street opera ("Johnny The Fox Meets Jimmy The Weed") and, ah yes, knew there had to be one around here somewhere, "Sha-La-La"'s drum solo. "Live And Dangerous" reminds me most of another mid-70s double live album subject to post-production controversy, Kiss' "Alive!". If you like one, you'll surely like the other, which isn't necessarily a ringing endorsement.
Mr Raegoso's reissue is quite nicely packaged, although the use of Warner Bros.' palm tree labels might be something of a culture shock to un-American listeners , and purists might object to the man's own reminiscences being added to the back cover blurb. But, as with Friday Music's reissue of Yes' magnificent "Close To The Edge" this doesn't sound all the world, despite being hewn from "180 gram audiophile vinyl". In places this version of "Live And Dangerous" sounds like a middling cassette copy, sapped of dynamics and top end. Perhaps the key to these underwhelming sonics lies in the ambiguous phrase "Half-Speed Mastering from the original Warner Bros. vault tapes". Note the absence of the phrase "original master tapes", consider that the album was fixed and mixed in London and follow the country-of-origin rule to the speculation that those vault tapes might've just been copy tapes that wound up in a Warners storage facility, rather than the originals that perhaps are still controlled by the band's European label. Not that there's anything inherently wrong with using copy tapes: Speakers Corner, for example, are perfectly upfront about the fact that they will source a reissue from copies if the original master tape cannot be obtained (although not quite so upfront about stating which entries in their catalogue were so derived), yet all of their reissues that I've had the pleasure of hearing sound far better than this somewhat distant and uninvolving record. It gets me wondering what a mint UK original might sound like, because the legend that surrounds this album has to be founded upon something more substantial than what I hear here.