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Sunday, April 27, 2008

THUNDER AND LIGHTNING

In 1983 Thin Lizzy released what was billed as, and indeed was their last LP. The two previous records were generally accepted as lacking. The band was tired, Phil and Scott were severe dope fiends, and the forecast was extremely gloomy.






Chinatown was recorded during the same time as Phil's first solo record. There wasn't much direction. As Phil was producing both records simultaneously, there was a great deal of confusion amongst the various musicians about what record was being worked on on any given day, or hour.

Snowy White, who had replaced the ever walking out Gary Moore, who had stepped in for the brilliant problem, accident walking Robo, was, and is, a great talent, but he wasn't a great fit for Lizzy. His stage presence was compared to that of a Quaalude. He may have been live, but he wasn't very dangerous.

Renegade wasn't much better. Though it is a more focused effort, the material was still lacking the magic of yore..


All that considered, it is surprising that they managed to pull themselves together for Thunder and Lightning.

They surprised everybody.

Most of their fans, the industry, and certainly the press had given them up for over.

Delightfully, for those fans who were still paying attention, Phil still had something to give, and most likely, something to prove.





I bought it when it came out, sort of surprised to see it in the bins. 'Et tu, Brute' indeed, as Jackson had written them off as well.

I was in for a remonstration of the most satisfying kind.

Phil well knew the criticisms. The band had lost the swagger, the muscle. They had not been bad-ass.

He fixed that.

Snowy moved on the prop up the ailing Pink Floyd, and John Sykes came aboard the seemingly rudderless ship Thin Lizzy.

Formerly of Tygers of Pan Tang, the future Whitesnake gun and hair for hire Sykes brought his amazing guitar skills to the Lizzy, but more importantly, he woke up the sleeping spark in Phil's soul, albeit for the last time.

The album opens with the title track, a slap in the face jaw dropping rocket on a rail of a track, putting to rest any doubt of Thin Lizzy's ability to deliver the goods. The song simply blisters as Phil invites us along to a bar fight.

In other words, Thin Lizzy was back, so keep your distance.

The second track keeps the pace break-neck, but deftly opens things up with a sparse arrangement featuring new addition Darren Wharton laying down rich synth pads. Such flirtation with lame-ass wimpy keyboards is all forgotten when Sykes and Gorham trade off on some serious fretplay.

The songs narrative, on the surface, seems devoid of any real substance, but Phil has masterfully disguised a moment of confession behind a typical statement of bravado. Much of Phil's eighties output are thinly veiled cries for help. The problem was that the veil was menacing. You couldn't help him if you valued your well being.

'When the Sun Goes Down' takes you further down the same road. The tempo is taken way down, the soundscape opens up even more. The song is driven by a call and response melody between the bass and a chiming guitar, over which Phil tells us how horrible of a husband he is, and that at the end, the sun goes down.

Both 'This Is the One' and 'The Sun Goes Down' contain christian images and references. Mainly apocalyptic, Phil seems to be trying to connect with whatever faith he can muster, and the most apparent example of this is the fourth track (end of side one to the faithful), 'Holy War'.

The riff, melody, production, and performance on 'Holy War' is so killer that it would be easy to overlook what might seem to be a flawed narrative, but given what we know of Phil all these many years later, and the previously discussed Christ jag he was on, the holy war is his own personal struggle for salvation in the face of his self destruction - a conscious self destruction.

The second side of the LP isn't as good. It starts off well, however, with a classic Lynott character study of a professional gambler. 'Cold Sweat' meets all the marks: great riff, great hook, witty lyrics and shredding licks.

The rest of side two is lacking. The titles are illuminating as far as they shed a light on the major factors driving Phil's life in his last years: 'Someday She Is Going to Hit Back', 'Baby Please Don't Go', 'Bad Habits', 'Heart Attack'.

While none are wholly lame, none provide the goods. 'Bad Habits' could have been a great tune. It has the riff and melody, and the first verse is good, but, well.......the song isn't finished.

While 'Thunder and Lighting' doesn't rank with 'Jailbreak' or 'Bad Reputation', it has its charms, its revelations, and its triumphs. Thin Lizzy had their comeback, their endless farewell world tour, and a light at the end of the tunnel.

That light would mean different things to different people, as it always does.

Comments:
Your knowledge of all things Lizzy is vast. My collection is severely light on their stuff and I will recitify that with your rundown here.
 
God Damn.
 
I lost interest after Johnny the Fox, but think that one is a swell freaking record....
 
Forgot to mention, I used to work for MTV Europe in London in the late 1980s, and my PR boss there was none other than Christine Gorham, Scott's wife. I visited their house once, played one of Scott's guitars - he wasn't around at the time, natch.
 
rocks. I was 2nd year college when it came out. my friend had a killer stereo that could handle the volume that was required. thanks for reminding me to forage thru the vinyl. Looking forward to your Priest retrospective to remind me to pull those out again. or did I miss that already? cheers.
 
Mark, I remember us connecting over that record, if I recall 'Cold Sweat' was your tune.

Priest blog on it's way.....
 
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