Sound: Jailbreak is by far Lizzy's most widely appreciated LP, and deservedly so. Bassist, main composer and rock legend Phil Lynott really hit hus stride with this one. Having undergone changes in both personnel and musical direction to help him get the most out of his talent, Lynott was well on the way towards the Lizzy style already in 1975 with Fighting. However, that was still a pretty uneven album, which also suffered from poor sound engineering.
In 1976, with the help of producer John Alcock, Thin Lizzy finally hit the jackpot. This was a tough, street-wise slab of hard rock from a multinational gathering of troublemakers; Lynott and drummer Brian Downey from Ireland, young hotshot guitarist Brian "Robbo" Robertson from Scotland, and second lead guitarist Scott Gorham from California.
While some lighter moments (Running Back, Fight or Fall) do drag the album down a bit, the rest of it is filled to the brim with power chords and guitar harmonies that would inspire millions of musicians beyond Iron Maiden. We get everything from hard funky rock (Angel From the Coast) to brutal proto metal (Warriors, Emerald) and all time classics such as the title track and The Boys Are Back in Town (by far their most famous song). All delivered in a moderately heavy, but very tight and present production. Actually, this album could have been released today, and it would fit right in by today's rock n' roll sound standards. // 9
Lyrics: I have never been a huge fan of Phil Lynott's lyrics. Growing up with thousands of new garage rock and post-punk bands coming out, most if his stuff seems kinda clichd to me. But I guess he was a pioneer back then, with his endless romantifications of life on the streets and outlaws. And I have to admit, those lyrical subjects are perfect companions to their respective songs. There are some exceptions to be found, though, like Romeo And the Lonely Girl (about Lynott's old friend Gary Moore) and Emerald (about Ireland's bloody history).
One can never mistake Lynott's conviction and passion as he sings about these things. His vocal style bears some resemblance to that of Jimi Hendrix, and in The Boys Are Back In Town, his musings are so detailed he almost has to rap them to fit the meters. // 7
Overall Impression: I can listen to this album several times a day, it's replay value is just insane. That's probably the most impressive thing about this album; it's not perfectly consistent all the way through, but few albums are more instantly loveable and lasting at the same time.
Well, actually, The Boys are Back in Town has sadly been overplayed by rock radio for over 30 years now. But the album tracks remain sadly underrated; My favourites are probably Angel From the Coast, Jailbreak, Warriors, and the anthemic Cowboy Song, with its myriad of wonderful harmonies and guitar duels.
Thin Lizzy was such an underrated band, I can only hope that time will give them the credit they deserve. The American mainstream rock scene of today owes a ton of praise to Lizzy (and AC/DC, for that matter), yet few musicians manage to even remember Lizzy when listing their influences.
So crank this up, pick up the guitar, and rock out. Just remember to salute Thin Lizzy and Jailbreak once you've made your first platinum album! // 9