Sound — 10
Thin Lizzy is a band formed in Dublin, Ireland in 1969 by former guitarist Eric Bell, longtime drummer Brian Downey and the now-deceased vocalist and bassist Phil Lynott. Several changes in sound and a line-up change (Bell left fairly early on and was replaced a couple of times - this album featured Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson on guitars) later, "Johnny the Fox" is Thin Lizzy's seventh studio album, released in 1976.
The album was released hot off the heels of their previous album "Jailbreak," which was extremely popular with critics and fans alike. While it ultimately is not as groundbreaking as its predecessor, "Johnny the Fox" features the very same guitar harmonies and excellent storylike lyrical content that Thin Lizzy are famed for. Both Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson prove that they are accomplished guitarists on this album, with standout riffs to be found on the opening track "Johnny" and "Massacre."
Brian Downey's drumming is excellent as always - I feel that he is fairly underrated, unfortunately. While his drumming is strong throughout, album closer "Boogie Woogie Dance" showcases some brilliant fills on his part, and overall it seems fair to exclaim that the rhythm section on this album is stellar. The album also features percussion contributions from Phil Collins of Genesis; though Lynott and Robertson later stated in interviews that they could not remember which songs he played on.
Some excellent solos are to be found on this album - "Don't Believe a Word" and "Rocky" give Robertson (who was just 20 when this album was released) a real chance to show off and contain their fair share of shred, while "Johnny" also has an excellent outro solo performed by Gorham. Adversely, some fairly melodic soloing is to be found on tracks such as "Old Flame" and "Sweet Marie."
There are no real problems to be found with the sound of the album as a whole, in fact. Every track has its moments, and while it is not Thin Lizzy's best album it certainly stands out as a record and conveys the development of their sound well.
Lyrics — 9
Lynott, as always, proves himself to be an accomplished storyteller with his lyrical content. An excerpt from "Fool's Gold," for example:
"Broken Joe just lying in a gutter
He's gone as low as any man can be
He calls for wine but they'll only serve him water
The bartender say "We don't sell sympathy"
"Massacre" also proves a similar point:
"Through the devil's canyon
Across the battlefield
Death has no companion
The spirit is forced to yield"
The clear message here is that Lynott's lyrical content is excellent and tends not to repeat itself in regards to topics - "Massacre" is aptly titled while "Fool's Gold" tells a story of famine.
Lynott's singing is also excellent here - at this point in Thin Lizzy's career the drugs had not yet affected his voice and as a result he sounds as pristine as in previous releases.
Overall Impression — 9
Overall, "Johnny the Fox" does well to match up to previous releases and is one of the stronger albums in Thin Lizzy's extensive back catalogue, but does not quite have the musical impact "Jailbreak" had.
While on the whole, "Johnny the Fox" is a stellar record, standout tracks such as "Johnny" and "Don't Believe a Word" convey the clear musical ability of Thin Lizzy - even when guitarist Brian Robertson was playing at that caliber at only 20 years of age - and overall "Johnny the Fox" proves itself to be one of the better records Thin Lizzy released in their prime.