I have to admit I didn’t like Thin Lizzy at first, beyond The Boys Are Back In town. When I first bought this in 1989 I was heavily into a Black Sabbath phase, and somwehow Thin Lizzy didn’t sit quite right with me. I didn’t like the slow songs, I disliked the funky elements (here typified by Angel From The Coast) and they seemed too down to earth for my taste.
How things have changed! Twenty years later I mainly listen to classcial but Thin Lizzy are one of only a handful or rock bands I still listen to. Now, I can really appreciate this band. They had so much; songs with melody yet attitude, great musicianship, and if I may use a quote beloved of pretentious music critics, “resonance”. Incredibly though it took 6 albums in as many years for Thin Lizzy to gain widespread acclaim, although with Jailbreak it’s easy to understand why the public finally realised how good this band was. The songs are all finely crafted, catchy and the famous (and influential) twin guitar style was perfected here after some experimental attempts. The main attraction to Jailbreak is of course the song The Boys Are Back In Town, very nearly the perfect all out rock and roll song, neatly combining melancholy touches in the verse to the triumphant, rousing chrous.
I might point out too that I’ve come to appreciate Lizzy as musicians too. Of course Scott Gorham and Brian Roberstson are the easiest to spot here, but Brian Downey is a drummer that should get wider acclaim. He’s never overpowering in the way that some rock drummers are but complements the songs with an almost perfect beat and cymbal technique. He’s not trying to outshine the others, he know his job is to provide a solid base for the others to build on. Listen to Angel From The Coast for an example. Above all though I’ve come to regard Phil Lynott’s voice as one if the best in rock. He sings somewhat like Freddie Mercury, sharp, not flat, and there are vocal harmony overdubs that sound not dissimilar to some Queen.
Overall if you want hard rock that isn’t ashamed to be melodic then Thin Lizzy are a band you should like. Perhaps the best analogy I can make is to Queen. They share a similar ratio of rockers to slow songs, they use melodic yet aggressive guitar and use similar vocal techniques. Thin Lizzy are much more streetwise and earthy than the (intentional) theatrics of Queen though. (As an aside Thin Lizzy toured with Queen in 1977, what a show that must have been!)
Maybe the only problem I have with Jailbreak as an album is that it seems to outshine any other Thin LIzzy release in popularity. Ask the average rock fan about Thin Lizzy and they’ll name The Boys Are Back In Town. Some might be able to tell you that it’s from Jailbreak and mention either the title track or maybe Emerald. For 90% of rock fans though, the rest of Thin Lizzy’s catalog is a mystery. Which is a shame as they did so many good songs both previously and after their breakthrough with Jailbreak, and this album is just one aspect of their multi faceted career. Although this album, as a whole, is clearly one of Thin Lizzy’s high points, it is not the bands only great moment. If you want to experience Thin Lizzy though, then Jailbreak is the ideal start point.