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Monday, July 22, 2013

Has the ghost of Thin Lizzy been laid to rest by the Black Star Riders?

WHEN the Sex Pistols released a compilation of songs they'd already released it came under the title of Flogging a Dead Horse. To a certain extent, when Thin Lizzy were touring last time there was a feeling that it was a tribute show rather than the real thing - the songs were there, the feeling was there, but the creativity was straining at the leash - it was time to stop flogging the horse...

With long term fans and those closest to the Lizzy legacy uncomfortable with 'new' material being released under the Thin Lizzy monicker it was a wise choice to adopt a new name and strike out in their own direction.

With only Scott Gorham from the 'original' line-up remaining - following the amicable departure of Brian Downey and Darren Wharton - all members of the band had to settle on what direction they would take under their new name, Black Star Riders.

The band will play Belfast on Sunday, December 15th. With those dark nights distant in the hazy sunshine it is time to reflect on the debut release, All Hell Breaks Loose.

The promised Lizzy vibe is there, as promised by Gorham, especially on Bound for Glory - which has an echo of Southbound - and Kingdom of the Lost.

However, the band seem to be stretching beyond the past glories and the high bar set by the late, great Phil Lynott, no less than on tracks such as Kissing the Ground, which has an FM radio sensibility, but the twin harmony guitar breaks that keep their roots firmly in place.

Equally Hey Judas has Ricky Warwick echoing Lynottt without trying to copy him. This mid-paced song has hooks a plenty and a tasty solo leading into the twin harmony.

The appeal of Lizzy was the strong songwriting, matched by both serious lyrics and occasional whimsy of heartbreak and romance such as Dancing in the Moonlight, On Someday Salvation that light touch is evident and it lodges in the brain...

With Gorham and Damon Johnson taking on the majority of the song craft Warwick produced a set of lyrics surprisingly well balanced, a deft touch on the songs suited for radio, and more insightful such as on the Blues Ain't So Bad, with even an echo of his beloved Stiff Little Fingers in some of the passionate words.

Overall All Hell Breaks Loose at times seems like the band is trying to firm up its own identity, and Kevin Shirley's production, while excellent as usual, could have boosted some elements and been more watchful of some of Warwick's word structuring to avoid unfair comparisons with Lynott.

This is not a Lizzy album, but Black Star Riders are beginning a journey which it can be hoped more will come. The songs are ripe for the live setting. It is by no means a perfect album and the shout refrain in Hoodoo Voodoo is simply inappropriate, ruining a great song.

It is also an album that bears repeated listens - with several tracks just simply exquisite such as the previously mentioned Someday Salvation.

What is more the promise within is that Black Star Riders can evade the shackles of comparison's with the past as they develop on the stage and their next release. This is a a seven out of 10 album on first listen, with more listens making it an 8.5 out of ten.

Has this laid the ghost of Thin Lizzy to rest peacefully? Probably not yet, but it can rest as long as the Black Star Riders carve out their identity in the future.

Roll on the Belfast show in Limelight1 in December.

Footnote for Northern Ireland readers: Ricky Warwick is known as a passionate Glentoran fan, yet he titled a song 'The Blues Ain't So Bad'. Is this a reference to Glentoran's arch rivals Linfield, known throughout Belfast as the 'Blues'? Somehow we think not!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Listened to it 4 times....really tried to like it, but it's just awful....I like Ricky's solo stuff, but on this....a poor poor tribute band is about as much praise as I can muster. Suppose the warning signs were there before the solo on track one....Ricky giving it "Alright Scotty" before the solo....almost binned it there and then! Take away the very limited Lizzy connections, my "clouded" view of Gorham and his PR machine, and really, you're just left with a really poor run of the mill album....gimme Audrey Horne anyday of the week....a proper homage to Lizzy without the baggage....just my opinion of course.