Thin Lizzy Jailbreak – released March 1976
For Thin Lizzy, for my money one of the most under rated bands in the history or rock, it was a long road to stardom. Jailbreak, the album that broke internationally in a big way, is their 6th release. Up to that point the band seemed to be looking for an identity. Night Life from 1974 was the first to feature the guitar tandem of Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson. Night Life hinted at the classic Lizzy era just around the corner. Subdued and soulful, the atmosphere of Night Life is not about a party night on the town, but rather an intimate night at home. It has flashes of brilliance with the bluesy title track and the ballad Still In Love With You. They followed that up with Fighting in 1975, which saw the band ready to rock your face off. This one includes the fantastic Suicide and a killer rendition of Bob Seger's Rosalie. Gorham and Robertson were really starting to mesh. Just about every track features their melodic double lead guitars propelled by Brian Downey relentlessly driving the engine with his skillful drumming. Although Phil Lynott's lyrics could sometimes border on the ridiculous, the band around him and his vocal delivery really helped sell his self styled rebel with a soft heart persona.
However, neither one of these albums delivered a bonafide hit and the band were on the ropes. But their record company gave them one more shot to deliver something big. As with all great albums, many factors lined up to make it a success. Jailbreak was essentially the culmination of everything that came before from soulful blues to hard rock. Lynott's lyrics full of rich details weaved with the double guitar attack became Lizzy's signature sound. The album overall has an immediacy, an urgency which you can still hear today. Perhaps this is due to the fact that it was recorded fairly quickly in late 1975/early '76. Both Robertson and Gorham have stated they felt the album sounded rigid, probably because with Lynott having a hand in every song, he didn't leave much room for the guitarists to improvise solos.
As with all heavy rock albums of the era, it was released to mixed reviews. Although Jailbreak is a high water mark for Thin Lizzy, Running Back (which was almost released as a single) hasn't aged well. But with tracks such as Jailbreak, Romeo And The Lonely Girl, The Boys Are Back In Town, Cowboy Song and Emerald sprinkled through the album, you can't help but marvel at the final product. It's safe to say that without this album, Thin Lizzy wouldn't be revered by musicians 40 years down the road. If you haven't been introduced to the music of Thin Lizzy start with Jailbreak. It will make you want to delve into their expansive catalogue which includes far too many gems to to list.
Watch at this 1976 stunning video: the Thin Lizzy performing The Boys Are Back in Town on BBC 4's Top Of The Pops show
Off Rock contributor Mike Lang is a long time rock radio personality, music director and occasional program director. Follow Mike on Twitter @theemikelang