Thursday, 14 June 2018

Thin Lizzy - Vagabonds Of The Western World (1973)

Little girl in bloom....


Released September 1973

Recorded at Air Studios, London

I have always quite liked the first two Thin Lizzy albums ("Thin Lizzy" and "Shades Of A Blue Orphanage') but I understand the criticisms of them as being a little patchy and indicative of a band not quite sure of their image or direction - country-ish Celtic folk rockers or full-on rockers. By this album, in 1973 they had firmly come down in the rock side and this was their first album to really showcase the band's "heavy rock" credentials.


1. Mama Nature Said
2. The Hero And The Madman
3. Slow Blues
4. The Rocker
5. Vagabond Of The Western World
6. Little Girl In Bloom
7. Gonna Creep Up On You
8. A Song For While I'm Away                            

The opener, "Mama Nature Said", with its Status Quo-like introductory riff and some searing lead guitar licks and Phil Lynott finally finding that trademark Irish rock voice set their stall out. Lynott's Western movie and imagery fascination introduced the next track, "The Hero And The Madman" which predated the type of material that would appear on their classic "Jailbreak" album in 1976. It was some delicious wah-wah guitar, some funky bass lines too and again, some of those slightly menacing vocals from Lynott. The spoken parts could be dispensed with, to be honest, but do not let that detract from what is a good rocker. Some great guitar at the end. A few of Thin Lizzy's rock tracks on this and on "Night Life" betrayed a funkiness not often associated with them.

Remember, the band were still just a three-piece at this time - Lynott on bass, Eric Bell on lead guitar (sadly on what would be his last Lizzy album before leaving in a huff at the end of 1973) and Brian Downey on drums. That considered, they produced a massive sound, as indeed did The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Cream, two of the biggest influences. The Hendrix influence is clear on the rumbling, powerful "Slow Blues", but, there again, so is Lizzy's funky guitar sound too, putting their stamp on it. Some have criticised this song for being somewhat tepid. I disagree. There is some stunning guitar in it and a genuine blues rock feel to it, in a Led Zeppelin first two albums sort of way. I have always thought this to be one of Lizzy's best earlier tracks. Next up is a true Lizzy classic - "The Rocker", with Bell's storming opening riff, Downey's thumping drums and Lynott's vaguely threatening, leering vocal. Always another of my favourites, particularly in its extended album incarnation. I remember hearing this for the first time at fourteen years old on Radio Luxembourg via my tinny little transistor and, although I had really liked the band's Celtic rock hit single from 1972, "Whiskey In The Jar", this just blew me away and I thought that they could rock more than I had previously thought. So, there must have been a bit of a change if a fourteen year-old boy could detect it!

The Celtic influence does return, however, for the "too-ra-loo-ra" vocal intro to "Vagabond Of The Western World" but then it launches in to some seriously heavy rock. Beautiful. Big, booming, thumping bass on this excellent remaster (the "deluxe edition" from 2010"). More impressive vocals, guitar and drums. An awesome, mighty track.

"Little Girl In Bloom" is a remarkably and surprisingly sensitive song sung from the perspective of a young girl, pregnant, and unable to tell her father. The girl watches from the loneliness of her room, idly watching the men playing cricket, feeling sad yet at the same time fulfilled but worried about the "secret in her womb". Some great guitar in the song and some suitably low-key vocals from Lynott.

"Gonna Creep Up On You" is an industrial, potent rocker with an insistent, shuffling beat. "A Song For While I'm Away" is probably the least rocking, or indeed impressive song on the album, harking back to the first two albums in its laid-back style. It is not without appeal though. One thing that was a shame is just how short seventies albums worth. A couple more tracks, like those mentioned below, would have made this an even better album.

The "deluxe edition" has some excellent bonus material such as "Sitamoia", "Little Darling", the slightly Latin-influenced "Randolph's Tango" and some excellent performances from BBC studio sessions, which always tended to be of a high quality.

The cover was awful though!


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