Saturday, 31 August 2019

Thin Lizzy - Black Rose (1979)

Waiting for an alibi....


Released on 13 April 1979

Running time 38.49

This was arguably Thin Lizzy's last really great album. It features their by now familiar crashing two guitar attack, but also their popular themes of Irish folkiness, mythology and legend mixed with an appealing sad melancholy. Phil Lynott always liked a bit of troubador-inspired romance too, so, as often on their albums, a genuine hard rock edge is mixed with the charismatic ear-ringed outpourings of a Celtic gypsy soul. They were really quite special in this respect and there was no-one quite like them.


1. Do Anything You Want To
2. Toughest Street In Town
3. S & M
4. Waiting For An Alibi
5. Sarah
6. Got To Give It Up
7. Get Out Of Here
8. With Love
9. Róisín Dubh (Black Rose): A Rock Legend      

Do Anything You Want To starts with a jaunty, almost glam rock-ish drum beat and continues as a very catchy guitar-driven rocker. It was a hit single, unsurprisingly. It features a very typical Thin Lizzy guitar break in the middle and Lynott's strong and reassuring vocals carry it along effortlessly.

Toughest Street In Town is even more in the archetypal Lizzy style. It would have fitted well on Jailbreak or Johnny The Fox although its chorus is decidedly punk/new wave influenced. the guitar break is superb too, and the lyrics touch on Lynott's increased drug use. He seems to acknowledge that drugs are not a good thing in many street life and substance abuse-themed songs, yet obviously he didn't cut back.

S & M is a deep, shuffling, rhythmic rocker, full of menace and seedy atmosphere. Its lyrics are about the sado-masochism scene and are very tongue-in-cheek cynical but vaguely amusing in places. There is a funky feel to it, something that Lizzy had often been able to conjure up as far back as 1974's Nightlife. Waiting For An Alibi was another single and is standard Lizzy commercial rock fare, with great riffs and an infectious hook. Lizzy were like Status Quo in that, as well as being able to rock hard, they knew the value of a classic piece of pop rock.

Lynott gets all sentimental on the album's other big hit - the lovely, laid-back strains of Sarah, written for his recently-arrived young daughter. He is soon back on the ultimately fruitless anti-drug message on the appealingly riffy Got To Give It Up. The song, unfortunately, becomes sadly prophetic for Lynott.

The frantic rock of Get Out Of Here has some sparkling guitar interplay, Despite punk being all over the place in 1979, Lizzy seemed to ride the waves and their brand of no-nonsense rock always had something punk in its spirit so they remained respected, even by the slash and burn "no more old school rock" punks.

With Love slows down the pace a little, but only a little, on a melodious but strong thwarted love-themed number. The final number, the bloated Roísín Dubh (Black Rose): A Rock Legend, is a medley of traditional Irish folk songs mixed with some classic Lizzy rock. It is a romantic view of Ireland, something Lynott has always liked (no Stiff Little Fingers-style anger about contemporary issues here) and fair enough, he makes no bones about it. For many, it is the jewel in the album's crown. However, for me it is the opposite. I find it a bit of a mess, lacking true cohesion, despite not being in any way unlistenable. It just sort of rambles on, albeit in a fine rocking style. The bonus track, the 'b' side Just The Two Of Us returns to the sort of thing I prefer. This is a bit of a nit-picking opinion on my behalf though, I have to admit, as this is a fine album overall.

Below is a clip of Thin Lizzy performing Sarah on Top Of The Pops.


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