Killer without a cause....
Released on 2 September 1977
Running time 35.50
Oblivious to punk's fires burning all around them, Phil Lynott and Thin Lizzy put out another album of solid Celtic-influenced catchy but at times heavy rock with a poppy edge. Lizzy seemed to appeal to punks, however, largely due to Lynott's clenched-fist, leather-clad don't give a whatever "attitude" and their often irresistible, melodic, singalong riff-laden songs. There was no indulgent soloing or progginess about Thin Lizzy, so they rode the storm pretty well. They were hard and honest and won the respect of most, including the often cynical punks.
During the recording Guitarist Brian Robertson fell out with the rest of the band and barely appears on the album. Scott Gorham does most of the guitar work himself, but, despite the inter-band disharmony, the album flows together effectively. The trademark double guitar sound is recorded by adding Robertson's guitar parts after he had been persuaded to lay them down separately.
The album was produced by Tony Visconti (David Bowie and T. Rex) and he does a great job, as always. The album packs a real heavy rock punch, but still carrying that lovable Lizzy lilt to it. The album is quite short, however, and you somehow get the impression that it was completed pretty quickly and that, at the time, they were just glad to get it over with.
1. Soldier Of Fortune
2. Bad Reputation
3. Opium Trail
5. Dancing In The Moonlight
6. Killer Without A Cause
7. Downtown Sundown
8. That Woman's Gonna Break Your Heart
9. Dear Lord
Soldier Of Fortune is similar to the material on Jailbreak - an appealing, melodic but hard-hitting lyrically heroic and Celtically romantic number. Lynott always liked to evoke the spirits of old soldiers returning from some mythical, unnamed war and the character of the soldier of fortune suited his lyrical conceits so well. It changes pace half way through and some military marching-style drums back some excellent guitar.
Bad Reputation is a dark, chugging number with a deep, atmospheric Lynott vocal. If anything, the track ends a bit too soon. The drumming from Brian Downey is rollingly outstanding. He was a true powerhouse and rarely mentioned when the lists of great rock drummers are being trotted out. Opium Trail gives a sort of romantic feeling to chasing drugs against an exhilarating rock backing. Lynott's own drug dependency at the time gives it a sorry undercurrent. Gorham's guitar work on the track is superb. Lynott liked a bit of "travelling to the mysterious East" stuff in his lyrics too - all those references to China and heroin.
Southbound is a typical mid-pace Lynott rock ballad, similar to those found on Fighting or Night Life, full of yearning, romantic but dramatic lyrics - "drifting like a drover.." and more references to the Wild West. Check out the bass on it too.
The album's big hit single was the gently infectious, slightly jazzy Dancing In The Moonlight, a track which uses some saxophone too, something unusual for Lizzy. Another fabulous bass introduces the song. I always wondered what that line about "chocolate stains on my pants" was all about, though.
I have to say that Lynott had such a knack in his songwriting, finding hooks so very easy to come by.
Killer Without A Cause is an excellent, powerful rocker with some suitably killer guitar passages while Downtown Sundown has a thumping but tuneful drum backing to its honeyed tones while That Woman's Gonna Break Your Heart has some big electric riffs merging with acoustic ones backing another vagabond vocal from Lynott. Dear Lord is full of quality heavy guitar, throbbing bass and some buzzy, spacey sound effects swirling around. Once again, the vocal is most impressive.
Some critics have nit-picked a bit between all the Lizzy albums from the seventies as to which are better than others. Not me. I like them all. This was an album of what was was so attractive about Thin Lizzy - wild, gypsy, vibrant and rocking but with a warm soul underneath and Phil Lynott's evocative vocals and songwriting always to the fore. He has been so missed over the years.