Thin Lizzy - Thunder and Lightning (1983) Deluxe Oct 26, 2013 11:57:39 GMT -5
Post by Erik Rupp on Oct 26, 2013 11:57:39 GMT -5
In 1982 it seemed to insiders as if Thin Lizzy might hang it up.
Their album sales were declining a little, and among those in the know it was clear that Thin Lizzy main man Phil Lynott had a serious drug and alcohol problem (which he did, and which would ultimately contribute to his premature death in early 1986). Lesser known was guitarist Scott Gorham's own drug and alcohol problems. Gorham knew that they were both headed for a big crash and burn if they didn't get off the tour/record/tour/record cycle, so he tried to convince Lynott to put an end to the band, at least for a while.
Lynott agreed to call it a day for Thin Lizzy - but not until they did one final album and tour. Lynott had several new songs already written and he wanted to release them. Gorham agreed to one final go round, but that was it.
In working on the new album it was clear from the beginning (right after the previous tour, actually) that guitarist Snowy White wasn't a perfect fit for the band. He was OK, but not quite the right guy for the job. Not like Brian Robertson and Gary Moore had been. Thin Lizzy needed a new guitar player, but Phil had someone in mind.
John Sykes had worked with Phil in the studio on a song long before Lynott and Gorham had agreed to the final album and tour, and Lynott really liked what he heard from Sykes.
When Sykes came in to audtion for the band it was clear that he was the perfect guy for the job. Sykes was a huge Thin Lizzy fan, and he brought a renewed energy to the band that reinvigorated everyone. He also brought a heavier sound to the band, giving them an edge that they hadn't had in years. He had the energy and passion of Brian Robertson, the technical skills of Gary Moore, and a heavier style than anyone had ever brought to Lizzy previously.
While the writing for what would become Thunder and Lightning was almost completed, Lynott heard Sykes playing a riff in the studio that he just loved. Within 20 minutes the framework for, "Cold Sweat," had been worked out. It would go on to become the album's signature song. The writing for the album was complete.
Chris Tsangarides was brought back to produce the album (he had co-produced and engineered their previous album, Renegade), and he tapped in to Sykes more Heavy Metal style when it came to the album's production. This wasn't Black Sabbath or Iron Maiden, but the sound was heavier than anything fans had ever heard from Thin Lizzy, and (for the most part) they loved it. The album does sound very good for an album recorded in late 1982.
But what makes Thunder and Lightning (the album) so special is the songs. Phil Lynott was writing like he had something to prove. He had renewed vigor and an enthusiasm for the music that hadn't been heard since Bad Reputation back in '77, and nowhere is that more evident than on the frantic title track that opens the album.
"Thunder and Lightning," (the song) is a blistering slice of early 80's Heavy Metal played with reckless abandon. Co-written by Lynott and Lizzy drummer Brian Downey, "Thunder and Lightning," threatens to get out of control and stumble all over it's face every second of the way, but, somehow, just barely manages to stay upright. Lynott spits out the lyrics at such a rapid fire pace that they are barely distinguishable, but like the song staying in control, his delivery is articulated just well enough to be understandable - and entertaining as hell! Thin Lizzy had been reborn!
Following such a wild song is always tricky, but Lynott and company managed to find just the right song in, "This Is The One." Brian Downey pounds out the beat with the snare on all four beats in each bar, giving the song a pulsing, almost march like beat. While the song isn't as fast or frantic as the album opener it isn't much less heavy. It's loaded with good riffs and great vocal melodies - and some nice leads traded off between Sykes and Gorham. At this point it was clear - Thin Lizzy was relevant again. The boys really were back in town!
Now, anyone who has followed Thin Lizzy or owned more than one of their albums knows that Lizzy isn't just a Hard Rock band. Thin Lizzy dabbled in lots of different styles, and a great example of that is the haunting and beautiful, "The Sun Goes Down." This is a fairly mellow song with Downey relatively gently hitting rim shots and playing some well placed, tasteful kick drum to propel it forward with a fairly quick, but gentle, pace. This song takes elements of Rock, Blues, and 70's Adult Contemporary and combines them in a smooth blend that works amazingly well. This is a truly great song that transcends both genres and time.
And then the album goes to hell.
Not musically, but topically as but Phil gets religiously philosophical on, "The Holy War," pitting God against Satan in a battle for humanity's collective soul. Again, Lizzy sounds heavy, but melodic (as was typical throughout their career when they got heavy), and the song is very tasteful. The beat is almost funky and the riffs are tasteful. This is another great song that was a concert highlight on tour.
And then we get to what was Side 2, Song 1 - "Cold Sweat." This was the song that came out of that riff that John Sykes was playing in the studio that Phil liked so much. It is the best song on the album, and one of the 5 or 6 best songs of Lizzy's entire career. It is a powerful old school Heavy Metal song with a ton of melody and flair. The riff follows a similar pattern (same notes, too) as the riffs for, "Jailbreak," and the previous album's, "Hollywood (Down On Your Luck)," but somehow manages not to be a full on rip-off of those previous songs. One can only wonder how good a full album co-written by Lynott and Sykes (with further input from Gorham, Downey, and keyboard player Darren Wharton) could have been had Lynott not died.
"Someday She Is Going To Hit Back," is a song that, at the time, sounded somewhat futuristic with it's slightly unusual, multi-layerd vocal parts and keyboard use. Some of the chord and note progressions used also sounded a little unusual (fairly Progressive Rock based) and that made it sound potentially futuristic, too. As it turned out, Hard Rock and Heavy Metal didn't go in that direction, but the song was still ahead of it's time. And it's very good, too.
Lizzy gets back to basics with, "Baby Please Don't Go," a song that that sounds like it could have had it's roots in the writing sessions for the Jailbreak album. Had a more primitively produced version of this song been included on Jailbreak it would have fit right in and been one of the album's highlights. It's that good, and that classic sounding. The song bounces along (to a degree), not unlike, "The Boys Are Back In Town." Fans of the Brian Robertson era of Lizzy loved this song, and with good reason.
There is a very slight New Wave flavor to, "Bad Habits," that ties it firmly into the early 80's, and it is a song that sounds like an obvious follow up to the Renegade album. The use of delay on Phil's vocal's is very effective, and the song is infectious even if it isn't as good as some of the other songs on the album (it's a solid album track that holds up well, just not as good as most of the other songs).
Then things get eerie. Prophetically eerie. Phil sings to his mother of his dying from a heart attack and a drug overdose on, "Heart Attack." The song is supposed to be about heartbreak from a breakup, but some of the lyrics are telling. Phil seemed to know that he was headed for a bad end, but was unable to get off that path. The fact that the song is so damned good makes it that much more poignant. We're listening to a man sing about his death three and a half years before it would happen, and the cause of his real life death would be eerily similar to what we hear in the song. It's a little creepy now (and really has been ever since Phil died in early 1986), but it's so good that it is too compelling to pass up.
Musically, Thunder and Lightning is a great album - one of Lizzy's best. It is a must have album for anyone who likes Thin Lizzy at all.
And the Deluxe Edition is the must have version of the album.
The bonus disc features (oddly) six songs from the previous tour with Snowy White, but as the performances and recording quality are so good that doesn't really matter. We get spirited live performances of, "Angel of Death," "Don't Believe a Word," "Emerald," "Killer On The Loose," "The Boys Are Back In Town," and, "Hollywood (Down On Your Luck)," and these live versions are very, very compelling as well as entertaining.
But the real highlight of Disc 2 are the demos for ALL of the songs on Thunder and Lightning. Most feature full vocals, some feature verse and bridge vocals, and, but in the case of, "Someday She's Going To Hit Back," it is just the instrumental base of the song.
The other selling point for the Deluxe Edition is the fact that the album has been remastered. The original Japanese CD release of Thunder and Lightning was fairly good for the time, but it doesn't have the impact that good (non-brickwalled) modern remastering jobs have. In fact, on that version of the CD the song, "Cold Sweat," is overly muddy and sounds pretty bad.
Subsequent mastering jobs were better, even on, "Cold Sweat," but this one is different.
Andy Pearce and Matt Wortham remastered the Deluxe Edition in 2011, and their remastering job is a noticeable improvement on most of the songs, but on a couple they really botched it.
"The Holy War," sounds a little harsher in the midrange frequencies (and lacks enough bottom end to compensate at all), and, "Cold Sweat," sounds like a mediocre demo. "Cold Sweat," on this release is all mids and lacks a solid bottom end. It sounds cardboardy and lacks not only the bottom end, but good highs, too. It sounds like the final mix of the song was played through a little 15 watt practice amp and sent to tape from there. I don't know how they thought that this sounded better than previous versions (the mastering of the song on the UK CD single for, "Dedication," was much, much better), but in any case they failed miserably on this track - the best track on the album.
Still, this is a must have version of the album for the other reasons I noted above, and it's probably best to have it as a companion CD to a previous version.
The Original Songs - 4.75/5
The Remastering - 3.5/5
The Bonus Disc - 5/5