Friday, March 27, 2009

Legendary Irish Rockers Thin Lizzy Show They're Still Dangerous, If Not Definitive On 'Still Dangerous'

Thin Lizzy
Still Dangerous
Live At The Tower Theatre Philadelphia 1977
VH1 Classics

Review by Nightwatcher

'Live And Dangerous', Irish hard rockers Thin Lizzy's 1978 live offering, culled from their 1977 tour has long been considered one of the greatest live albums of all time. Ranking at the top, or near the top of many critics' and fans' lists alike. The potent combination of the fantastic songwriting skills of late bassist/vocalist Phil Lynott and the fierce instrumental attack of guitarists Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson and drummer Brian Downey , particularly in a live setting - is the stuff legends are made of.

However, in the thirty years since the album was released there have been persistent rumors that a great majority of that album was overdubbed in the studio after the fact. How much has been hotly debated, ranging from the assertion that the only real live elements of 'Live and Dangerous' are the drums and the audience to the album being 75% live/25% studio overdubs. Still dangerous, but apparently not so live in either case.

A fact that the release of 'Still Dangerous : Live At The Tower Theater 1977', newly "discovered" from long lost tapes by Gorham, apparently is meant to rectify. The press release hyperbole regarding the album states, "Still Dangerous" is the raw, unadulterated, untouched sound of Thin Lizzy at the absolute height of its powers. Recorded on the band's sold-out 1977 "Bad Reputation" tour, "Still Dangerous" captures the classic quartet of Lynott, Downey, Gorham and Robertson on fire at the celebrated Tower Theatre in Philadelphia". Later going on to state ""Still Dangerous" is the definitive live statement", and downplaying the previous classic, it certainly has a lot to live up to, wouldn't you think? Is this the definitive live statement by one of hard rock's most beloved bands of all time?

Well, yes...and no. While the 10 tracks which are included in this package are certainly great, the sound, remixed and produced by legendary producer Glyn Johns (The Who, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles) is exemplary, and the performances are uniformly wonderful, the fact that only 10 tracks were included makes this seem incomplete. Various bootlegs of this show include numerous tracks that were omitted here, the track order was switched around a bit, and there was some editing and rearranging done when comparing A/B to the original source. So much for raw, unadulterated and untouched sound.

However, with that caveat in place, with Phil Lynott having succumbed from the combined effects of various unsavory substances in 1986, any vintage live Thin Lizzy, especially when it sounds this good, is cause to rejoice. The band was firing on all cylinders on this tour, the last with guitarist Robertson, who combined with Gorham add up to one of the top guitar duos of all time. Basically a greatest hits package, it does capture the raw, powerful essence of Lizzy, and does contain a pair of tracks which weren't on its predecessor, namely a charging version of "Opium Trail" and the socially conscious "Soldier Of Fortune", so it does have added value in that respect. It would've been fantastic to hear classics like "Still In Love With You" added, and at a running time of a little over 47 minutes, it doesn't seem that time was an issue.

In closing, with all the crap which is foisted upon the marketplace these days, when something of this high quality does get released, it almost seems incredulous that one would be critical, and pick apart something which on the surface, just listening all the way through sounds amazing, but that's what we as journalists get paid the big bucks for.

So, if you've been waiting for the definitive live statement, this ain't quite it, but by all means buy this anyway, as you'll still get plenty of enjoyment from what is here, and if it serves as inspiration to young musicians today like 'Live And Dangerous' did for countless others throughout the three decades since that album's release, then the music world will be all the better for it. If all you've heard from the band is "The Boys Are Back In Town" on your local classic rock radio, you owe it to yourself to investigate these rock legends deeper, as they're much, much more than that. (10/10) for the performances, (8.5/10) for the overall package.

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