With a lacklustre sounding CD of this album in the marketplace since 1989 - Lizzy fans will know that only 4 tracks from this criminally-overlooked and long-forgotten 1974 LP have been remastered properly - they're on the 2001 4CD Box Set "Vagabonds, Kings, Warriors, Angels".
Well all that changes with this 2012 'Deluxe Edition' of "Nightlife" - the first time the entire album has been sonically upgraded and now including relevant bonus material on Disc 2. It's also being released on the same day as a DE version of its 1975 follow-up "Fighting" (see separate review). Here are the finite details...
UK released Monday 12 March 2012 (1 May 2012 in the USA) – "Nightlife: Deluxe Edition" by THIN LIZZY on Mercury 2792226 (Barcode 602527922263) is a 2CD Reissue/Remaster that plays as follows:
Disc 1 - The Album (37:40 minutes):
1. She Knows
2. Night Life
3. It’s Only Money
4. Still In Love With You
5. Frankie Carroll
6. Showdown [Side 2]
10. Dear Heart
Tracks 1 to 10 are the album "Nightlife" released 8 November 1974 in the UK on Vertigo 6360 116 and on Vertigo VEL-2002 in the USA (later on Mercury SRM-1-1107).
Disc 2 - Bonus Tracks (46:21 minutes):
1. She Knows
3. It's Only Money
5. Dear Heart
6. Banshee - Tracks 1 to 6 live 'BBC Sessions' - 1 to 4 were recorded 3 October 1974 with 5 and 6 done on 23 October 1974
7. Showdown (Demo with Gary Moore)
8. Still In Love With You (Demo with Gary Moore)
9. It's Only Money (Demo with Gary Moore)
10. Showdown (Alternate Take)
11. Still In Love With You (Rough Vocal Mix) - features Frankie Miller
As with "Fighting" - there's no wrap-around plastic on these new Deluxe Editions (miss them actually) and it's nicely laid out. The 12-page booklet has liner notes by MALCOME DOME which features interviews with guitarist Brian Robertson and drummer and founder member Brian Downey. The collage photos that pepper the text are a mixture of trade adverts, concert posters, a New Spotlight Magazine cover and rough drafts of Jim Fitzpatrick's iconic album artwork. At two pages shorter than the "Fighting" booklet - it's hardly pushing the boat out in terms of content - but the real fireworks come in the 2011 remaster by ANDY PEARCE and MATT WORTHAM - which is absolutely superb.
The opening track "She Knows" is not one of the four remasters available previously - so fans will immediately be blown away by its clarity here. It's also a very accomplished recording - the fastidious RON NEVISON and his original production values coming to the fore now. It continues with the slinky barroom shuffle of "Night Life" (the words are separated for the song title) where the string arrangements by JIMMY HORROWITZ are particularly lovely and just the right distance into the back of the mix. Great stuff. We then get the album's first out-and-out rocker - the brilliant "It's Only Money" - a typical Lynott winner that grabs you by the throat and doesn't let go.
But what follows is the record's big hitter - the aching blues of "Still In Love With You". Featuring guest duet vocals with FRANKIE MILLER and Lead Guitar by GARY MOORE - it would of course be completely trounced by the Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham live version on 1978's legendary double-album "Live And Dangerous". Still - it's nice to hear this more subdued studio original get decent sound at last (lyrics above). Side 1 ends with the family morality tale of "Frankie Carroll" which features keyboards by JEAN RUSSELL and sounds like a throwback to a "Vagabonds Of The Western World" story-song. And again the string arrangements on it are beautifully done.
"Showdown" is great Side 2 opener and I love the huge melodies and production on the instrumental "Banshee" that follows it - both sound fantastic. Next up is the only UK 7" single issued off the album - "Philomena" b/w "Sha-La-La". A song about his Lynott's mum - "Philomena" was released October 1974 on Vertigo 6059 111 - and like the album - it didn't chart. It's not surprising that the band hated this record-company decision because it's not a great leadoff track. The lone US 45 was an altogether better double-sided choice - "Showdown" b/w "Night Life" - released January 1975 on Vertigo VE-202. In Europe there was also "It's Only Money" on the back of the laid back "Night Life" as a single (a picture sleeve of it is featured in the booklet)). The album ends with the manic pace of "Sha-La-La" - followed by the mellow guitar and string vibes of the lovely "Dear Heart".
The bonus tracks on Disc 2 are a mixed bag of the polished and the Billy Goat gruff. First up - missing in action is the USA 7" edited version of "Showdown" at 3:29 minutes that turned up on Promo Copies of Vertigo VE-DJ-7 (a variant of VE-202). The B-side carried the full album version at 4:33 minutes. It's sloppy not to have included it on here. The 6 live 'BBC Session' tracks are much better that I'd expected - especially the rocking first three that show just how tight the band were. In complete contrast to the 3 Oct date - the 23 Oct session that produced "Dear Heart" and the stretched-out-more instrumental "Banshee" hears the boys in a supremely mellow and melodious mood.
The three Gary Moore demos are really hissy - but exciting to hear precisely because they're so raw. "Showdown" features great slide guitar flourishes that aren't on the more polished finished song - and a prize for fans is Gary on duet-vocals with Phil Lynott instead of Frankie Miller on "Still In Love With You". Even on this early take of six and a half minutes - the fabulous blues guitar playing he fills the song with is just so good - and far meatier in some ways than the rather wimpy final. The 'Alternate Take' of "Showdown" shows both guitarists trying to find flicks and fills - and mostly succeeding. The last bonus track has Frankie Miller (uncredited on the packaging) cursing at the opening and joining Phil on lead vocals. It's kind of ruined by both boys talking about getting 'beer and wine' into the studio as the guitar solos in the background! To sum up Disc 2 - even though there aren't juicy album outtakes (as there is on the DE of "Fighting") - it's an impressive set of bonuses nonetheless...
Niggles - the booklet is good - but similar to "Fighting" there is this unnerving lack of acknowledgement of the main man - PHIL LYNOTT. Both Downey and Robertson's quotes are selective to say the least. It's all "we" and "our" - without ever noting that Lynott wrote eight outright and co-wrote the other two, sang them, fronted the band, provided the hits etc etc. It's like the remaining members are slyly trying to rewrite the band's history in their favour. And the total lack of liner notes for the 11 tracks on Disc 2 is just lazy. There's also no interview with Jim Fitzpatrick - an integral part of the band's Seventies image. But overall - it's a good release - and one fans have been waiting for - for decades.
To sum up - the remaster is a belter, some of the extras are absolute must owns and the packaging is what you'd expect. Admittedly with its slightly languid and funky feel - "Nightlife" may not be everyone idea of twin-guitar nirvana - but there's still so much on here to admire - and I've especially loved rehearing the record in this really great sound. From here it was onwards and upwards to 1975's "Fighting" and the breakthrough "Jailbreak" in 1976. What a band...
Two of my friends are buried in the same cemetery as Phil in Dublin - and I visit all 3 whenever I go back. God bless them wherever they may be. And all are sorely missed...
PS: see also remaster reviews for "Thin Lizzy", "Shades Of A Blue Orphanage", "Bad Reputation" and 2CD Deluxe Editions of "Vagabonds Of The Western World", "Fighting", "Jailbreak", "Johnny The Fox" and "Live And Dangerous".