Saturday, 23 October 2010

“Shades Of A Blue Orphanage” by THIN LIZZY (2010 Universal/Decca 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster Of Their 2nd Album For Decca Records In 1972) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"…When We Were Kids…We Were Headed For…Number One"

This new 18 October 2010 CD on Decca 984 448-2 (Barcode 602498444825) Remasters "Shades Of A Blue Orphanage" - Thin Lizzy’s second album for Decca Records in 1972 and in an 'Expanded Edition' CD adds on a further 9 bonus tracks (it was initially slated for a 25 February 2008 release but cancelled). Here’s a detailed breakdown (77:57 minutes):

1. The Rise And Dear Demise Of The Funky Nomadic Tribes
2. Buffalo Gal
3. I Don’t Want To Forget How To Jive
4. Sarah
5. Brought Down
6. Baby Face
7. Chatting Today
8. Call The Police
9. Shades Of A Blue Orphanage
Tracks 1 to 9 are the album “Shades Of A Blue Orphanage” issued 10 March 1972 in the UK on Decca TXS 108 (original UK copies had a fetching gatefold sleeve - 'no' corresponding US release on London Records).


Tracks 10 and 11 are “Whisky In The Jar” and “Black Boys On The Corner”, the A & B-sides of their second UK 7” single released 3 November 1972 on Decca F 13355. “Whisky In The Jar” (spelt with an ‘e’ only on American issues) was the real starting point for Thin Lizzy’s global success. “Whisky” is a traditional Irish air dating back as far as 1729 and was originally only meant to be a jokey B-side dashed off in the studio to accompany “Black Boys On The Corner” on the A (far more representative of their rocking sound). But British DJ’s flipped the single and “Whisky” became the hit. It finally charted January 1973 and eventually rose to number 6.
[Note: the version used here is commonly known as the ‘Full Single Version’ at 5:44 minutes. However a 7” ‘edit’ of the track was quickly pressed up for BBC Radio play and the US 7” single on London - this ‘edit’ version at 3:44 minutes is elsewhere - on the 2CD Deluxe Edition of “Vagabonds Of The Western World”]

Tracks 12, 13 and 14 are “Buffalo Gal”, “Sarah” and “Brought Down”

The version of “Sarah” presented here turned up on the 2003 CD compilation “Rockers’, but still some further explanation of these ‘first appearance on CD’ 1977 remixes is needed. The last compilation album touching on the 1971-1974 period of Thin Lizzy was called “The Continuing Saga Of The Ageing Orphans” released in the UK in March 1978 on Decca SKL 5298. Of it’s 11 tracks, 3 were untouched cuts off the “Vagabonds Of The Western World” album – “Mama Nature Said”, “The Hero And The Madman” and “Vagabond Of The Western World”. But the other 8 tracks were December 1977 remixes and remakes of old Decca material where Lynott, Gary Moore and Midge Ure of Ultravox redid them in the studio. All 8 have been spread across the 3 x 2010 reissues – so the purchase of the Deluxe Edition of “Vagabonds” AND the '2010’ extended editions of “Thin Lizzy” and “Shades Of A Blue Orphanage” will finally allow fans to acquire these ‘missing’ remakes and sequence that entire compilation album.

Tracks 15 to 18 are “Suicide”, “Black Boys On The Corner”, “Saga Of The Ageing Orphans” and “Whisky In The Jar”. They are all previously unreleased and were recorded for the “BBC Radio 1 John Peel Session” on 14 November 1972.


The newly upgraded 16-page booklet uses an outtake photo of the shot that adorned the back and inner album cover, the three boys wandering through a wintry St. Stephen’s Green Park in central Dublin on the 10th of January 1972. There are several period photos of the young band, the words to “Shades Of A Blue Orphanage” are reproduced as per the original album artwork (lyrics above) and there’s even a Promotional 1-page Blurb from Decca too. Don’t know if I like the “Digitally Remastered” logo pasted into the front cover of the booklet where you can’t remove it – but it’s a minor niggle. The knowledgeable liner notes by MARK POWELL are superb and it’s all been run by Philomena – Phil’s mum.


As with “Thin Lizzy” and the Deluxe Edition of “Vagabonds Of The Western World”, this 2010 CD has been remastered with great results by PASCHAL BYRNE. I've raved about his work before (see my reviews for "Ain't No Saint" the 4CD John Martyn box set and "Blues From Laurel Canyon" by John Mayall), and this set is no different. The first generation tapes have been used - not too brash - fantastic presence - each track a revelation.


The Lizzies were still a three-piece at this point - PHILIP LYNOTT on Vocals and Bass, ERIC BELL on Guitars and Keyboards with BRIAN DOWNEY on Drums. The famous dual guitar blasts of Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson are years away, so those expecting “Fighting” or “Jailbreak” should really look further ahead.

With Lynott’s melody capabilities expanding fast, the album was a strange mix of styles - sensitive singer-songwriter on “Brought Down” to out-and-out rocker on “Baby Face” and “Call The Police” - and even Salsa Dancer Man on “Chatting Today”. Other highlights include the opening drums and guitar of “The Rise And Dear Demise…” where the band sounds not unlike a demented Blodwyn Pig at first and then suddenly morphs into a funky AWB – great stuff and it has huge sound. The lovely “Buffalo Gal” (used as a B-side to “Little Darling” in 1974) is a sweetheart of a tune and sounds superb here. You couldn’t say the same of the short but awful “I Don’t Want To Forget About The Jive” - its mock rock ‘n’ roll construction just doesn’t work.

“Sarah” is another very pretty ballad featuring beautiful piano accompaniment by CLODAGH SIMONDS of Irish Folk-Rock act Mellow Candle. It’s known as 'Version 1' because he revisited the track title on the “Black Rose” album in 1979 and had a hit with it. Simonds also adds Harpsichord and Mellotron to the seven-minute big album finisher “Shades Of A Blue Orphanage”.

The extras are fantastic. To hear “Black Boys On The Corner” after nearly 4 decades sound this punchy and ballsy is a genuine blast for me – I’ve always loved this stunning non-album cut. The early version of “Suicide” (it would eventually turn up on 1975’s “Fighting”) features stunning slide guitar work from Bell – a great different take on the tune. It’s followed by a cool live version of “Black Boys…” that’s as powerful as the studio version. A very well produced “Saga Of The Ageing Orphan” (from the first album) is surprisingly pretty – deft touches everywhere. But while Eric Bell is almost note-for-note perfect in the live rendition of “Whisky”, Phil unfortunately sounds like he’s lost his voice. Still, it’s great to have these precious gems after all those years languishing in Auntie’s dusty knickers…

To sum up – the album may not appeal to everybody for sure, but the remaster is fabulous, the bonus tracks genuinely good and I picked it up for less than a fiver.

Recommended lke a good pint of Guinness that's been given time to settle.

PS: see also my reviews for the 2010 versions of “Thin Lizzy” and the long-delayed 2CD Deluxe Edition of “Vagabonds Of The Western World”

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