Sunday, 23 January 2011

“Jailbreak” by THIN LIZZY. A Review Of Their 1976 Breakthrough Album Now Reissued and Remastered Onto A 2011 2CD ‘Deluxe Edition’.

"…And I Come Running…Running Back To You Again…"

“Jailbreak” is the first of three 'Deluxe Edition' 2CD sets released Monday 24 January 2011 in the UK (8 February 2011 in the USA) - the other two are 1976’s “Johnny The Fox” and 1978’s “Live And Dangerous” (2CD/1DVD).

Universal/Mercury 5332052 breaks down as follows…

The 3-way foldout digipak is the same design as most of Universal’s 2010 DE doubles - the outer plastic wrap has now been replaced with a ‘Deluxe Edition’ bandana around the base of the set and you have to split it to get the package open – bit fiddly, but it easier to access the discs and the booklet.
Phil Lynott and Jim Fitzpatricks’ “Overmaster” concept story on the rear sleeve of the original LP is put on the first inner flap to the left, while the 4 colour photos of the boys on the back sleeve are now spread across the two inner flaps – and they look great.

There’s a superbly detailed 20-page booklet with a very intensive essay on the album and the band’s history by DEREK OLIVER. It refers back to interviews with Phil and Brian Robertson and the text is peppered with live photos and a collage of trade adverts and gold disc awards. To counter that though, I’d add that the lack of alternate artwork or works in progress from Jim Fitzpatrick – the Dublin artist who’s Celtic artwork was such an integral part of the band’s image – is a bit of a let down on the packaging front. Also they could have used the original vinyl look on the CDs themselves – the UK ‘Spaceship’ Vertigo label design for Disc 1 with the USA Mercury label design on Disc 2 - minor niggles, but worth mentioning…

Disc 1 (36:07 minutes):
Tracks 1 to 9 are the album “Jailbreak”, their 6th album released 14 March 1976 in the USA on Mercury SRM-1-1081 and 26 March 1976 in the UK on Vertigo 9102 008 (it peaked at 18 in the USA and 10 in the UK). ANDY PEARCE and MATT WORTHAM have remastered the first generation master tapes in 2010 at Wire Masters in the UK.

Disc 2 (51:35 minutes):
Tracks 1, 2 and 4 are ‘Remix’ Versions of “The Boys Are Back In Town”, “Jailbreak” and “Emerald”. JOE ELLIOTT (of Def Leppard) along with SCOTT GORHAM, BRIAN DOWNEY (guitarist and drummer with the band) and RONAN McHUGH have remixed and re-recorded ‘some’ parts on these in “Joe’s Garage” in Dublin. There’s isn’t enough room to detail here what’s been done to what track and why, but Elliott’s notes explain in full on Page 19.
Track 3 is an 'Alternate Vocal Remix' of “The Boys Are Back In Town” which features different verses in the latter half of the song
Tracks 5 to 8 are “Jailbreak”, “Emerald”, “Cowboy Song” and “Warriors” - all BBC Sessions recorded 12 February 1976 in London for The John Peel Show
Track 9 is an 'Extended Version' of “Fight Or Fall” (5:21 minutes)
Track 10 is a 'Previously Unreleased Studio Track' called “Blues Boy”
Track 11 is “Derby Blues” - an 'Early Live Version Of Cowboy Song' recorded at The Derby College Of Technology in the UK on the 2 November 1975.
NOTE - EXTRA TRACK DISC 2: the outer packaging lists only 10 tracks on Disc 2 - but there is 11 as documented above

The remaster on Disc 1 is fantastic – bringing out Phil Alcock’s original production values on every track. There is hiss on some songs (like "Fight Or Fall"), but it’s minimal and hasn’t been ‘Protooled’ out of existence – presence and power haven’t been sacrificed - just amplified. Downey’s drumming is suddenly a force to be reckoned with too rather than being something that was muddled in the back of the mix somewhere. The rockers like “The Warrior” and “Emerald” now sound just HUGE (Gorham and Robertson’s solos still make the hairs stand up), while the more plaintive tunes are great too. You can hear Tim Hinckley’s keyboards on the lovely “Running Back” (lyrics above), the ultra-tight acoustic guitars on "Romeo And The Lonely Girl" and when the twin electric guitars kick-in on “Cowboy Song” after the lonesome harmonica intro – the effect is magical.

The extras are far better than I thought they would be – they really are. The ‘Remixes’ are very good, but don’t trump the originals. You can hear why the lyrics were changed in the ‘Alternate’ “Boys Are Back In Town” – and frankly how he improved it so much (what a perfect little song it is). The already polished versions of “Cowboy Song” and “The Warrior” in the BBC Session of February 1976 are absolutely extraordinary and beautifully captured by in-house Producer Tony Wilson – Lizzy were ‘so’ good – you can just ‘hear’ how the new material was on fire…

The extended “Fight Or Fall” features countrified slide guitars – it sounds like a Vagabond’s outtake or The Allman Brothers doing a loose jam – it’s fabulous and for me a genuine surprise. But then comes the real deal for starved fans - a new Lynott song called “Blues Boy” – and as its title suggests, it’s a slinky Blues riff. Musically it’s very similar to the opening slink of “Pretzel Logic” by Steely Dan but with guitars instead of keyboards. It’s just great and would have made a superb B-side. Chunky guitar work too…bit of dialogue at the end…what a treat!

To sum up – a superb remaster of the album, properly expanded packaging, genuine bonus tracks and all at a reasonable price. I was afraid that this would be just a cheap cash-in on their big album, but I’m over the moon with it.

Reading Joe Elliott’s page on the handling of the ‘remixes’, you sense his enthusiasm and especially his affection for this great band and it’s enigmatic front man. I saw Lizzy several times live in Dublin during those incredible years and they were an awesome thing to behold. This reissue has only reminded me of that. Praise indeed…

Recommended like a large neat whiskey in Dino’s Bar 'n' Grill…

PS: see also my reviews for the 2010 Extended Remasters of “Thin Lizzy” (1971), “Shades Of A Blue Orphanage” (1972) and the 2CD Deluxe Editions of “Vagabonds Of The Western World” (1973), “Johnny The Fox” and “Live And Dangerous”.

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