Thin Lizzy’s debut LP is a curious affair. The original group, comprised of Phil Lynott (vocals/bass), Eric Bell (guitar) and Brian Downey (drums) were supposedly conceived as a power trio – a hard rock format which had gained popularity in the late 60s with the likes of Cream – yet very little from their 1971 self-titled offering reflects that. It’s not weak, by any means, but overall it’s more ‘trio’ than ‘power’ and musically, much of it bears little resemblance to the band Lizzy would later become.
Despite most of the material not sounding much like classic Lizzy, it’s clear, even here, that Lynott is a charismatic frontman, an emotive vocalist and superb bassist. All of which are qualities which have a strong presence during ‘Honesty Is No Excuse’, a mid paced, soulful number. Lynott’s vocal delivery sounds like a man making an honest plea, with his voice almost cracking on the longer notes. While his bass work on this track is never flash, it’s got warmth, pinning the song down but never becoming intrusive. ‘Eire’ and ‘The Continuing Saga of The Aging Orphan’ are very fragile: ‘Eire’ features some simple bass playing from Lynott, while colourful guitar flourishes from Bell push what would’ve been a simple folk tale into folk-rock territory. During ‘Aging Orphan’, Bell and Downey are reduced to little more than backing for Lynott’s vocal, which is full of sadness.
‘Ray-Gun’ and ‘Look What The Wind Blew In’ are outright rockers, which are surprisingly enjoyable. ‘Ray-Gun’ showcases bluesy electric work from Eric Bell. The main groove is provided by his wah-wah riff, over which Lynott plays an incredibly funky bass. It’s one of the only moments where the three guys get close to the typical power trio style. ‘Look What The Wind Blew In’ feels simpler; it has a looser groove which ends up feeling a little messy, especially on the chorus, where Lynott chooses a smooth vocal style which doesn’t suit the tune…and then uses that to sing something which doesn’t really scan properly. ‘Return of the Farmer’s Son’ also demonstrates the band’s rock side. Brian Downey’s drum fills are excellent; Phil’s bass and vocals are aggressive and Eric’s blues-rock soloing gives the piece a decent edge. If Lizzy had looked towards this blues-rock style more instead of concentrating on a non-specific blend of psych, folk and blues, this would have been a very different record indeed. (Although, it clearly didn’t always work: ‘Remembering Part 1’ attempts to get tough, but ends up rather muddled).
‘Diddy Levine’ is a track that showcases the range of styles played by the original three-piece line-up in just over seven minutes. The verses are wordy and wistful, there are acoustic folk stylings, but as the song progresses, a hard rock riff develops. While there’s nothing wrong here, its folk elements aren’t as good as some of the album’s other gentler moments and any attempt to rock out doesn’t match the excitement generated by ‘Return of the Farmer’s Son’.
Thin Lizzy followed their debut with ‘Shades of a Blue Orphanage’, an album which showcased Lizzy’s growing confidence. That confidence manifested itself in a set of songs which showcase a slightly broader set of influences. As a result, the album feels rather unfocused. This second album also sold poorly. However, by the beginning of 1973, with two non-charting albums to their name, Thin Lizzy’s fortunes were about to change.
[A remastered version of ‘Thin Lizzy’ features bonus tracks culled from the Irish ‘New Day’ EP and another non-album single, ‘The Farmer’. Also included are overdubbed and remixed versions of four of the debuts songs – all of which were previously available on the 1979 Decca compilation ‘The Continuing Saga of the Ageing Orphans’.]