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Thin Lizzy - Black Rose: A Rock Legend

On April 13, 1979, "Thin Lizzy" released their ninth studio album - "Black Rose: A Rock Legend".


It's one of "Thin Lizzy's" biggest albums, and it's probably also the band's last "classic" album. It is also "Thin Lizzy's" most commercially successful album, reaching #2 on the UK charts.


For this Album "Thin Lizzy" recruits a serious reinforcement in the form of the legendary guitarist Gary Moore. Moore may have previously collaborated with Phil Lynott and the band, but here he has already become a full-fledged regular member of the band. Gary Moore replaced guitarist Brian Robertson, who suffered a hand injury that forced him to sit on the replacement bench during the band's previous album - "Bad Reputation", playing only three solos on songs he managed to record before his injury.


The friendships between Phil Lynott and Gary Moore go back to the late 1960s, when they both played in the band "Skid Row" (not the American band that will be formed years later) and have since continued to collaborate, contributing one to the other's albums. For example, Moore collaborated with "Thin Lizzy" in the stunning solo song "Still in Love with You" from the "Nightlife" from 1974, while Lynott collaborated with Moore on the album "Back on the Streets" which was released just a year earlier and contains the hit song "Parisienne Walkways". This tremendous chemistry between Moore and Lynott is also evident in this album, with Moore completing the duel-sounding guitar sound that has been honed on the band's recent albums. Moore gave the band the dirty and unpolished "sharding" sound, while the band's second guitarist Scott Gorham brought the more "classic" approach.


This album features interesting guest musicians such as Huey Lewis, who will later form the American ensemble Huey Lewis & The News. Lewis plays the harmonica in a song with the dark vibe "With Love" in which the excellent bassist Jimmy Bain also participates as a guest and provides the "boogie" bass that serves as a fertile cushion for Moore and Gorham's guitars.


Lewis also participates in the song "Sarah" whose moving lyrics were written by Phil Lynott about his newborn daughter. It is interesting to note that this is the band's second song called "Sara", when the first song was included on the band's second album "Shades of a Blue Orphanage", which was released in 1972. While the first song was written about Lynott's grandmother whose Lynott's daughter "Sarah" was named after her. "Sara" which ends the first side of the vinyl is also the most "different" song on the album, both in terms of the melody that corresponds with Latin rhythms, and in terms of arrangement and production, when only Moore's solo after the chorus manages to remind us that this is still a hard rock band.


Another interesting collaboration on the album is with the talented musician Midge Ure who will later form the new wave bands "Ultravox" and "Visage". Ure co-wrote the song "Get Out of Here" with Phil Lynott and will later join the band as a regular member as Gary Moore's replacement. It's probably the most "light" and catchy song on the album is because of Ure's influence, even though he noted that his influence on the song was minor and that he was flattered that Phil Lynott gave him credit for writing the song, which also helped him open doors early in his career as a musician.


The album opens with "Do Anything You Want To", with the dreaded African-style drumming of drummer Brian Downey and with the thunderous bass of Phil Lynott, joined by the two guitarists in harmonic synchronization and the band's all-familiar double guitar sound. We refrained from mentioning it, but the drumming at the beginning of the track reminds us of the opening of the song "Runnin' Free" from Iron Maiden's debut album which came out a year later. Make sure not to miss the homage Phil Lynott gives to Elvis Presley when the song fade-out, singing excerpts from "Blue Suede Shoes."


The second track on the album "Toughest Street in Town" opens with the dirty-sounding guitar riff, shifting the wheel from the rhythm section that dominated the previous song to the guitars that lead Lizzy's "gang" to "The Toughest Street in the City" in a kind of tribute to another "gang" from "The Boys Are Back In Town" three years earlier.


The third track "S & M" opens with Brian Downey's drum dribble who also co-wrote the song with Lynott and enjoyed a short drum solo later on in the song. Before Metallica and long before Rihanna was born, Thin Lizzy wrote on S&M while raising a mid finger to the feminist movement with lyrics that eliminated the chances of releasing this song as a single. This is a slightly different piece from the Thin Lizzy we know, with the flanger guitar effect and the funky rhythm that was probably meant to correspond with Curtis Mayfield and Sly Stone.


The third track "Waiting for an Alibi" picks up a gear and runs at a faster pace. This is the first single released from the album and perhaps the best song on the first side of the vinyl. And what a beauty of solos the duo Moore and Gorham give us here. Interestingly, a long version of this song appears on the band's compilation albums such as "Dedication: The Very Best of Thin Lizzy".


The second side opens up with Gorham's bluesy intro to the song "Got to Give It Up". This is the first "call for help" song by Lynnott that came at the time he was addicted to drugs and alcohol. Listen to the words and you will not remain indifferent, given the bitter end that awaited him a few years later. The second song in which Lynnott cries out for help is "Heart Attack." From the album "Thunder And Lightning" - the band's last album.


The most ambitious part of the album is also the one that closes it - the theme song "Róisín Dubh (Black Rose): A Rock Legend" written by Gary Moore and Lynott as a homage to Ireland. It's a kind of mini-piece - a four-part odyssey that combines hard rock riffs with Irish folk music, similar to the song "Whiskey in the Jar" which was the band's first hit that is also mentioned in the lyrics. The lyrics of the song also mention well-known artists of Irish descent like William Butler, Van Morrison who is mentioned in the words "But Van is the man" and Oscar Wilde who gets a reference in the words "And Oscar, he's going Wilde". This song was chosen as the best Irish rock song of all time, by Rolling Stone magazine.


Although the album was a huge success both critically and commercially, the band did not manage to ride the wave of success, especially after Gary Moore left later in 1979. "Thin Lizzy" did release three more good albums down the road, but in our opinion, they did not rise above the level of this classic album.


For Listening: Spotify, Apple Music.


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