I find that I’m constantly pushing my favorite guitar-based music on the many young up-and-coming players that pass through The Guitar World. Most of the time I’ll go on and on about this band or that guitarist, and talk about how cool they were and how they don’t make ’em like they used to … and then i realize that 20 minutes just flew by and my poor audience is looking at me with that “can i go now?” look in their face. But, in most cases, it usually results in the guy coming back the next time, saying “wow, I checked out that band and you were right!” (of course I was right). Well, I figured that I should create a little section here on our site where I can provide some listening advice for the masses. My goal is to do a review on a different album every month, and focus on those that really had an impact on me as a guitar player. It might even get to the point where we can have guest contributors now and then (like You).
Choosing an influential album for this first installment was a piece of cake. It’s the THIN LIZZY classic, “Live and Dangerous”. Thin Lizzy was a band that had many different guitarists coming and going, but the most definitive line-up was that which included Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson on guitars, Brian Downy on drums, and of course the great Phil Lynott on bass and lead vocals. I remember that I was in the 10th grade, vacationing with my family in Florida when I bought this record. I couldn’t listen to it until we got home to my record player, so I spent the first week or so just looking at the many photos on the double album’s sleeves. I thought that if the music sounded as cool as the photos looked, then I wouldn’t be disappointed – I wasn’t.
There are 17 songs in total, and each and every one of them are great. You can’t help but notice the variety of styles, from hard rockers to poppy toe-tappers to sweet ballads. The production has Brian Robertson coming out of your left speaker and Scott Gorham at the right. Their styles and tones are very distinct, with Robertson playing very ferociously through fat humbuckers and Gorham exuding a more melodic and flowing style through P90 pickups. (I was never quite sure of who’s shoes I wanted to fill in the event that I was to join the band – haha).
I could easily discuss and dissect every single song, but I’ll narrow it down to a few gems. “Emerald” has a cool Celtic riff then breaks down into a nice harmonized guitar theme (something that they were well-known for) and ends with a blistering solo. The solo begins with the guys trading off, but winds up with B.R. taking over the whole thing. I have to also mention the fantastic performance going on in the background – Phil Lynott and Brian Downy are relentlessly hammering away at this one.
Scott Gorham delivers a very tasty solo in “Dancing in the Moonlight” – total perfection. And just when you think he’s such a sweet guy, he serves up a powerful callouses-builder in “Massacre”. This song also has a fantastic spiraling riff that would make for a great car-chase theme in a movie.
“Still in Love with You” – probably the ultimate showcase song for a band with 2 guitar players. Brian Robertson, who is about 21 years old at this time, takes the first solo and just goes for it. This guy isn’t shy and he oozes with pure confidence. (The song is playing as I write this and, two and a half decades later, it still makes the hair on my arms go up). Scott’s solo closes the song off and it’s like a whole other song within a song. It’s orchestrated and executed with so much feeling. I strongly recommend trying to lift both solos by ear (of course). If you can, arrange to perform the song at a jam night somewhere in your town (no pun intended there) and jump in with both feet. If you can sing, be sure to tackle the vocals too; and it doesn’t hurt if your favorite new girl is out there watching. Oh, i can’t forget to mention that the little nuances in the rhythm guitars are brilliant. This is evident throughout the whole album.
“Johnny the Fox Meets Jimmy the Weed” is a funky tune and another of many examples where each guitarist takes a solo. Robertson is first, showing off his abilities with the wah-wah pedal. In fact, he’s probably one of the best wah players I’ve ever heard. Again, it’s the nuances and subtleties that make it sound so great. The key change in this section elevates the song a little and really helps to draw your attention to the lead guitar. Gorham closes this song, starting off slowly, then playing some exotic sounding licks and throwing some lightning in at the very end. Nice one!
Robertson shows off some more wah in “Don’t Believe a Word”, a catchy mid-tempo shuffle. But its in “Are You Ready” where the boys really let loose. This time Scott goes first, reminding us that he can rip as good as anyone. Then the band goes through another verse and chorus before changing keys for Brian to slay ’em all at the end. I love the reaction of the audience when it’s all over. If you’re a young band out there playing gigs, and you’re the opening act, play this as your last song – the crowd will be exhausted and the headliners will hate you (haha).
I have to talk about the song “Suicide” – more trading back and forth on this one, starting with S.G. then B.R. and back to S.G. It’s also a very funky song rhythmically; you gotta listen to those rhythm guitars! This time it’s Scott Gorham (“our candidate for the next President of the United States of America”) who steps on the wah-wah pedal during the last solo. Hmmm … I think he’s probably one of the best wah players I’ve ever heard.
OK, finally there’s “The Rocker”. A very powerful riff to sink your teeth into during the chorus, and some big holes in the verses to leave room for Phil to cram all those words in. You get a sense from these guys that they don’t mess around – they go for the throat on every single song. Brian Robertson’s performance in this solo proves it. It’s as if he’s saying “yeah, my guitar is loud – do you have a problem with that?” I would be thrilled if a new young band came around the corner tomorrow with songs and chops like Thin Lizzy. Maybe that’ll be your band.
Oh, one last thought. It would be lots of fun to jam on “Live and Dangerous” with your band or with your musician friends. The only problem is that you’ll have a difficult time finding a drummer who can do it (haha). Seriously, Brian Downy is probably the most under rated drummer in rock ‘n’ roll. To all you drummers out there, this should be a very inspirational album for you too.
Thank so much for reading.
Next Month: MAX WEBSTER’s “Universal Juveniles”