Thin Lizzy is my favorite band. My history with the band goes back a long way. The first song I heard was “Jailbreak.” I was a young kid at the time. An older dude from the neighborhood brought the 45 over one morning before school and told me I had to hear it. I loved the song right away. A few years later I met a guy that worked in a record store and collected records by any band that wasn’t American. He had the album “Jailbreak,” which featured that same killer song I’d heard years earlier. The album also has the songs “The Boys Are back in Town,” “Cowboy Song,” “Warrior,” and a bunch of other great stuff. “Jailbreak” is one of my all-time favorite albums, and definitely my favorite Thin Lizzy album, but it’s not the album I’m writing about today.
Today I’m talking about “Chinatown” (1980) and “Renegade” (1981). These two albums, though not the most popular among Thin Lizzy fans, are two of my favorites. No, they aren’t as classic as “Jailbreak,” “Black Rose,” or even “Johnny the Fox,” but they each have a special charm that makes them more than appealing.
“Chinatown” is the first of two studio albums from the Snowy White period of Thin Lizzy (1980-1982). Snowy, who’s done many projects of his own in addition to his work with Pink Floyd and Roger Waters, appeared on two studio albums and one live album by Thin Lizzy. He was only a member of the band for the two studio albums, “Chinatown” and “Renegade.” The live album “Life,” which featured performances from guitarists throughout Thin Lizzy’s history, featured three songs with Snowy White on guitar, all taken from when he was in the band. I liked Snowy White in Thin Lizzy. It’s true he wasn’t the showman the other guys in the band were, and somehow he didn’t seem to fit into the Thin Lizzy lifestyle, but his guitar work on “Chinatown” and “Renegade” was solid, and he had some writing credits.
“Chinatown” features some great tracks. “We Will Be Strong,” “Killer on the Loose” (a song about Jack the Ripper from the killer’s perspective), and the ballad “Didn’t I?” really stand out. There’s also “Genocide (the Killing of the Buffalo), which details the destruction of the buffalo by the white man, and the party tune “Having a Good Time.” There’s not a bad song on the record. It opens up full throttle and doesn’t stop. It’s a consistent album all the way through, tackling a range of subject matter lyrically and delivering a classic Lizzy sound. Any complaints about the album are really unfounded, but hey, everybody’s got an opinion.
- “We Will Be Strong” (Phil Lynott)
- “Chinatown” (Brian Downey, Scott Gorham, Lynott, Snowy White)
- “Sweetheart” (Phil Lynott)
- “Sugar Blues” (Downey, Gorham, Lynott, White)
- “Killer on the Loose” (Phil Lynott)
- “Having a Good Time” (Lynott, White)
- “Genocide (The Killing of the Buffalo)” Phil Lynott)
- “Didn’t I” (Phil Lynott)
- “Hey You” (Downey, Lynott)
“Renegade” is a bit more uneven sound wise than “Chinatown,” but it’s still a great album. “Fats and “Mexican Blood” are the two songs that sort of stray away from the sound of the rest of the album, but they are great songs nonetheless. “Fats” has a smooth, cool jazz feel and is a hip character study, while “Mexican Blood” tells the story of a Mexican boy, his Mexican girl, and a lawman with vengeance on his mind. The chords and playing style are distinctly Mexican in feel and the story line is beautifully rendered.
The rest of the album is pretty consistent and full of killer songs. “Angel of Death” looks at historical events through the eyes of Nostradamus, “Hollywood (Down on Your Luck)” looks at the sleazy side of living in Hollywood, and “No One Told Him” is about the downward spiral of a man after a woman leaves him, told through the eyes of a third party. The title track is about a loner who has always lived life his way in spite of what society thinks. These are all great songs, and the rest of the songs on the album measure up.
- “Angel of Death” (Phil Lynott, Darren Wharton)
- “Renegade” (Lynott, Snowy White)
- “The Pressure Will Blow” (Scott Gorham, Lynott)
- “Leave This Town” (Lynott, Gorham,)
- “Hollywood (Down on Your Luck” (Gorham, Lynott)
- “No One Told Him” (Lynott)
- “Fats” (Lynott, White)
- “Mexican Blood” (Lynott)
- “It’s Getting Dangerous” (Gorham, Lynott)
Both of these albums were remastered with bonus tracks. If you’re a fan of Thin Lizzy, the remasters are worth adding to your collection. Like I said, maybe these albums aren’t the classics the other Lizzy albums are, but I dig the hell out of them.