To my knowledge this troubled 'DELUXE EDITION' (Decca 984 194-9) has had no less than 7 release dates - May, July and November of 2007 were first cited, then January, February and April of 2008 - and now it finally arrives Monday 18 October 2010 without the tiniest bit of fanfare. It has a 2007 Copyright date on the rear so it's effectively been delayed three and a half years. But has it been worth the wait - yes absolutely. But to the considerable details first...
DISC 1 - Decca 984 195-0 (77:52 minutes):
Tracks 1 to 8 are their 3rd album "Vagabonds Of The Western World" released 21 September 1973 in the UK on Decca SKL 5170.
(It was released as London XPS 636 in the USA, but contained a very-slightly edited version of "Little Girl In Bloom"; it's the full UK version that is used here)
Tracks 9 and 10 are their 2nd UK 7" single from May 1973, "Randolph's Tango" and "Broken Dreams". Both tracks on Decca F 13402 were non-album at the time.
(Note: the version of "Randolph's Tango" that is used here is known as the 'Full Version' at 3:49 minutes - the promo-only 7" edit at 2:25 minutes is Track 17)
Tracks 11 and 12 are their 3rd UK 7" single and the first to feature a track off the album. "The Rocker" was issued as a 7" single in the UK in November 1973 on Decca F 13467 and is an edited version (2:41 as opposed to the album's 5:12 minutes). It was backed with another non-album Phil Lynott track, the jaunty "Here I Go Again".
Track 13, "Cruising In The Lizzymobile" is non-album also. It's correct title is "A Ride In The Lizzy Mobile" and is a genuine Thin Lizzy vinyl rarity as it was only ever issued on the B-side of the 7" GERMAN release of "The Rocker". Its CD debut first came on the "Vagabonds Kings Warriors Angels " 4CD box set in 2001. Its rare picture sleeve is reproduced in the booklet.
Tracks 14 and 15 are from the GARY MOORE period of Thin Lizzy. "Little Darling" (featuring superb brass arrangements by Fiachra French) was originally issued 11 April 1974 in the UK as a 7" SINGLE-ONLY release on Decca F 13574 (it's B-side "Buffalo Girl" is on the 2010 remaster of "Shades Of A Blue Orphanage"). "Sitamoia" first turned up in August 1976 as an exclusive track on the compilation LP "Remembering Part 1" on Decca SKL 5249 and was also later issued on a UK 3-track 7" EP in January 1978 on Decca F 13748.
Track 16 is the 'December 1977 Overdubbed & Remixed Version' of "Slow Blues" which features Gary Moore on Guitar and Keyboards (it's released for the first time on CD here - see also PS below).
Tracks 17 and 18 are the UK 'Radio Promotional Edited Versions' of "Randolph's Tango" (2:25 minutes) and "Whisky In The Jar" (3:43 minutes)
[Note: "Whisky In The Jar" and its non-album B-side "Black Boys On The Corner" are on the 2010 CD remaster of "Shades Of A Blue Orphanage"].
DISC 2 - Decca 984 195-1 (64:02 minutes):
Tracks 1 to 5 are a "BBC Radio 1 In Concert" (recorded live 26 July 1973 at the Golders Green Hippodrome in London)
Tracks 6 and 7 are a "BBC Radio 1 John Peel Session" (recorded 31 July 1973)
Track 8 is a "BBC Radio 1 Rock On Session" (recorded 26 February 1974)
Tracks 9 to 12 are a "BBC Radio Bob Harris Session" (recorded 6 March 1974)
Track 13 is a "BBC Radio 1 John Peel Session" (recorded 4 April 1974)
[Notes: tracks 5 and 12, "Suicide" and "Showdown" feature Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson]
There isn't a plastic wrap like previous Deluxe Editions, instead there's a similar-looking 'Deluxe Edition' paper band running around the entire double digipak at the bottom and you have to cut it from sealed to open the side. Both inner flaps contain the lyrics and black & white session photos that were on either side of the rare insert that came with original UK LPs. The "Legend Of The Vagabond" story on the rear cover of the album artwork is reproduced too and the 16-page booklet has a detailed assessment of the album and the band's history to that point by compiler and noted writer MARK POWELL. The power trio of Phil Lynott, Eric Bell and Brian Downey are also pictured.
The iconic and especially commissioned artwork of Dublin artist Jim Fitzpatrick (a theme followed through to Jailbreak, Johnny The Fox and Black Rose) is fully displayed. Fitzpatrick's artwork was steeped in romantic Gaelic folklore and he was kind of Ireland's answer to England's Roger Dean (Yes, Badger, Greenslade album sleeves). Fitzpatrick and Lynott were lifetime friends and he produced over 250 pieces of art for Lizzy and Phil.
The original 1991 CD reissue has been sounding decidedly dated for decades, the 2001 box set versions were an improvement, but these 2007 polish-ups are subtly wonderful. I've raved about PASCHAL BYRNE'S work before (see my reviews for "Ain't No Saint" the 4CD John Martyn box set and "Blues From Laurel Canyon" by John Mayall), and this set is no different. The first generation tapes have been remastered - not too brash - fantastic presence - each track a revelation. As a rabid fan of this album since a spotty teenager in Dublin, to hear these tracks punch above the belt like this is a genuine thrill. As the blistering slide guitar work of Eric Bell opens "Mama Nature Said", you can at last hear the organ work of JAN SCHELHAAS in the background (ex Gary Moore band, later with Caravan & Camel) and the clarity of Downey's drumming on "Gonna Creep Up On You" is awesome. The rather silly Kid Jensen talking track "The Hero & The Madmen" is probably the album's worst offence (whether it sounds good or not), but Eric Bell's truly fantastic guitar work on the full version of "The Rocker" still astonishes (lyrics above).
The previously unreleased remake of "Slow Blues" is OK, but you can't help but feel that something already good should have been left well enough alone. The single edits and very cool non-album B-sides are a huge bonus and the BBC sound quality is ace throughout. But what I wasn't prepared for was the quality of the live stuff on Disc 2. Powell's liner notes describe the July 1973 Hippodrome set as 'blistering' and he's not joking - absolutely on fire, Eric Bell comes out doing an almost note for note version of "The Rocker" that is stunning. And it's also great to hear live versions of "Sitamoia" and "Little Darling" at last sounding so alive. Speaking of which - although it doesn't say in the liner notes, I'd swear the incredible guitar work between tracks 9 and 13 (especially on the unbelievably good "Black Boys On The Corner") - is Gary Moore.
To sum up - die-hard fans may have a lot of it already, but the improved sound will be a big draw. The 8-track album by itself may not tempt many newcomers, but for me the huge amount of truly excellent bonus material make it yet another 2010 'Reissue Of The Year'.
God bless you Phillip Paris Lynott wherever you may be ("...bippin' and boppin' and telling a dirty joke or two...") - and what a band.
PS: The last compilation album touching on the 1971-1974 period of Thin Lizzy was called "The Continuing Saga Of The Ageing Orphans" released in the UK in 1979 on Decca SKL 5298. Of it's 11 tracks, 3 were untouched cuts off the "Vagabonds Of The Western World" album - "Mama Nature Said", "The Hero And The Madman" and "Vagabond Of The Western World". But the other 8 tracks were December 1977 remixes and remakes of old Decca material. They contained contributions from Gary Moore and Midge Ure. The purchase of this Deluxe Edition of "Vagabonds..." AND the '2010' extended editions of their debut "Thin Lizzy" and their 2nd album "Shades Of A Blue Orphanage" will finally allow fans to acquire the missing 8 tracks and sequence the entire album. See also my separate reviews for those discs...
PPS: see also reviews for "Thin Lizzy" Expanded, "Shades Of A Blue Orphanage" Expanded and 2CD DELUXE EDITION sets of "Nightlife", "Fighting", "Jailbreak", "Johnny The Fox" and "Live & Dangerous" (2CD/1DVD)