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"If only someone could stall this ageing" Saga Of The Ageing Orphan
on 14 November 2013
This is a very welcome replacement for my old LP of this album, which is sitting sadly neglected in the garage, along with all my other vinyl. I would say the key notes of this album are melancholy and energy. The melancholy comes through in many of the songs both melodically and lyrically, especially on numbers like my personal favourite, 'Honesty Is No Excuse', and the very beautiful and precociously time-aware 'Saga Of The Ageing Orphan', as well as the obvious saudade* of 'Remembering Pt. 1'.
Energy wise, this is a young band trying out all kinds of ideas. Some of these ideas work better than others - several of the songs, like opener 'The Friendly Ranger At Clontarf Castle' do seem like fragmented patchworks of ideas rather than songs (the individual ideas are at least, on the whole, very interesting), whilst others, from 'Honesty Is No Excuse' to 'Eire' and 'Saga Of The Ageing Orphan' are fully-formed songs, if not yet as strong as Lynott or the band would ultimately wax. But, as many point out, this captures Lizzy in a fantastic open-ended early phase, and some of the material is just fabulous: 'Remembering Pt. 2 (New Day)' is an absolute blinder and was (and I had considered myself a fairly devote Lizzy fan) completely new to me. Indeed, the whole New Day EP is fantastic.
Throughout most of this music Phil's voice already sounds surprisingly and beautifully mature. Downey's drumming has the ferocious near uncontrolled energy of youth, is often quite exploratory, and frequently just downright superb. But he would improve as he grew more restrained, focussed, and sensitive as an ensemble player. Eric Bell's guitar is very different form the twin guitar sound Lizzy would later become famed for, but is certainly interesting. I prefer Bell's acoustic guitar work on the whole (although I like the funky wah-wah riff in 'Ray Gun'), his melodic elaborations in 'Saga Of The Ageing Orphan' are lovely, and sometimes find his rockier playing lacks form and sounds a bit random, especially compared with the tightly focussed guitar playing of future Lizzy six-stringers.
Although there might seem to be few clues as to the 'classic' Lizzy sound to come, I think that depends what aspects of Lizzy you treasure. Whilst I dig Lizzy's heavier, rockier side, I happen to have an even softer spot for Lynott and co.'s mellower side, and the roots of that are very evident here, albeit in a more kaleidoscopic and even slightly proggy/psychedelic manner. The sound quality itself is, I feel (not all reviewers agree on this), massively improved over earlier releases, with great clarity, presence and strength to the mix, giving it more power and immediacy. As already mentioned above, the New Day EP material is wonderful. But then so are the '77 remixes. So often such tampering can prove fatal. Not here.
A great package for the Lizzy/Lynott lover. Within Lizzy's own output, I'd say some of this ranges between three and four stars, but with a decent slab of five star action spread throughout. But as a treasure trove of diverse, interesting and often very moving early music from a great band, and in comparison with so much of the lacklustre 'produce' out there, this is, I feel, fully deserving of five stars, especially as it collates and expands upon an already great set of music, making it sound better than ever into the bargain.
* Not a misspelling of sausage! But a Brazilian word we don't really have an equivalent for, meaning... well, it's hard to describe, but Lynott and Lizzy have it in spades, so to speak. Wikipedia has a very good definition of it if you need clarification!