The budget-to-mid price Series "Universal Masters Collection" spans a huge range of artists on the Universal roster of Labels - from ABC through to DONNA SUMMER - and all points in between. But this little gem given over to THIN LIZZY and the Irish band’s early Decca Label material seems to have gone largely unnoticed.
The booklet is a 4-page foldout inlay with a decent essay on the band at that time by DARYL EASLEA and a basic track listing.
But the really good news is that all 18 of its tracks have been Digitally Remastered and many of them are hard-to-find rarities. The compilation covers the period 1971 to 1974, their first 3 albums and the non-album 7" singles around them. As you can see from the photo they've used for the front cover of the booklet, the rocking Dublin band was still a POWER TRIO at that time - PHIL LYNOTT on Bass and Vocals (principal songwriter), ERIC BELL on Guitar and Vocals with BRIAN DOWNEY on Drums and Percussion (the famous dual-guitars of BRIAN ROBERTSON and SCOTT GORHAM began with "Nightlife" in 1974).
The albums featured here are "Thin Lizzy", their debut from April 1971, "Shades Of A Blue Orphanage", their second album from March 1972 (un-issued in the US) and their fantastic third album from September 1973, "Vagabonds Of The Western World" (on the Decca label in the UK and the London label in the USA). As the first three albums were put out onto CD in 1990, 1993 and 1993 respectively with 'ok' sound quality, these 1999 sonic upgrades are both long overdue and SUPERB into the bargain.
Originally UK released December 1999 (reissued 2005 and 2009) - “ Classic Thin Lizzy: The Universal Masters Collection” is an 18-track CD compilation on Universal/Deram/Decca 844 945-2 (Barcode 042284494526). Here’s the track-by-track breakdown (most of this info isn’t on the outer sleeve) with UK release dates supplied:
Track 1. Whisky In The Jar (Their 1st UK 7" single from November 1972 and originally a non-album track. (It's actually an updated cover of a 1729 Traditional Irish air). This version is the rare ‘Promotional Edited Version' used on UK Demos and the US issue of the single; it cuts down the standard 7" release from its full running time of 5:44 minutes to a shorter 3:40 minutes) Track 2: The Rocker (Their 3rd UK 7" single, this is the rare ‘Edited Single Version'. It chops down the full "Vagabonds..." album cut of 5:12 minutes to 2:41 minutes, essentially editing out Eric Bell's guitar solo) Track 3: Look What The Wind Blew In (on "Thin Lizzy", their 1st album) Track 4: Randolph's Tango (Their 2nd UK 7" single from May 1973 and again a non-album track. This is credited as the ‘US Edited Single Version', but as the original UK version runs to 3:53 minutes and this cut is 3:49 minutes, it's hard to see 4 seconds as an edit!) Track 5: Sarah (Version 1) (on "Shades Of A Blue Orphanage") Track 6: Things Ain't Workin' Out Down At The Farm (Version 1) (4th of 4 tracks on the ultra-rare "New Day" EP, a UK-only 7" single-only release from 21 August 1971. The 1st track on the EP is also on this compilation - Track 12. For CD versions of the other two songs on the EP, "Remembering Part II (New Day)" and "Old Moon Madness", they can be found as bonus tracks on the 1990 issue of "Thin Lizzy") Track 7: Vagabond Of The Western World (Edited Single Version, it cuts down the "Vagabonds..." album track of 4:49 minutes to a running time of 4:06 minutes) Track 8: Here I Go Again (non-album B-side to "The Rocker") Track 9: Buffalo Gal (on "Shades Of A Blue Orphanage") Track 10: Honesty Is No Excuse (on "Thin Lizzy") Track 11: Black Boys On The Corner (non-album B-side to both the UK/USA 7" single "Whisky In The Jar" (spelt without an ‘e' in the UK and EUROPE, with an ‘e' in the USA) Track 12: Dublin (1st of 4 tracks on the ultra-rare "New Day" EP, a UK-only 7" single-only release from 21 August 1971) Track 13: Little Darling (a 7" single-only release from April 1974 on Decca featuring GARY MOORE (ex Ireland's SKID ROW) on Guitar) Track 14: Brought Down (on "Shades Of A Blue Orphanage") Track 15: Remembering Part One (on "Thin Lizzy". This is credited as the ‘US Edited Version', but at 6:00 minutes, it appears to me to be the same as the UK album version?) Track 16: Chatting Today (on "Shades Of A Blue Orphanage") Track 17: Broken Dreams (non-album B-side to "Randolph's Tango") Track 18: Little Girl In Bloom (US Edited Version, it cuts down the "Vagabonds..." album cut from 5:14 minutes to 5:06 minutes and was apparently released like this on the 1973 AMERICAN versions of the "Vagabonds..." album)
Apart from the obvious rarity nature of many of these tracks what is thrilling is the stunning upgraded remastering that each has been given. A comparison of "Black Boys On The Corner" is one good example. Originally only available on the 1991 CD issue of “Vagabonds Of The Western World" as a bonus track in ok remastered sound - the upgrade here is just breathtaking. A truly great B-side (and far more indicative of their rockin' nature than the A) - it's been a fan-favourite for years and to hear it sound this good is an absolute blast.
Initially penciled in for release February 2008 - the first three albums on Decca "Thin Lizzy" (1971), “Shades Of A Blue Orphanage" (1972) and a 2CD Deluxe Edition of their wonderful 1973 LP "Vagabonds Of The Western World” finally arrived in 2010 after five or even six delays - and all of them with copious bonus tracks and top-quality remastering well worth the wait (see my reviews for all of them).
“Classic” is probably pushing the term here - but if you want a taster of those early years - “Classic/Universal Masters Collection" is an excellent CD compilation and a cheap way of accessing their earlier and wildly underrated material. And it’s a cool way to remember this beloved (original trio) of an Irish Rock Band and its much-missed leader - PHILIP PARIS LYNOTT. Rock on you peach…
Firstly, I hope I am not being too pedantic, but the title of this collection is a little misleading and inaccurate. This is not Classic Thin Lizzy, although it does contain a few classic compositions, to be more accurate, it is a collection of tracks taken from the period their first three albums, which demonstrates the roots of what was later to become the international success that was Thin Lizzy under the leadership of Phil Lynot. Jailbreak, Johnny The Fox, Black Rose, Live & Dangerous etc are albums that demonstrate what would be termed Classic Thin Lizzy.
So to this collection. The two opening tracks, Whiskey In The Jar and The Rocker are definitely classics. The former, a superb reworking of a "traditional" Irish folk song was possibly the first we knew of Lizzy and to many the definitive interpretation of this song and the latter became a standard in their live shows. Both are taken from the superb third album of 1973 Vagabonds Of The Western World. A further six songs from that album are included here (Vagabond of The western World with its Irish Folk leanings, Randolph's Tango, Black Boys On The Corner, a pseudo political commentary on refusing to accept ones perceived place in society, Little Darling, a superb rocker, Remembering Part 1 and Little Girl In Bloom) These songs I would be most familiar with as I purchased Vagabonds back in the late 1970s as my first Lizzy album. The remaining ten tracks have been lifted from the first two albums (Thin Lizzy & Shades of a Blue Orphanage)plus non album B sides and singles. To me these ten tracks are fresh territory and are by and large excellent. Listening to this collection there are hints of Jimi Hendrix, blues and even a slight country trace in track 7 (Here I Go Again).
For many Thin Lizzy began with the classic line up of Phil Lynott, Brian Downey, Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham and with the breakthrough album Jailbreak. However this collection which predates that era and contains the original line up of Lynott, Downey and ex-Them guitarist Eric Bell illustrates how the Lizzy sound was developing. The only change to this line up is on the track The Rocker where Eric Bell was replaced by the late great Gary Moore.
A delightful collection of not so much "classic" Thin Lizzy but rather embryonic Thin Lizzy and highly recommended if you don't already have the first three albums.
If you are a fan of the band, this is a great collection of early (pre-Robertson/Gorham era) Thin Lizzy. The sound after remastering is just excellent. I own several of their early Greatest Hits CDs released in 1989, 1990 and the difference in sound quality is huge! So why 4 stars instead of 5? Two reasons:
1) Several songs are presented in their edited versions (e.g. In "Whiskey In The Jar" Eric Bell's guitar solo is missing). 2) Two of their best songs - "Sitamoia" and "Gonna Creep Up On You" - are not included. Great pity!
Nevertheless, the CD is very good and without any doubt is worth having in one's collection.