Thin Lizzy: Black Rose-A Rock Legend
1979; Vertigo; London/Paris
Heart and intensity are two things that really, really, really matter to me in music. Moreso than anything else. You've got those two things, I'll give you a listen.
I've been fretting over how to write the review for this album for weeks and weeks. Here's all you really have to know: This is one of the most heartfelt, intense albums you will ever hear. It's not that the vocals are jagged, because they're not, and it's not that the guitars are particularly heavy or distorted, because they're not. It's not because Brian Downey and Phil Lynott are one of the most underrated rhythm sections in music history, although that's certainly part of it.
"In my youth I'm getting older."
One line. One line is all it takes to realize you're listening to something special, sometimes.
Every single lyric, every word, comes from an entirely real place. Every line Lynott sings, God rest his sole, he meant with all his heart and soul. People talk about Jailbreak as being Thin Lizzy's breakthrough album, and maybe it was in terms of sales and popularity, but Black Rose-A Rock Legend is their absolute creative peak. Maybe the absolute creative peak of heavy rock in the '70s. Did I go there? Yes.
Listen: Jailbreak, while very good, was pretty much just a collection of songs. Black Rose sounds like it could be all taking place on the same street-gang violence, sadomasochism, alcoholism and an intensely bitter breakup all form the tapestry of the Toughest Street in Town. There's light at the end of the tunnel, though. That guy who broke up with his girlfriend? At least he's not still with that bitch. The alcoholic? He's stumbling home to his family as we speak. This is not a bleak piece of work-this is an album that says, "This is life. This is the people who live it. This is the good, and the bad, and this is how we make it beautiful, every day."
Fuck all that, though, if the musicianship isn't up to snuff. Good thing Gary Moore is one of the most underrated guitarists of all time, as he makes every song on this album one that you're going to remember. Good thing Lynott and Downey back that sweet-ass guitar up with one of the most ass-rumblingly awesome rhythm sections in recent memory. Good thing Lynott, whether he's sad or furious or overjoyed, can squeeze every tiny bit of that emotion out of any lyric he sings and just make it explode, turn it from just a word into something magical, something that means something, something that can touch your spirit.
"Do Anything You Want To Do" and "Toughest Street In Town" are both guaranteed to send you bolting up out of your seat. Then we move onto the cautionary "S&M" and I think to myself, "This album CAN'T be this good all the way through". And then, hey, even with the two misses, "Sarah" and "With Love", it is. It is exactly that fucking good.
Look. Stuart's had this dilemma when he writes for this blog before, when he loves something so, so much that he just can't put it into words. Music that makes him bounce up and down and makes it so that he just never, ever wants to come down. I hadn't felt that in so, so long. Maybe not since Quadrophenia. I heard that album two years ago. Two years since any collective piece of music has filled me with such life, such a love for music and the people who make it.
A few days ago I was feeling bad-and this is a true story-I was feeling bad because Phil Lynott was dead, and I would never, ever be able to tell him how much this album means to me. How much I absolutely love with all my heart what he decided to do with his life, and the art that just pours out of his soul every time he opens his mouth.
Look at me! I'm speaking nonsense again! I want this all the time. I want to feel like I do when I listen to "Roisin Dubh(Black Rose): A Rock Legend", the final song on the album, all of the time. I never, ever want to come down from this high. I just want to laugh and dance and love everyone when I'm listening to this music. Nothing can touch me. Nothing can hurt me. I can only give, I can only love.
Fuck it. This is one of the greatest albums ever made. Nothing captures life and energy, in all it's forms, good and bad, like this album. It has enough heart, soul, fire, rage, grace, charm and wisdom to line up ever album of the past ten years and blow them out of the water, forever.
This is every bit of why I love rock and roll, why I love music, condensed into one album. It's a masterpiece of honesty and love, an absolute masterpiece, and the world is a better place because it exists.
A Rock Legend.
God damn fucking right it is.
- Do Anything You Want To – 3:53
- Toughest Street in Town – 4:01
- S&M – 4:05
- Waiting For An Alibi– 3:30
- Sarah – 4:20
- Got to Give It Up – 4:24
- Get Out Of Here – 3:37
- With Love – 4:38
- Róisín Dubh (Black Rose): A Rock Legend – 7:06