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Still Dangerous

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009


Who rates as Ireland’s best-yet rock band — especially live? Surprise, U2 fans:  it’s not a closed case. In their mid-70s heyday, fellow Dubliners Thin Lizzy were killing it worldwide before Bono & Co. had convened in high school. Although never breaking big stateside, the beloved Irish hard rockers were nonetheless a hot ticket. No studio album ever matched their exhilarating onstage mix of double-barreled Celtic guitar scorch and co-founder Brian Downey’s bracing drums, setting off the tough poetic bravado of their late bass-wielding frontman Phil Lynott. Lizzy’s 1978 Live and Dangerous double-album was welcomed as trump-card proof. Even with dispute over how much was overdubbed (producer Tony Visconti now estimates 75%), it’s still hailed as one of rock’s top in-concert documents.

Although problematic, this just-released official recording bolsters TL’s rep. Its stated origin is a forgotten tape dating from the band’s October 1977 two-night-stand at Upper Darby, PA’s Tower Theater — and this time, promise, no overdubs, just the “raw, unadulterated, untouched” truth. Except … it’s not an as-it-happened presentation, something Lizzy devotees have noted in comparing its song order with Lynott’s carefully chosen period setlists. These include one from a long-circulating bootleg of the entire 17-track 10-20-77 Tower show — precisely the gig claimed as the CD’s sole source, also debatable — which was originally broadcast on radio’s King Biscuit Flower Hour (now heard legally streaming on-line).

What’s worse, this new CD offers only 10 songs, with two more available as bonus downloads, justifying charges of holding back. But what’s best: any live Lizzy from this era is ace; even a few previously unreleased perfs are a godsend. And the power-surging transition using the last note of their cinematically thrilling “Cowboy Song” as the first note of their hearty “The Boys Are Back In Town” (TL’s lone U.S. hit; admittedly inspired by Springsteen’s “Kitty’s Back”) arguably remains the finest live segue in the annals of recorded rock.

David R. Stampone writes about music and such for pleasure and profit -- often at the same time. (Angle it right and it ain’t so hard.) He resides in Philly (a.k.a. “The Illadelph”) but lived for many years in San Diego, paying close attention ... thus, he’s a Bunky fan. And he thinks you should tip Emily appropriately wherever you find her tending bar.