At the BBC
Universal have been treating Thin Lizzy fans to some nice releases this year, despite a majority of them being sold only in Europe. Deluxe editions of Jailbreak, Johnny the Fox, and various other have been released this year. Also, a reunited version of the band has been touring this year. Why all these releases? It may have to do with the fact that earlier in January of this year marked 25 years since bassist and singer Phil Lynott passed away. Recently, Universal has offered another release and this one is pretty neat: it’s a collection of recordings the band did for the BBC since the beginning of their career till their farewell tour in 1983. Universal have offered two versions of this release, a two-disc version and an astounding six-disc plus one DVD version. In this review, I’ll be going into the two disc version. The album, At the BBC, is an impressive selection of highlights from the main box set. What makes this release unique is that as years go by, the BBC may choose to erase their older tapes. Luckily, many have been kept by the BBC and of course, the fans. I know there are many readers who might only know Thin Lizzy for “The Boys Are Back in Town” and “Jailbreak”. Although they weren’t very popular in the US, Thin Lizzy are so much more than just one or two songs. To consider them as a “one-hit wonder” is laughable.
The first disc consists on recordings from 1971 to 1974. During this time, Thin Lizzy were just a three-piece band and weren’t exactly the hard-rocking four-piece that would make them popular. The early Thin Lizzy music is rock music but much more folk rock, celtic rock, and sometimes hard rock. During these years, the band consisted of Lynott, drummer Brian Downey, and guitarist Eric Bell. Personally, I like the tracks that were recorded with BBC DJ John Peel. There was an album out a couple years back called The Peel Sessions, which is now out of print. This release reinstates them plus a few more goodies. The band does a very impressive rendition of “Whiskey in the Jar”, with Bell playing the exact same way he does on the studio recording (which wasn’t very easy in the first place). The song was Lizzy’s first hit when released in 1972. Some of the renditions of these songs are much more raw and up-close compared to the versions that are on the band’s studio albums. Examples of this would include “Vagabond of the Western World” and “Showdown”. Another thing I’ve noticed is that Lynott was a really good bassist. I mean, I thought so before but you can really hear him play on these recordings. There’s also an early version of the song “Suicide” from the 1975 Fighting album that’s nice to hear. Overall, the first disc is very good.
Disc two consists of recordings from 1974 to 1983. This is the Thin Lizzy that became popular. The line-up this time is Lynott and Downey with guitarists Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson. The thing that made Lizzy popular is that the band had both Gorham and Robertson playing lead guitars, giving Lizzy their signature sound. Once again, the John Peel sessions on this disc are amazing. “Jailbreak” sounds different from the studio recording since everything seems to be tuned down a bit. “Rosalie” sounds more bare bones when the studio version sounded a tiny bit overproduced. On the both discs, there’s this hiss in the recordings. For some, it might be annoying. I think the production is pretty good and that it’s all on purpose to give the songs an edgier song. “Bad Reputation” sounds really cool with both Gorham and Robertson playing spot on. The only problem I have with disc two is that there isn’t any material from the Black Rose album. Still, how can you fit all of the best material on two discs? The last four recordings are from the 1980’s, towards the end of the band’s career. Disc two might be stronger than the first disc due to it having better material.
At the BBC is a very cool release from Universal. I don’t think everybody went out and bought the deluxe editions (I didn’t. Those deluxe editions aren’t cheap). Universal have given fans something that they may not have, which is what every record label should be doing nowadays instead of reissuing it over and over again. I would only recommend this album if you are a Thin Lizzy fan. If you are new to Thin Lizzy, this is going to be an odd introduction. I recommend that you stick with The Definitive Collection for now. If you want to get an actual album, I’d start with Jailbreak. If you like that, then get the others by Thin Lizzy from the 1970’s that followed it. Still, At the BBC is very good.