Saturday, April 11, 2009

An Irish Two-Step

THIN LIZZY – “Still Dangerous” CD ’09 (Classic, Ireland) – I’ve been at a personal quandary with the band currently called THIN LIZZY for sometime now. When Scott Gorham, John Sykes & Brian Downey decided some years back to pay tribute to Philo, the leader of their “gang,” I was onboard. A tour, a tribute to Philip Lynott, a wonderful idea. It’s a kinda far reach from that, however, to Scott & John now helming a band actually called THIN LIZZY (no “tribute” subtitle in sight) and touring incessantly. On one hand, it’s kinda nice to see the old songs being kept alive but I’m a not sure a band called THIN LIZZY without Phil in it’s line-up should ever exist. With all that as a back-drop, however, I’m nothing but ecstatic with this release.

“Still Dangerous,” you see, has nothing to do with any current incarnation, tribute or any other such nonsense. Nor does it wallow meekly in the shadow of it’s timeless older brother, the legendary “Live & Dangerous.” Recorded a year down the road from that monster, this one’s only chink in the armor could be it’s title, perhaps better named “Even More Dangerous.”

As great as “L & D” was & is (and believe me, I love it), it always had a sorta slick sound that made you wonder if the boys had been unleashed in the…er…studio just a bit. As Cactus would say, “no need to worry” here. While some may have already criticized the whittling of this set from some 17 songs down to 10, I think it was a smart choice. The perfect 40-some minute length gives this baby a sharp, direct punch to the jaw just like a barroom brawl. With “Soldier Of Fortune” opening, then carrying on to the title cut from “Jailbreak,” the sound is vibrant yet raw. Scott & Robbo harmonize in 3-D as Brian Downey’s stick-engine thunders & Philo lays down the business supreme. His sharp, thoughtful pick work often critically overlooked, Lynott’s 4-string efforts ring loud & clear on this platter. But it’s his vocals & personality that steal the show. His easy slide from tough Irish street warrior to suave balladeer comes to the fore early as the band swing into “Cowboy Song.” Move my fingers up & down, indeed. I’m sure the ladies always loved this one!

From there it’s a tour d’ force, from the obligatory “Boys Are Back In Town” (never gets old on these ears) through the Boss-like “Dancing In The Moonlight” and guitar explosions like “Massacre” & “Opium Trail,” this band is none other than shit-hot. And hey, show me a guitar rhythm more bad-assed than Robbo’s in “Massacre.” That’s right, you can’t and the less-is-more production by elder statesman Glyn Johns hits with an Ali-like uppercut. THIN LIZZY then bring it on home with the triumvirate of “Don’t Believe A Word” & extended versions of “Baby Drives Me Crazy” and “Me & The Boys.” The latter is just the perfect climax, summing up that fierce us-against-the-world mentality LIZZY always shared, not only with each other but with their fans in the live arena. “Still Dangerous?” I don’t know about now, but in 1977 this bunch was as lethal as any rawk band has ever been. A Lot More Irish In Ya

THE ANSWER – “Everyday Demons” CD ’09 (The End, Ireland) – Back in 1986, an interesting thing happened. The record store that your’s truly had called his employment home for 8 years went under and he had to find a “real” job at an investment firm. Holy shit! Wasn’t that exciting?! Ok, ok let me see what else I can find here for 1986…hmm…oh yeah, a metal band from California who’d found a modicum of success with their 1st 2 records put out their 3rd. It was called “Pastor Of Muppets” or some such thing and they got an opening slot on Ozzy Osbourne’s U.S. tour. They then became the biggest metal band in the world…and stayed that way.

It’s now 23 years later and something interesting is happening as well. Ray has just celebrated his 51st birthday and seen his oldest child reeling headlong into adulthood. Hmm…that ain’t it? Alright…well, here we go, I’ve got one! Irish hard rock band THE ANSWER have committed to plastic their 2nd full length effort, “Everyday Demons” and landed an opening slot on AC/DC’s U.S. “Black Ice” tour. Three things are important to me about this: 1) I’m Irish. 2) THE ANSWER is reportedly going down a storm with the ACCA DACCA crowd. 3) I’m about to discuss “Everyday Demons.” So, strap in ‘cause here we go!

THE ANSWER’s debut disc “Rise” was a damn good one. Four young guys, they came out of the box with a strong set of bluesy hard rock, highlighted by the soulful vocals of Cormac Neeson & the hard riffing of guitar man Paul Mahon. Was it a full-blown classic? No, but songs like the infectious “Come Follow Me” and the stirring ballad “Always On My Mind” (not Willie’s!) were enough to stop this writer in his tracks. Here were a buncha lads from the Emerald Isle who were a cut above the pack when it came to new bands flying the classic rock banner. With “Everyday Demons,” the interesting thing (lots of ‘em in this article, no?) is that THE ANSWER has not tried to re-invent the wheel. Instead, they’ve simply taken what they do and elevated it to a remarkable level. Yes, they’ve employed the knob-twiddling skills of John Travis (Buckcherry & Kid Rock). Brilliantly, he’s given them a powerful “umph” while letting their sound dwell fiercely in the early ‘70’s. So well does this work that I’m reminded of a similarly glorious dichotomy achieved years ago on the first 2 Black Crowes LP’s. In fact, for all the world, THE ANSWER strikes me as a wonderful Guinness-fueled barroom send-up between said Crowes and early Free. Christ, if you sounded like that would you wanna fuck with it?! THE ANSWER have instead merely turned on the afterburners and let rip!

With as relentless an opening 3 as Trouble’s “Manic Frustration” set, the lads punch the listener silly with the sonic knuckles of “Demon Eyes,” “Too Far Gone” & “On & On.” But don’t think these guys are THE ANSWER to just one question. Yeah, they can rabble-rouse with the best of ‘em, but like the best of ‘em as well, they have a few other cards up their collective sleeve. Take a gander at “Tonight.” If that isn’t a chorus Mr.’s Nielsen & Zander would die for, I’ll eat donkey dong. Then I’m going to talk about “Comfort Zone.” A bit like it’s title, it’s a peaceful trip down to Psychland but led by a current powerful enough to sweep you under. Or, dive into my personal favourite, “Why’d You Change Your Mind,” bluesy as hell & plastered by one of Mahon’s most scalding axe statements thusfar.

Sure, a 19 year old Paul Rodgers can be caught in the glint of Cormac Neeson’s eye. Yes, a dash of Rich Robinson’s wallop coalesces momentarily in Paul Mahon’s Gibson tone. But that’s ok. In fact, that’s way, way more than ok. This is a pack of buddies who have sauntered through the saloon doors with the kind of individuality and big brass balls their forbearers had some 3 decades ago. Rock is dead, they say? My ANSWER is: not a fucking chance.
Hung Like An Irish Bull Elephant

No comments: