They’d go on to be one of the most definitive, life-affirming rock acts of the 70s but on their 1971 debut, Thin Lizzy seemed more nostalgic for the 60s. Lizzy mainstays Phil Lynott and Brian Downey together with original guitarist Eric Bell formed a power trio in the mould of Hendrix, Cream and The Jeff Beck Group and played an eclectic mix of folky, funky and soulful hippy rock. Honesty Is No Excuse is a sophisticated string-laden ballad, Look What The Wind Blew In has a carefree chorus and wonderful stuttering riff, Eire is a beautiful Celtic ode and Return Of The Farmer’s Son has hints of future glories in its jousting guitar and rolling drums. But many of the songs here, like the endless Diddy Levine, prove forgettable and even the album’s rockiest moments have a maudlin, nostalgic mood. All this makes Thin Lizzy a decent choice for hungover Sunday afternoons. But you know what Lizzy albums you were listening to on the Saturday and this wasn’t one of them.
I was listening to Cirith Ungol’s King Of The Dead today and reading through the liner notes. In the booklet their guitarist Greg Lindstrom said they got the idea for their song Finger Of Scorn from a line in a Trapeze song called Jury. It’s a cool bit of trivia for any keen Ungolians out there but it also shows those Cirith Ungol guys have great taste because Jury is an awesome track. It’s taken from Trapeze’s second album Medusa and it’s one of those gripping light/shade tracks in the vein of what Budgie, UFO, Priest and the like were also up to in the early/mid 70s. Peaceful pastoral acoustics are disturbed by a riff of monster proportions. And HMO-favourite Glenn Hughes is on spine-chilling vocal form, especially in the heavier parts where his delivery of lines like “the writing’s on the wall” will give you pure metal goosebumps.
(And just to add to all the Trapeze excitement, I’ve now noticed that Cherry Red/Purple Records are putting out deluxe 3CD reissues of the band’s first three albums in September. Medusa included.)
In the new documentary ‘ZZ Top: That Little Ol’ Band From Texas’, the band’s engineer Robin Brian states that ZZ Top “never sang the blues, they turn the blues into party music”. But on ZZ Top’s First Album the party had yet to get started. This is more of a hangover album with plenty of certified blues running through it. Billy Gibbons’ guitar playing and vocals bring Fleetwood Mac’s Peter Green to mind and his deft playing is supported by a tight and ballsy rhythm section. However, the band hadn’t really gelled as songwriters yet. Songs like Squank, Back Door Love Affair and Bedroom Thang have a satisfying boogie vibe but are ultimately forgettable and the album often drags. There are some hints of the band’s future greatness though. Brown Sugar‘s lonesome Hendrix-meets-Mac blues boosts into a gutsy, grooving rocker, the down-and-dirty Goin’ Down to Mexico shows off Dusty Hill’s rollicking vocals and Neighbour has a formative stab at the kind of heavy riff you’ll hear later (and better) in songs like Precious And Grace and Cheap Sunglasses. With its bluesy mood, ballsy sound and confident musicianship, ZZ Top’s First Album is a good album to go with a beer or two. Just don’t expect it to inspire any hellraising.