Album of the Week 15-2013: Thin Lizzy – Chinatown

Many people view ‘Chinatown’ as the first step towards Thin Lizzy’s decline. I see it as their last truly great album, better than ‘Black Rose’ in terms of songwriting anyway. It’s not their best album – that would be ‘Live And Dangerous’, one of my top 3 albums of all time – and not even their best studio album – ‘Johnny The Fox’ would take that cake if it was up to me – but it’s an inspired collection of great songs. ‘Chinatown’ spots quite a few classic Lizzy moments and especially the first half of the album is filled with stellar songwriting. This is Phil Lynott after all.

All the elements that created the magic in the commonly agreed classic period are in full effect here. The twin guitar lines of Scott Gorham and newcomer Snowy White are all over the place, singer, bassist and frontman Phil Lynott’s unique charm and appeal both vocally and lyrically hasn’t faded the slightest bit and his songwriting – I consider Lynott as the ultimate songwriter, ever – is still top notch here. Things would go downhill directly after this album, though I personally quite like their final ‘Thunder And Lightning’ album, but this is just an obligated listen if you like Lizzy.

Opening with ‘We Will Be Strong’, the album grabbed me straigt away. After a beautiful twin guitar intro, there’s this tension within the song, only to be released within this anthemic, powerful chorus that has this feeling of unity. And when the epic title track comes directly afterward, there was no turning back for me. Great riffs and an amazing atmosphere, topped off by the amazing and lengthy Gorham solo that closes the track. Other highlights include the confessional infectious boogie that is ‘Sugar Blues’ and the borderline Heavy Metal of ‘Genocide (The Killing Of The Buffalo)’. In fact, the only slight letdowns are ‘Didn’t I’ – simply because Lynott has written ballads that are much better – and the fun, but not particularly good ‘Having A Good Time’. The rest of the album is all killer.

Don’t let this album’s bad reputation (pun intended) keep you from hearing some classic Thin Lizzy songwriting. ‘Chinatown’ contains plenty of it and although Brian Robertson or Gary Moore isn’t here, Lynott, Gorham, White and drummer Brian Downey provide a great performance here. I honestly can’t see why a fan of Thin Lizzy’s trademark sound would not like this record. In addition, the deluxe edition of ‘Chinatown’ has by far the most relevant and interesting bonus tracks of all the Thin Lizzy deluxe editions. 27 years after his untimely death, Phil Lynott has still not been surpassed as a songwriter and ‘Chinatown’ is the fifth consecutive testament to his greatness.

Recommended tracks: ‘We Will Be Strong’, ‘Sugar Blues’, ‘Chinatown’

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