Box sets as catalog ghetto
Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, Fri., Dec. 23, 2011
Thin LizzyAt the BBC (Universal)
2011 rolls one last seven for Thin Lizzy. Topping a year of double-disc upgrades for Vagabonds of the Western World (1973), Jailbreak and Johnny the Fox (both 1976), Live and Dangerous (1978), Black Rose (1979), and Chinatown (1980), plus single-disc max-outs of the initial Irish trio's eponymous debut, its follow-up Shades of a Blue Orphanage, and the eventual London quartet's 1977 sleeper Bad Reputation, the 6-CD/1-DVD At the BBC archives twice as much as most of this season's overstuffed box sets. A note of what's missing and sessions the group literally mailed in reads a little modest once skinny Lizzy himself, principal singer-songwriter-bassist Phil Lynott, harmonizes over his own croon on Bad Reputation suitor "Dancing in the Moonlight (It's Caught Me in Its Spotlight)." There's also the small matter of the British Broadcasting Corporation's vast holdings including at least one long-gone CD from Lizzy's flagging 1983 farewell tour that's substituted here with another show months earlier. These sessions also arc across the aforementioned reissues. Completeness aside (and not claimed), At the BBC nevertheless crackles and blasts with an evolutionary pounce through blues, R&B, hard rock, and metal. Eric Bell's volcanic guitar mastery first pegs the Dubliners as Hendrix Experience fire-eaters, while his Belfast stand-in Gary Moore, who died in February, adds stinging authenticity to the tribal Celtic thunder of "Sitamoia" on the second CD. Les Paul harmonics Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson ignite peak band razzle-dazzle on previously unreleased instrumental "Banshee," after which the remaining three discs bottle every era of the band with BBC concerts, a 1974 set for Night Life – ignored by generations of remastering – and a 1981 riposte for Renegade (see "Renegade," Jan. 20, 2006) achieving classic canon status. The ubiquitous Live and Dangerous DVD pairs with a previously unseen prize set from 1983, hokey Top of the Pops lip-syncs, and four Old Grey Whistle Test rarities. The boys are back in town.