VAGABONDS OF THE WESTERN WORLD (50th ANNIVERSARY SUPER DELUXE EDITION)
Fans of Thin Lizzy should be very familiar with Vagabonds of The Western World. The third album from the Irish band, in many ways, caught everyone’s attention. Their single at the time (oddly not included on the original album), “Whiskey In The Jar” was their first big hit in the U.K. and Europe. Although the album did not chart at the time, it has gone on to be recognized as a classic and an album that helped define Thin Lizzy’s sound, even though it was the last album to feature their original guitarist Eric Bell. The album also became famous due to its sleeve, which features a painting by Jim Fitzpatrick, who found fame with his red and black portrait of Che Guevara.
The album is now celebrating its 50th anniversary with a new box set, featuring a great many goodies for fans. Of course the contemporary singles have been added (“Whiskey In The Jar”, “Randolph’s Tango”, “The Rocker”) with their B-sides, and there is so much more.
Vagabonds of The Western World is a work of art. Sure it is hard rock, but it is so tasteful and intelligent. It opens with a pro ecological song, “Mama Nature Said” which could not be out of place in 2023 rock radio. It is a much more bluesy album, with some interesting experimenting. Listen to the tale on “The Hero And The Madman”. It is a great story with great music.
Phil Lynott’s vocals throughout the album are expressive and fantastic. There are really no traces of his native Ireland with this album (or on a Thin Lizzy album for that matter) until he interprets “Whiskey In The Jar”. Lynott takes a folk song, which dates back to the 1700s, and not only makes it exciting and contemporary, he records what many consider to be the definitive version of it. His guitar musicality and use of drums, courtesy Brian Downey, is nothing short of inspirational. Why it was not included on the original album is anyone’s guess, but as a standalone single it exploded on the UK, Irish, and European charts. Listening to it as part of this release, one sees how it would have fit quite nicely on the album.
The real draw to this new set will be the treasure trove of bonus CDs and material, starting with BBC sessions, which sound fantastic. The RTE sessions are a welcome bonus too, especially “1969 Rock Suicide” (which appeared on Fighting as “Suicide”). “The Rocker” on the 1973 John Peel Session is also another highlight. Radio sessions are always a bit tricky, because they are live but then again, they are not. Here the band had the opportunity to play the songs a little harder, while maintaining the original sound of the records.
CD three features a far too brief Radio One concert. It is always great to hear Thin Lizzy live and the songs that were selected say a great deal. There is only one hit here but rather some classic album tracks that sound incredible. “Gonna Creep Up On You” sounds vibrant and “The Rocker” really comes alive. Further on the CD fans can enjoy early takes and some alternative versions. Most interesting is “Baby’s Been Messing” which eventually becomes “Fighting My Way Back” on the 1975 album, Fighting.
There is a lot on this box set of Vagabonds of The Western World – 50th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition. It is an album that has grown in stature over the years. From this point on, Phil Lynott shaped the sound of Thin Lizzy incorporating a great many influences and styles. He was years away from the international success of Jailbreak, but that album would not have happened without Vagabonds of The Western World. This album set the stage for Thin Lizzy. While some of the bonus material has been released before, it is nice to have it all in one collection. This is a fantastic box set full of gems and some of the finest rock songs one will ever hear.
SPILL ALBUM REVIEW: THIN LIZZY – VAGABONDS OF THE WESTERN WORLD (50th ANNIVERSARY SUPER DELUXE EDITION)