Thin Lizzy – Jailbreak U.S. Tour 1976 (Zodiac 536)

Jailbreak U.S. Tour 1976 (Zodiac 536)

This release from the Zodiac label features two FM broadcast recordings from Thin Lizzy’s 1976 North American tour in support of the breakout album Jailbreak. The first CD covers the Rivera Theatre Chicago FM recording that has been booted many times before. The second disc is more exciting, the FM tape of the Ford Theatre Detroit gig, there has only been one previous release of this recording so this is exciting. Both recordings are less than a month apart so it makes total sense to gather them as a package, throw in mastering by the Graf Zeppelin team and this is a must have title for Thin Lizzy fans.

Rivera Theatre, Chicago, IL, USA – April 21, 1976

Disc 1 (60:45) Intro, Jailbreak, The Boys Are Back In Town, Emerald, It’s Only Money, Blues By, Warriors, Rosalie, Suicide, Angel From The Coast, Sha La La incl. Drum Solo, Baby Drives Me Crazy, The Rocker

The FM broadcast recording from Chicago’s famous and intimate Rivera Threatre has circulated for years and has been in the collectors market for thirty years. Previous titles on compact disc have been The Irish Dawn (Poetry In Motion POET 9201), Jailbreak In Dimension 5 (Blue Knight Records BKR 015), Breaking Out Chicago (Good Ship Funke GSF-042), The Boys Are Back In Chicago (Laser Media LM 3005), Wild Eyed Boys (Shades 464), and Jailbreak At The Rivera (Archive Master Series AMS). Curiously vinyl titles have been a bit more hard to come by, Back In Chicago! (Mind Control MIND 724) in the only wax version.

I own a previous release of this concert, Jailbreak At The Rivera (Archive Master Series AMS). When I compare the sound I find this new Zodiac version has much improved sound. The volume has been increased, the frequency range is improved, the highs don’t sound thin and the bottom end is a huge improvement and there is much less tape hiss as well. This recording is now ballsy and packs a very nice punch, certainly one to maximize the volume level, certainly your neighbors would like to hear this excellent performance, guarantee they will thank you.

Glad to see a review of the Wild Eyed Boys (Shades 464) by Pookie and classicrawker on the Collector Music Reviews site, both give excellent insight to the sound and performance. The band take the stage with Jailbreak, it sounds a little slow and very heavy, the band quickly get into the groove, Robbo and Scott both give great solos. They slam the audience early in the set with The Boys Are Back In Town immediately after which gets the audience on their feet and moving. “This is one from the Jailbreak album, this one…it’s an Irish one…two of us are from Ireland, myself and the drummer. This is one called Emerald”. The heaviest song on Jailbreak and one of the heaviest songs in the Lizzy catalog, this song is certainly an influence on what would become The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, chord structure and changes, twin leads, aggressive playing, simply put an incredible song which delivers as much live as on record. Scott’s guitar is very low in the mix for the solos, Robbo’s playing makes up for it.

It’s Only Money from Nightlight follows without pause, from heavy to funky. Funky music needs a foundation, Brian Downey lays it down perfectly, certainly one of the best drummers from the genre in music. Phil tells the audience this is the first gig of the tour and they don’t know their equipment well, perhaps the reason for Scott’s guitar issue in Emerald. Blues Boy is a mid tempo Blues track recorded during the Jailbreak session that went unreleased until that albums 2011 deluxe edition. Great track, cool harmony vocals on the chorus and blistering lead guitar all over it, the audience agree and cheer many times. Warriors is introduced as being about a guitarist who recently passed, often referred to as Jimi Hendrix, the line “My heart is ruled by Venus and my head by Mars” is certainly influenced by the late guitar great.

Rosalie is introduced “when we were in America the last time, we played with a guy called Bob Seger, and we noticed he wasn’t doing a song from one of his LPs, Back In 72 I think it was. It was a song called Rosalie and we recorded it…”. Phil was heavily influenced by the journeyman styled musicians and the working man lyrics and struggles, Bob Seger and Bruce Springsteen for sure, hence the band playing a great version. Suicide starts with some brief tuning but its Hard Rock leanings get the blood pumping for sure, Phil’s lyrical story of Peter Brent is a sad tale in a Hard Rock guise. A rare live version of Angel From The Coast follows, Phil says it’s written about Scott Gorham as he is originally from Los Angeles, the song would be the B-Side to Cowboy Song as well. It’s an excellent well played version, one can only wonder why its time in the set list was so short, thankfully we have a copy in such great quality.

Sha La La from Nightlife was co written by Brian Downey and would be a vehicle for his drum solo, surprising that a song named Sha La La could be so heavy. Brian’s solo goes to show why my statement about being one of the great drummers in Hard Rock was made. He is a superb drummer with excellent timing and sense of rhythm, his solo is a monster! Phil starts Baby Drives Me Crazy with a bit of call and response with the audience, this is a good time rocker to end the set getting the crowd on their feet and boogieing, the ending wrings all the energy out. The band come back for an encore, The Rocker from Vagabonds delivers the last word on Thin Lizzy’s performance, a bit heavier than the Eric Bell original, the band hammer it out leaving their brand of Rock burned on the brains of all those present.

Ford Auditorium, Detroit, MI, USA – May 14, 1976

Disc 2 (62:55) Jailbreak, It’s Only Money, Emerald, The Boys Are Back In Town, Still In Love With You, Warriors, Rosalie, Suicide, Sha La La incl. Drums Solo, Baby Drives Me Crazy, Me And The Boys

A month later and we find Thin Lizzy in the Motor City, Detroit, Michigan playing the 2,900 seat Ford Auditorium supporting Pavlov’s Dog. There are several circulating recordings taken from the live broadcast. Based upon the description this comes from the JEMS version, recorded by the J in JEMS as it happened on WABX radio. The sound quality is excellent for being recorded off the airwaves. Perfect balance of instruments and vocals, decent frequency range and sounds great live. Like the Chicago recording, these FM broadcasts have that FM sound, for those of us old enough to remember and recorded live radio broadcasts this is all part of the fun and excitement of listening to these performances. There has been a singular release of this concert, Live In Rock City (Bondage BON 076) is rare. In the original torrent for this JEMS version there are samples of the Bondage title and their version, the difference is noticeable and this new version is a nice upgrade.

Being a month apart there are similarities with the Chicago show, the recording starts with the audience giving the band a loud ovation as they take the stage with Jailbreak. The mix features the guitars a bit low in the mix, like many live broadcasts, the mix improves as the band continue to play, this is no different. Curiously the siren sound effects are perfect, if not too loud in the mix! This recording is crisp with the upper frequencies being a tad brighter than the Chicago gig, just turn this sucker up now. It’s Only Money follows Jailbreak, there are a few amp squeals as Phil introduces it as being from a “number from our Nightlife album”.

Phil gives a nod to Detroit telling the audience before Emerald that this was the first American city the band played in, he also does a similar Ireland explanation as well. The sound has settled in well, the instrument level is up to par and the sound is nice, clear and crisp certainly improved over the Chicago sound. Emerald is always a monster, the song just delivers, a headbangers dream. The Boys Are Back In Town is a bit later in the set, the song was an AOR hit in America, certainly the first Lizzy song I ever heard, still a mainstay on Classic rock radio here in America. “This is a special request for all the young ladies here…it’s a track taken from the Nightlife album…it’s a number called Still In Love With You”, the song is announced to pretty much no applause, certainly many in attendance have not heard much more than The Boys and Jailbreak to this point. Phil does a typically excellent vocal, Robbo gets the first solo, it’s very lyrical and melodic, almost happy.

This is one written about a few guitarists that died a few years ago…it’s a number called The Warrior, again the audience is quiet but the recording is vivid, you can hear Scott count in “1..2..1..2..3”. Liker Emerald just an essential heavy classic tune, the riff is amazing, Phil’s bass playing is fat and simply Bad Ass as is his Hendrix influenced lyrics, Phil is indeed the messenger and Warrior. Phil does pretty much the same introduction for Rosalie as Chicago, this time the audience give a huge cheer when he mentions Bob Seger, the hometown boy done good. The band gets into a bit of Cowboy Song, just the riff while Phil improvises some Rosalie’s over the top. The playing is confident and Phil is clearly enjoying himself during Suicide, the band are locked in and deliver a stunning version of the heavy track from the Fighting LP.

Sha La La is furious in its delivery, both Gorham and Robertson give blisteringly excellent solos but again Brian Downey is the one who is most triumphant is his playing, his drum solo is again a thunder and pummeling at its most bombastic. “Make a bit of noise…C’mon”, Phil also blown away by his friend’s skills. We get some play by play from a DJ afterwards as he tells the audience listening at home we’re gonna hear more Thin Lizzy, he’s right! Baby Drives Me Crazy is again the set ending track and like most other versions features a bit of audience participation, Phil and the band have won over the in person audience and they happily answer him back. Phil intros each of the band and they all get great cheers from the audience, he gets one more sing along done before ending the song and main set proper. A bit more DJ commentary brings the band for an encore of the B-Side only song Me And The Boys (were wondering how you girls were getting home from here tonight). There is a 30 second gap at the end of the song that’s filled with the Live In Rock City (Bondage BON 076), another way to evaluate the sound improvement. The song is a fun and up tempo boogie which gets the audience up and shaking about, you can hear the cheers deep in the mix, a riotous ending in the Motor City!

The packaging is excellent, Zodiac uses the Jailbreak cover art and super imposes live shots over the top for the front and rear covers, the CD’s and numbered sticker are also taken from Jailbreak. This is prime Thin Lizzy in excellent FM sound, having both of these concerts packaged together makes perfect sense, as I stated at the beginning this is a must have title for Thin Lizzy and Hard rock fans.

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