Thin Lizzy – Reading Rock ’77 (Zodiac 568)

Reading Rock ’77 (Zodiac 568)

17th Annual Jazz Blues & Rock Festival

Richfield Avenue, Reading, UK – August 27, 1977

(64:47) Introduction, Soldier Of Fortune, Jailbreak, Warriors, Dancing In The Moonlight (It’s Caught Me In Its Spotlight), Massacre, Still In Love With You, Cowboy Song, The Boys Are Back In Town, Don’t Believe a Word, Emerald, Bad Reputation incl. Drum Solo, Baby Drives Me Crazy

The 1977 edition of The Reading Festival, dubbed Reading Rock ’77 was a mud lovers dream. The area received many rain showers prior and during the three day festival. Attendee’s recollections was that it was a beer filled mud bath, certainly the pictures from those days confirm it and many fans who attended did the mud slides popularized on the Woodstock movie. Most who were there also have the same memory, that the headliner of the second night, Thin Lizzy was by far the highlight of the musical festivities. Thankfully there is a document of this performance, one in which history can be judged.

The 65 minute recording of Thin Lizzy’s set comes from a second generation copy of a very good near excellent audience recording made available on a well known tracker. When one looks at the conditions of the festival site (a quick internet search for those interested), the fact that a person was able to grab such an excellent pull is amazing. All instruments and vocals are clean in the mix and well balanced with just a small amount of distortion at times, all sounding like the upper frequencies. Being an outside gig the sound is rather thin as one would expect, this release also features mastering by Graf Zeppelin so quality is assured. The audience is well captured as well, certainly not overwhelming so the atmosphere and excitement is perfectly captured.

The band takes the stage amid a battle soundscape that leads into the opening number, Soldier Of Fortune from the forthcoming Bad Reputation LP, released just days after this performance. The sound improves nicely as the song goes on, two minutes in and it’s near perfect. Soldier is an interesting opening number, a bit mellow but the playing is excellent, Robbo and Gorham play some very nice harmony leads, the classic Thin Lizzy sound. The song goes right into Jailbreak and there’s a mighty cheer from the audience and for many the gig begins proper with the crushing riff. The recording is vivid, each instrument is clean and one can make out Phil’s bass playing nicely, good stuff my friends, the audience agree and clap along and cheer when Phil tells them too.

Phil greets the crowd and gives them a song play by play before introducing Warriors, also from Jailbreak. Great bass line on this one, while he does not mention him here, this song was written with inspiration from Jimi Hendrix, curious as while very heavy, has a Hendrix like quality to it, as does the lyrics “My heart is ruled by Venus…And my head by Mars”, classic Phil Lynott. Release as the first single, Dancing In The Moonlight was released in early August of 1977 so the crowd is familiar with it, certainly a diverse song in the set of Hard rock classics and certainly has an AOR feel showing the depth of Lynott’s musical creativity, great sax solo to boot. My first taste of Massacre came from an Iron Maiden B-Side, while it’s a good version it does not even come close to Lizzy’s original. Frenzied music and Phil’s vocals has a desperation and intensity, this is an aggressive and heavy version, Damn! “We’re gonna do the slow song…this is ah…this is a song called Still In Love With You for all the girls”. This song is one of the original power ballads, a precursor to all the crap Hair Metal of the 80’s, this is how this music should be done, slow and full of drama and heartbreak. Robbo shines here, his leads are not overdone, it’s what is between the notes, they cry along to Phil’s lyric, Scott’s leads are like a requiem of hope, great tune.

“Is there anybody from Ireland here? This is for all the Irish, it’s a song called the Cowboy Song”. The audience go dead quite, if anything you can hear the echo on Phil’s voice during the quiet opener, lyrical inspiration coming from North America’s love of all things Western 1800’s, by the audiences reaction certainly a fan favorite. The song flows effortlessly into The Boys Are Back In Town, the audience go crazy, some punter doing one hell of a long whistle perfectly in time with the band. The band really play a great version of the song, seeing the audience is grooving along with them, wringing it out nicely, the song ends and we get a bit of cheer and a fade for a tape flip / change. Another song for the girls, photos show the crowd of Reading was mostly male, what we in America call a sausage fest, nonetheless Don’t Believe a Word is a hard Rock song for sure, perhaps a warning to the ladies. A killer track from the Johnny The Fox record.

A brutal version of Emerald follows, the twin guitar attack is incredible, Robbo and Scott go after themselves in mock battle, the battle for the Emerald is at hand, and the listeners are the victors, I could only imagine seeing this live. Sha La La is gone from the set, in its place is a new track. Bad Reputation is now the vehicle for Brian Downey’s drum solo, but not before the other three jam a bit, going from riff to lead and back in fine fashion. Brian’s drum solo is what we expect, a percussive bombast and what you want from a solo, direct to the point not too long, not too short, just hit em hard. Afterwards the band go into Baby Drives Me Crazy and its party time, the audience react loudly and the clapping begins instantaneously. The set ending song is a good time bit of Rock ‘n’ Roll during which Phil introduces the band and each gets the chance to solo a bit to the adoration of the audience and also features a good sing a long for good measure. The recording ends with the announcer praising the band, I have seen fan reports that Rocker was the last song played, no evidence is here but certainly plausible. Killer performance.

The packaging is nice, live shots of the band as well as gig adverts make for a pleasing cover. Great recording and presentation of a classic Thin Lizzy gig in their prime, kind of like an unofficial companion to the excellent Live And Dangerous deluxe box set, what a band.   

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