on February 3, 2004
While I am a huge fan of all of Lizzy's music,a part of me always wondered what path their music would have taken had they continued in the musical direction of their first three albums. In many ways, I miss the simple purity Lizzy had with these early records, something that was lost when they hit it big.
Shades of a Blue Orphanage is an extension of their first album; storytelling, poetic lyrics, musical experimentation with blues, rock, folk and prog elements. There is no real formula to any of it; These tracks would be right at home in a live jam, and I can only imagine some of the great shows Lizzy must have put on in the early days.
Listeners looking for classic Lizzy hard rock will be scratching their heads at hearing this album. Listeners without an appreciation for lyrical imagery and experimentation will be prone to dismiss what they don't understand as "awful". Shades is an original recording filled with verve and genuine emotion. It's too bad most modern music can't say the same thing.
This new 18 October 2010 CD (UK release date) on Decca 984 448-2 remasters Thin Lizzy's second album for Decca Records and adds on a further 9 bonus tracks (it was initially slated for a 25 February 2008 release, but cancelled). Here's a detailed breakdown (77:57 minutes):
Tracks 1 to 9 are the album "Shades Of A Blue Orphanage" issued 10 March 1972 in the UK on Decca TXS 108 (original UK copies had a fetching gatefold sleeve - there was no corresponding US release on London Records).
Tracks 10 and 11 are "Whisky In The Jar" and "Black Boys On The Corner", the A & B-sides of their second UK 7" single released 3 November 1972 on Decca F 13355. "Whisky In The Jar" (spelt with an 'e' only on American issues) was the real starting point for Thin Lizzy's global success. "Whisky" is a traditional Irish air dating back as far as 1729 and was originally only meant to be a jokey B-side dashed off in the studio to accompany "Black Boys On The Corner" on the A (far more representative of their rocking sound). But British DJ's flipped the single and "Whisky" became the hit. It finally charted January 1973 and eventually rose to number 6.
[Note: the version used here is commonly known as the 'Full Single Version' at 5:44 minutes. However a 7" 'edit' of the track was quickly pressed up for BBC Radio play and the US 7" single on London - this 'edit' version at 3:44 minutes is elsewhere - on the 2CD Deluxe Edition of "Vagabonds Of The Western World"]
Tracks 12, 13 and 14 are "Buffalo Gal", "Sarah" and "Brought Down"
The version of "Sarah" presented here turned up on the 2003 CD compilation "Rockers', but still some further explanation of these 'first appearance on CD' 1977 remixes is needed. The last compilation album touching on the 1971-1974 period of Thin Lizzy was called "The Continuing Saga Of The Ageing Orphans" released in the UK in March 1978 on Decca SKL 5298. Of it's 11 tracks, 3 were untouched cuts off the "Vagabonds Of The Western World" album - "Mama Nature Said", "The Hero And The Madman" and "Vagabond Of The Western World". But the other 8 tracks were December 1977 remixes and remakes of old Decca material where Lynott, Gary Moore and Midge Ure of Ultravox redid them in the studio. All 8 have been spread across the 3 x 2010 reissues - so the purchase of the Deluxe Edition of "Vagabonds" AND the '2010' extended editions of "Thin Lizzy" and "Shades Of A Blue Orphanage" will finally allow fans to acquire these 'missing' remakes and sequence that entire compilation album. See also my 'comment' attached to this review...
Tracks 15 to 18 are "Suicide", "Black Boys On The Corner", "Saga Of The Ageing Orphans" and "Whisky In The Jar". They are all previously unreleased and were recorded for the "BBC Radio 1 John Peel Session" on 14 November 1972.
The newly upgraded 16-page booklet uses an outtake photo of the shot that adorned the back and inner album cover, the three boys wandering through a wintry St. Stephen's Green Park in central Dublin on the 10th of January 1972. There are several period photos of the young band, the words to "Shades Of A Blue Orphanage" are reproduced as per the original album artwork (lyrics above) and there's even a Promotional 1-page Blurb from Decca too. Don't know if I like the "Digitally Remastered" logo pasted into the front cover of the booklet where you can't remove it - but it's a minor niggle. The knowledgeable liner notes by MARK POWELL are superb and it's all been run by Philomena - Phil's mum.
As with "Thin Lizzy" and the Deluxe Edition of "Vagabonds Of The Western World", this 2010 CD has been remastered with great results by PASCHAL BYRNE. I've raved about his work before (see my reviews for "Ain't No Saint" the 4CD John Martyn box set and "Blues From Laurel Canyon" by John Mayall), and this set is no different. The first generation tapes have been used - not too brash - fantastic presence - each track a revelation.
The Lizzies were still a three-piece at this point - PHILIP LYNOTT on Vocals and Bass, ERIC BELL on Guitars and Keyboards with BRIAN DOWNEY on Drums. The famous dual guitar blasts of Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson are years away, so those expecting "Fighting" or "Jailbreak" should really look further ahead.
With Lynott's melody capabilities expanding fast, the album was a strange mix of styles - some working, some not. You get the sensitive singer-songwriter on "Brought Down", then the out-and-out rocker on "Baby Face" and "Call The Police" - and even the Salsa Dancer Man on "Chatting Today". Other highlights include the opening drums and guitar of "The Rise And Dear Demise..." where the band sounds not unlike a demented Blodwyn Pig at first and then suddenly morphs into a funky AWB - great stuff - and it has huge sound. The lovely "Buffalo Gal" (used as a B-side to "Little Darling" in 1974) is a sweetheart of a tune and sounds superb too. You couldn't say the same of the short but awful "I Don't Want To Forget About The Jive" - its mock rock 'n' roll construction just doesn't work. "Sarah" is another very pretty ballad featuring beautiful piano accompaniment by CLODAGH SIMONDS of Irish Folk-Rock act Mellow Candle. It's known as 'Version 1' because he revisited the title "Sarah" on the "Black Rose" album and had a hit with it. Simonds also adds Harpsichord and Mellotron to the seven-minute big album finisher "Shades Of A Blue Orphanage".
The extras are fantastic. To hear "Black Boys On The Corner" after nearly 4 decades sound this punchy and ballsy is a genuine blast for me - I've always loved this stunning non-album cut. The early version of "Suicide" (it would eventually turn up on 1975's "Fighting") features stunning slide guitar work from Bell - a great different take on the tune. It's followed by a cool live version of "Black Boys..." that's as powerful as the studio version. A very well produced "Saga Of The Ageing Orphan" (from the first album) is surprisingly pretty - deft touches everywhere. But while Eric Bell is almost note-for-note perfect in the live rendition of "Whisky", Phil unfortunately sounds like he's lost his voice. Still, it's great to have these precious gems after all those years languishing in Aunty Beeb's dusty vaults.
To sum up - the album may not appeal to everybody and even fans will see it is transitional and a "grower", but the remaster is fabulous, the bonus tracks genuinely good and I picked it up for less than a mid-price CD.
Recommended like a good pint of Guinness that's been given time to settle.
PS: see also my reviews for the 2010 versions of "Thin Lizzy" and the long-delayed 2CD Deluxe Edition of "Vagabonds Of The Western World"
on October 29, 1999
This is the weakest of the Eric Bell era Thin Lizzy albums. Half of the album will not interest most people but there are a few quality songs(Brought Down, Baby Face, Call the Police). The production quality is poor by todays standards which can be expected of many albums of that time. There are a couple of good but very slow songs(Sarah, Shades of a Blue Orphanage) and one that should just be skipped(I Don't Want to Forget How to Jive). If you are interested in an album from the Eric Bell days, I would first recommend Thin Lizzy(electric folk debut album) then Vagabonds of the Western World(their 3rd album, the heaviest and last of the Eric Bell years).
on July 21, 2005
This is much better than the first album and show much improvement in songwriting for Phil. It's not the Jailbreak
sound you'd expect but if your a fan of the band you'll enjoy
the difference in the first few albums and the later ones. It
took me back the first time I heard them but I enjoy them
much more now. There isn't any new Lizzy to listen to so you
might as well get as much as you can. I love it.
on December 10, 1999
About eight years ago, when my first baby was only one month old, I recorded a program which the hostess introduced Thin Lizzy's first three albums. I kept going to Tower Records to look for them, but I didn't find them. Now it's great that I'll have a chance to see them and share my ideas and feeling, I really love all the songs.
on November 22, 2008
I am REALLY shocked people are giving this album a negative rating, or having mixed feelings about it. This is a GREAT album! Here's why-
I'm not normally a lyrics kind of guy (I'm not a Bruce Springsteen fan for instance, but admire the guys talent) but when you combine interesting and creative lyrics with honest, meaningful emotions from the lead singers voice, the results can be very very good, and Shades of a Blue Orphanage is a PERFECT example of mixing excellent lyrics with great vocal melodies.
I really love this album and the more I listen to it, the more the tunes grow on me, and the more I'm becoming a big fan of Thin Lizzy. These guys are NOT your typical hard rock band, and this is solid proof.
These songs are written in a very neat way, like the band wanted to explore a different approach on how to put a song together. I really like it.
As for the way the album was produced with old early 70's recording equipment... well, that's part of the appeal if you ask me. Just like early Alice Cooper or early Blue Oyster Cult, and people don't seem to have a problem with THOSE albums. Really don't understand the negativity towards early Thin Lizzy.
I love Thin Lizzy's style of songwriting, and the way the lyrics are actually able to MOVE me in a way most bands are unable to do. Let that be an important note to other bands attempting the same style- combine important lyrics with emotion and melody, and that way, the listener ends up paying even *more* attention to the lyrics.
It's amazing how the lead singers voice sounds like someone I can relate to, just by the sound and feeling in his voice. Very odd.
To me, this is an album worth owning, and I'm very happy I gave it a chance. Please, don't worry about comparing this to the later stuff Thin Lizzy did- Shades of a Blue Orphanage is perfection from beginning to end.
I just can't agree with all the average ratings this album has received here on amazon. The album is just really good to me.
on July 27, 2002
This is the second album of Thin Lizzy and the best among the three albums that Lizzy recorded as a trio. Maturity is probably the main reason for that fact while Lynott becomes even more capable of balancing between hard rock and folk. In this way , "Brought Down" and "Call the police" are among the finest examples of melodic and classic hard rock , while ballads such as "Sarah" , "Shades of..." can proove just how talented Phil Lynott was. I recommend this album since it is probably the most interesting LP of the E.Bell era.
on March 26, 2010
This is pre-Robbo and Scott Gorham Lizzy, when they were still a power-trio consisting of Lynott, Downey, and Eric Bell. At this point, they were still exploring the format as exemplified by the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Cream, so don't expect the smooth dual guitar harmonies or soaring attack that begins to be heard on Fighting(1975) and finds its full-throated roar on Jailbreak(1976). That said, the early power-trio years are very rewarding listens. The band takes the rock-funk-blues format into interesting territory, embellishing it with folk runs and full-on folk ballads here and there which show some of the influences from the music of Ireland. Eric Bell's guitar work is solid and fluid, though lacking the flash of the Gorham/Robbo attack. Downey, as always, is the solid core of the band, and his expertly tight and professional drumming style is already evident. As a whole, the band are much more interested in eclecticism, here, a less-focused rock machine, but Lynott's song-writing skills are already in evidence, and the songs are delivered with confidence. If you don't like the odd diversions often found in late-60's and early-70's rock (before bands were as compelled to define a coherent sound), then this might take some listening. If you love Thin Lizzy, however, then the exploration is well worth it and you may find yourself coming back to these first few albums with great frequency. [note-pre-Gorham/Robbo albums: Thin Lizzy(1971), Shades of a Blue Orphanage(1972), Vagabonds of the Western World(1973)]
on July 7, 2006
After a very promising debut, Lizzy seemed to take a step back with their March 1972 followup. They seemed to be ready to go in two different directions, straight-up hard rock band, or folk with a tinge of power. On this release they seemed to go more towards the later which is kind of a shame. Not a bad album but as another reviewer also said not particulary memorable. I think it would be hard to include any of these tunes on a Lizzy top 30 but I know how subjective that can be. "Buffalo Gal" is probably the best song but it isn't really a rocker or a ballad in the traditional sense, "Brought Down" is very similiar in the same way. Phillip's first "Sarah" is almost buried by the reoording, forget about listening to this one in the car...it's too damn soft! "Rise and Dear Demise" and "Baby Face" are the best of the "rockers" but again, nothing Lizzy wouldn't blow away on future releases. Case in point, less then a year after this forgettable affair, they released their first single and masterpiece, "Whisky in the Jar/Black Boys on the Corner" - and reputation was secured. I'm not one to quibble about lineups either as each formation of Lizzy provided their own memorable addtions to the catalogue, though 'Shades' was not one for the Eric Bell era. Their next release with the aforementioned single would be Lizzy's first true artistic peak. 'Shades' is a slight misstep. Not bad just not a classic.
on March 24, 2011
Don't expect a rocking album here for the mostpart. It's very calm and soothing, but it's really good. It helps me relax and go to sleep, so I would recommend it. If you get the 2010 remaster, you have quite a bit of nice extras. Baby Face has a pretty kickass riff, as well as Call The Police. A few rockers in here. Worthy purchase in my book. Tracklist below
1. The Rise And Dear Demise Of The Funky Nomadic Tribes
2. Buffalo Gal
3. I Don't Want To Forget How To Jive
5. Brought Down
6. Baby Face
7. Chatting Today
8. Call The Police
9. Shades Of A Blue Orphanage
10. Whiskey In The Jar (Full Length Version)
11. Black Boys On The Corner (Single 'B' Side
12. Buffalo Gal (1977 Overdubbed & Remixed Version)
13. Sarah (1977 Overdubbed & Remixed Version)
14. Brought Down (1977 Overdubbed & Remixed Version)
15. Suicide (BBC Radio 1 John Peel Session)
16. Black Boys On The Corner (BBC Radio 1 John Peel Session)
17. Saga Of The Ageing Orphan (BBC Radio 1 John Peel Session)
18. Whiskey In The Jar (BBC Radio 1 John Peel Session)