1976 saw Irish hard rockers Thin Lizzy came out with their successful breakthrough release "Jailbreak", and then later on that same year, the band would again return and released their seventh outing, "Johnny the Fox" which indeed proves to be just as excellent as it's classic predecessor. A loose "concept" album that deals about a rock star struggling with the tough lifestyle and addictions that come often with it, "Johnny the Fox" rocks solid and rocks hard right from start to finish with a collection of top notch rock songs varying flawlessly from straight up hard rockers ("Johnny", "Rocky", "Don't Believe a Word", "Massacre") to funk rock ("Johnny the Fox Meets Jimmy the Weed"), and of course some wonderful ballads ("Borderline", "Old Flame", "Sweet Marie"). Every song this album is just essential listening, and they just flow naturally throughout here. The songwriting is just amazing and the performances by each band member here is just truly magnificent in all aspects. The double guitar wizardry of Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson is just impressive and amazing as always, as the duo nail down plenty of amazing dueling riffs, leads, and solos throughout each track. Every riff, every lead, and every solo that these two dish out on here is just seriously nothing short of amazing. I mean seriously, I must really have to say that the guitar combination of Gorham and Robertson was truly one of the most influential and most awesome guitar combinations in hard rock, and this album here along with "Jailbreak" are both great examples of that statement. Meanwhile, you've also got drummer Brian Downey who delivers such a magnificent performance behind the kit, as the beats and fills that he lays down throughout this album are absolutely spot on here. I would really say that Brian Downey's performance here on this album is truly one of his best performances in his entire career. He is truly one of the most talented and underrated drummers in Rock and Roll history. And of course, frontman Phil Lynott tops everything off with his tough and cool, yet passionate and soulful vocals and fantastic lyrics, and fantastic bass work.
"Johnny the Fox" opens things up with an excellent one-two punch in the first two cuts, "Johnny" and "Rocky" both which get the album off to an excellent, hard rocking start. "Johnny" is a fantastic hard rocker that features some awesome, thunderous drumming from Downey that just rocks absolutely straight hard throughout with sweet, thumping beats and killer fills, along with some great, heavy rocking riffs and awesome, fiery, blistering soloing, tough, yet stellar, melodic singing, and a great chorus to boot as well. Meanwhile, "Rocky" is another awesome, mammoth rocker that is highlighted by some really heavy, driving, grinding guitar riffing throughout, and Phil also shines here with his tough, passionate singing, and Downey also drives his way through the song with his top notch drum work. This song here is also highlighted by a fantastic mid section in which the Gorham/Robertson combination play some awesome twin lead guitar lines before erupting with an awesomely vicious, speaker rocking guitar solo that of course kicks ass. After the one-two punch combination of "Johnny" and "Rocky", Thin Lizzy go right into the more slower and melodic stuff, with track three, "Borderline" which is a beautiful, melodic, slow paced ballad in which Phil's soulful, emotional, and melancholic sung melodies really shine throughout over some slow, peaceful acoustic strumming, dreamy, melodic leads, tasty bass licks, and non-threatening percussion. The chorus is also very slow and just downright fantastic, and there's also some great melodic soloing intact on here as well. Such a beautifully emotional and awesome ballad.
Following that, we have track four, "Don't Believe a Word" (the album's only single) which is a nice, fast, short rocker that features a great catchy riff that nicely chugs it's way along throughout it's over less than 2 and a half minutes, and also features excellent vocals and lyrics from Lynott, and track five, "Fools Gold" begins with a very epic and preachy, soft spoken vocal intro before going into a fantastic, light, melodic rocker highlighted by yet more of Phil's amazing singing and lyrics, along with some great, driving, melodic guitar playing, including some great, catchy, melodic lead guitar lines during the chorus, as well as another excellent, wailing, soaring, melodic solo thrown in to boot. Meanwhile, the second half of the album kicks off with "Johnny the Fox Meets Jimmy the Weed" which is an excellent funk type rock tune that features a very awesome, catchy, killer, funk rock like groove going on throughout with some really cool, funky guitar work (including a really tasty and cool solo being thrown in), along with some some excellent drumming and bass licks also being included, and Phil's vocals here are also cool, tough, and very funky throughout too. This is definitely my absolute favorite song on the whole album here. Next up, track seven, "Old Flame" is an excellent and heartfelt, light rocker/semi ballad that again showcases Phil's soulful and emotional melodies, and the chorus is also very top notch too, plus the song also includes some truly beautiful and catchy, post chorus twin lead guitar lines, as well as another great guitar solo to boot.
Following that, track eight, "Massacre" is also another huge highlight, and is a fast, galloping, and energetic heavy rocker that starts off with a nice lead guitar intro before seguing into an energetic rock ride that features some great, galloping guitar riffs, bass licks, and pounding drum work throughout, of course with Phil's powerful, soaring, and almost echoing-sounding vocals leading the charge, plus the song is also highlighted by a magnificent and killer breakdown/guitar solo section that will make your mind melt and jaw drop in such absolute delight and amazement. Soon after that, the next song, "Sweet Marie" which is yet another slow, gentle, and beautiful ballad that once again slows the pace back down with some very genuine and soulful vocal melodies from Phil as he gently pours out his lyrics over a nice bed of light, clean, gentle chords, soothing bass lines, and nice, steady, slow percussion work. Also highlighting this song is a very nice, dreamy, melodic, and emotional driven guitar solo, and there's also a nice bridge that even features some very nice, melodic strings as well. Afterwards, the album finally wraps things up in walloping fashion with the explosive and bombastic closer, "Boogie Woogie Dance" which is heavily laced with an array of heavy, pounding, walloping riffs, and blistering, relentless, powerhouse drumming that are just heavy and in your face throughout, you'll feel like you've been smacked hard right in the face, plus yet another sick, screaming, wailing, and intense guitar solo is also thrown in for good measure too.
Overall, "Johnny the Fox" is a very underrated but superb and excellent album from Thin Lizzy, and is also the second of four "classic" releases that these legendary Irish rockers put out in the 70's which also include 1976's "Jailbreak", 1977's "Bad Reputation", and 1979's "Black Rose". Sadly though, the concept of this album here would prove prophetic for Phil Lynott as he would become a victim of the same lifestyle a decade later. This whole album is just wonderfully produced from start to finish. Every song is just perfect, essential, classic hard rock listening. From the vocals, to the guitars, bass, drums, just everything on this album is just tight, polished, and played with pure professionalism throughout here. Bottom line, "Johnny the Fox" is truly an essential must have if you're already a fan of Thin Lizzy and classic hard rock in general, and if you're just starting to get into the band's music, then this album here along with "Jailbreak" would be both great places to start with. Buy this album now ASAP!!! Crank it and rock out!!! \m/ \m/