40 Years Ago: Thin Lizzy Bounce Back With ‘Bad Reputation’
Even though Thin Lizzy had been making great rock 'n' roll since the dawn of the '70s, most American fans hadn't heard a note until the release of the gate-crashing Jailbreak album in the spring of 1976.
In the 17 months that followed, the band issued not one, but two albums in the hopes of capitalizing on the success of that smash record. First up in early 1977 came the uneven Johnny the Fox, which failed to pick up the torch from its predecessor artistically or commercially. But Bad Reputation, released on Sept. 2, 1977, was truly worthy of the standard set by Jailbreak.
The trio (bassist/vocalist Phil Lynott, drummer Brian Downey and guitarist Scott Gorham) delivered a truly mighty batch of songs this time out. From the album opener "Soldier of Fortune," whose lyrics remain sadly relevant today ("A soldier of fortune came home from war and wondered what he was fighting for / The sad eyed soldier broke down and cried he was so broke up inside / When will it end?") to the dramatic closer "Dear Lord," the album rates as one of the best the band ever issued.
With his usual first-class production skills, Tony Visconti helped ensure the signature Thin Lizzy sound -- showcased particularly well with the supercharged riffing of the title track --was as strong as ever. The upbeat, should-have-been-a-hit "Dancing In The Moonlight (It's Caught Me in Its Spotlight)" showed that there was much more to this band than hard edged rock and roll, and "Killer Without a Cause" certainly ranks among Lizzy's finest moments.
"Southbound," while walking similar ground to the Jailbreak album, is another fine example of Lynot's way with a song. The killer twin-guitar melody throughout bears a slight resemblance to Abba's "Knowing Me, Knowing You." "Opium Trail" is a blazing rocker that packs epic ideas into just four minutes and features a blistering solo from Brian Robertson, who left the band before the album was finished but does appear on a few tracks.
Though it barely cracked the Top 40 in America, Bad Reputation was a Top 5 hit in the U.K., where "Dancing in the Moonlight (It's Caught Me in Its Spotlight)" reached the Top 20. More importantly, especially to American fans, it was the album that confirmed Thin Lizzy were a band to be reckoned with.
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