Solo In Soho
"Solo in Soho" is simultaneously satisfying and frustrating
Bill Graham, 25 Apr 1980
Exactly where "Solo in Soho" fits into the Lynott/Lizzy collected works won't be apparent till they've finished their own drive to '81. Certainly this isn't an indulgent album of loose skeleton tunes from the lowest drawer in the cupboard, as Philip Lynott eschews past empassioned tactics to show that he too can be a cool craftsman. Often it works, sometimes it leaves you puzzling over the missing ingredient. It's definitely a poser!
This solo album has been threatened for three years now. There's often been the hint that Lynott's musical personality couldn't be limited within the confines of Lizzy, one of the saddest but earliest examples being "Randolph's Tango", the brilliantly constructed but tragically dismissed follow-up to 'Whiskey In The Jar'. And if Lizzy have been meeting increasing fire for the conservatism of their stage set, a key document to understanding both Lynott's impatience with the critics and "Solo in Soho" may be a Melody Maker interview of last year wherein the man confided about his experimentation with synthesizers in association with Midge Ure. "Solo in Soho" is anything but a guitar album and thereby Lynott is requesting his fans keep their wits about them.
Smoky, indeed often murky, in its atmosphere- think pink and grey- it's one from Mr.Bassman, the same four-string principles sometimes connecting to the synths. "Solo in Soho" also finds Lynott exploring other black rhythms be it disco, reggae, r n' b, Motown and even calypso. And talking of rhythm machines, tip the hat to Brian Downey, who on six of the ten tracks displays, without qualification, his ability to deal from any pack.
With Lizzy, Lynott was the cool centre of the thunderstorm, the sleepy lion, sometimes purring, sometimes growling but always likely to bite and roar. But now he's gambled by dispensing with the counterpoint of flashing lightning guitars. When "Solo in Soho" is unsatisfying, it's when he hasn't found a substitute. "Solo in Soho" is a venturesome sound worth due respect; it's the sense that sometimes doesn't match it. The lyrics are often too casual to give the album the extra substance it requires.
(And don't instantly put 'A Child's Lullaby' into that category. It may not be deep but it's a heartfelt ballad to his daughter and if you can't allow yourself such endearments to young charms on a solo album, what's the opportunity worth?)
Sound and sense match perfectly on "Ode To A Black Man". True, in its redecorated rhythm n' blues it may be the closest song to Lizzy, but the song will be automatically and unanimously accepted into the canon as Lynott cuts across with his conviction that black music, both American and Jamaican, has fallen prey to complacency. This is a brown-eyed black-skinned boy talking from the heart and the track needn't boil since a simmering bass-driven groove suffices to leave the listener defenceless. It isn't just a matter of belief- Lynott presumably must believe the rest of his lyrics- rather that the lyrics are so forcefully direct and specific as to leave nobody with any doubt about his sentiments. I'd love to (kiss of death!) see it be an American hit.