- 17 Sep 21
39 years ago today, Philip Lynott released his classic solo record, The Philip Lynott Album. Featuring hits like 'Old Town', as well as appearances from Midge Ure, Mark Knopfler and more, the album followed Philip's solo debut Solo In Soho. To mark the occasion, we're revisiting Liam Mackey's original album review – published in Hot Press in 1982.
Reviewing this album is not the easiest of tasks. It’s an advance white label copy for a start, which means only the barest of sleeve information is made available, and given that the record witnesses Lynott once again broadening the spectrum of his lyrical concerns to include some what complex pronouncements on the State of the world – alongside his customary quota of songs pertaining to the no less complicated question of love – a lyric sheet would have been particularly helpful.
Plus, the copy deadline is looming large, so there’s nothing for it but to place an ear to the speaker and…
One of the positive aspects of coming to a record relatively ‘cold’, is that the approach acts as a sharp acid test of the music itself and I can confirm that The Philip Lynott Album passes with flying colours. It is not a surrogate Thin Lizzy album – indeed fans of the band rather than the writer, will find themselves in largely unfamiliar territory, despite the signs posted in Solo In Soho and in strategic locations on Lizzy’s Renegade set. But apart from passing nods in the direction of current funk and synthesiser modes, The Philip Lynott Album, for all its diversity of styles, is a record possessed of its own distinctive identity.
‘Fatalistic Attitude’ opens the set. Originally mooted as the album title, it concerns itself with the question of how individuals react in the face of overwhelming crisis, and it’s a notion which re-occurs albeit in less specific settings in ‘The Man’s A Fool’ and ‘Ode to Liberty (Protest Song)’ – all of them songs quite clearly conceived under the nuclear shadow. ‘Fantastic Attitude’ with its dramatic synth backdrop and reflections on suicide and insanity, is intentionally unsettling, and effectively so.
‘The Man’s A Fool’, brass fuelled, moderately funky and boasting a memorable chorus comes next, and asks "Can we save the world in time… Do you think there’s still hope for us?", questions which are explored in greater detail on ‘Ode To Liberty (Protest Song)". Mark Knopfler emphatically stamps his presence on the music – for, fortunately, I’ve always found Dire Straits more palatable in small portions that as a full course – while Lynott with fine irony, casts a jaundiced eye on cold war paranoia, declaiming his protest in a talk-over style which partially echoes both Bob Dylan and Gil Scott-Heron.
Elsewhere, Lynott brings a fresh touch to previously worked themes. ‘Cathleen’ is the companion piece to ‘Sarah’ – a song designed to pre-empt family flare-ups, if you’re to believe the man himself, imbued with the same sense of undiluted joy as Steve Wonder’s ‘Isn’t She Lovely’. A breathy sax eases the song, logically, into ‘Growing Up’, which acknowledges the inevitable dark clouds on the horizon as "the little girl" learns her first painful lesson in real life.
And while I’m still coming to grips with tracks like ‘Gino’ and ‘Don’t Talk About Me Baby’, two other songs, ‘Little Bit Of Water’ and ‘Old Town’ bear immediate evaluation. The former as befits its title, is clear and rippling with Lynott turning in a soulful, near falsetto vocal performance that, to quote Dexy's, "Cries pure and true", while the latter, pairs a marvellous melody and arrangement, to evoke a mood of bittersweet yearning.
Both for the disenchanted who’ve made it their habit to maintain a one-dimensional view of Phil Lynott, as well as those others who’ve all along been aware of the breadth of his creative talents, this record should come as a considerable surprise. And with fewer listenings behind me than I’d have liked before having to commit pen to paper. I can still safely say that I’ll be getting a lot of satisfaction from The Philip Lynott Album for some time to come.