In 2011 Universal released a Deluxe Edition of Thin Lizzy’s legendary Jailbreak album, filling a second disc with related and relevant goodies.
For the most part, the remixes of “The Boys Are Back in Town” and “Jailbreak” offer up minor differences; the production aesthetic is slightly, ineffably, more modern-sounding. A few guitar flourishes are added, and their presence brings up an interesting point. On first listen, my assumption was that these were guitar parts laid down by Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson but mixed out of the final version. Were that the case, I’d argue that the band and producer John Alcock made the right decision: the mixing approach throughout Jailbreak is one of scraping everything to the bone: there’s not a single bit of overplaying in evidence, and the silences between the notes are every bit as important and valuable as the notes. But in reality, that scenario is not the case here: instead, some modern-day revisionism has taken place, with re-recording of parts.
Remixed, “The Boys Are Back in Town” is exciting, but doesn’t add a great deal to the band’s history. It’s a curiosity and little more. The “Jailbreak” remix also offers more guitars – lots more, in fact, and they too are exciting – and while it benefits from brighter production, the extra guitar fiddling borders on gratuitous. Its ever-so-slightly alternate vocal take is mildly interesting.
An “alternate vocal remix version” of “The Boys Are Back in Town” illustrates that Phil Lynott had a surfeit of lyrics for this wordiest of songs. And while the unused lyrics aren’t quite up to the par of the finished words, they’re not bad. The remix of “Emerald” serves mainly to make the song sound slightly more contemporary.
A live performance of “Jailbreak” is far more interesting and of historical import. While the arrangement is kept quite close to the studio version, the band sings and plays the song in A, a half-step higher than the official version. Whether the song slowed-down for the released version isn’t clear, but the pitch change renders the song with a very different feeling.
A BBC performance of “Emerald” is the only one of four John Peel session cuts on the set not previously released (the other three are on the Peel Session CD). Its’ a boxier-sounding rendition, but benefits from being an actual live-in-the-studio performance, illustrating the band’s ability to play with power and nuance. Lynott’s bass is more prominent in this version as well. The live takes of “Cowboy Song” and “Warriors” showcase the dynamics inherent in those songs.
The disc wraps up with some rarities (or almost-rarities). An extended rough mix of “Fight or Fall” places the acoustic guitar more prominently in the mix, and adds a good bit of Allman Brothers-style slide guitar. The guitar work is nice enough (if not too tightly played) but it’s needless filigree; the decision to leave the slide guitar noodling off the finished versions was the right one. Lynott’s alternate vocal take sounds a bit weary, almost like a “scratch” (reference) vocal performance. The extra minute-plus is mostly the repeated phrase “Brother, brother” atop a two-chord vamp.
The previously-unreleased “Blues Boy” is a standard blues with a slight lyric; while it comes from the Jailbreak sessions (hence its inclusion here), chances are it was never under serious consideration for a place on the original Jailbreak record. Four and a half minutes is about three too many.
While it’s not much of a rarity now (it was included on Thin Lizzy’s UK Tour ’75 album), “Derby Blues” belongs on this disc. It’s a live prototype of “Cowboy Song.” The lyrics are unfinished (though the central theme is well established), but the song’s musical motifs are already carved into stone. The performance is arguably the most exciting thing on the bonus disc.
Taken as a whole, the Jailbreak Deluxe Edition bonus disc is good, solid music. It rarely approaches the brilliance of the original album, but as a supplement it’s a worthwhile item. In terms of pure listening quality, it’s better than your average bonus disc.
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