One Night Only
CMC International Records, 2000
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/05/2000
Any time a band goes back out on the road without a key member, I have a hard time calling that group by its well-known moniker. Case in point: Irish hard rock band Thin Lizzy, who are best known for their 1976 hits "The Boys Are Back In Town" and "Jailbreak." Lead vocalist/bassist Phil Lynott died in 1986, another victim of rock and roll excess, making a Thin Lizzy reunion impossible -- or so I thought.
Enter former members John Sykes, Scott Gorham and Darren Wharton, who picked up the name and reformed the band. One Night Only, culled from their 1999 tour, shows both that timeless music survives... and that Lynott is sorely missed on the scene.
I'm sorry, gang, but every time I heard one of these songs kick in, I was waiting for Lynott's smooth, soulful vocals to kick in and raise the track to the rafters. Alas, that ain't gonna happen -- and while Sykes's vocals are palatable, he just can't recreate the magic that was once there. Not that he doesn't try, however, and I will give him credit for singing his lungs out to make this material shine as best as it can.
But there's something else significantly different about Thin Lizzy on One Night Only, besides Lynott's absence and the appearance of bassist Marco Mendoza and drummer Tommy Aldridge. What's different is that the music is missing a layer of sonic grit that was prevalent in the '70s -- a grit which added some real texture to the music. Now, on renditions of old favorites like "Bad Reputation," "Rosalie," "Cowboy Song" and "Jalbreak," things sound a little too clean (though the band still seemed to be gelling as a unit, playing a little sloppy at times). As much as I appreciate that music must change with the times, I do miss that raw quality the music once had. (Present band members shouldn't take that too harshly; I wonder what I'd be saying if the album sounded this way and Lynott were still alive.)
If all you know of Thin Lizzy is Jailbreak, then One Night Only should hold some surprises for you... but don't be surprised if you find yourself looking through the used record store to find the original versions of such tracks as "Waiting For An Alibi" and "Black Rose."
One Night Only is by no means a bad live show. But it does serve more as a memorial to Lynott and how much he meant to this band than a musical experience to invite your friends over and listen to. But don't be surprised if afterwards you have a sudden urge to dust off your well-worn copy of Live And Dangerous.