I was 15 years old when I bought my first hard rock album, ‘Live and Dangerous’ by Thin Lizzy, and there is no doubt that this album, combined with the quickly acquired studio releases ‘Jailbreak’, ‘Johnny The Fox’ and ‘Bad Reputation’ had a massive impact on me. One of my few musical regrets is I never saw them play, and when the band finished and Phil started Grand Slam, none of us thought he would be gone such a short time later. While ‘Black Rose’ was wonderful, and ‘Chinatown’ had its moments, it is not really surprising that Lizzy broke up when they did, given the quality of ‘Renegade’, and while ‘Thunder and Lightning’ did have its moments (and “Cold Sweat” is a great song, the only one co-written with John Sykes) the band was a shadow of its former self.
Phil had also been working outside of Lizzy, and had some success, even providing a new theme song for TOTP in “Yellow Pearl”. This six-disc set is interesting in that there will be something here for anyone who has ever enjoyed Phil’s music, especially if they are Lizzy hardcore fans (in which case they will probably already have all of this material). We have one set of remixes, and another of demos, but what I found of most interest were the four discs of live recordings. The first one of these is not strictly a Grand Slam recording as it is taken from Phil’s solo tour of Sweden in 1983, which included keyboard player Mark Stanway (Magnum); Thin Lizzy members Brian Downey (drums) and John Sykes (lead guitar), along with rhythm guitarist Doish Nagle (ex-The Bogey Boys). Given it included three members of the last Thin Lizzy line-up one can see why many thought of this as Thin Lizzy II. This set includes well-known songs such as “Yellow Pearl” and “Sarah”, and while the introduction to “The Boys Are Back In Town” is painful in the extreme, when it gets going one can see why Phil was so keen to have John in the band, although he would shortly end up in Whitesnake.
After Sykes left, he was replaced by Laurence Archer (ex-Stampede), with Downey also soon departing to be replaced by Robbie Brennan. Due to many reasons, including the drug problem which would soon lead to Phil’s death, Grand Slam never had a record contract so it is only through recordings like these that we can hear this band. The sound is very up and down throughout, given the sources, so don’t expect loads of polish and finesses. Also, apart from the first live disc there is not much in the way of Lizzy material as apparently Lynott was keen to move on and set down a rule that the band would only ever play three old songs, Cold “Sweat”, “Sarah”, and “Whiskey In the Jar”. The new material is also up and down, and while it is interesting to hear “Yellow Pearl” in more of a rock context it was never a firm favourite of mine, but it was interesting to hear “Military Man”, although the version with Gary Moore is much better.
Given the amount of music on this set, 63 songs and more than 5 ½ hours long, it is not overly expensive ($50 USD for CD or $25USD download from Bandcamp), but bear in mind much of this is cleaned-up bootleg standard and neither the material or Phil himself is in his prime, but it is certainly of interest and not something I expected to be released some 37 years after the leader’s death.