On the greatest live album of them all, there is a perfect moment. It’s when Thin Lizzy ease down through the gears at the end of Cowboy Song, when Phil Lynott sings, “The cowboy’s life... is the life for me”, and then, boom, they’re into The Boys Are Back In Town. As soon as it registers with the audience, the sound of cheering and applause is deafening. In that moment is everything you need to know about what makes live albums so great.
A double album, it includes a bunch of the best rock songs ever written: not the band’s first hit single Whiskey In The Jar, but so many others: Jailbreak, Emerald, Don’t Believe A Word, Dancing In The Moonlight (It’s Caught Me In Its Spotlight), Rosalie, JohnnyThe Fox Meets Jimmy The Weed, The Rocker, and of course Cowboy Song and The Boys Are Back In Town. It also has one of the great rock ballads, Still In Love With You, on which Gorham and Robertson’s playing will break your heart. And it has the kind of between-song banter that only a man as charming as Phil could have gotten away with. “Is there anybody here with any Irish in them? Is there any of the girls that want a little more Irish in them?”
Live And Dangerous was a huge hit in 1978. In Britain, only the Grease soundtrack kept it off number one. Scott Gorham believes it is the best album of Thin Lizzy’s career. “LiveAndDangerous is what this band was all about,” he says.
Every week, Album of the Week Club listens to and discusses the album in question, votes on how good it is, and publishes our findings, with the aim of giving people reliable reviews and the wider rock community the chance to contribute.
Here’s what we learned about Live And Dangerous!
It was the success of Peter Frampton’s Frampton Comes Alive! that spurred Thin Lizzy to make a live record of their own. While Lizzy were on tour in America in the summer of ’76, all they ever heard on the radio was Peter fucking Frampton. Lynott believed that what worked for Frampton could work for them. How right he was.
Recorded at London’s Hammersmith Odeon in November 1976, with additional material from gigs in Toronto and Philadelphia in ’77, Live And Dangerous featured the quintessential Thin Lizzy line-up: Lynott on bass and vocals, Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson lead guitars, and Brian Downey on drums.
"Although producer Tony Visconti later claimed that 75 per cent of Live And Dangerous was recreated after the fact in the studio," wrote journalist Mick Wall, "as someone who was at one of the shows I can assure you that the album is an accurate representation of the classic line-up at the peak of their powers.
"It does what all truly great live albums do: delivers even better performances of stone-cold studio classics. Best of all, it conveys the sense – palpable at the shows – of what those guys were really like to be in the same room with. There must have been 50 people hanging out on either side of the stage, everyone from George Best to various Page 3 girls, TV celebs, groupies and drug dealers, all spilling on to the stage at various moments. You can’t see it on the record, but you can hear the fun, feel the crackle."
Other albums released in June 1978
Bruce Springsteen - Darkness on the Edge of Town Peter Gabriel - Peter Gabriel II The Cars - The Cars The Moody Blues - Octave The Rolling Stones - Some Girls Bob Dylan - Street-Legal Foreigner - Double Vision The Angels - Face to Face Derringer - If I Weren't So Romantic I'd Shoot You UFO - Obsession The Alan Parsons Project - Pyramid Magazine - Real Life Saga - Saga Yesterday and Today - Struck Down The Boomtown Rats - A Tonic for the Troops Dead Boys - We Have Come for Your Children
What they said...
Released in 1978, just as the hot streak starting with 1975's Fighting and running through 1977's Bad Reputation came to an end, Live and Dangerous was a glorious way to celebrate Thin Lizzy's glory days and one of the best double live LPs of the 70s. But even if there was some tweaking in the studio, Live and Dangerous feels live, containing more energy and power than the original LPs, which were already dynamic in their own right. (AllMusic)
While multiple Best Ofs have been compiled over the years to try and capture Thin Lizzy’s appeal for newcomers, none have ever done the job better than Live and Dangerous. Indeed, for some, Live and Dangerous may be the only Thin Lizzy album they’ll ever need. Hell, even it’s laugh-out-loud funny cover is iconic. Is it the greatest live album of all time? No. But it is the best Thin Lizzy album, and that’s no bad thing. (Backseat Media)
Live and Dangerous works as a cogent commercial vehicle by avoiding filler, not because anything significant has been added. But the holding pattern that Thin Lizzy established with Jailbreak is indicative of the stylistic problems inherent in many solid but unarguably derivative rock groups. These guys have their roots down cold, and have embroidered them with a neat, guitar-toting street-gang image. But so far, they've yet to give us an album upon which future rockers will build. (Rolling Stone)
What you said...
Maxwell Martello: I’d give this one a 9/10. It is perfect, but artificially so. It’s been well documented by Tony Visconti and the band that about 25% of the record benefits from studio wizardry. Frampton’s record (or Kiss’s Alive!) for that matter were just as doctored.
But you know what? Deep Purple’s Made un Japan and Allman Brothers Band At Fillmore East were not.
So those are my benchmarks and those are 10/10 live albums in my book.
David Jones: It was everything a live album should be. I remember buying this on release and was drawn in by that classic Lynott pose on the cover. Alright there may have been overdubs and a merging of concerts but the overall effect was stunning. The twin guitars are separated on different channels and the effect is like being stood centre stage. But it is Lynott's bass and vocals that steal the show. Of all the Lizzy albums I have this is the one I always go back to, followed by Black Rose. At the time this was the perfect Lizzy show and you could be there every night.
Adrian Bolster: I was 14 at the time, still have my vinyl copy with photos from Fin Costello. Harmonica from Huey Lewis (Clover) on Baby Drives Me Crazy and John Earl on Sax from Graham Parker and The Rumour. Awesome.
Jim Linning: Probably the definitive Thin Lizzy album for me, live or otherwise. The versions of Jailbreak, Boys Are Back etc on here are so much more exciting and vibrant that they make the studio versions sound a bit pedestrian. I'm not entirely convince by "overdubgate" and in any case don't care because the production on here is excellent and who can surely listen to any version of The Cowboy Song without immediately segueing straight into the Boys Are Back in Town. Truly a classic.
Andrew Bramah: Great album. Only let down by the omission of a few songs they played when I saw them. Like Soldier Of Fortune which they opened with with, and Opium Trail and Bad Reputation. Side three of the original vinyl album is a bit generic crowd pleasing. I still think Robertson was a huge natural talent wasted.
John Edgar: One of the great bands, two of the great guitarists, one of the great drummers, and the quintessential bass player/singer/front man. OK, so they worked on it in the studio. Who cares? That performance, combined with a little studio wizardry ended up bringing so many of us decades of rock'n'roll excitement. I mean, how long, and how many times, and in how many different formats have I listened to this album? It's like Romeo & Juliette......"Let Me Count The Freakin' Ways". I mean, I originally bought this thing on an 8-track tape, and I still regularly spin it today on a compact disc. It just never gets old. This definitely makes my desert island list. "So long Phil, we hardly knew ye".
Mike Galway: If you saw Lizzy live this takes you back, if you didn't this is the next best thing. Scott and Robbo perfect twin guitar pairing, vastly underrated Brian Downey on drums and the most charismatic front man and rock star ever IMO Philip Parris Lynott. Great photo selection on the inner sleeves too.
Lewis Griffiths: Okay, so sides 2-4 are gonna have to wait (the morphine’s kicking in). My immediate takeaway from Side 1 is that Rosalie puts a huge grin on my face - surely this belongs in that small but hallowed company of covers that become the definitive version of a song?
Iain Macaulay: A real classic album. The sound of a party in full swing. A Celtic party with girls, too much drink, a lot of tall tales being told, and the odd fight or two. It’s the ultimate set list from a very original band, playing their songs way beyond the versions they captured in the studio. It’s maybe not their greatest album, but it is the album that presents the definitive sound of the band. The album that keeps the band alive. The album that made their songs live and breath as great pieces of music.
It really showcases how broad the bands songwriting abilities were, and how easily they could mix styles, and have one song played so simply then the next so complex, without compromising their integrity. But what makes the album so special is that the songs are so full of life and played with such a real joyous energy. You can hear the smiles portrayed on the cover photos. You can hear the fun they are having, even on the darker tracks like massacre or suicide, where the guitars are working together to get their lines in perfect synch.
You can hear the love for what they are doing and can’t help but smile yourself as you listen. And all of that is enough to transcend any ‘overdubgate’ because that is something you can’t fake, and it shows that, at the end of the day, this is just a great album and that’s all there is to it.
Kingsley Jayasekera: A great live album and a smart move to do one as way of bringing out the best of their catalogue. I love Lizzy and saw them 5 times but this album is not quite as good as other classic live albums like UFO's Strangers in the Night and Cheap Trick At Budokan which really brought the song to life. But maybe that’s because in Lizzy's case the studio versions are just as good or maybe better.
Brian Carr: I’m a self-professed music junkie that likes hundreds of artists across many musical genres, but glory, you guys may have broken me. I may never listen to anything but Thin Lizzy for the rest of my life.
Matthew Graham: I have loved this album for many, many years and is an essential 70’s Live album in my catalogue... but, for me can I propose that this is very heavily ‘front weighted’, tracks 1-10 are brilliant and untouchable, while tracks 11-17 are good but they just don’t build and finish the album with a frenzy, like you find on say; Seger's Live Bullet or Skynyrd's One More... but overall it’s a great album, if you own one Thin Lizzy Album it should be this one, then again it’s also my belief that no one should own just one Thin Lizzy album...
Troy Geitman: What starts like a house on fire ends up being a hit and miss release. Some truly remarkable moments like Rosalie/Cowgirl Song and Southbound on side one. Still In Love With You highlights side two with Cowboy Song and Baby Drives Me Crazy rounding up the truly impressive songs on this album. The rest never excites me much, truly feel other live releases of the same time period are much better including Frampton Comes Alive or Kiss Alive. Especially if the rumours are true that this was touched up in the studio. Prefer the releases like Black Rose or Johnny the Fox to this any day of the week.
Paul Beard: Lizzy were in my humble opinion always a live band. Studio albums never captured the energy of their live shows. Live and Dangerous def in my top five live album list. The only “ down side “ with the original vinyl release was the tracks Lizzy had to leave out due to time. For me the later released live at the tower was slightly superior. (and who really cares if L&D was overdubbed?). Great album. 9/10
Patrick Warwick: For my money, Cowboy Song into Boys Are Back In Town into Don't Believe A Word stands as three of the best back to back to back punches in album history.
I didn't get into Lizzy until a couple years ago. My Ma saw them live on the Jailbreak tour and again with Queen in '78 (I believe), and was super unimpressed (for whatever reason). She always kinda derided them, so I found myself listening to Slade Live instead (which is another talk for another time as far as killer live albums go).
Alistair Gordon: Great 'Live' album I know there were arguments from various parties that there were overdubs or it was live with no studio work but the dust settled on that argument a long time ago and what you're left with is a great piece of work by a band who were undoubtedly at the top their game. The Gorham/Robertson line up was always the one for me, no disrespect to the others that followed. Live and Dangerous may or may not be a live album but one for sure it rocks!
Lewis Griffiths: I've re-listened to all four sides of the original vinyl double album now. As difficult as it may be, I think you have to try and take the album on its own merits and ignore any preconceptions that might be caused by the controversy around 'overdubgate'. If you can manage that, then you have a treat in store, a powerhouse of a live album. Live & Dangerous is up there with AC/DC's If You Want Blood You've Got It and Status Quo's Live! as a perfect record of a hard rock band in the 1970s at the height of their powers as live performers.
I've seen some people comment on here that they think the album is 'front loaded' with the best tracks and ends up with weak tracks towards the end. That's not entirely accurate I think, it's just that the earlier tracks are so good that even tracks of the quality of those on side four might seem like a step down. As other commenters have noted, the undoubted highlight of the album is the magnificent one-two-three at the start of side 3 - Cowboy Song, The Boys Are Back In Town and Don't Believe A Word. It really didn't get any better than that in 1978!
Andrew Bramah: The highlight is Brian Robertson's spine tingling solo on Still In Love With You and to be fair Scott Gorham does a damn fine job in his cool laid back way.
Lynott Sykes: As a NWOBHM offspring, I was unfortunately too young to witness the release of this legendary live album at the time, but its iconic cover art intrigued my teenage brain. My introduction to Thin Lizzy was Live/Life, and I didn't know it was their swan song. Since then, not a year has passed without listening to it several times, I can remember every moment of it, so I'll be the only blasphemer here to confess that I'd rather take Live/Life on a desert island, even if L&D sounds better.
That said, L&D contains some of my favorite Lizzy tracks ever, which didn't appear on the heavier Live/Life album. Especially Dancing in the Moonlight and Cowboy Song.
Every song on this release outshines its studio equivalent. Lizzy's music was to be enjoyed in a live environment, and this collection of live hits proved it. Phil's swinging bass is prominent on the album, along with Robbo and Scott's amazing twin guitar harmonies and solos. The band's performance on Still In Love With You is magical, Massacre lives up to its name, and the whole side three is absolutely eargasmic !
One of the greatest live albums ever released. We miss you so much, Mr Lynott.
Kev Sullivan: This along with Quo Live and AC/DC’s If You Want Blood epitomised my teenage rock years.
But the double lead guitar solos were the big differentiator. They did it for me. Bouncing from left to right. Headphone listening was great and mandatory (unless at a rock disco).
Lizzies ability to slow it down to a romantic love song yet still have that rock edge was always a Lynott ability.
But Rosalie was the highlight. Emerald was special. But Rosalie was the track of the album for me.
Don Holmes: I bought the album when it was released back in ‘78. At that time I wasn’t a big live album fan but I had Frampton Comes Alive and that was awesome... so hearing the great Thin Lizzy playing live was to my ears something special. Way before the question of overdubbing was raised I loved it, so why would a few doubters change my mind. It stands proud today as one of the greats and has influenced hundreds of rock bands since it’s release... it’s legacy lives on.
Carl Black: Classic collection of songs, never realised I knew so many Lizzy songs. Only thing stopping it getting full marks, I like my live albums a bit more raw. The odd cock up here and there, an isolated shout from a drunk crowd member, that sort of thing. This is very slick, maybe to slick a recording. But an amazing album. Might listen to it again on a minute.
Final Score: 9.23 /10 (401 votes cast, with a total score of 3702)