Philip Lynott: vocals/bass
Brian Robertson: guitar
Scott Gorham : guitar
Brian Downey: drums
By 1975, Thin Lizzy were a year or more into their second incarnation, the international Les Paul-toting duo of Brian Robertson (Scotland) and Scott Gorham (USA) replacing Stratist Ulsterman Eric Bell. 1974's lacklustre Nightlife wasn't a great start for the new lineup, so the following year's Fighting was probably seen as make-or-break, at least by their new label, Vertigo. Sad to say, Phil(ip) Lynott's rather limp production (it's not often that word's used in conjunction with our Philo...) did the album few favours, while its material, while good-bordering-excellent, was heavily outclassed by their sixth release.
Y'know, I never really rated Fighting, always seeing it as its successor's undernourished little brother, until picking it up on CD a couple of years ago and (briefly) playing it incessantly in the car. What I'd once seen as under-produced and written efforts, with the benefit of hindsight shine almost as brightly as any of the band's later gems, with no real duffers and only a couple of more average tracks on board. Interestingly, the CD booklet comments on their A&R man's dislike of the band's new, 'mindlessly heavy' approach, subsequently smoothed-over and turned into the album we all know and love. But some of us quite like 'mindlessly heavy', thank you very much... How might the album have sounded had he left well alone?
As far as that terrible sleeve goes, it would subsequently be seen as a 'naïve idea', various band members showing more or less enthusiasm for the shot, the last time Lizzy would be pictured wearing what were, even by the mid-'70s, increasingly outré flares and platforms. Brian Downey at least has the grace to look embarrassed... The sleeve also features the first appearance of their playing card motifs, subsequently sometimes used to indicate whether Robbo (diamond) or Gorham (heart) played lead. The other two? Downey's the club, suitably enough, leaving Lynott, with typically self-deprecating humour, as the spade.
Rosalie: Lizzy picked Rosalie up while supporting Bob Seger in the States, subsequently making it their own, although its rough-and-tumble rock'n'roll approach doesn't entirely suit them, maybe surprisingly, despite the track's live popularity. In fairness, it's a decent opener, featuring a simple-yet-killer main riff, although it refuses to overshadow the rest of the album's material, cover or no cover. Contentious? We do contentious.
For Those Who Love to Live: A pounding bass/drums intro leads into a classic Lizzy minor harmony-lead part, Lynott's well-crafted lyrics riding over an insistent, if less-powerful-than-it-might-be verse riff in this paean to George Best (the era's top footballer, for those who don't know/remember). A memorable chorus and a killer twin-guitar buildup to the end makes this the album's first genuinely great track and its major 'new' discovery. This really should be up there with their best-known material in the public's perception.
Suicide: Well-known to anyone who's heard Live & Dangerous (all of us?), the studio version of Suicide lacks only the live take's energy, although whether or not it should've been chosen as one of the album's two tracks-with-longevity is a moot point. Best bit? The point at which Lynott's bass stops following the twin-guitar riff and drops into an underpinning role. Classic.
Wild One: Another classic (if fairly clean) harmony part opens Wild One, the verses' acoustic strumming making for a relatively lightweight, yet eminently suitable backdrop for Lynott's lyrics. Robbo and Scott experiment with the harmony format, going for a 'one guitar chases the other' idea on the solo, helping to make this another minor classic.
Fighting My Way Back: A great intro riff is slightly neutered by a clean, rather funky wah-guitar backdrop (I don't know which guitarist was keener on that particular sound), but this major-key effort was clearly written for the stage, not least Lynott's memorable delivery of the title phrase.
King's Vengeance: Starting rather weakly, King's Vengeance picks up by the chorus, although its lapses into acoustic near-whimsy (by Lizzy standards, anyway) in the verses are less impressive. Its melodic guitar solo and harmony part are worth the price of admission, but this has to be seen as one of the album's lesser tracks.
Spirit Slips Away: On the last of Lynott's solo compositions here, he experiments with variations on a single-note riff on the intro, shifting from E-A-E, E-A-D, E-A-A to E-A-E, E-A-D, E-A-B, even getting an E-A-C in there somewhere (does this mean anything to anyone? Probably not). Its gentle verse riff works better this time, too, sounding like something from Nightlife, but better. Once again, something that might've worked well live, given the chance.
Silver Dollar: A Robbo composition, the bluesy Silver Dollar features a slippery verse riff, possibly giving us a clue to the originator of the band's funky touches of the period. Probably the album's weakest track, I'm afraid to say, although it still beats the crap out of much of its limp predecessor's material.
Freedom Song: A Gorham and Lynott co-write, Freedom Song cries out to be heavied up (see above), particularly during the harmony section. This, dear reader, is what put me off the album in the first place; top-notch material neutered with a wishy-washy production, with all the guitars turned down so's not to offend the neighbours. Fuck it, this is THIN FUCKING LIZZY, for Chrissakes! Turn it up!
Ballad of a Hard Man: Maybe surprisingly, this is Scott's song, although I suspect he was writing about Philo. It's also one of the album's heaviest efforts, fuelling the 'Scott more of a rocker than Robbo?' debate still further. Written in 5/4, unusually, it opens with its main riff, a real kick-you-up-the-arse effort and while it probably isn't the album's greatest piece of writing, it finishes things off with a bang of the kind that you can't help wishing was more prevalent throughout.
So; is Fighting actually any good? Of course it bloody well is; you just need to see through the slightly (though, in fairness, really only slightly) insipid production. A quick totting-up gives us, hmmm, eight out of ten great tracks? Yet this isn't considered one of the band's better albums? While Lynott never lost his poetic sensibility, this is (very) arguably the last time the lyrics took precedence over the music as the band's increasing levels of rock'n'roll attitude set them on an upward path.
I'm sure you all know the rest of the Lizzy story: the following year's Jailbreak went stratospheric, although it possibly features fewer great tracks than Fighting. Unfortunately for the latter, though, the former's great tracks were somewhat greater, as I think we all know. Twenty-five years after their demise and twenty-two after Lynott's untimely death, 2008 brought the entirely welcome UK Tour 75, an excellent recording of the band touring the album, including half its tracks, the inevitable Rosalie and Suicide being joined by killer versions of Fighting My Way Back (an effective opener), Wild One and a superb For Those Who Love To Live, not to mention the only available live version of the previous album's It's Only Money. If you haven't heard either recording before, do yourself a favour and buy both.