Sound+Image

KRAFTWERK Trans Europa Express / Die MenschMasc­hine / Computerwe­lt / Techno Pop / The Mix:

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WWhat we have here is a budget-priced, three-CD collection stretching from the early-70s days of a three-piece Thin Lizzy to the drugtroubl­ed quintet that bade us farewell in 1983. Much about the band and its members changed during that 12-year period, but one thing remained constant: the panache of Phil Lynott’s songwritin­g. Given the luxury of picking 51 songs, a sceptic might suggest that even a random sample would work. But not so. The triumph of this set is its combinatio­n of care and balance, and a nonchronol­ogical running order that echoes Lizzy’s own set-lists: each CD is front-loaded with classics, and continues to thrill all the way to the end.

The first decision, though, was a brave one: given access to the first three albums made for Decca Records, with Eric Bell on guitar, the first two are ignored. It’s a good call — they featured a very different Lizzy sound to the later records that conquered the world. But by 1972 and the Whiskey In The Jar single, then Decca’s ‘Vagabonds Of The Western World’ album (1973), the band had honed their cutting edge, so the Vagabonds-era Randolph’s Tango, A Song For While I’m Away and Black Boys On The Corner suffer not a jot next to recordings made for Vertigo a decade later. For The Rocker, the other pre-Vertigo number, the compilers have wisely chosen the famous encore version from 1978’s ‘Live And Dangerous’. There’s one ‘L&D’ track on the other discs too, but (Suicide, apart) all the other songs on that classic album are here in their studio format.

To reduce something as emotionall­y charged as Thin Lizzy music to mathematic­s may seem crass, but the numbers here underlie the quality of the curation process. Four tracks are with Eric Bell, while Gary Moore is on six (plus the original 1974 ‘Nightlife’ version of Still In Love With You). There are 11 (including the 1981 single-only Trouble Boys, written by Rockpile’s Billy Bremner) from the underrated two-album tenure of Snowy White, but only the best three (The Holy War, Cold Sweat and The Sun Goes Down) from the final album with John Sykes. That means the lion’s share of 27 tracks feature the ‘classic’ pairing of guitarists Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson that (notwithsta­nding Robbo’s absences during the ‘Bad Reputation’ sessions) lasted just three mostly glorious years and five studio albums from 1974 to 1977. And, lest we forget, the faultless Brian Downey drums on all 51. Calling this collection ‘Essential’ sets the bar high, but it clears it with room to spare.

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