When in 1973 Thin Lizzy went into the studio to record 'Vagabonds of the Western World' they already had two albums behind
them that had not gone anywhere, and they were just one of the many bands that
flirted with hard rock. Their only glimpse of massive success had been an
excellent version of the traditional Irish song Whiskey In The Jar, which the record company had released in late
'72 without their consent. But Phil Lynott
knew that he was going to be a star and was hardening his sound and finding his
voice as a composer; as is shown by the delicious Little Girl In Bloom and the incredible The Rocker, composed with the other two members of the band, which
is their first great classic and a forerunner to the sound that would come
later (with another line-up).
For his part the guitarist Eric Bell decided that after the disappointing Shades of a Blue Orphanage he was not going to waste a single note of his Stratocaster on this record... and boy, did he do just that. This is by far the best work of that first trio, which was made up of Lynott, Bell and Brian Downey. Much of this comes from Bell who is in a state of grace as the band test his excellent use of the slide (something very rare, both before and after, for Thin Lizzy) in the opening song, Mama Nature Said; of his wah in Gonna Creep Up on You; his deeply-felt final solo on Little Girl In Bloom; his excellent tone in Vagabond of the Western World; and, above all, his power on The Rocker, where he makes great use of the flanger (a sound that would later be developed by Scott Gorham when he entered the band).
Of course, the lead character remains the incredibly charismatic Lynott who, at last, seems to have found his muse, and delivers his best collection of songs to date. The title song is a great hard rock theme with a few droplets of Irish folklore, while Little Girl In Bloom brings out his most intimate and sensitive vein. Even so the album is not up to the works that would come later, with The Rocker being the only great classic of the album (if we do not count the iconic cover by Jim Fitzpatrick), which contains songs as weak as The Hero And The Madman.
Of course anyone can see here the potential future that would lead them to deliver albums as big as Jailbreak or Black Rose: A Rock Legend. But that would be after, once again, this album failed in the charts. Eric Bell would soon throw in the towel, fed up with the dangerous life style of Lynott. At the end of ’73, after Bell was replaced for a brief period by Gary Moore, the famous twin guitars of Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson would arrive, with whom Lynott and the Lizzy would finally reach glory.