Classic Album Reviews

Thin Lizzy - Jailbreak

Classic album reviewed for by Gordon Hamilton

"Jailbreak" was the sixth album by hard rock band Thin Lizzy (and the third with the Lynott, Robertson, Gorham and Downey lineup). Released on 26 March 1976, it was the commercial breakthrough album for the band after dissappointing sales of the first five records (it's predecessor, "Fighting" (1975) had been the only previous LP to chart, peaking at number 60 on the UK album chart). Jailbreak peaked at number 10 in the UK and also broke the band in the USA where it reached number 18. It has been certified Gold in the UK, USA and Canada. It is the only Thin Lizzy album to achieve any form of certification in the USA.

The band decided to bring in a producer for this album as the production on Lizzy's Lynott-produced "Fighting" had been widely criticised. John Alcock is credited with production duties on Jailbreak and it's certainly an improvement over Fighting in this respect but a Thin Lizzy album would not get top-class production until 1977's "Bad Reputation" (produced by Tony Visconti). As with most Thin Lizzy records, the album artwork was done by Jim Fitzpatrick in cartoon style (the band were named after a cartoon character called "Tin" Lizzy).


  • Vertigo (UK)
  • Mercury (North America)

  • Ramport Studios, London
  • Recorded: December 1975 January 1976


  • Philip Lynott bass guitar, lead vocals, acoustic guitar
  • Brian Robertson - lead guitar, guitars
  • Scott Gorham lead guitar, guitars
  • Brian Downey drums, percussion
  • Tim Hinkley keyboards on "Running Back" (not credited in the sleeve notes!)
  • John Alcock Producer

Track listing:-

  1. Jailbreak (Lynott) (4:01)
  2. Angel from the Coast (Lynott, Robertson) (3:03)
  3. Running Back (Lynott) (3:13)
  4. Romeo and the Lonely Girl (Lynott) (3:50)
  5. Warrior (Lynott, Gorham) (4:09)
  6. The Boys Are Back in Town (Lynott) (4:27)
  7. Fight or Fall (Lynott) (3:45)
  8. Cowboy Song (Lynott, Downey) (5:16)
  9. Emerald (Gorham, Downey, Robertson, Lynott) (4:03)

For me, the five essential Thin Lizzy studio albums that all lovers of classic hard rock should own are: Nighlife (1974), Fighting (1975), Jailbreak (1976), Bad Reputation (1977) and Black Rose (1979). I deliberately omitted Johnny The Fox (1976) as I feel that despite having a few very strong songs, it is patchy overall and gives the impression of being recorded in a rush. As for the post 1979 output, I cannot enthusiastically recommend any of them despite a few superb songs, notably "The Pressure Will Blow" (Renegade) and "The Sun Goes Down" (Thunder and Lightning). Drink and drugs obviously started to have a detrimental affect on Phil Lynott's work in the 1980's with, in my opinion, several sub-standard vocal performances (take "Chinatown" from the album of the same name and "Fats" and "Angel of Death" from Renegade for example) and many so-so songs (e.g. "Fats" from Renagade, "Having a Good Time" and "Didn't I" from Chinatown and "Bad Habits" and "Heart Attack" from Thunder & Lightning).

Of the above five "essential" albums, Jailbreak is, for me, easily the best. There is not a filler track on the album. Every song is a gem. Most people will have heard "Jailbreak" and "The Boys Are Back In Town" which were hit singles on both sides of the atlantic, but the album also contains the hugely popular live numbers "Cowboy Song" and "Emerald". Lesser known songs such as "Angel from the Coast" and "Romeo and the Lonely Girl" are just as good and deserve more airplay on the classic rock radio stations! The two slow numbers "Running Back" and "Fight or Fall" are excellent too and rate amongst the finest of Lynott's ballads.

Buying Jalbreak today: Undoubtedly the best way to hear the album is via a mint condition first UK pressing from 1976 played on a high quality turntable but I appreciate that this will not be possible for many people. There have been a few vinyl re-issues over the years but possibly the best of them is the recent (2012) reissue on the "Back on Black" label. This was cut from the original 2 track analogue master tapes and sounds really good. There is also a "Deluxe" CD edition (released in 2011) which includes a second bonus disc of remixes, BBC sessions and rough mixes, etc.

From Wikipedia:-

"Frontman and songwriter Phil Lynott and producer John Alcock decided to employ session musicians to add more commercial elements to some of the tracks to try to produce a hit single, and Tim Hinkley was brought in to add keyboard parts to "Running Back". Guitarist Brian Robertson was against the idea, as he liked the song as it had originally been arranged, in a blues format with his own additions of piano and bottleneck guitar. He later said, "I took enormous offence to [the changes]. I couldn't understand why they'd pay this guy a fortune just for playing what he did. Listen to it and tell me it's not bollocks."

[an error occurred while processing this directive]