Don't be fooled by the latter-day photo of Phil Lynott on the cover of the 2002 Thin Lizzy compilation Hero & the Madman -- the 18-track collection focuses entirely on the group's early days. Best-known as a twin-guitar, heavy metal-esque group (due to their creative and commercial peak during the mid- to late '70s), Lizzy started out as a stripped-down trio during the early '70s. And judging from the original lineup's three recordings -- 1971's self titled release, 1972's Shades of a Blue Orphanage, and 1973's Vagabonds of the Western World -- Lizzy originally had more in common with such blues-rock artists as Rory Gallagher and funk-based rockers like Jimi Hendrix, rather than straight-ahead heavy metal. While the aforementioned discs are not among Lizzy's finest, they do have their moments (and prove to be an important stepping stone in the sonic shaping of the group) -- which is where a compilation like Hero & the Madman comes in handy. Whereas Lynott could count on the wonderful guitar harmonies of Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham a few years down the line to add an extra sonic dimension, on Lizzy's early work, it's Lynott's poetic lyrics that serve as the composition's main attraction. Standouts include the sweet album-opener, "Little Girl in Bloom," as well as more up-tempo fare, such as "Remembering Part II (New Day)," "Black Boys on the Corner," "Things Ain't Working out Down on the Farm," as well as the title track. If you're a newcomer to Thin Lizzy, you'd be better off starting with a more balanced collection (such as 1991's Dedication), or even their exceptional 1978 concert set Live and Dangerous. But if you want a taster of the group's early days, Hero & the Madman will certainly do the trick.
AllMusic Review by Greg Prato