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Old 01-15-2022, 07:08 PM   #2 (permalink)
Trollheart
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The Taste Years: 1966-1970

Formed as a power trio with himself on (of course) guitar and vocals, John Wilson on drums and Richard McCracken on bass, Taste (originally The Taste) supported Cream and Blind Faith, making it to the Royal Albert Hall for the former's farewell concert, which must have been some experience for the young band. They played London's Marquee Club regularly, and also appeared at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970. This was in fact to be their last performance. But before that they released two great albums, and it is these we now will look at, as essentially the first official recorded output from Rory Gallagher.

Taste - Taste - 1969 (Polydor)


This was where Rory finally got to play the blues, unfettered by popular convention and band rules. He had snuck in blues and rock tracks into his previous band, The Impact, but mostly to the chagrin of the promoters where they played. In the Ireland of the early sixties, if you didn't play showband you didn't play, and if you were in a showband there were rules to follow, expectations to be met. As often as he could, Rory would flout those rules and destroy/exceed those expectations, making a name for himself not because of the showband circuit, but in spite of it. Taste, however, was his band. He had put it together, he led it, he decided what they played. And here, on their self-titled debut, he writes every track bar the blues covers he includes on the album.

You can hear from the outset how Rory intends his music to be: hard, gritty, dirty and uncompromising. It's almost as if he wants to blow the cloying cobwebs of the sickly traditional/pop music he was forced to play in the showbands away forever, like pulling yourself free from a trap, or struggling out of a straitjacket. "Blister On the Moon" gives an early indication of the sort of blues-flavoured rock he would purvey for the rest of his career, and it's one of his own compositions, essentially the first time he's played his own music under his own name. Of course, it's a little rough and his vocals need some honing, but even this early in his to-be illustrious career he's already a master of the guitar, and the clear, honest sound of a power trio that would characterise his music for most of the next almost thirty years is evident in this opener. It's a cover next, one of Lead Belly's, a real blues standard with a walking bassline from Richard McCracken and Rory's soon-to-be recognisable and indeed signature slide guitar. "Leavin' Blues" is far more restrained than the opener, built pretty much on the bass pattern with Rory's Strat cutting through and throwing riffs and licks all over the place. The song however does not leave as much room for his instrument of choice as would later be normal, and as I say it's quite laidback.

It's another from one of the greats next, a cover of Howlin' Wolf's "Sugar Mama", which certainly gives Rory more scope to exercise the guitar and also lets him unleash his gravelly, raspy vocals which, while they would never win him any awards as a great singer, were always more in a workingman style than someone who wanted to impress with his voice. Rory was always more about the guitar, and to be fair, even when he didn't sing the Strat had its own voice and told its own tale. Here it goes all-out, as you would expect from one of "The Wolf"'s songs, and in fact the track is the longest by far on the album, clocking in at just over eight minutes. What you would also expect on a song of that length would be an extended blues guitar solo, and Rory does not disappoint. You can hear the promise in the young guy here, and it's pretty obvious that even at this early stage we're listening to something special, that a true legend is in the process of being made, or at least started on his path.

To be honest, at times John Wilson seems a little lost behind the drumkit on this song, just kind of bashing away as Rory goes into overdrive, but that's a small quibble on a song this good and the frankly stupendous guitar work from Rory easily glosses over any failings in the percussion department, though I do wonder (this is my first listen to a Taste album) if the problem persists further on down the line? "Hail" then has an extended little bit of acoustic guitar noodling and sort of akin to a Delta blues song with elements of folk in it, another Rory original. Little sparse for my personal tastes, and it's followed by "Born On the Wrong Side of Time", a nice big slice of rock with some great percussion this time (sorry, John: guess it was a one-off!) with a catchy little hook and reminiscent of songs he would later write such as "A Million Miles Away" and "Used To Be". It breaks down after about a minute into a sort of Beatles-ish sixties quiet acoustic vibe, with McCracken's bass again holding the line before Rory's guitar powers back in and the song takes off again. Bit off-putting, really; don't see the need for the section in the middle. That aside, definitely so far the closest to what would end up becoming Rory's sound on his solo albums in years to come.

"Same Old Story" is a mid-paced boogie blues rocker with again much of what would find its way into Rory's later compositions, and "Catfish" appears to be an old traditional song given a heavy blues twist by Rory, and clocks in as the second longest on the album. I have to say, for me it doesn't work and just comes across as long and droning, boring and stolid. It's a prime example of a song stretched to well beyond breaking point. Oh well, can't fault the guy on his debut album, can you? And it's not really even his debut, as in solo effort yet, so he has a ways to go and much to learn. Closer "I'm Movin' On" is a cover of Hank Snow's song, reflecting Rory's fondness for country music and ends the album in a nice, understated way.

TRACK LISTING


1. Blister On the Moon
2. Leavin' Blues
3. Sugar Mama
4. Hail
5. Born On the Wrong Side of Time
6. Dual Carriageway Pain
7. Same Old Story
8. Catfish
9. I'm Movin' On

Never one to let the grass grow under his feet, Rory made sure Taste's next album was in the shops the following year, and it was a more mature, structured and accessible offering, with this time no covers and Rory composing every track. It's gone down as their best - although they only had two, plus two live albums - but this year, 1970, would lead to the breakup of the band and Rory launching his own solo career, from which he would never look back.

On the Boards - Taste - 1970 (Polydor)


I don't know who designed the cover, but the album couldn't look older if they had tried. Even in 1970, its sepia colour, faded look and the frankly terrible picture of the band (Rory looks like a Native American or a priest or something, and his clothes make him look much fatter than he is) made the album look like it had been around at least a hundred years. Still, cover's aren't everything and no-one was buying Taste albums for the cool sleeves (check the artwork on their debut above): everyone was more interested, rightly, in what was between the grooves. The music was the thing, and terrible cover aside, On the Boards delivers on every front.

A big heavy guitar riff that would be repeated in part on songs like "Moonchild" and "Last of the Independents" some years later, "What's Going On?" is a semi-blues rocker, with some nice introspective guitar at times from Rory, one of those great smooth solos he would become famous for, while "Railway and Gun" sort of brings in the country/bluegrass elements we heard in the closer on the debut. Great busy little bassline drives "It's Happened Before It'll Happen Again" but again I find the drumming a little disjointed. Mind you, I'm not crazy about this track at all. It is however the first time I can hear Rory on the sax, and that's interesting if a little jazzy for my tastes (hah!)

There's a real change for "If the Day Was Any Longer", with an acapella intro from Rory which leads into a folky little acoustic number, quite short but cool, and features the first use - that I can hear - of Rory's famous harmonica, which would accompany him on so many gigs and be a facet of his performance both live and in the studio, just another of the many instruments he would learn and become proficient on. Minimal percussion and a steady bass line, and we're into "Morning Sun", an almost funky little piece which reminds me of, er, Madonna's "True Blue". Yeah, sorry, it's just that sort of beat, even though Madge wouldn't appear on the scene for at least another ten years. Great stride guitar although some of Rory's vocals are a little quiet, as they are again on, ironically, "Eat My Words", his squealing Strat leading the charge and sliding all over the song, setting up a great sound that would become familiar to all adherents of Rory's music.

The title track is a slowburner ballad, that again pulls in some jazzy sax from Rory. Sorry, but I really don't like jazz and I'm glad that (good though he is on it, and credit where it's due) Rory mostly dropped the sax from his solo albums, concentrating on the guitar and harmonica, and for a while, piano. This one again I find overlong and not a little boring and hard to get through, though nowhere near as bad as "Catfish" was. A rockin' boogie rocker then in "If I Don't Sing I'll Cry", and I must admit I think most of the problems with Rory's vocals here are probably more than likely down to poor production. I find this very muddy, very fuzzy and cut quite low, although when Rory fires off his Stratocaster it's certainly high in the mix, which is at least a blessing. There's not too much singing in this, luckily, and a nice quick blast on harmonica, then it's two more short tracks to end the album, with "See Here" a nice solid acoustic ballad on which you can hear Rory's voice clearly for once, then the album closes on "I'll Remember", a big dirty heavy rocker with a walking bass line and some almost big band sax and a superb little solo from Rory.

TRACK LISTING

1. What's Going On
2. Railway and Gun
3. It's Happened Before, It'll Happen Again
4. If the Day Was Any Longer
5. Morning Sun
6. Eat My Words
7. On the Boards
8. If I Don't Sing I'll Cry
9. See Here
10. I'll Remember

By this time, Taste had built themselves a strong following (though it's probably fair to say the one drawing the most attention would have been Rory on vocals and guitar as the frontman) and looked set for big things. They played the Isle of Wight Festival that year and released a live album from the concert, but it was released after their breakup, along with their previous album, also live, also released in1971. Even twenty years later the true story of how and why Taste broke up is not fully known. When asked about it, Rory would either clam up and declare he didn't want to go back over "ancient history" or get quite angry and emotional about the way he was treated, and painted as the villain. What we can piece together from the rumours and stories is that, plagued by management strife and internal problems, Taste, having been the vehicle to propel Rory Gallagher to international attention if not stardom, broke up in 1970 and Rory decided it was time he took on the world on his own terms, under his own name, as a solo artist.
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