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Old 01-14-2022, 03:41 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Guitar Man: The Life, Blues and Music of Rory Gallagher

It's probably a fair statement to say that Ireland isn't exactly bursting with musical talent. Well, it's probably fairer to say that, while we've given the world bands like Thin Lizzy and U2, we're nowhere near the prolific output of say the UK or America. The point here is that we can't afford to lose the true stars we turn out, which is why I cried the day Rory Gallagher died.

My introduction to the bluesman from Ballyshannon, but who spent his formative years in the "rebel county," pretty much a Corkman through and through (and certainly claimed as one of their own by the natives of that fair southern paradise) was through perhaps one of his weaker albums, but I still liked what I heard and became a fan. I saw him live once, in an old concert hall which had once been a school, and with no flashbombs, video screens, dancers or orchestra, no frills and no backing tapes, he just burned the place down. If there is one word that could be used to describe Rory, it is honest. The man never sold out, remained true to the blues (even truer than his bluesmate, Gary Moore) and was, by all accounts, a hell of a nice guy.

He stuck with the people he knew, favouring for most of his career the "power trio" setup with himself on guitar and vocals, accompanied by just a bass player and a drummer, though of course on stage he would supplement these band members with a few backup players. He carved a reputation for himself as a true exponent of the blues, an Irishman whose music was touched and influenced by the poorer parts of the USA, who never betrayed his fans or his roots, and who is still remembered fondly today.

William Rory Gallagher (1948 - 1995)



Name: William Rory Gallagher (1948-1995)
Birthplace: Ballyshannon, Co, Donegal, Ireland
Born: March 2 1948
Died: June 14 1995
Cause of death: Complications brought on after he contracted a virus while waiting for a liver transplant. Also overprescription of antidepressants contributed to his ailing health.
First band: Fontana/The Impact
First solo attempt: 1970
Influences: Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Lonnie Donegan, Woodie Guthrie, Lead Belly
Albums (Studio): 11
Albums (Live): 5
Compliations/Boxsets: 14
Singles: None
Hits: None
Legacy: Signature Fender Stratocaster, millions of adoring fans and the message that you don't have to compromise your ethics to make it in the world of music. A fresh honesty and a true dedication to the Blues.
A fitting epitaph: "Rory lived and died the Blues" --- Donal Gallagher


The Early Years: 1963-1966

Born into a musical family, both Rory and his brother Donal were musically-inclined, though it would of course turn out to be the older brother who was destined to become a star. His father had played in a ceili (pronounced kay-lee) band -- basically Irish traditional dance music - and his mother, in addition to being an actor, had a great singing voice. Listening to the radio at night Rory heard the greats of the day - Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran - and knew from an early age that he wanted to do what they did for a living. Winning his first talent contest at age twelve on a self-taught acoustic guitar, he used the prize money to buy himself an electric guitar, and later a Fender Stratocaster, which would remain with him, and identified with him, for most of his career.

With the family hardly rich (his father worked for the ESB, the Irish electricity company) and a record-player a luxury far beyond their means, Rory had no choice but to listen to late night radio and occasional programmes on the television to try to hear the music he was beginning to feel a kinship with, and try to hunt down song books so that he could learn the songs he heard. Music was by no means as available or accessible in the 1950s and 1960s as it is today. There was no internet, hardly any computers at all, and only tinny, mono radios called transistors or "trannies" (Now... ) while video recorders were decades away, so if you wanted to see a TV programme you had to make sure you caught it then and there. Programmes, especially music ones, were rarely if ever repeated.

Though his first love, Rory decided he did not want to restrict himself to playing guitar only, and taught himself harmonica, sax, mandolin, bass, banjo and sitar, elements he would later incorporate into his live shows. In Ireland during the sixties there was only one outlet for a musician who wanted to be heard, who wanted to tour with other musicians, and that was the dreaded showbands. Twee, sentimental, cabaret bands who all dressed and sounded alike and played mostly ballrooms and dances, covering the popular hits of the time, this was not Rory's cup of tea but he bore the restrictions it put on his music, just to be out there playing. His exuberant displays on the guitar soon made him a minor legend, and he made a name for himself with Fontana, his first showband which he subtly moulded into more an r&b outfit, angering staid promoters and ballroom owners but speaking to the desperate need in the audience --- particularly the younger ones --- for a new kind of expression and freedom, a break from the boring traditions of their parents.

After guiding the band's sound sufficiently that they really no longer were the same band, Rory changed their name to The Impact, and they had minor success, especially in Spain. When they disbanded Rory continued on with the bassist and drummer and toured Germany. Returning home to Ireland, Rory was impressed and influenced enough by what he saw in cities like Hamburg to decide that his time in showbands was over, and he formed what would essentially become his first "real" or "remembered" band, Taste.
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Old 01-15-2022, 08:08 PM   #2 (permalink)
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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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Old 01-22-2022, 09:05 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Good **** thanks for this Trollman. Always enjoy Rory so much. I wish so much of this music was done later so the recordings were better.
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Old 01-22-2022, 09:09 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Welcome back Rez!
I respectfully disagree. I think if Rory's music had been overproduced as some of the blues today are, it would have lost its charm. It's the rawness, the honesty and the simplicity of his music that always did it for me. The man was the epitome of the honest troubadour.
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Old 01-22-2022, 09:12 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trollheart View Post
Welcome back Rez!
I respectfully disagree. I think if Rory's music had been overproduced as some of the blues today are, it would have lost its charm. It's the rawness, the honesty and the simplicity of his music that always did it for me. The man was the epitome of the honest troubadour.
Perhaps I mispoke. I just mean recorded with modern preamps and microphones. Those old mics didnt capture bass (especially drumkits) half as well as they do today.

What you said is true however, the overproduced era has ruined many a good artists...
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Old 01-23-2022, 10:23 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Meh, again I'd disagree. Like I say, to me the attraction and charm of Rory's music was always its simple, raw sound; like listening to an original Delta blues record or something. It just always sounds... real. The first Rory album I heard (not my favourite by any means) was Against the Grain, and by then he'd been going for about four or five years, at least under his own name, but even so the album sounded raw, unpolished, rough, and I think that was what gave it its authenticity. I actually prefer later albums such as Top Priority and Photo Finish, but when you get to Jinx I feel the "new" recording techniques used sort of make it seem a little bland, a little less raw, a little less Rory. So while I prefer, musically and songwise, those two albums over the older ones, I would still maintain that albums like Deuce and Blueprint and Against the Grain sound more authentic, and so are more representative of his sound.

I guess what I'm trying to say here is, would you want Son House or Howlin' Wolf to have recorded with today's techniques, or do you prefer how those old records sound even today?
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Old 01-23-2022, 11:01 AM   #7 (permalink)
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The Early Solo Years: 1971-1974

The early seventies were Rory's most prolific, as he struggled to establish himself as a solo artiste in his own right. At that time, there really were no international artists from Ireland, and with Van Morrison Rory led the way, recruiting bass player Gerry McAvoy, who would be one of the mainstays of his band for over two decades, and a firm friend, to create another power trio, though unlike Taste this one would have a harder rock edge, and was clearly from the start Rory's own band. Although he had basically taken the controls at Taste, performing under his own name gave him an extra degree of contol over the output, and on his first, self-titled album he wrote every track and also produced the album. He also pulled in Wilgar Campbell on drums, but whereas McAvoy would remain a steadfast ally of Rory's through the seventies and eighties, Campbell would be replaced after the second album.

Rory Gallagher - Rory Gallagher - 1971 (Polydor)


There's a big boogie number to start the debut album off, with "Laundromat", and it's rockin' good, though again I find the vocals very far down in the mix, like on the Taste albums. Rory produced this himself and it was likely his first attempt at production, so perhaps he was just unfamiliar with how to mix an album properly. Either way, the guitar work of course stands out head and shoulders above everything, and Rory uses his trusty harmonica for the first time on one of his own albums. McAvoy keeps up a great bass rhythm, almost as if it were an upright bass he was playing, and Campbell bashes out the beat the way you would expect a seventies drummer to. Rory's style of singing was often more shouting lines at you than conventional singing, and nobody would I think class him as one of the great singers, but as a guitarist he had few if any equals. "Just the Smile" slows things down a little with a hard dobro-style sound on the guitar, and a folky melody that still maintains an edge. Has a great almost "Mrs. Robinson" rhythm to it.

This song is mostly guitar, as were many of Rory's: he never forced too many lyrics or even vocals into a song if he could avoid it, preferring to let his guitar do the talking, and so it works. You don't really concentrate too much on the singing - though it's fine, but nothing terribly special - and just let the great fretwork wash over you. Slowing it down even more then for the blues-style ballad "I Fall Apart" with again soft vocals from Rory but a hard guitar and the first really standout solo. That old mixture of Delta blues and country shows up again on "Wave Myself Goodbye", featuring for the first time piano, here provided by Vincent Crane, in one of two appearances by him on the album. It does add a nice honky-tonk feel to the song, and complements the acoustic guitar nicely.

"Hands Up" is a more rocky, bouncy track with some fine powerful drumming from Wilgar Campbell driving the beat, and featuring an extended workout by Rory on the Strat, while the next one up was to become one of his standards and best-loved songs. "Sinner Boy" starts off like a blues ballad but then breaks out into a real rocker, with that squealing twanging guitar that was to become something of his trademark, high pitched with plenty of slide. A much slower, laidback song then in "For the Last Time", a kind of menacing blues ballad, of the type Rory would become identified with, as would his contemporary Gary Moore, the sort of song where the singer admits he's been a fool (usually for some woman) and swears that won't happen to him again. Another great solo and a walking bass line from McAvoy, sort of doomy drums from Campbell, and the lion's share of the song is taken up by another serious workout on the guitar, taking us into the bluesgrass-styled "It's You", a bopping, slide-guitar aided little tune (I'll be honest: it sounds like steel guitar but I can't be sure, and there's no such instrument credited, though it's a guitar so... maybe) and on into "I'm Not Surprised", the other song containing piano accompaniment from Vincent Crane.

Starts off almost Rush-style on hard acoustic and mandolin, then gets going in a blues groove with the piano sliding in; sort of a Beatles vibe to the song, and the album then ends on "Can't Believe it's True" with a sort of shuffle melody and coming closer to the more famous songs he would pen down the line. This also features sax from the man, but again as I said in the Taste reviews, I don't really feel it adds much to the song or makes that much of a difference. A good album, a good debut but it was unlikely to set the charts on fire. Then again, that was never Rory Gallagher's intention. He just wanted to make music that people might like to hear. Simple, huh?

TRACK LISTING

1. Laundromat
2. Just the Smile
3. I Fall Apart
4. Wave Myself Goodbye
5. Hands Up
6. Sinner Boy
7. For the Last Time
8. It's You
9. I'm Not Surprised
10. Can't Believe it's True

Eager now more than ever that he had released his first solo album to get his music heard, Rory was back in the studio at the end of the year and this resulted in his second album coming out in the same year. Although only his second it is markedly different in its tone and feel, and copperfastens the beginning of the real Gallagher sound on tracks like "Crest of a Wave", "In Your Town" and the melancholy "Should've Learned My Lesson".

Deuce - Rory Gallagher - 1971 (Atlantic)


Right away there's a more cohesive sound to the album. Whether that's due to his growing proficiency on the guitar or the fact that his intention for this album was to give it a more "live performance" feel I don't know, but one thing I do hear is that his vocals are more balanced, not pushed down to the point where they could be not quite inaudible on the debut, but definitely low in the mix. "I'm Not Awake" gets us underway, bopping along nicely with some rolling percussion from Wilgar Campbell, an almost Irish traditional rhythm to the song, some more fine soloing. Much harder and rockier is "Used to Be", with Rory's growled vocal rising to meet the snarl of his guitar, and again I hear a lot of Alex Lifeson in his playing here, although Rush would not release their first album for another three years yet. That country/folk element comes back in for "Don't Know Where I'm Going", with another star turn for Rory's other old mate, the harmonica, allied to his acoustic guitar.

Back to the electric then for "Maybe I will", with an almost jazzy tempo to it, some great basswork from Gerry McAvoy, sense of rockabilly to it too, then "Whole Lot of People" is even moreso, while the real standout on the album comes in the shape of "In Your Town", with a big boogie blues rocker with Irish reels threading through the melody. The story of a man released after serving his time in jail and out for revenge or just to have a good time (it's not clear), it's a great bopper and really just bursts with energy and enthusiasm. In total contrast then is "Should've Learned My Lesson", a doleful blues ballad in the mould of "woke-up-this-morning-and-my-woman-done-gone" so beloved of the old hands. Great stuff.

"There's a Light" has a sort of Santana idea about some of it, rocks along nicely and you can definitely hear a marked improvement in Rory's singing, his voice much stronger, more determined and focussed. More of the folky country feel from the previous album on "Out of My Mind", some great mandolin playing by Rory, with the closer the brilliant "Crest of a Wave", another which would become a fan favourite, a great heavy groove that just closes the album as strongly as it began. For a second album, I think Deuce shows a giant leap in Rory's talent, which is not to say the debut was bad, because it wasn't, but this is a world removed from that first album, and you could see even then this boy was not going to be held down; we're witnessing here the birth of a star.

TRACK LISTING

1. I'm Not Awake Yet
2. Used To Be
3. Don't Know Where I'm Going
4. Maybe I Will
5. Whole Lot of People
6. In Your Town
7. Should've Learnt My Lesson
8. There's a Light
9. Out of My Mind
10. Crest of a Wave

Of course, every true musician knows there's no substitute for the stage, and though Rory was getting no radio airplay at this time, and certainly releasing no singles, and was pretty much an unknown quantity generally, he raised his profile and built his fanbase on the back of continuous touring, becoming one of the hardest-working musicans certainly in Ireland, maybe in Europe. He ensured that he toured his native country at least once a year, often more, and yet managed to fit in recording two albums a year between 1971 and 1973. Rory's reputation was built, maintained and mythologised through his live performances, and many people consider versions of studio tracks inferior to the live renditions. Certainly, free of the constraints of studio time Rory could lengthen and expand some of his better songs onstage, and he also got a chance to cover some ones he would probably not have put on his studio albums.

Two live albums have gone down in history as being definitive of his work, the first released in 1972 and pretty much made up of covers and traditional songs, with just one track from each of his first two albums. Live! in Europe was recorded, not surprisingly, on his European tour of 1972 and together with the later Irish Tour '74 gives a fascinating insight into a man who lived to walk the stage with a Strat, a guitarist who loved the stage spotlight but shunned the celebrity one, and an almost reluctant star who lit up any stage he strode.

Live! In Europe - Rory Gallagher - 1972 (Buddah)


It's probably not the greatest of starts, to be honest, when they introduce him as "Rory Gallag-er" rather than "Galla-her", but the album gets going with a track that, though it appears on none of his studio albums and is not his own song, became another to be very clearly identified with him, Junior Wells' "Messin' with the Kid", great bit of blues boogie rock and you can hear Rory's singing voice now firmly established; gone are the squeaky, breathy, echoey and at times almost inaudible vocals that plagued the first album: Rory's singin' loud and proud now. Strangely enough, the track he chooses from the debut album is "Laundromat", which is okay but certainly not the best track on that album: I would have gone for "Sinner Boy" or something like that. Nevertheless, it's a spirited version of the song, and it's also nice to hear Rory thank the crowd and say hi after the first track: adds to the genuine live experience so few live albums manage to capture.

Next up is one of four traditional arrangements on the album, a song apparently Bob Dylan wanted to duet with Rory on, but which sadly never happened. With a melancholy harmonica intro and sharp guitar, " I Could've Had Religion" has a blues/gospel arrangement, then breaks into a crunching slow rocker, with pounding percussion from Wilgar Campbell and chunky bass from Gerry McAvoy framing the song. Real slowburner, and Rory really gets to exercise his pipes here, then much more restrained and in a country vein is Blind Boy Fuller's "Pistol Slapper Blues", pretty much on acoustic guitar without any accompaniment that I can hear from the band: I feel (though I could be wrong) that even the minimal percussion in the song is engendered by Rory tapping his palm against the guitar. What would appear to be a Gallagher original not on either of his first two albums to date, "Going to My Hometown" is almost acapella with some frenetic work on the mandolin by Rory, big thumping drumming from Campbell and some enthusiastic clapping from the audience.

Highlight of the album for me is a ten-minute storming version of "In Your Town" from Deuce, my favourite from that album and I'm glad to see that if he had to pick only one track from the second album that this is the one he decided on. The song is made for a live performance, and goes down really well with the crowd. That leaves three trad arrangements to take us out, the first of which is called "What in the World" and opens on soulful harmonica and a slow blues/soul beat with the thickest bassline you're likely to hear, then it's another slow heavy blues tune in "Hoodoo Man", and the album closes on yet another track that, though it would never feature on a studio album by him, would become another standard and expected song at every gig, the rockin' and rollin' boogie "Bullfrog Blues".

TRACK LISTING

1. Messin' with the Kid
2. Laundromat
3. I Could've Had Religion
4. Pistol Slapper Blues
5. Going To My Hometown
6. In Your Town
7. What in the World
8. Hoodoo Man
9. Bullfrog Blues

When Rory's second live album, the career-defining Irish Tour 74 was released two years later, he would quite amazingly have another two studio albums to choose material from. The early seventies were a time of great productivity and creativity for Rory, and he would release, all told, seven albums before the decade was halfway through. That's some workrate, especially when you take into account that he was also squeezing in at least one tour a year into his schedule. Some of today's artists could learn from this man.

After being first made aware of the blues by listening to his heroes, studying them, covering them and eventually emulating them, Rory was finally rewarded in the early seventies by playing with them. Muddy Waters invited him to guest on his album London Sessions in '72, and though he says it was a honour to play with his idol, as well as the likes of Steve Winwood and Mitch Mitchell, even participating in those recordings did not keep him from gigging. He would play a concert in the evening and then drive at speed up to London, arriving in the early hours and, in true rock-and-roll fashion, jam till dawn. Rory was so impressed by, and in awe of Muddy, that he kept the car in which he had driven the blues legend to various gigs as a sort of shrine to him, letting it rust away in his front garden back home in Cork. He just could never bring himself to sell it, the car an integral part of his history and a concrete link back to the glory days.

As mentioned, Live! In Europe was the last album to feature Wilgar Campbell behind the drums, and he was replaced the next year by Rod De'ath (yeah, his real name apparently!), who would stick with Rory for another six years, right through to the end of the seventies. He also brought with him a recommendation for his friend Lou Martin, a pianist and keyboard player. Rory had been thinking about incorporating the sound of keyboards into his band, and Martin seemed to fit the bill. And so in February of 1973 Rory's band changed from a power trio and for the first time included a keyboard player. Under this lineup he released his third studio album, one of two he would produce that year, and one of his most regarded.

Blueprint - Rory Gallagher - 1973 (Polydor)


There's an immediate difference in the sound thanks to Martin's influence behind the keys. A big booming organ sound greets the opening of "Walk on Hot Coals", and then changes to a funky piano that complements Rory's guitar as the song goes along, a rocky, uptempo toe-tapper, and a song that would become another favourite live. As on all his previous and future albums, other than cover versions, every track here is written solo by Rory. He was a man who never co-wrote with anyone, and that was how he liked it. His songs were his children: he gave birth to them, he nurtured and cared for them and he was responsible for them. It's quite stunning really that he could be such a tremendous guitarist, showman, songwriter and singer - although as noted, while he was certainly an adequate singer no-one would put him up with the greats purely on the strength of his vocals.

A great piano run takes us out of the song and we're into "Daughter of the Everglades", a somewhat more downtempo song driven this time mostly on Lou Martin's steady piano, the keys lightening the tone of the song somewhat, nice little organ stabs also adding to it. If this song reminds me of anything, in structure and melody, it's his later "Overnight Bag" from the very successful Photo Finish, released a few years later. Rory breaks out the harmonica then for an old-style blues lament he calls "Banker's Blues", which could almost still be relevant today if you look at it from a different angle to the one under which Rory originally wrote it. More great piano work here, and acoustic guitar takes the lead, with a great harmonica and piano ending, taking us into "Hands Off", a bouncy, uptempo boogie rocker where once again Martin gets to shine as he adds his own special touch to the song.

"Race the Breeze" then gets something of a progressive rock edge due to the organ work on it by Martin, the song chugging along like a steam train, and in fact again reminding me of a future song he would record, "Ride On Red, Ride On", from the Jinx album, released in 1982. Some great slide guitar on this, then fifteen years before Iron Maiden had it, Rory's "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son" isn't quite as mythologically/fantasy-based as the title track from that album, though there's again quite a prog rock intro on crashing cymbals and rippling keyboards with a lovely shuffling bass line from Gerry McAvoy. Some very Doors-ish piano from Martin too, and it's a long song, the longest on the album at over eight minutes. I have to admit though, it's quite repetitive once it gets going, and in that manner I think it goes on too long. Way too long.

Nice little acoustic folky tune in "Unmilitary Two-step" played on maybe mandolin, or could be the acoustic guitar, even a dobro, not sure, but it's the first instrumental track of Rory's career. The album then ends on the very country-styled "If I Had a Reason", with what sounds like Hawaiian guitar (!) but hell, that could just be Rory making his axe do what he wants it to do. A slow, country ballad, it's perhaps an odd way to end what is otherwise a pretty hard-rockin' album, but then, Rory's tastes and influences were always quite diverse.

TRACK LISTING

1. Walk on Hot Coals
2. Daughter of the Everglades
3. Banker's Blues
4. Hands Off
5. Race the Breeze
6. Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
7. Unmilitary Two-step
8. If I Had a Reason
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