Thursday, June 23, 2011


Among rock guitar aficionados, Rory Gallagher is placed near the very top, and some argue he gave Hendrix a run for his money.  That's due to the famous quote, where Hendrix was asked what it's like to be the best guitar player, and he said he didn't know, ask Rory Gallagher.  Those were back in the Taste days, when Gallagher became one of the very first stars from Ireland.  The success of that band led to an even bigger solo career in the early 70's, as he proved to be a top performer and seller in the FM rock days.  Given his neglected fame these days, he may be the quietest 30-million album seller there is.

It also doesn't help that he's dead.  Gallagher died in 1995, after a liver transplant, necessitated by years of rock lifestyle, hard touring, and a potent prescription diet to combat fear of flying and other insecurities.  Also, he never had a radio hit.  Most people, me included, can't name a song of his off the top of our heads.  However, those guitar aficionados are a stalwart bunch, and they're not going to let Gallagher down.  Neither is Eagle Records, which has launched a huge reissue campaign of all his albums and DVD's, with lots of existing live footage coming out, as well as his best-known piece, Irish Tour '74.

This double-disc is a real bonus.  The whole thing is previously unreleased, dating from a 1977 and 78 attempt to record an album in San Francisco.  Ever the perfectionist, Gallagher shelved it all, the whole project, after months of work, and expensive sessions with Neil Young producer Elliot Mazer.  He later said they couldn't get the mix right at the time, and it had become too complicated, the songs didn't sound right.  He thought most of it could be put out with remixing, but he never got around to it again.  Now, his brother and nephew, who have steadfastly kept the Gallagher legacy going, have done that job, as well as cleaned up some outtakes, and found an entire live show from 1979 to put out on disc two.

This is not a tough call for anyone.  Do you know and like Rory Gallagher?  You need this.  Do you like electric rock guitar?  You will like this.  Do you find yourself wondering if this is for you?  Buy Irish Tour '74, and see if you join the cult first.  There's nothing immediately grabbing about any of the tunes here, but it's not the mess Gallagher thought it was, it just is what it is, decent material played by a very intense guitar god.  The guy played like a monster, with great fills constantly coming at you, but usually in pedestrian songs.  Nobody ever gave him a signature number, a Cocaine or Train Kept a-Rollin' or something to hang his legacy on.  Once he went solo it was all on his shoulders, but if he had've been a team player, say with a band like AC/DC, he would've been unbeatable.  Listening to the very enjoyable live disc here, I can imagine everyone leaving, shaking their heads, going "What a guitar player", but nobody singing the songs into the night.

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