Rory Gallagher - Blues: Review
Words: Danny Thornton
On 31st May 2019, a date that would have been the 50th year of Rory Gallagher's recording career, fans of the Iconic Irish guitar virtuoso are to be treated to a triple album featuring a collection of Acoustic, Electric and Live Blues performances. The collection is rich in rare recordings, alternate versions of classic Gallagher numbers and guest spots with iconic musicians, which is sure to peek the interest of the legions of Gallagher fanatics out there.
The 3LPs are laid out brilliantly each charting their own segment of Gallagher's Blues work and while not listed in a chronological order, the listener is still able to hear a variety of performances from different eras helping to create a full and detailed look into both Rory's evolution as a player; and obvious love and obsession with Blues music.
So if you, like me, are a devotee of Rory's work, or are merely an interested listener who may have heard a few tracks before and wants to expand your knowledge of this now legendary musician join me as we dive in and examine each album both individually, and as part of an overall package. Let the adventure commence!
Here we are treated to outtakes from the recording sessions of Tattoo and Deuce as well as unreleased material from television and radio appearances across the 70's and 80's.
As a guitar player myself I can honestly say it is a joy to listen to. From Rory's unmistakable slide playing on Who’s That Coming to the more driving rhythms of Secret Agent this is an album I need to own. Each song is a treat within itself, seamlessly exploring different forms of acoustic blues from the rootsy slide played on a resonator, to flat picked numbers such as Should've Have Learned My Lesson. All of the playing has such fire and is so well delivered that you can't stop listening to it.
I always felt that Gallagher's beautiful playing across such a number of different musical stylings, in this case different interpretations of acoustic blues music, was played with such a sincerity, honest and natural ability that it set him apart from a lot of his pears, and this collection of performances really backs that up. The breadth and variety of the songs played here also show off his intimate love and knowledge of the genre and could serve as a good introduction for guitar players who might only be starting to explore this facet of playing.
The Electric Blues album is a perfect accompaniment to the Acoustic one, while some of the songs are higher paced and slightly more energetic, given the overall themes of the songs they pair up with each other really well which is something I am sure that the curators of this collection probably took a great deal of time obsessing over.
Dont Start Me Talking starts things off, and what an opener it is. The track is interspersed with stunning slide guitar work and harmonica playing and it is upbeat, energetic and it gets the listener thirsty for what's next. Whereas slower numbers such as "As The Crow Flies" and "Nothin But The Devil" immediately take you to a smoke filled whisky bars somewhere. Again here the variety of material on offer really does mark this album as something a Blues/guitar devotee needs to own.
A real highlight of the Electric Blues collection for me is a version of A Million Miles Away (taken from a previously unreleased BBC Radio 1 season from 1973). The track features an alternate intro to many previously released versions/live performances of this track, and seamlessly blooms into a perfect showcase of Gallagher's most iconic "sound", his mastery of the Stratocaster and the incredible ability he had for his voice to match the passion and tonality for his guitar playing. It's also great to hear how a song evolved, especially when you consider that the same piece was performed only a year later during his iconic Irish tour of 1974. As a fan it's great to be able to hear more than one interpretation of what would become a Gallagher classic.
Given that the third album is a collection of live performances it was always bound to have a different feel to its two stablemates and it comes as a welcome change.
Instantly we are treated to When My Baby She Left Me which honestly features some of the most red hot blues playing I've heard from him in a long time. Lightening quick and dripping in soul, why this unreleased track has never seen the light of day before is beyond me.
As with any collection of great music dynamics are key here and the addition of What In The World is a great example for this. While the track not only serves as a showpiece for Gallagher's stunning virtuosity, and is almost Led Zeppelin-esque at points.
The addition of multiple tracks from the same performance is a nice touch, and the fact that they are a few years apart helps the listener to witness a real progression and honing of style. I particularly enjoyed hearing the recordings from the 1982 Glasgow Apollo Concert.
Another standout aspect of this album would be the inclusion of a number of Rory's guest spots with some other iconic musicians. Tracks featuring Albert King and Jack Bruce are present which helps to give this album in particular a broader appeal than you would typically get from a collection of previously unreleased music.
So to conclude I can honestly say that these albums have left me with a reinvigorated love of Rory's music. With many classic artists as time progresses we can become, not so much desensitised, but more accustom to hearing songs we may have listened to for many years. This is where collections like this, which feature rare and unreleased music, have a really strong pulling point. It's a real treat to hear new music from a sadly long departed musical hero, and the fact that the LPs explore an element of Rory's music which was not only incredible in its variety but an obvious source of fascination and joy for the artist makes this special.
Other than the playing itself, the recording quality is generally excellent and the division of the music into Acoustic, Electric and Live is something which means that the package will suit the listener who both wants to spend hours delving into the intricacies' of Rory Gallagher's music, and also the fan who just wants to hear some great Live or Acoustic Blues.
The Collection is available in a couple of different formats including the three CD deluxe package discussed here, which also features a booklet with unseen pictures of Rory and a really great essay by award winning writer Jas Obrecht for you to fawn over whilst enjoying your listening experience.
Rory Gallagher’s ‘BLUES’ is released on Friday 31st May via CHESS Records.
Pre-order via https://rorygallagher.lnk.to/BluesPR