Review by Paul Monkhouse for MPM
Very few guitar players have made the lasting impression on not just the public but their peers as the late, great Rory Gallagher. Born in Ballyshannon and brought up in Cork, William Rory Gallagher was born to play the blues and from the moment he got his first guitar at the age of nine musical history was written, taking him from a local talent contest to the showband circuit and onto the world stage.
With a deep love of skiffle and early rock ‘n’ roll, Gallagher discovered the music of Muddy Waters and absorbed every single blues track he could hear. His beloved Fender Stratocaster, bought in 1961, become his instrument of choice and the pairing was made in heaven, the guitar providing the perfect conduit for his enormous natural talent.
This latest compilation, following hot on the heels of the triple live ‘Check Shirt Wizard’, provides a perfect overview of the Irishman’s career and acts a good starting point to explore his back catalogue for those encouraged to delve deeper.
Opening business with the Taste classic ‘What’s Going On’, you’re instantly reminded why so many fellow guitar players were influenced by him, his playing both propulsive and nuanced.
It’s a hard rocking start but the album shows all the facets of Gallagher’s playing and songwriting, in fact the other Taste track on disc one is the jazzy workout of ‘It’s Happened Before, It’ll Happen Again’ whilst the very The Who / Small Faces-like ‘Blister On The Moon’ and the heavy psychedelic tinged blues of ‘Catfish’ appear on the second disc.
Tired of a record company that tried to turn Taste into something they didn’t want to be, the band had to split to free themselves of the shackles and while this was a loss in one way it did allow Gallagher to do things his way and truly let the music flow.
The following years would see him stretch himself, encompassing all his passions and influences in a stream of albums that have become classics. Blues, rock, folk and beyond pepper his output and all are bound together by his never less than dazzling fretwork.
Just how frustrating it must have been for him to see other people achieve the level of fame and acknowledgement that he deserved we can only guess at, but you get the feeling for him that the music was all.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjr4TNul_fs&w=560&h=315]
From the foot to the floor ‘Follow You’, through to the easy grooving funk of ‘Tattoo’d Lady’, it’s solo slicing through the air like a razor sharp rapier and onto the beautifully folksy ‘Just The Smile’ you can but marvel at the range and seemingly effortless skill that Gallagher coaxes such great sounds from wood, nylon and steel.
Expertly compiled the album isn’t a chronological stroll through the albums but takes you on a journey of discovery, taking in the ever-changing landscape of the guitarist’s imagination.
Some tracks will be instantly recognised to even the most casual of blues fans and it’s great to hear them once again, nestled amongst the less familiar but it’s in the deeper cuts that the real gold lies as the listener rediscovers album tracks that gleam with an equal brightness.
Mention should certainly be made of Gallagher’s right hand man for most of his solo career, Gerry McAvoy, whose cool, throbbing bass is the ideal base rock over which the master swoops and glides, the perfect example of this found in the one two hit of ‘Bought & Sold’ and ‘A Million Miles Away’. With drummers of the calibre of Ted McKenna and Brendan O’Neill amongst others, Rory surrounded himself with the best musicians around, expecting much but always bringing his ‘A’ game so the songs truly come to life.
If any additional excuse was needed to spend hard earned cash on the compilation was needed, you get a previously unreleased version of the Stones ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ played by Jerry Lee Lewis and featuring Gallagher on vocals and guitar. More than just a curio, this version is less brash and cocky than the original but adds some extra grit and, conversely, a delicate beauty in the refined playing of both ‘The Killer’ and Rory, the two sounding like they must have had a ball in the studio, the recording sounding very live and natural.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hyth8RM0cb0&w=560&h=315]
An utterly irresistible collection, one listen will convince why guitarists as diverse and stellar as Eric Clapton, Joe Bonamassa, Slash, The Edge, Jimmy Page, Peter Frampton and Jimi Hendrix thought him the King of the Six String and why a teenage Johnny Marr took his brand-new Strat into the woodwork class at school to attack it with tools until it took on the battered appearance of his hero’s guitar. Thirty tracks of perfection, this is one of THE essential albums of the year, if not the decade. Genuinely peerless.
RORY GALLAGHER – ONLINE