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Disclaimer: this page is not written from the point of view of a Rory Gallagher fanatic and is not generally intended for narrow-perspective Rory Gallagher fanatics. If you are deeply offended by criticism, non-worshipping approach to your favourite artist, or opinions that do not match your own, do not read any further. If you are not, please consult the guidelines for sending your comments before doing so. For information on reviewing principles, please see the introduction. For specific non-comment-related questions, consult the message board.
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[The passage below has been taken from the former page on Taste, Rory's first band. It will eventually be merged with a new introduction overviewing the man's entire career.]Blues-rock is the most unfortunate genre in the world: its fans are in a pitiful minority, and both the working class representatives that far prefer the Sex Pistols and the witty elite that far prefers Emerson, Lake & Palmer despise it as something boring, repetitive and lacking entertainment value (in the first case), or as something simplistic, dated and primitive (in the second case). I know I should probably be hating it too, seeing as how blues-rock is one of the most derivative genres in rock and my position is always to stress the originality. But heck, I think the blues is one of the greatest musical forms ever created, and I have long before learned that the essence of blues is not in 'what' but in 'how'. Don't ask the blues guy: 'Why are you playing things that everybody else plays?' Instead, ask the blues guy: 'What is your personal contribution to blues and your own unique ways to interpret it? What's your special gimmickry? Why should we listen to you and not Long John Bauldry instead?' The band I'm going to review here certainly had a good and satisfying answer to that question. But nobody really wants to care about the answer - and this is probably the reason why the band I'm going to review here is virtually unknown in the States, and even in the UK none of their albums seem to be in print. Come on now - have you ever even heard of Taste? One might have heard of Rory Gallagher and his solo 'guitar hero' career in the Seventies (not to mention that his untimely death in 1995 did lead to a sudden rise of interest towards the man, perverse as it is), but nobody remembers Taste, the band that arguably represents his best and freshest period of activity. The albums that I'm going to review below are impossible to find in the States or, in fact, all over the world; they are out of print for years and can probably be only got through special order in a half-obscure Internet used CD store. This is, however, the advantage of living in Russia: I managed to get both of their studio albums plus Live Taste (for the cheapest price imaginable, too), since they have been kindly printed by blues-friendly record companies. Maybe they're pirated, but I don't give a damn, being still happy as a pup! No, I'm definitely not a hardcore blues or blues-rock fan. I, too, find blues as a genre somewhat (somewhat, but not gruesomely) overrated, and there are so many unimaginative, rip-off-ey blues-rock acts in the world that I fully understand how one can get sick of that crap. There is one big advantage to blues-rock, though: its primary form is so perfect, so brilliantly accomplished and wonderfully catchy from the very start, that one simply can't go wrong with playing electric blues - that is, if one knows how to do it really, really good. The standard blues formula might be one of the best musical forms of the 20th century, but it really all depends on how you do it. It isn't enough just to play a straight 4/4 and sing on key (or off key, for that matter). Some bands, like the Rolling Stones, Cream, or Led Zeppelin, knew how to make their blues sound wonderfully fresh and invigorating - with sharp, hard-hitting, well-tuned guitars (all the three), magnificent harmonica solos (Stones), dangerous-sounding vocals (Stones again), stunning guitar heroics (Cream) or a dark, mystical mood (Led Zep). Other bands, which I'll never even be naming here, never had anything of that - and ended up sounding dull, derivative and forgettable. Taste were indeed 'taste', and an acquired one: one of the last great blues-rock bands, and certainly the last 'purist' blues-rock band with any significant importance (unless you count The Doobie Brothers, of course). They were an Irish 'power trio', modelling themselves after Cream, but they rarely sounded like Cream - not because they couldn't, but because they wouldn't. Drummer John Wilson was a really talented dude, with drums cleverly bashing all over the place, but he never engaged in lengthy, pointless drum solos, like Ginger Baker (I mean, he did drum solos, but short ones, and that's an entirely different matter). Bassist Richard McCracken might not have had the guts of Jack Bruce or Andy Fraser, but his steady rhythm work is highly laudable nevertheless. And, of course, there's the bright star of guitar player and lead vocalist Rory Gallagher (not to be confused with the wretched Oasis twins). Rory was always distinguished by the fact that he could make a good use of everything, from his powerful voice to his well-learned guitar licks to even saxophone solos, but never did - and it still worked. What I'm a-meanin' is that, while he sure had a mighty fine voice and was able to kick Jack Bruce's old ass right in the gutter in that respect, he rarely engaged in romantic balladeering or complex blueswailing - instead, he just grunted and snorted. And he had a great guitar-playing talent - sometimes he was soloing like a demon, going off in all directions and easily keeping the energy on the same level as a Steve Howe or a Jimmy Page; but he preferred to play tasty disconnected licks or dirty, sloppy riffs instead, going for the heaviest sound possible, more Hendrix-style than Clapton-style. But in doing so, he created an identity for the whole band, and made damn sure that their blues records really stood out among the thousands of similar efforts by less worthy white boys. And no, I'm not saying that Taste albums are recommended for everybody; if you're a blues-hater, don't even worry. But if, like me, you're looking for something bluesy with a definite edge to it, this might just be your bet - provided that you can find their records.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1969
Overall rating = 10
A simple, enjoyable blues-rock album: not quite up to Led Zeppelin, but a bit more 'arousing' than the Cream stuff. Less talented, though.Best song: SAME OLD STORY
Track listing: 1) Blister On The Moon; 2) Leaving 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 Moving On.
All right now, let's deal with the records themselves. This is their debut album, and it hardly made any definite impact anywhere, which is sad, since it's arguably their best record - maybe On The Boards is more creative, but it certainly lacks the kick-butt energy that Rory delivers in spades on this album. About half of it is traditional blues covers, and the other half is penned by Gallagher himself. And all of it is highly entertaining and delivered with enough ferocity to make you go wow! Because Rory doesn't go treading the blues with reverence - he plays it as dirty, loud and (sometimes) fast as possible: if there is such a thing as blues-punk, this is it. The only serious misstep, in fact, is a dull, plodding, metallic version of 'Catfish' that bleeds for a painful eight minutes - a slow, annoying bore that desperately needs some unusual atmospherics to it but gets none. Not that it's Rory's or the band's fault, the song's traditional rhythm is dull by its nature (a similar, and also boring version, can be found on Hendrix's Blues); no matter how much feedback you pull out or how loud and proud you scream out the lyrics, it's still not convincing. Although the roar 'I WISH I WAS YOUR CATFISH' at the end goes off quite fine.But otherwise, there's quite a bit of fast, speedy numbers on this record. There's the rip-roarin' 'Blister On The Moon', a song that sounds completely in the vein of the bluesier numbers on Fresh Cream, except that it's even harder and dirtier-sounding - apparently, on some of the songs Rory was leaning more towards the Zeppelinish style of play than Cream's; there's some excellent riffage on 'Born On The Wrong Side Of Time' and 'Dual Carriageway Pain'; and, most of all, there's the great Taste trademark - Rory's 'Same Old Story', a song usually used as an encore to their shows. It might be seen as Taste's answer to Cream's 'Crossroads' - a fast blues-rocker, also built on an unforgettable six-note riff and serving as a launching pad for some of Gallagher's most impressive solos. Add to this that in 1969 Rory was a much more accomplished singer than Clapton, and you got yourself a worthy contender. The record's other 'big time' tune is a seven-minute version of 'Sugar Mama', ooh, there goes some traditional Delta cotton-field-brown-sugar-Civil war old-style blues for you... nah. It's given quite a hard-rockin' arrangement, too, and even if the song would really only be truly lifted up in concert, it's wonderful nevertheless. And don't forget that silly scat singing near the end! Generic as hell, yes, but also fun as hell. I tell you. Plus, if you really need to witness Gallagher's guitar talents, you're welcome to take a look at 'Leaving Blues'. Now the 'metallic' tracks on this album might be good, but this one is the kind of stuff you'll never find on a Cream record, because Clapton never messed around with slide guitar. 'Leaving Blues' features some of the best, most 'taste'-ful slide guitarwork I ever witnessed! Ragged, choppy, and even a little weird, it's even better than 'Gamblin' Blues', Rory's famous slide guitar spotlight at their show. And he's good on acoustic, too: the two acoustic numbers here are pretty and not a little bit boring. 'Hail' is the more speedy one, with Rory displaying his excellent finger-flashing skills and aptly singing in unison with the guitar, but Clarence Snow's 'I'm Moving On' is the more well-known: in fact, any hardcore Rolling Stones fanatic is sure to know it by heart from the band's version on December's Children. However, that one was featured in a garage-rock rearrangement; the version here is much more close to the original (I guess, since I never heard the original), with a primitive country-blues arrangement, yet it works for me. Come to think of it, this record is not really that good - what really brings it down is that the band is really painfully limited in style. They're probably imitating that mark of Cream which Clapton was hoping he'd be able to establish before they released Fresh Cream and started moving into the psycho blues-pop direction instead, namely, the mark of Cream that was supposed to happen but never did happen. The lack of success for Taste certainly shows us that, if not for Bruce's painfully researched fresh songwriting style, Cream would have shared the same fate. And yet, like I said, this album is still much, much better than most other blues-based bands could pull off at the time. For comparison, take Fleetwood Mac's debut album and tell me which one's more enjoyable. At least Taste rocks. Peter Green and company just tried to prove that white boys could play the blues as faithfully as old black dudes - maybe they did, but their motto mostly was 'I can do the same' while Taste's motto seemed to be 'I can do better'. It rests to be proven, of course, but, once again, I'll tell you I'm not bored at all by this record, and just go look at the ratings for all those early Fleetwood Mac records... There's quite a bit of personality, too: these songs all sound like Gallagher is taking them right to his heart, with a deeper passion for blues than just a wish of copying it by the book. For some exquisite personal moments, check out the dirgey middle eight on the introspective 'Born On The Wrong Side Of Time', for instance - proof irresistible that Rory was so much more than just a formulaic blues player. Okay, I give, so he was a formulaic blues player. I still love the sucker.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1970
Overall rating = 11
Rory displays his creativity here - with mixed results, but it mostly works...Best song: IF I DON'T SING I'LL CRY
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.
Well, seems that even such a diehard bluesy band as Taste couldn't really stop at playing generic blues. Damn these British - that's the trouble with them, they never know where to stop! This, the second and last Taste studio album, shows the band moving in several new directions at once. They still pay tribute to the blues, you see, and overall this album is still more 'blues' than 'rock' or anything else, but no longer a 'pure blues' album. On here, Rory adds significant elements of folk, jazz and even psychedelia into the sound and, well, the lyrics, as well as diversifying the instrumentation - for instance, playing saxophone on some of the tracks. Even more amazing, the guy displays hints of a genuine songwriting talent: at least, his inventive take on the blues gotta qualify as one of the most inventive takes on the blues I've ever heard, although in the end Cream's inventive take on the blues is probably just a bit more inventive. But Cream are Cream - rock patriarchs if there ever was one, and Taste? Who knows em? Well I'm sure glad I do.My favourite tune here, and a worthy contender for the greatest, tightest and catchiest song Taste have ever done, is the pretty 'If I Don't Sing I'll Cry', and it starts just like your average heavy blues number - with a non-original, simple distorted riff and some screamin' you already know well if you bought the previous album, but then it suddenly leads you off into the wonderfully harmonized chorus ('If I can't walk I'll fly') that to me seems to echo with psychedelia, not just silly pop. Plus, there's some wonderful, upbeat blasts from Rory's harmonica, and how can I resist a clever harmonica part, especially when it's synchronized with a clever guitar part playing the same notes? Sure, it ain't no masterpiece, and maybe it's the farthest Rory could go in his songwriting, but it ain't bad either. Elsewhere, they go off with imaginative, highly expressive blues that go far beyond your standard blues pattern, like on the opening 'What's Going On', an energetic, riffy rocker; and 'Railway And Gun', while it starts as a fairly quiet, unremarkable ditty, gradually picks up steam until it culminates in one of Rory's most 'wailing' solos, before calming down again towards the end. In general, most of the songs follow the model of 'normal blues number plus an incorporation of some alien element'. Thus, 'Morning Sun' again starts out as a good blues-rock tune, with a chuggin', brilliant riff that somehow seems all too ordinary and yet I cannot really remember whether I heard it before or after, but the chorus is more folky - and the song turns out not to be much bluesy after all. 'Eat My Words', on the other hand, looks like an electrified take on a straightforward folk song: the verses themselves aren't too interesting, but the song is notorious for presenting us with some more excellent examples of Rory's slide work - an unsurpassed slide master, that's who he was. Slide on, Rory! And, while the quiet acoustic ballad 'See Here' cannot be rated as one of Gallagher's best, the raging closing number, 'I'll Remember', surely gotta qualify in the category of his best rockers, with a more or less complex structure (for Taste, at least; sure they were no Yes, but need I really mention that?), some more of that wonderful scat singing and... well, that's about it, actually, it's not that good, but I guess I just can't resist superlatives when I'm in the mood for them. The album's two centerpieces, though, are the two lengthy jams, the first one a bit jazzy, the second one a bit more bluesy. 'It's Happened Before It'll Happen Again' is actually excellent, a near-masterpiece, as much as I'm bored by conventional jazz. It has a good, solid melody, and it gives Rory a chance to flash his multi-instrumentalist techniques: maybe his sax playing isn't as impressive as it should be, but where can you find a white bluesman that's easily capable of switching from guitar to sax in mid-solo? And as for the title track, well, I have mixed feelings towards that one. Most of the time, it bores me, because it's slow as a snail and moody as a dying elephant (I don't know how you're gonna interpret that metaphor, but I find it quite exactly referring to the mood of the song), but sometimes it makes up for good background music. Anyway, it's the only really weak track on the album - fate had it that it should be the title one. What a bore. Come to think of it, I'm not particularly sure if this album really deserves a 10, or maybe it should go to the first album. Sure, that one had the stinky 'Catfish Blues' on it, but 'On The Boards' is even more stinky. On the other hand, Taste was far more energetic and happy - here the band sometimes seems to be losing it. And the overall gloomy, grim feeling of the record sometimes gets on my nerves: all the jazzy improvisations turn out to be quite depressing, particularly on 'It's Happened Before'. Then again, it's blues, after all, so no need to me complaining; moreover, on here Rory is inarguably more diverse and creative. So it's up to you to decide - and anyway, this is all small talk, since you probably won't be able to find any of these albums in stores. There are some decent collections around, though, so if you find one, be sure to lay your hands on it if you're not one of those jerks who says electric blues is a waste of time!
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1971
Overall rating = 9
Rocks as hard as the studio albums, but not too different.Best song: GAMBLIN' BLUES
Track listing: 1) Sugar Mama; 2) Gamblin' Blues; 3) I Feel So Good (part 1); 4) I Feel So Good (part 2); 5) Catfish; 6) Same Old Story.
Taste have had three different live albums out (a bizarre record for a band that's only had two studio albums and lasted for about a couple of years - sure they had a good live reputation, but hey, they ain't no Grateful Dead), and, perversely enough, the one I have is arguably the hardest to find. Therefore, I doubt if anybody will ever find a suitable use for this here review, but at least I'll boast a review that no other record review site will ever have! Tee hee hee! If you find another site that reviews Live Taste, feel free to E-mail me! Tell me my site is no longer special! Trample on me and push me into the dirt! Go on, willya?Oh, I suppose I'm just filling Web space here so as to make this review seem longer than it actually will be. Well, that's no big surprise. This live album only has five songs on it (and one is broken in two parts, as if they couldn't fit it together on one side of the LP, although, if you check the running times, you'll see they were just trying to cover the fact that the album was so shamelessly short). Three of these are taken from the band's debut album, and two are old-time live favourites culled, well, from expertise. Now the big rub lies in the fact that, while Taste were a really cookin' live band, they also managed to get most of that gritty, sloppy live sound on their studio albums (Taste, for instance, has at max one rhythm guitar overdub on a couple of tracks), which kinda renders this live experience superfluous. All the songs are slightly extended, usually with bits and pieces of Rory soloing, but that's no big difference, and if you're not a researcher, you simply won't be able to tell which is the original and which is the live version. Thus, 'Catfish' sucks just like it sucked on the original, and no amount of soloing or screaming can save it; and 'Sugar Mama' rules just like it ruled on the original, so they might even have done away with those impressive wall-of-sound passages Rory gives out from time to time, it would still rule. 'Same Old Story' gets a somewhat more erratic and violent treatment, plus the solos are really desperate, but I'm pretty sure many will prefer the more tight, restrained studio original with the overdubbed rhythm guitar. After all, Taste are not the Who or Cream: their bass player is competent, but not as flashy or steady, and Rory just couldn't take off the ground completely on the fast numbers. Also, he overdoes it a bit with the screaming thing on the lengthy blues numbers - sometimes it seems to me that he's just blabbering away the lyrics as fast as possible to concentrate on the guitar playing. It feels rather irritating - maybe blurting out the lyrics in such a frenzy and without minding the actual articulation is a blues trademark accepted among some of the Delta public, but Rory's similar deliveries don't feel authentic. He should better stick to a careful singing style. Anyway, that leaves us with just two numbers that didn't make it onto Taste or On The Boards (as a matter of fact, none of the Boards tracks made it to here, and I'm a bit puzzled as to why - maybe they wanted to preserve their blues purist image on stage?), which are the ragged slide blues 'Gamblin' Blues', and the speeded-up, turned-rockabilly version of Big Bill Broonzy's 'I Feel So Good'. Together with 'Same Old Story', the latter is the fastest song on the album, and in a certain way reminds me of all those intoxicating show openers by Ten Years After, like 'I May Be Wrong'. Not that Rory got the chops of Alvin Lee, of course: he's not so gimmicky or fast-fingered. Where Alvin was able to get away with fast blues as fun, almost comedy numbers, Gallagher is more heavy-handed and serious, and the results are just not as breathtaking. And, of course, the singing is so-so too; if you want to hear a good white boys' version of this number, be sure to check out the Faces' Long Player with Rod Stewart ripping the tune to shreds. Plus, 'I Feel So Good' is also the polygon for the other band members to display their, er, 'talents', with mercifully short drum and bass solos; competent, but just as good as billions of solos by billions of bands. Beh. So my bet, yeah, my bet is on 'Gamblin' Blues', a superb, stripped-down number that really shows how much of an inborn guitar player Rory Gallagher really was. I've always been of opinion that true guitar talent manifests itself in its full form only on acoustic guitar, or, at least, on undistorted, clear electric guitar, where you can't mask the lack of technique by any weird gimmicks, and this slide fiesta works out just fine, not boring at all. Oh, and while we're on the subject, be sure to check the 'Villanova Junction' part of Hendrix's improvisations on the Live At Woodstock album. Beats many of his distorted chaotic rave-ups to hell. But that's about it. While I do enjoy the album as a whole, what with my crazy Taste fetish and all (pullin' your leg, of course, but in case you haven't noticed, I do have a spot soft for the band somewhere in one of my trusty ventricles), I can't really say it is 'recommended only for diehard blues-rock fans', because, on one side, it is understood, on the other, how can you recommend a record that's about as easy to find as a latest copy of Homer's memoirs to anybody? Just thank me for providing you with an interesting, intriguing and highly humoristic review. Or curse me for boring you with an overlong, annoying and deadly dull review, it's all up to you. Get on wid' ya, woncha?
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1971
Overall rating = 10
A case of the quality of songwriting not mattering nearly as much as the fact of songwriting. If you get what I mean.Best song: I FALL APART
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 You; [BONUS TRACKS:] 11) Gypsy Woman; 12) It Takes Time.
Did anybody make a big point of Rory Gallagher, Irish bluesman-de-force, going solo? Probably not. After all, Taste was Rory, and Rory was Taste, and they didn't have a huge lot of fans even during their heyday. The important thing here is: Rory Gallagher, Irish bluesman-de-force, never made a big point of people not making a big point out of his going solo. "I don't give a damn" is written all over his career, and on this particular album in particular.Rory Gallagher, I suppose, can be called "blues-rock", but I'm a bit reluctant to use the term. These days, every mention of the term "blues-rock" seems to bring to mind visions of a scruffy, unshaved guy with a raspy voice singing 'I woke up this morning, my baby was gone' about as nonchalantly as if said event occurred to him every morning and then proceeding to wank on his Gibson or Fender for seven minutes before telling us said information again so we do not forget to empathize. Then we call the event "cherishing the tradition" and the scruffy guy "saviour of the good old music" and proceed to listen to approximately fifty thousand more guys that sound exactly like him. However, this Irish gentleman ain't just a scruffy guy. During his Taste years, Mr Gallagher had seriously nurtured, bred, and solidified his songwriting skills, and his debut album, while definitely written from inside the safe womb of the blues-rock pattern, doesn't just replay the same tired 4/4 beats over and over again - there's a lot of individuality on here, and a lot of unique appeal. One interesting thing is that Rory never really rips off anybody - not to my knowledge, at least, or if he does, he digs really deep to extract his rip-offs from. Unlike, for instance, Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac circa 1967-68, he builds on the legacy of the great bluesmasters rather than directly pillages it, and as a result - cool, creative, and occasionally complex melodies abound on here! Okay, not all of them are particularly great. You do have to get in the spirit, and some of this stuff warrants relistening, but (re)listening to Rory Gallagher is never a tiring process. You know when you have to relisten to, I dunno, oh, a Grand Funk Railroad album over and over again? Now that's tiring business for you, especially if there's a couple eight-minute "soulful" statements about Jesus, overpopulation, or commie infiltration thrown in the mix. Because the vibes aren't positive there. They pretend to be, but they're thick, bloated, and dumb. This can't be positive. Rory Gallagher is subtle, humble, and clever. You can't really hate this album unless you're a reeeeeeeally mean motherfucker. At least, I hope so. "Individual" is the key word here - this is clearly the work of one creative and artistic unit of a guy, even if he does have a backing band. The songs are all dark and depressing (for the most part), just as expected from a blues-rock record, but they're all dark and depressing in a distinctly "European" kind of way - with ironic light-philosophic lyrics, nearly free of sexual problems, and above all, a lot of hard-rockin' drive that the ancient blues masters wouldn't have appreciated (why? because there was no hard rock in their times. It took me some time to figure it out, though). Not that Rory Gallagher is a particularly hard rocking album - on the contrary, it can sound rather tame compared with Rory's subsequent output, not to mention live renditions of the same tunes - but it certainly boasts a dirty, sloppy (intentionally sloppy, of course) sound to save it from sterility. Of course, what with all the depressing, yet amazingly romantic atmosphere ("romantic" in its initial meaning - concerning loneliness, isolation and artsiness, not "romantic" in the 'Let Me Put My Love Into You' sense, you gotta understand), there is a serious percentage of filler on here, because, for Chrissake, if you want to stay within the roots-rock pattern and yet deliver the goodies endlessly, you'll have to be a John Fogerty, and there's only one in this world. Still, even Mr Fogerty had rarely, or never, penned anything as depressing and heart-gripping as the epic number 'I Fall Apart', a soft, pleading ballad that slowly grows towards a series of magnificent instrumental climaxes that are no Yes when it comes to professionalism, but easily demonstrate that Mr Rory Gallagher is a proud and patented owner of a bleeding heart; how else could you reach such an overemotional state of mind? The guitar symphony at the end is breathtaking in its own minor way, and fully compensates for any uncomfortable situations should they arise with any of the other songs. Among the other highlights we should mention the opening raunchy rocker 'Laundromat', based around a riff that bears an uncanny similarity to Taste's 'Same Old Story' and featuring curious lyrics. (I mean, not often will you encounter a hardcore blues-rocker beginning a song with 'What do you think of that?/I'm sleeping down at the laundromat!'. No, but really). As for the slide masterpiece 'Sinner Boy', as far as I know, it was supposed to be recorded for the next Taste album; the guys were performing the number at the Isle of Wight festival. (In fact, its inclusion into the movie and Rory's frantic slide solos there was what got me into the band in the first place). As is usual with Rory, this here version is slightly inferior to the Taste's live take on it, but it still presents him as one of good old Britain's most entertaining 'sliders'. I'm a big sucker for great slide guitar, especially when the "slide" aspect of it is properly emphasized - and Rory's technique and passion are impeccable. The album weakens a bit towards the end, where Rory has to rely on more electric piano and even brass to hold up the entertainment factor, but on the other hand, it gets more diverse. The seven-minute monster 'Can't Believe It's You' seriously digs into jazz territory, and not just because of the brass section and the closing sax solo - some of the lines played by Rory here are quite jazzy in nature. 'It's You' brings us to the country, which isn't really Rory's prime domain, but it's still interesting to see him try his own independent variation on country themes; the very fact that he's not a professional Nashville goer actually helps him be more convincing. And on 'Hands Up', a fast piece of boogie, he seems to be soloing against the melody, bringing in a curious note of dissonance and for a minute or two almost carrying us into free jazz territory. The funny thing is that the two most "generic" tunes on my CD edition actually happen to be bonus tracks - covers of Muddy Waters' 'Gypsy Queen' and Otis Rush' 'It Takes Time'. They're well performed (especially the second one), but if this kind of material happened to constitute the bulk of the main album, chances are I'd never even think about reviewing it. Unlike Eric Clapton, who had (still has) a knack for taking blues classics and making them his own, Rory had always been more successful with self-penned stuff. When he's doing 'Gypsy Queen', he's doing somebody else's 'Gypsy Queen'; it's good to hear if you're sipping your beer at the bar, but not elsewhere. When he's doing 'I Fall Apart', though, he IS falling apart! In the good sense, that is.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1971
One thing that Mr Gallagher constantly suffered from in the early Seventies was overproductivity - the guy often tossed out two albums per year, and, while this is certainly not surprising from a technical side (after all, it's not the immaculate production values of Dark Side Of The Moon we're talking of: Rory always kept things basic and simple), one might actually wonder about, you know, the usual thing - how much time did he actually spend on finetuning the material?Deuce is just a typical follow-up: same style, same direction, same guitar tones, same bluesy patterns, but fewer interesting ideas and more generic solutions. On a worse day I wouldn't have given this more than two, two-and-a-half stars or so; however, I just love the guy for all of his raw, sincere, hard-workin' attitude, and I'm always ready to add an extra half-star out of generosity and - you said it! - adoration. Yup. Rory's da man! Now I already see the readers preparing to stone me with accusations of subjectivity and gruesome bias, but get this: there ain't a single bad song on the album, just a bunch of boring ones. I mean, when Rory goes singing routine blues like 'Should've Learnt My Lesson', it can't but be a disappointment - after all, wasn't this the guy who displayed signs of true "bluesy creativity" on his first solo record? But would you want to say that the song is a bad one? That the performance sucks? Well, no, I wouldn't do that. Listen to that guy playing. No, not the solos - listen to the way he holds up the rhythm. That quirky little chug-a-chug-a-chug that holds up the song. Ever heard anybody play the blues like that? Hello, originality! In any case, let me specifically mention two excellent numbers that save the album from being "consistently enjoyable to the point of forgettable". The album opener, 'I'm Not Awake Yet', is a sincere, emotionally resonant rocker displaying some of Rory's most stunning and atmospheric acoustic guitarwork - he plays some sort of a "flamenco-influenced blues solo" the likes of which I've rarely, if ever heard before. And in an equally 'disturbing' mode, he rips into 'Crest Of A Wave', which borrows its main riff from 'Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood', but in a non-blatant way - and also has some of Rory's most blazing solos on a record. It's the kind of song that needs to be played out loud, you know, L-O-U-D, at the top of your speakers' power, and I dare all the hair metal fans in the world come up to me and state that bands like Cinderella or Poison are more artistically valid than this outburst of prime blues-rock energy. I don't know why I brought up that subject - I suppose that I haven't mocked hair metal for quite a long time, and I just couldn't stand it any more. Sheez, you don't know how pleasant it is to offend an entire musical genre! Makes you feel glad all over. Dumb as hell, too. Guilty pleasure. Can't resist it. Hair metal sucks! Unlike Rory Gallagher, whose creative, imaginative and genuine approach to blues legacy certainly deserves more appreciation from American radio than it has garnered so far (which is, zero, but I can't really blame American radio: they think that if they have their Muddy Waters, they don't need no stinkin' derivative white boy blues. Problem is, I doubt American radio stations have much Muddy Waters, either. So gimme Rory Gallagher at least!). A couple acoustic ballads, like 'Out Of My Mind' and the countryish 'Don't Know Where I'm Going', obviously make the grade as well. The others don't fare so well, ranging from passable (stuff like 'In Your Town', which begins as a promising romp but then deteriorates into mid-tempo and can overall qualify as a poorboy version of 'Sinner Boy', with sillier lyrics) to sometimes even slightly embarrassing: the romantic 'rocker ballad' 'There's A Light' suffers a lot from Rory's painful attempts at operatic singing. We all know that singing isn't Gallagher's forte: when he screams his lyrics or just blurts out the words in a fast tempo, it's all fine, but when it actually comes to prolongating notes, he just can't stand on key, and boy does that hurt." Overall, though, if you sum up all the highlights and all the decent material, Deuce still stands up as, well, as something deuc-ent. Lovers of 'experimental blues rock' will hardly be disappointed. Unless, of course, you consider Captain Beefheart to be 'experimental blues-rock', in which case I reverentially retire.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1972
The first album that made the name 'Rory Gallagher' at least a wee bit recognizable in the States, but, more important, Rory's first solo live album. As we all know, this Irish gentleman's reputation was primarily based on live shows, and in that respect, Live In Europe doesn't particularly disappoint. It does disappoint, though, in one direction: for some reason or other, Rory wasn't too hot on bringing out his original material to perform onstage, mostly contenting himself with performing old blues and blues-rock covers. Thus, there are only three or so originals on the entire album - the rest is dedicated to Junior Wells, Muddy Waters and the like. Not that I have anything in particular about that: but it would take inhumane force to make me go wow over a cover of a Muddy Waters original if you ain't got the gall of the Rolling Stones or Eric Clapton, and Rory Gallagher, much as I love the guy, just hasn't got that.So I'm a wee bit distressed - this record has its share of cooky spots, but too much of it just plunders along and offers me no valid reason to actually be reviewed on a site that doesn't review just anything. (Surprised? We the Reviewer be highly selective! We like originality, we like high quality! We no like Muddy Waters as interpreted in a secondary kinds of way!) Even turning up the volume doesn't help, because the mix isn't that grand and I can't always hear all the neat little tricks that Rory is pulling out of his sleeve. Too bad. Still, let's all be optimistic. And let's all be honest. When was the last time we've ever heard a strict live blues-rock record of such invigorating quality? I vote for 'almost never'. Clapton's live blues performances are superior, but they're usually mellow - Mr Softness didn't like a lot of distortion, not in his post-Cream days, at least. Rory plays mean and dirty, in a decisive and reckless way: just listen to him rip through 'Laundromat', played faster, louder and angrier than in the studio version, with dazzling desperate solos and all the usual goodies. Great song, great rendition. Same goes for the excellent opening number, Junior Wells' 'Messin' With The Kid'. And just look at the guy tearing out the strings off his banjo on 'Going To My Hometown' in the exact same desperate way. Some will probably say that Rory needed to practice his banjo playing some more, but I think those people would simply miss the boat. One thing that should be noted is that Rory's performances can never be dubbed "academic exercises": I seriously doubt that even desperate musical snobs, with their despisal of 'whitebread blues', would want to condemn Mr Gallagher. Obviously, he puts his soul in these performances, and he tries to capture the essence of blues and blues-rock rather than its form, which is the big difference between Rory and millions of other wannabe 'bluesmen' that have flooded our planet and ultimately earned the poor innocent genre its weak reputation among the 'connoisseurs'. Was that harsh? It was deserved. I'm not naming names, though. I'm much too smart for my own good! [Cut.] Before this turned into an improvised idiotic self-appraisal, I was trying to extol the merits of Live In Europe and explain why it doesn't deserve anything less than three stars on the MP3 scale. Now, I'll be a bad boy and try to explain why this doesn't deserve anything more than three stars. Simply put, there ain't a single reason why pedestrian songs like 'In Your Town' should be receiving a full ten-minute live treatment, when Rory simply can't find enough inspiration to make them sound interesting for two or three minutes. He even runs out of fresh soloing ideas at the end, engaging in meaningless, boring trills that seem to go on forever. The album closer, 'What In The World', is equally boring - generic blues that doesn't really hold up to the show's first blistering half. And the two bonus tracks that were appended to the CD re-issue fail to thrill me as well, although 'Hoodoo Man' does feature Rory's slide talents one more time. Simply put, there's too much filler - filler that will be appreciated by hardcore blues lovers, of course, but it's the kind of filler that would never satisfy me. Come on now, the last thing I would expect of Rory is to metamorphose into a third-rate version of early Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac, and he tries to do that in quite a few spots on here. That said, the record is well worth buying for 'Messin' With The Kid' and 'Laundromat' alone, so don't let me bug you. You decide for yourselves - I'm just sticking 'round not so much for proclaiming my worthless opinion, but rather to make sure albums like these are at least mentioned. You know?
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1973
Frustrating, but sheez, is this guy ever consistent. I tell you, if Rory ever decided to let out ALL of his talent at once, he'd come up with a masterpiece akin to Layla or Disraeli Gears. Instead, he prefers to dilute his talent from album to album. This one has a particularly credible title - except that just about every single Rory Gallagher record could be described as a 'blueprint' for all the others.And yet, the songs are all good: once again, he doesn't diverge from the standard blues pattern much, but he sure diverges enough to make the tracks interesting. The 'non-standard' tracks this time are represented by a) a beautiful ballad, 'Daughter Of The Everglades', with excellent keyboard work from Lou Martin and strangely evocative Celtic-style atmosphere, and b) a funny acoustic interlude, 'Unmilitary Two-Step', which is exactly what it bills itself as. Both are wonderfully refreshing and tasteful, and display Rory as a person who's not afraid to show a wee bit of pretentiousness and a wee bit of concealed humour. And the uprising guitar solo on 'Daughter of the Everglades' gotta rank as one of Rory's most inspired guitar workouts ever captured in the studio. Ah, if only all those wretched power balladeers understood that a ballad must look something like this - not borrowing elements from arena-rockers, but sounding really personal and deeply intimate! This is the perfect sound I've been looking for, and so rarely finding - the closest thing, I guess, is stuff like Clapton's 'Let It Grow', a similar masterpiece of 'powerful intimacy' that sounds huge and bombastic but doesn't use cheap generic power chords to drive its point home. Apart from that, there's not much to say that hasn't been said before - that is, if you're waiting for some INCREDIBLE REVELATION. If not, I could just try to pinch out and pinpoint and pin down the various subtle touches that don't make Blueprint a smooth and dull record with nothing to hang on to, like, say, Free's Highway, but make it thoroughly listenable. 'The Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son', for instance, has curious lyrics (I'd like to know what they deal with myself!) and a compact, super-tight jam, with the guitar complemented by cool organwork and light breezes of sax. The album opener, 'Walk On Hot Coals', tries to become 'Laundromat Vol. 2', with its tale of unhappiness and misery, but doesn't exactly succeed, because it doesn't have a riff as distinct as the one used on 'Laundromat'. Pity, that: a bunch of good riffs could punch up all of those album's ratings seriously. No dice, though. Still fun. Finally, the last song on here is a hidden gem as well - 'If I Had A Reason' is a country ballad, for sure, but what's wrong with country ballads if they're written and performed well? A minimalistic, romantic use of slide guitar in the background, beautiful acoustic guitar/piano interplay and Rory's tender, a wee bit clumsy lyrics make the day here, and isn't that a mandolin I hear in the background or did a gadfly die within my ear? Be a good lad and check it out, now. As usual, I won't be mentioning the filler because, well, filler is filler, and the problem (or the lack of problem) with Gallagher's filler is that it ain't bad: it's just so undistinctive that all I could say is just "well, it's a standard blues-rocker with a good solo" or "well, it's a generic blues shuffle with some nice slide work". Come to think of it, I said pretty much the same about the highlights - and it's reviews of records by artists like these that make you rush out in search of a thesaurus ("hey! how many synonyms are there for the word generic?") - but unless you want me to learn music theory and bug you with graphic notations of chord progressions, you'd better just take my word for it. If I say "standard blues-rocker with a good solo; highlight", then that solo is really good, like, say, overdriven and closely reminding me of some kind of human emotion expressed directly. If the word "highlight" isn't there, well... Make your conclusions yourselves. Overall, though, I'd call Blueprint somewhat of a stagnation point. Apart from the few true highlights, like 'Daughter Of The Everglades' and 'Seventh Son', there's not much to discuss - and the next record, for my money, is far better. Overproductivity sucks.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1973
As close as Rory ever came around to a masterpiece, Tattoo still has its flaws, but each subsequent listen still makes it shine rather than dim. Perhaps the best news is that Rory's backing band has finally managed to gel tightly, transformed into a compact, decisive unit where every player is given his due, particularly the keyboard player Lou Martin, whose presence really notches up the entertainment factor seriously. Thus, even the potential filler is able to develop into a tight, impressive jam session with lots of headbanging potential.Not only that - the songs themselves are among the strongest ever penned by Rory. Lyrically, Tattoo is a very introspective album, filled with melancholy, thought provoking ballads and bitter rockers and only occasionally marred by standard blues cliches. Musically, almost every song has something to say - Rory carefully evades banal passages, throwing out cool riffs and unexpected tempo changes to keep the melodies interesting. Granted, it's not always noticeable at first sight, but a careful listen to each of the songs shows that they are, indeed, superbly crafted. Let's take a short tour again. 'Tattoo'd Lady', beginning with a short ominous 'noisy' section, turns out to be a wonderfully humble and heartbreaking 'fast ballad' with some of Rory's most evocative (aka incomprehensible) lyrics: 'Tattoo'd lady, bearded baby, they're my family, when I was lonely, something told me where I could always be'? What the hell is that? Whatever it is, it's sung beautifully, and if Rory's pleading vocal intonations won't help you achieve purity, maybe the stern organ/piano work and the scorching guitar solos will. I love the song - and I could care less if Rory is just trying to sound like a cross between Muddy Waters and Bob Dylan. He sings it like he means it. One song's not enough, though - and it's immediately followed by one of Rory's most aggressive pieces of music, the tremendous rocker 'Cradle Rock', where, again, the state of ecstasy is reached through a careful guitar/organ interplay. Lou Martin really shines on here, and Rory's slide solos rock heavier than Deep Purple, if that's possible, at least, if we understand "heavy" as "violent". These two numbers are the obvious highlights, but it doesn't objectively get any worse after that - it just gets subtler. '20/20 Vision' is a more standard blues number, in the classic Delta tradition, but adorned with some particularly jazzy piano lines from Mr Martin and hilarious original lyrics ('people talk about her like she was a diamond on the shelf, well I got 20/20 vision I can see that for myself'). 'They Don't Make Them Like You Anymore' throws us some more jazz, and it's hardly a highlight, but it's interesting to see Mr Gallagher tackle some be-bop. 'Livin' Like A Trucker' ain't my favourite either - nice wah-wah work, but the genericness factor is a little overdone. These two songs, mainly, are the reason why the album sags in the middle and lacks that absolute perfection which I've been waiting for so much, but none of them are supposed to be centerpieces, so why complain? The centerpieces come on later. 'Sleep On A Clothes-Line' and 'Who's That Coming', as I've been mentioning above, are those monsters that eventually develop into brilliant jams, perhaps not of a Clapton-Duane Allman quality, but certainly close - after all, there's only one guitarist involved. 'Who's That Coming' is especially impressive; boy, does Mr Martin really annihilate his keyboards on that one! Just imagine, a storm on your piano, a thunderstorm of notes from your slide guitar, and a cool, tight rhythm section hacking it up in the background, and it all flows along as perfectly as the river Nile or something. Now THAT's music. Finally, 'A Million Miles Away' is subtle, gentle and dreamy, just the kind of ballad that's most perfectly suited for Rory's simple, sincere, emotional approach - and watch out for that minimalistic 'clicking' guitar, whose very sound would be only later on picked up by Clapton and Mark Knopfler. But so as not to depress us towards the end, Rory ends the album on a more generic note: 'Admit It' has the most cliched blues-rock lyrics imaginable, but they're compensated with a neat approach to the song's riffage. Cool descending riff in the chorus, great funky bassline. What else do you want? It's all the more amazing to realize that this record was hastily assembled during a short gap in Rory's incessant touring program and, according to all parameters, was a rushed one. I'd be the last man to suppose that Rory worked better under pressure - after all, if you're just a blues-rocker and you're pressed, what would be easier than to record a quick set of covers and ripped-off originals without bothering about originality or creativity or anything? You don't have to invent melodies, so why bother? There's simply no logical explanation to the fact. So instead of inflating my head, let me just tell you that you gotta go out and get a grab on this record while it's still in print. Seventies' blues-rock at its very, very best.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1974
Smart move - release your best live album right after your best studio album. And the reason? Why, because that live album featured so many songs off the studio album! Rory was one of those performers who rarely stuck to the same repertoire, preferring to refresh it as soon as possible - kinda weird, seeing as most Rory Gallagher albums sound the same (sssshucks!), but still, you gotta understand, "sounding the same" is a vague definition, oh Lord, I won't be starting this all over again. In any case, this live album has four live numbers from Tattoo - all of them highlights, one number from Blueprint - a relative highlight, and three obscure blues covers that are slightly less valuable.Not that they're bad, of course, but remember what I said: Rory always sounds more intriguing when he's covering his own material. Here, 'I Wonder Who (Who's Gonna Be Your Sweet Man)' is done decently and can cause a raised eyebrow or two at the occasionally ultra-aggressive tone of Rory's guitar as compared to the generally mild tone of the number; 'Too Much Alcohol' is mainly notable for the lyrics - strange, perhaps, but white bluesmen rarely sung these open odes to booze that are so characteristic of John Lee Hooker and the like, yet Rory is one of the few who really dared; and the acoustic 'As The Crow Flies' is pretty enough, but that's that and this is this. Reverend blues connoisseurs can step in over here and uphold these performances' hidden subtle aspects. Me, I'm just gonna concentrate on the originals. The band rips into the performance, as usual, with an extra-charged rocker, a version of 'Cradle Rock' that certainly annihilates the studio archetype - more distortion! more frenzy! more speed and fury! you know how it goes. By the way, all the songs are predictably extended, for the most part, in order to give Lou Martin more chances of displaying his keyboard skills, but sometimes in order to establish more of those usual rise-and-fall blues rock crescendos that are so widespread. That doesn't worry me one single bit. 'Tattoo'd Lady' is little changed from the studio original: as expected, it misses the introductory noise section, and I'd say the guitar solos are a little less, er, 'concentrated' than necessary, but that's a minor quibble - the song's as great a choice for live performance as possible, with the crowds probably going WILD about the band and Gallagher in particular as he unfurls his "climactic wanking" banner. Heck, I would probably have gone wild, too, and I'm probably the least expressive human being on Earth, right after Napoleon, president Putin and Britney Spears. Hmm? Well, on second thought, maybe not. At times, I do express myself pretty well. I seriously doubt maintaining this musical site has anything to do with that, though. Cicero the Second we're not. Still, at least I'm discussing a good album, and that's consolation enough. And I haven't yet mentioned fabulous renditions of 'Million Miles Away' and 'Who's That Coming', as well as an eleven minute long version of 'Walk On Hot Coals' that's worth every minute of it. Okay, I lied. It's probably worth eight or nine minutes of it, but ooh, those eight or nine minutes... Irish blues-rock at its most basic. How can all those people hate blues rock so much when it's, like, the best music ever written by man? (Apart from Genesis' Calling All Stations, of course, which is apparently the most effectively carried out statement of oicumenic transcendentalism, post-romantic isolationism and synthesizer-propelled post-modernistic subdivision of existentialism - any braindead Ray Wilson fan on Amazon.com will gladly expand that definition for you). And hey! The album cover is a proper simple dark grey one, with the words 'RORY GALLAGHER IRISH TOUR '74' stamped on it in a bootleg kind of way. Thus, Rory can be accused of ripping off the Who's Live At Leeds standard. Oh well. At least he did it before Aerosmith.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1975
Here I am stuck with yet another Rory Gallagher album which I can say very little about. Ah, how I wish I were like one of those fearless dudes at Rolling Stone whose witty tongues can present the best record in the world as unfit for the lowest ears, or take an absolute piece of horsecrap and write a hyper-intelligent dissertation thesis on the subject. Oh well, I guess it's all because there's no dough involved. Anybody wanna offer a nifty sum for a 100,000 page long review of each song on this album? Pity, that. You don't know what you're missing.I guess I'll just have to speak out the few miserable words that I have garnered so far. Against The Grain starts out nice and cool, with one of those trademark frenzied Gallagher rockers that serve as the main charging battery for the entire album, or the entire live show. In that respect, 'Let Me In' is a real Duracell, with some brilliant call-and-answer dialogs between Rory's guitar and vocals and cold, icy solos that seem a little too stern and unsloppy for the likes of Rory, and borrow a wee bit too many Chuck Berry elements, but guess what? I like that! Perhaps I've been waiting all my life to hear Mr Gallagher play like Chuck Berry, and here it comes! And he's got a good goin' Berry-style, not any worse than Keith Richards had in his prime days. However, from then on it's all painfully downhill. Even if the band might have actually spent more times working out on the songs in the studio, it's clearly a step down from Tattoo, mainly because it lacks the rawness, on one hand, and the heartfelt sincere atmosphere, on the other. It ain't slick - the slickness would only arrive a little later - but it's a bit too lifeless anyway. Granted, the fourth song on here is 'Souped Up Ford', a Gallagher live classic that showed up at many of his performances, along with 'Tattoo'd Lady' and a small handful of other "classics" that Rory did save up for his late-period shows, but if you ask me, it's far from approaching the level of his best fast performances. It lacks a distinct riff and sounds kinda messy: loud and fast, but unconcentrated and aimless, just a piece of boogie used as an occasion to jam. Great jamming, for sure, but 'Cradle Rock' had all that jamming plus a bunch of powerful riffs and a far more interesting way of guitar/keyboards interplay. This is just an inferior sequel. As is almost everything else. 'Cross Me Off Your List' seems like a sequel to 'They Don't Make Them Like You Anymore', with the same jazzy atmosphere, but this time Rory only seems half-inspired, and we really had it all before. 'Lost At Sea' is the same type of powerful, wall-of-sound-style ballad as 'Million Miles Away', but Rory sounds detached, the organ can hardly be heard, the guitar work is often sleepy, and the lyrics are almost non-existent. The cover of Bo Carter's 'All Around Man' should have been left for live performances - it's the same tradition-honouring bluesy filler that clutters Live In Europe and Irish Tour: nice, but ultimately sleep-inducing. However, the corniest thing of all is that Rory actually covers a country-blues cowboy tune, Ledbetter's 'Out On The Western Plain'. Somebody will probably find comfort in Rory croaking out 'come a cow-cow yickie, come a cow-cow yickie, yippie-yippie-yey', but I used to think music like that was reserved for country-western movies by the time. Wasn't it? Actually, it's a bad sign that there are so many covers on the album - at his best, Rory supplied all of the material himself, but the three covers on this album show that he might have been at the end of the rope. Fortunately, a small bunch of original, slightly more fresh tunes still saves the record: apart from the above-mentioned 'Let Me In', that'd be the humble acoustic ballad 'Ain't Too Good' (a very simple, but beautiful, chord progression, and the tune is about the only really intimate and moving revelative piece you can meet on jere), the menacing, yet hilarious 'hear me nooooooow, hear me riiiiiiiiight' grumbles on the otherwise forgettable 'Bought And Sold', the bouncy riff-filled stomp of 'I Take What I Want' (another cover, but at least it's excellently arranged), reminiscent of the Allman Brothers' approach, and the folkish ballad 'At The Bottom' that closes the album. On the general side of things, this is definitely a throwaway, but since we're dealing with Rory Gallagher, it's not always that clear to see what is a throwaway and what isn't. In conclusion, one might just say, 'Another day, another Gallagher album. If you like Rory, you'll buy the crap out of him. If you hate Rory, you probably never heard him. If you don't feel anything about Rory, you must have trusted these reviews a bit too much to go out and buy something by a blues-rock artist when your tastes probably run to Yes or the Flaming Lips. Don't trust anonymous blues-rock reviewing strangers!'
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1976
Hey there, presto change-o! Apparently, somebody told Rory Gallagher that his was a talent way too huge to be spent on remaking the same record over and over again, so in a desperate attempt to push forward his musical boundaries, Rory literally goes out of himself and does something... something different. Not that it's a radical departure or anything: it's all still strictly taking place within the flaming circle of blues-rock. But this time, the record is notably diverse and in spots, notably more hard-rockin': the opener, 'Do You Read Me', kicks in with a set of crunchy riffs that wouldn't at all have pleased blues-rock purists, and Rory's singing at the top of his lungs, developing a "seasoned roar" that was so sorely lacking in some of his earlier work.Not only that, but Calling Card is really a gas to listen to all the way through. There truly ain't a single piece of filler on here: all of the songs were clearly written with serious and significant purposes, and each of them deserves a little spot in one of the innumerable corners of this reviewer's heart. (Which raises the questions - how many corners are there in a heart? Oh, okay, it all depends on what you'd call "corner", I guess). Again, it's all the more amazing the way he produced all those excellent numbers when the Rory Gallagher band was obviously in a state of constant turmoil at the time - but as in the case of Tattoo, the most obvious solution is that Rory actually worked better under pressure. Oh, and as far as comparisons with Tattoo go, the latter still wins as Rory's best album due to its more 'band-like' approach (excellent jamming and all), but Calling Card is unquestionably second best. Perhaps the finest on here are the ballads - 'Moonchild', 'I'll Admit You're Gone' and particularly 'Edged In Blue' are all among the most convincing and tear-jerking "epics" Rory ever penned. 'Moonchild' is powerful and moody, with a simple driving riff and complex little jazzy chord changes in the vocal melody; as in some previous cases, like with 'Daughter Of The Everglades', I actually like it when Rory is trying to be 'artsy', because he doesn't overdo the trick and his rough, sincere voice is perfectly suited for that kind of material. 'I'll Admit You're Gone' is one of his most pretty acoustic pieces, more Irish folk than the blues. But, of course, the piece de resistance is 'Edged In Blue', which starts as 'homebrewed Santana' and goes on to become an overdriven emotional plead for help. Subtler than 'Tattoo'd Lady', it has earned a deserved reputation of one of Rory's classiest ballads... and while the 'broken' drum pattern of the song really throws me in a state of confusion from time to time, I think I can get over it. Heck, I can get over anything if I try. Unless that 'anything' happens to be Grand Funk Railroad, which is one of those rare cases when sanity fails me, but hopefully I'll be the first and last person to ever mention Mark Farner in one sentence with Rory Gallagher. But don't think Calling Card is a trump card for all 'em sissies. 'Do You Read Me' rocks mightily, and so does the rip-roaring 'Country Mile', one of Rory's fastest rave-ups. Cool bluesy lyrics too. Speaking of lyrics, the fact that 'Secret Agent' is about Rory threatening a secret agent that's been following him on orders from his baby doesn't bother me in the least because the song has another fine riff and another top-of-the-pops vocal delivery. But in case you wanna relax, you can choose the soothing jazz-pop of the title track or the hilarious 'Barley And Grape Rag', perhaps the only track where Rory hearkens back to the "acoustic blues schtick" of his earlier records, but hey, it's rag, not blues. It's nothing particularly special - in fact, it does sound slightly amateurish - but I love it all the same. Perhaps three or four tracks of this quality would mar the album, but one of them only decorates it. The only slight misfire seems to be 'Jack-Knife Beat', the seven-minute long funky jam that seems rather feeble and thin, without the grumbling power that made the jams on Tattoo so enduring. Apart from the driving lyrics ('we got a jackknife beat, sounds like an ice cream truck rolling down a back street' - how's that to ya?), there's hardly anything there to merit such a length; after all, Rory's backing band wasn't skilled enough to play good slow funk. That's not to say the song is bad - it adds to the diversity of the album, and it's hardly offensive in any way. Throw in a couple of classy rockers as bonus tracks ('Rue The Day' and 'Public Enemy', both of which kick your ass from here over to the land of Mordavia), and all I can say is this: if you don't find any good things to say about the album, you're either a senseless, emotionless beast only fit for assimilating the Soft Machine's mid-Seventies records, or you're lying through yer teeth, you pathetic frig!
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1978
Not an ideal turn of career for Rory. This is hardly a bad album, but it certainly leaves behind a hell of a luggage - Rory sacrifices much of his idiosyncrasy in order to work out a somewhat more 'modernistic', crowd-pleasing, bombastic arena-rock sound. Changes are welcome, of course, but only when they work towards an artist's benefit; and I really don't think Rory benefited all that much from dropping the acoustic guitar and coasting on distortion and fuzz. To make matters worse, this is the album where Rory loses the talents of Lou Martin - and without Lou's keyboards, the sound often comes around as thin and feeble. It could be that Rory wanted to return to the simple 'power trio' approach of Taste, but in that case, why bring in that generic arena-rock scent?Lots of grumbly, grinding, screeching heavy rockers on here - not even close to heavy metal, but not all that distant from Grand Funk Railroad, either. Basically, most of the tracks fall in two categories: ass-kicking fast/mid-tempo rockers to headbang to and slower, bluesier, more introspective rockers to reflect on. In other words, arena-rock at its most blatant: you spend half of the time reelin' and rockin' and the other half of your time shedding tears. And as far as arena-rock is concerned, Photo Finish isn't half bad, but truth is, I've yet to hear an arena-rock album to approach 'classic' status, and this certainly isn't the most obvious candidate for that vacancy. That said, there still are certain highlights on here. You could hardly find a better arena-rock album opener than 'Shin Kicker', with its minimalistic vocal melody and dazzling guitar tone. Had this track been conceived by someone like AC/DC, it would certainly be acclaimed as a classic; it happened to be conceived by Rory Gallagher, and it remains unknown to most. Let me introduce it to you, then! Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome 'Shin Kicker'! Easily one of the best arena rockers to come out of the Old World at the tail end of the Seventies! Bang your head in ecstasy! 'Cruise On Out' is hardly bad either - it's not all that often that you hear Rory be a-playin' at the highest speed, and although the tune itself is nothing more than an update of the classic Fifties' boogie style, Rory gives it his usual rawness and sincerity and comes out with a head-spinnin' prize-winnin' piece of rock'n'roll. I'm also rather partial to 'Shadow Play'; for some reason, it reminds me of Dire Straits, with its chuggin' beat and ragged, muffled vocals. If you axe me, a couple chord changes seem to be taken directly from 'Sultans Of Swing'! Which is all the more amazing since both Dire Straits and Photo Finish were being recorded at more or less the same time - but Knopfler's debut did come out a little earlier, so Rory might have been listening to it. What old bluesman wasn't listening to Dire Straits' debut anyway? In any case, 'Shadow Play' rocks out a bit more than Dire Straits, so it's a minor classic in its own rights. The rest of the 'ass-kickin' rockers' never seemed that interesting to me - I'm probably missing on something, but I don't think I'm missing on much. Nice bluesy rockers, solid while they're on, forgettable when they're gone, the usual story. I just can't find any interesting riffs or unique moods inside - just your standard pro forma rocking, nothing more. No pretentious jams. No weird guitar tones. No tasty slide licks. No intriguing lyrics. Bare-bones, dull arrangements - oh, sure, he overdubs a lot, but whoever says that an arrangement with two or three overdubbed guitars is necessarily better than an arrangement with just one guitar is making a very debatable point; for instance, in the past Rory had done much better when it was just him and the six-string and nothing else. Now if it were a great tasteful piano pattern, that'd be different, but the trusty old piano player is no longer at hand... In fact, I would have probably given this album an even lower rating, if not for the couple "introspective" tracks that gotta rank among Rory's best. 'Overnight Bag' is simplistic, but soulful and melancholic; and 'Fuel To The Fire' is just a dang classic! Despite its being recently slagged by the guys at Pitchforkmedia for featuring one of the worst solos in history (what do these guys know, anyway? I hate that snub-nosed "if it charted, it ain't worth shit" attitude!), the arrangement, for once, is great, and the confessional lyrics almost sound out of place on this otherwise generic and formulaic record. As for Gallagher's guitar playing on here, it actually reminds me of Robin Trower rather than of Clapton - the riffs are full of those "deep throttle" effects and fuzz that make the guitar sound like a volcano eruption, and the actual solo in question is short, economic and heartfelt. Whatever. Ah well, but then again, who'd wanna blame Rory for releasing a half-hearted, half-heated album like that? It's his seventh studio album in seven years - an amazing feat for somebody who's never willing to seriously experiment with his sound, and yet manages to regularly release albums... er, albums that don't suck. We should all be tolerant, I guess. Give Photo Finish a try if you find it for cheap. It's always nice to have some sincere traditionalist blues-rock coming out of an era where punk and New Wave hold all the spots, even if that traditionalist blues-rock is drenched in some nasty-smelling arena-rock sauce. Lick off the sauce and bite into the sweet substance!
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Year Of Release: 1979
An improvement over Photo Finish, but not a major one. When pressed to choose between the two, I'd probably take Top Priority if I had to listen to one album in its entirety, but as far as individual tracks go, 'Fuel To The Fire' and 'Shin Kicker' are, I guess, somewhat more effective for hit packages than most of the material on here. But, whatever. Again, we witness Rory Gallagher at his ass-kickingest, and what's even more interesting, the guy has completely laid off balladeering for a while: there are still some slow rockers, but not a single of these tunes is supposed to caress your soul or squeeze out the last of your tears. It's kick ass time, baby, total kick ass time. Ram that guitar in its place. That's 'top priority' for now.The good news is, there's a little bit more creativity sprinkled over the record in general. Yeah, well, 'Follow Me' is no 'Shin Kicker', but it still rips open with a somewhat similar dirty riff - but that's a minor key out there, and we're in for a "soulful" ride, as Rory offers us to follow him to the stars and the sky and wherever he's bound in general, even if it's an Irish potato farm, I guess. It's a little bit dumb-sounding but works okay as an opener. 'Philby' is far more hard-hitting, another one of his totally unmemorable arena-rockers that TOTALLY works when it's on but dissipates from memory like a mirage when it's over. (The yeah yeah yeah part is the only thing that remains, and that's a bad sign if we're speaking arena rock). But it's just Rory bleeding his heart out, if I might be permitted to say so, and that's touching. Nobody can bleed his heart out so effectively. 'Wayward Child' is totally dismissable (worked better on stage, though), but I really really love 'Keychain' - seems like he's again picking up on weird guitar tones, with a leaden Seventies-metallic riff tone this time, strange ear-piercing sound effect that seems like a cross between phasing and distortion, too. A very Hendrixey tune, in fact, even the vocal melody is in a style I could perfectly envisage Jimi in. But the best tune on the album is still 'Bad Penny', like a 'Philby' with the addition of a supercool arena-rock double-tracked guitar riff that IS that one little drop of creativity needed to turn a 'good' tune into a 'really solid' one. However, the second side isn't something I'd really like to discuss - most of the songs there sound like Rory took some of his previous numbers, kicked 'em in the butt, and moulded them into a slightly different shape. Yeah, so those super-speedy rockers like 'Just Hit Town' aren't bad. He does some pretty punkish guitar work there at times. Rolls along like lightning. But it's just good old hard rock. Generic old hard rock. Look now, if it weren't Rory singing this song, if it were, I dunno, Kiss, or Grand Funk, I wouldn't have paid it even the minimum attention. I just love this here guy because he makes it all come along thoroughly friendly and unpretentious. Heck, you read all that critique of Gallagher above? Forget it, Rory never made a bad tune. ALL of his songs rule. It's just that it would be kinda uninteresting to just leave it at that, besides, it hardly explains why I so rarely listen to these records, heh heh. Oh wait, I actually really like (as in, really seriously like) the final track, 'The Watcher'. It's just that after an entire album of heartfelt, but melodically generic hard rock, this song comes off as something really weird. Another strange guitar tone, not really hard-rocking this time, weirdly encoded vocals, and actually a solid bunch of fast-played riffs at that. There's a small whiff of that 'complaintive mystique' that was so permanent on Rory's early classic albums here, an air of sadness and troubled melancholia that's not overshadowed by volume and distortion. The guitar solos aren't so hot, unfortunately (for some reason, this style somewhat reminds me of Rainbow! Can you believe it?), but the song is cool. Apart from that, though, nothing else to say. I'm pretty sure many of Rory's older fans were disappointed - this proved that Photo Finish wasn't an accident and that Rory was really serious about becoming an arena-rock hero, kicking butt all day and dismissing all the subtlety and the slide guitar and the good old blues days of old. The live album that followed left no doubts.
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Year Of Release: 1980
This is a kick-ass record, but it leaves something to be desired. I just don't get as much thrill from this late-Seventies stage personality of Rory's as from the classic one, and Stage Struck is a very blatant and defiant change of face. Drawing mainly upon material from his last two records (Photo Finish and Top Priority), Rory doesn't perform even a single blues or country number; instead, it's just one fast rocker after another, as minimalistic and stripped down as possible, and this really gets tedious after a while. I don't think this was a nod to punk or anything, as roots-rockers of the Gallagher type couldn't care less about the punk revolution, I guess, but this could be a certain nod to arena-rock, which Rory was now fully engulfed by. There's not even a piano player in the line-up, sweet Jesus! Come to think of it, it actually seems that there's no one but a bass/drums rhythm section backing the man, now that we're on the subject.Anyway, the good news is that every song taken on its own kicks a huge amount of booty. One thing that's happened is that Rory has developed a fantastically fluent technique, speedy, emotional, and making good use of simple flashy note sequences - this may be far from "blues elitism" but it certainly sets my non-elitist heart on fire when I hear that stuff, and unless you're so fed up with guitar playing that the only kind of it you appreciate can be found on Adrian Belew's The Guitar As Orchestra album, it will inflame your heart, too. The songs predictably sound livelier than in their studio versions - of course, the production is muddier than on Rory's usually clean-polished studio records, but the man is all but jumping out of his own skin trying to rid himself of all those kilowatts. The album kicks off with 'Shin Kicker' - obvious choice, even if it's usually a sign of bad taste if you start your live record with the first song off your previous studio record - and the main thing is never turn down the volume, because if Stage Struck doesn't struck you throughout 'upon a single breath', you'll lose interest pretty soon. 'Wayward Child' and 'Brute Force And Ignorance' continue the same line, with powerhouse hard rock riffage and mastodontic solos that are pretty much interchangeable but that's Rory for you. I actually think the album itself should have been called Brute Force... would be very telling, wouldn't it? Don't know about ignorance, though. Rory looks like the smart type to me. Even 'Moonchild', which was pretty moderate on Calling Card, receives extra distortion and - if I'm not mistaken - that's some sort of a weird wah-wah pedal Rory is employing there. And if the original solo was restrained and moderate, here he plays with all the intention of burning the house down. Really, forget my complaints, this album needs to be heard - a phenomenal guitarist at the top of his game. I do realize this sonic assault is pretty blunt and everything, but I'm a sucker for guitar wanking if it radiates energy and dedication, and this here version of 'Moonchild' has all that in spades. No bull! Out of the other songs, I just have to mention 'The Last Of The Independents' off Photo Finish, which never really struck me that hard in the original version, but here Rory plays it at least twice as fast and at least twice as heavy, kicking up even more steam than before. So, one more stupid rhetoric question: how come AC/DC have made the big time so successfully, yet no one has heard of this record? Is it simply because AC/DC appeal to the lowest common denominator and Gallagher is oriented on a slightly more cultured layer of the audience? Repent, all you pseudo-Satanists! Anyway, despite the main flaws that I have discussed, I would just feel ashamed to award this album with a low rating - yeah, I know Rory is probably pandering to the arena-rock-happy beercan-clenching audiences, but what the heck, if this is a sellout of sorts, I sorta wish there were more sellouts like that. It's just that I don't feel like listening to this stuff every time of day - it has too much calory-burning potential to enjoy it fully whenever you wish. But then again, I guess the same could be said about, uh, Live At Leeds for instance. Put it this way: Stage Struck is probably the best documental proof that a refined blues player, despised by snubby indie-rock-conscience-bred elitists, actually can let his hair down and rock down the house with so much energy and conviction as it would really be hard for your average indie rock kid to handle. 'Nuff said.
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Year Of Release: 1982
I think Jinx certainly indicated that Rory needed a break - which he did take immediately afterwards, releasing nothing for about half a decade. It's not a bad album (dang, for my money Rory never really made a bad album, what with his conservative and rigorous style), but it just kinda lacks the spark, if you know what I mean. It's somewhat of a cross between his early Seventies and late Seventies period; overall, more mellow and less ass-kicking than the last few albums (and also a kind of a relief for fans who weren't happy seeing Rory metamorphose into the big-metal-riff tear-it-down arena-rock prince), but certainly not an exact return to the acoustic-and-slide-drenched sound of Tattoo and its whereabouts. And by avoiding the extremes, it manages to come off kinda faceless, like a pale shadow of what has been done before.Not that there aren't any prime numbers here. No Gallagher fan can live without adding 'Jinxed' to his collection; this painful, emotionally acute blues ballad should certainly be counted in at the very top. The thick ethnic percussion layers were a wonderful idea, as they serve to make the overall mood even more somber, but of course, it's the splendid guitar work and the vocals that do the trick. I mean, sometimes... well, I don't know how it happens, but sometimes you get this hundred percent sincere groove going on when everything seems to work and you don't really know why. There's a goddamn thin line between filler and revelation, you know, but the way Rory intones 'I don't care what anybody thinks - this must be some kind of jinx!' is certainly revelation. Now that I think of it, I really can't think of any blues-rock hero that would do those 'power ballads' as convincingly as Rory. Clapton's approach is totally different - usually much subtler and with loads more (occasionally grating) sentimentality; the Allman Brothers were good, but way too 'impersonal' as far as their songwriting went; and Ten Years After really did that stuff very, very rarely. Rory is da man when it comes to expressing his feelings in aggressive ballad form. That's why 'Easy Come Easy Go' is another excellent song on the album, even if it suffers from exaggerated sentimentality in the verses. There are some top quality rockers as well. 'Double Vision' has the advantage of building upon a classy CCR-like riff, which pulls it out of the mediocrity range. The hilarious 'Devil Made Me Do It' is catchy as hell (although if I'm not mistaken, it's not a Rory original). And then there's 'Loose Talk' which closes the album and is the album's only "experimental" number. Maybe I'm mad, but I thought I heard a sitar out there in the background in the first verse... could it really be so or was that a weirdly processed acoustic sound? And then, while the song begins as a straightforward blues-rocker, it occasionally switches into hot funky mode. Plus, the guitar solos are scorching. But really, what I'm doing here is trying to put in a good word for a somewhat mediocre and inconsistent record just because Rory was such a nice guy. There's not a single rocker on the record that I don't mildly enjoy while it's on, but then again, Jinx came on the heels of the totally devastating Stage Struck, Rory at his hard rock peak, want it or not, and the overall tone on all of these rockers is milder and more restrained. The album opener, 'Big Guns', might come close to the fury and anger of Stage Struck, but it certainly doesn't top it. The solos are mixed in way too quiet, the guitar tone in the riff is nowhere near as jagged and "rebellious" as before, and, well, by all means it's merely a compromise. And the same goes for almost everything else on here. Besides, the riffs themselves, apart from 'Double Vision', don't go any place special. And the tempos are slower, too. Mid-tempo almost all the way, which really doesn't put the melodies above KISS level - of course, I'll take Rory's worst song over KISS' best any time of day because of the attitude, but see, Jinx does very little to eliminate the rumour of Rory not being a good songwriter at all. I mean, what, 'Hellcat'? THIS is a good song? What would be distinguishable about it? The basic three-chord riff? Oh well. I guess this must have been some kind of jinx anyway. And besides, your style may be good, but if you're really conservative about the very soul of your melody-writing and your arrangements, how many blues-rock albums can you record before you start mercilessly running out of even minor ideas? Like I said - it was only too well that Rory took a long break after the album.
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