Thursday, January 17, 2013

Album Review: "Irish Tour '74" by Rory Gallagher

I like to pride myself on knowing a lot about music, and particularly of the great guitarists. In the past few months, I've learned that there's still a lot out there that I am not familiar with.

About a month and a half ago, I was told t hat I should get this album. I had never heard of Rory Gallagher and couldn't figure out why a tour of Ireland would be all that significant, but I put it on the Amazon wishlist and there is languished for awhile.

During the Holiday Amazon Giftcard Blowout, I picked it up. I should also mention that purchasing this CD is a violation of personal policy. I will not buy a live album as my introduction to an artist. It's always ended badly in the past.

I still had heard nothing else of the man, but I thought, I listened to half of a track and wasn't too impressed so I should get this. Right? After ordering it, I was told by a number of people that I was nuts for thinking that this album might not be amazing.

Photo by Neal Grillot
I popped in the CD and the first thing I heard was a man with a very thick Irish accent introducing Rory Gallagher. After that, it was on like Donkey Kong.

Rory ripped into his guitar and this concert was off and moving. I stared cursing at the CD player in amazement. That really is the highest compliment I can give a guitarist when I first hear them.

I'm not going to give a rundown of the tracks, because honestly I don't really know their names and I cannot tell you really when one ends and another begins. For lack of a better term, Rory's a  noodler. On each track he works his way up and down the fretboard with ease and rocks these songs out. In full disclosure, I don't know how long the studio versions of these songs are, so please don't send me hatemail about how he's playing them true to the original records. This is all I've heard, so I'm commenting on what I've got, not everything that's out there. I loved the noodling. This is what I love about live albums by strong guitarists. In the studio, they have to tuck it back a bit more, but they can let loose live and he did.

On damned near every song.

The first couple songs are straight blues and then it moves into blues inspired rock. I'm not sure if I preferred one to the other, but I just really have been enjoying the ride. This is clearly a solo artist with a backing band. That much is rather apparent. His playing, singing, and harmonica are always the main focus of the song, but he also lets the keyboard player do more than just fill in space. There are several solos with the keyboard set to both organ and piano. In the organ style songs, it reminds me of what could have happened if The Doors and Jimi Hendrix had birthed an Irish music only.

As can be seen in the photo, Rory played a beaten down Stratocaster. During this concert I could hear him knocking paint off of the body. When he would execute a series of hammer ons and pull offs, I could feel the neck bending beneath him and I was thankful that I wasn't receiving the blunt force trauma of those blows, but there were times when his touch was gentle and moving. His picking was somewhat unique and like Hendrix he often times picked very close to the bridge in order to obtain different sounds. There was also an array of effects, that I still cannot place, which created a very unique tone and color palette. All in all, his playing and mastery of the instrument were amazing.

Like Hendrix, Rory Gallagher has magic in him. So few players, nay people, have that kind of specialness flowing through them. With each note he played, I could feel his power, emotion, and presence and I was always wanting for more. Even though  he tragically died early, at least he left a fairly large catalog behind. If you're new to this artist, "Irish Tour '74" is a great place to start.

Genre: Blues Rock
Year: 1974
Run time: 69:27


1) Cradle Rock
2) I Wonder Who
3) Tattoo'd Lady
4) Too Much Alcohol
5) As The Crow Flies
6) A Million Miles Away
7) Walk On Hot Coals
8) Who's That Coming?
9) Back on My Stompin' Ground (After Hours)
10) Maritime


  1. one of my all time favourite albums....I miss this guy a lot

  2. I hope you enjoyed the post. Thanks!

  3. Rory is my favorite. I have seen all the greats except Hendrix. The effects you are unable to place are Rory manipulating the knobs to create Wah-wah and other effects that most use a peddle to accomplish. I saw Rory three times, once front row center in a small gym. He blew the house down and the band he opened for never took the stage (kansas). He went on his noodling thing and I dont believe that Rory ever played a song the same way twice. He is my favorite, as I dont believe there is anyone that is the greatest, we just all have our favorites and Rory is mine. Go to Roryon, you can find it online. Youtube has hundreds of Rory's tunes. Check out the show he did in Madrid around 1976. I am glad you found him, late but better than never. Rory will change your mind about great guitar work.

  4. Thank you! I was listening to the cd in the car on the commute this morning and I was listening closely to a song, again, I have no idea what it was called, but I heard a swirl reminiscent of univibe or chorusing, but it wasn't a chorusing effect.

    Ahh...There are people who come into the world that are kissed by magic, and Rory's one of them. It looks like I'll be diving a bit deeper into his catalog. Oh well. :)

  5. As a Rory devotee' I would sggest the albums "Blueprint," "Tattoo'ed Lady," "Against the Grain," "Calling Card," "Top Priority" and the newest one "Wheels Within Wheels." The earlier albums have a nice mix of his hard driving blues rock along with some fine acoustic work. The Wheels albums is a compendium of some never released tracks and some fine acoustic and mando work. All of the above can be found song by song or many have the whole album posted to youtube. There are many interviews with Rory on youtube as well, he was a very humble man. On stage he was Mr Hyde, off stage he was Dr. Jeckyl. The concert I saw where I was front row, was at a private college in southwest Indiana. They had never heard of Rory, they were all there to see Kansas. Kansas had opened for Rory on a previous tour and I think Rory filled a need for Kansas as an opening act to return a favor. Eight of us showed up a little bit lubed up on beer and entered the gym and took up our place in the front row and we leaned our backs against the stage to watch the frat boys and their high school girlfriends enter the hall. When the lights went down we all started to sledgehammer the stage and chant Rory, Rory! Rory came out took the stage and realized he had some devoted fans in the front row. He ripped into "I Take What I Want" and the crowd went wild. He was to play a one hour set but went on his noodeling thing and improved the show into one and half hours. We would not be quiet, we all wanted an encore. Rory and the band emerged for an encore, rory was carrying a heinekin and he took a pull on the bottle and set it down on the stage next to his mike stand about two feet from my right hand. He turned and lit the place up with Bullfrog Blues, duck walking to the far side of the stage. As I watched him duck walk away I reached out and took the heinekin. I took a big drink and passed it down the line to the other 7 guys that came with us. When Rory turned around, he saw his heiny being passed along the front row and he came over and started playing just for me. We were head bobbing to Bullfrog Blues and I was in heavan as Rory's sweat rained on us as he shook and bobbed his head. We were delighted beyond all description. That closed the show and Kansas, knowing they couldnt follow that, claimed to have technical difficulties and didnt play. We found that out a week later as we left right after Rory and the band played. Rory's band was so tight, they were used to Rory's improvisation and noodling. They would stay right with him and with a wink or a cue from Rory they would all come back to center and conclude a tune. I believe Rory was the greatest, but greatest is subjective, so once again let me say he was my favorite. I will eventually get to Cork, Ireland for the Rory festival. I will visit his grave, Crowleys music store where he bought his strat, check out the statue that sets at Rory Gallagher Corner and have a pint at the pub where Rory had a few pints himself.

  6. Again, I thank you. That's such a wonderful story. Sadly, I have nothing similar I can offer in kind.

    I really cannot get past that story. It makes me a little sad as to what's happened to music over the years. I cannot imagine my High School hosting a concert...even though I'm sure they probably did at some point.

    Oh well. C'est la vie.

    I hope you keep checking back with blog! I'll do my best to entertain.