The other day, Live At Montreux, a posthumous album from Rory Gallagher, popped up as a suggestion in my Apple Music. As I started listening, the live compilation record reminded me what a terrific performer this Irish blues rock guitarist was. While he is highly regarded among many guitarists, Gallagher never achieved the stardom of the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton, to name a few, in part since he rejected showmanship and a flashy lifestyle. He also didn’t believe in publishing singles, which could have helped him get more radio play.
Sadly, I know very little about Gallagher’s music myself. Since I had recalled reading that he much preferred playing live over recording in the studio, I decided to start my exploration of his music with Irish Tour ’74. Released in July 1974, this record is the sixth in Gallagher’s solo catalog, and it’s a true gem!
The album captures live recordings from an Irish tour in January 1974. Notably, this tour included performances in Dublin and Ulster, Northern Ireland, where few artists dared to perform at the time, fearing terror attacks from the IRA. In fact, the day before his scheduled gig in Belfast, there were multiple bomb explosions throughout the city. But Gallagher refused to cancel the show. ” I don’t see any reason for not playing Belfast,” he told a local reporter at the time. “Kids still live here. They can get tired of records.”
Initially appearing as a double LP, the album opens with Cradle Rock, a Gallagher composition. Like various other songs on the record, the tune is from his previous studio album Tattoo, released in November 1973.
Tattoo’d Lady is another great blues rocker from the Tattoo album. According to Wikipedia, it “reflects Gallagher’s love for the fairground life and its similarities to life on the road.”
As The Crow Flies showcases Gallagher’s skills on acoustic guitar. The blues tune was written by American singer-songwriter and guitarist Tony Joe White and originally appeared on his 1972 studio album The Train I’m On.
Yet another tune from the Tattoo album is A Million Miles Away, one of my favorite Gallagher tunes I know.
The last track I’d like to call out from this excellent record is Walk On Hot Coals. Written by Gallagher, the song first appeared on his fourth album Blueprint, which came out in February 1973.
On Irish Tour ’74, Gallagher was backed by Gerry McAvoy (bass), Lou Martin (keyboards) and Rod de’Ath (drums). The same musicians had worked with him on the Tattoo and Blueprint albums. They would also be on Gallagher’s next two studio records Against The Grain (1975) and Calling Card (1976).
Citing Marcus Connaughton’s biography Rory Gallagher: His Life and Times (Collins Press 2012), Wikipedia quotes Martin: “The studio was not the best environment for recording… With Rory, if he didn’t have somebody to look at then he couldn’t feed off the energy. That’s why Irish Tour is such a good bloody album because it was recorded live, he got the crowd there with him singing along and sort of like urging him along… without the presence of an audience the recording process for Rory was a bit of a strain.”
Sources: Wikipedia; rorygallagher.com; YouTube