Tuesday, August 11, 2009

My favorite Rory Gallagher album

As reader Freg pointed out in a comment on my last post, his favorite blues-rock guitarist is Rory Gallagher. And that's a point that even I, a professional arguer, can't argue with. When you think of the "great" English blues-rock guitarists of the sixties and early seventies, the forefathers of the British blues-rock guitar genre, there's certainly some heavyweight contenders.

Big names like Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page tend to dominate the discussions, but get among musicians who favor this type of music and you'll hear other names like Peter Green, Mick Taylor, David Gilmour and Brian Jones.

And the name of Rory Gallagher.
Rory, an Irishman, first hit the radar screen with his sixties band Taste. A few years thereafter, he started his own band. Thet incarnation which is my favorite was the 1973 to 1978 version, featuring Rod D'ath on drums, Gerry McAvoy on bass and Lou Martin on keyboards. This amazing band is the one that plays on Irish Tour '74.
Rory is right up there with Clapton, Page and Mick Taylor as far as those guitarists that I personally find to be interesting and innovative. Those artists, for various reasons, touch my musical soul and sooth the savage beast within that only music can do.

But if I had to pick one person to be able to emulate their guitar style, it would have to be Rory. From the solid blues rhythms and leads of songs like my favorite Rory tune "Used to Be" to the jazz flavored riffs and solos of "Calling Card" to the acoustic and o slide work of some of his softer numbers, Rory is DA MAN. As my good friend and fellow musicologist Dr. R.J. MacReady often likes to say about his favorite musicians, Rory's "Awesome"!

I owned this album and then CD for thirty years before I happened upon a DVD copy of the shows. What a great performance. Rory, passionately playing tones unheard to me on the electric guitar. As a drummer, I thought Rod D'ath was an amazing drummer, and sought to emulate his style at times in my own playing. Surprisingly, many Rory fans who are drummers tend to favor one of the other drummers who played in Rory's band, but I myself have always just sat in awe of Rod's timing and fills.

I also like Against the Grain, Calling Card, and Tattoo, as well as his other albums.

I'm always surprised that some folks I talk to about music who consider themselves extremely knowledgeable about 60's and 70's guitar dominated blues rock have never heard of Rory. It's always my pleasure to introduce his music to them, and more often than not they leave as a fan of his.

For a guy who sold something like 30 million albums worldwide, and who was offered gigs with bands the likes of The Rolling Stones and Canned Heat and turned them down, it's amazing more people have not heard of him.

Poor Rory passed on in 1995. You can read his biography and interesting life story at any number of sites. His beloved brother, Donal, has a site, and you can find many devotional websites and blog posts discussing the talent that was Rory.

Maybe it's because I'm Scotch-Irish, and that my family took an extended stop for about 20 years in Northern Ireland in the 1600's in the ultimate journey from Scotland to America. My family merged Scottish and Irish genes during that time in Ireland, and although most didn't stay there when the time came to go to America, some did stay in Ireland.

Rory was from Cork County, not to far from Ulster, where my family resided.
Something in Rory's music really strikes an internal chord with me, as if it were music genetically programmed into my Irish tinged DNA. It's almost as if I can hear the Irish in his music. You can almost taste the whiskey in the blues that he sings.
I guess that's my Calling Card.


  1. Rory was the greatest rock and blues guitarist of all time. Check out the Rockpalast and Montreux releases for more video that spanned his entire career. I'd vote for Rod as Rory's best drummer too. He was definitely unconventional in his approach. Ambidexterous maybe?

  2. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Milo. One other thing I forgot is that Rory's BBC Sessions, released after his death, which contains one live disc and one studio disc, features the work of the five most prominent drummers to work with him in his post-Taste career.

    All the drummers are great, in my mind, but it's just the individualism that make Rod my favorite. He had that machine gun fill that I liked so well.

  3. Hi, Milo! My blogger name is Freg but i also lurk as Richard on The-Loop.

    Anyway, Rory was the best. He added his Celtic background to delta blues and produced something unique. And he also happened to be the best guitarist ever, he made the impossible seem easy, and if that isn't a definition of genius, i don't know what is.

  4. Agree on Rod! Very unorthodox style, made him very original and fun to watch!

  5. Thanks Milo and Kung Fu Manchu for stopping by.

  6. Thanks for the welcome Fish,
    Hello Freg and all. I agree about his Celtic influence. Just check out his version of Out on the Western Plains to see the Celtic feel.