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Rory Gallagher: Irish Tour ’74 Expanded Deluxe Edition

Irish blues idol’s 40th anniversary box set par excellence is a package ‘beyond fabulous’.

Rory Gallagher’s catalogue is packed with live recordings and repackagings, but this tops them all. As good as he was in the studio, the bluesman of Ballyshannon was always better wearing that sweat-distressed Fender Stratocaster in front of an audience.

The original Irish Tour ’74, a two-million selling vinyl double, has long been thought his best – a masterclass in improvisational blues rock with breathtaking guitar solos. In effect it was three-sides a soundtrack to a Tony Palmer film of the tour, plus one side of after-hours jamming recorded on the Ronnie Lane Mobile Unit.

In this 10-inch box, three sides become three two-CD whole concerts (Cork City Hall on January 5, Dublin Carlton Cinema three days earlier and Belfast Ulster Hall taped on December 29, 1973), with the fourth side now expanded to CD7, containing 10 numbers recorded informally on the mobile. Plus, there’s a DVD of the much-admired Palmer documentary that inspired it. A package beyond fabulous.

Intriguing, too, because although previous sleevenotes suggested the live material was a mixture of recordings from all three cities, this now reveals that all (including the jams) were recorded in Rory’s adopted home of Cork. The only real criticism that could be made of the original was that, although it was all three sides of vinyl could accommodate, eight numbers/66 minutes was scarcely enough: a Gallagher show was regularly twice that long.

Likewise, rather than duplicate anything fans had bought on his Live In Europe album (released two years earlier), Rory omitted favourites Messin’ With The Kid, Laundromat, Bullfrog Blues plus Going To My Home Town and three others from his famous mid-gig acoustic sets. Now they’re all restored in wish lists stretching to 14 or 16 songs (each including five acoustic numbers) that, sonically, retain the original album’s mid-70s atmosphere.

Each city inspires a unique performance. The Belfast show in particular, recorded the night after a wave of bombings at the height of the Troubles, crackles with the appreciation of the crowd inspiring Rory to play even harder.

While recently expanded editions of live doubles by Deep Purple, Humble Pie and the Allman Brothers have suggested that the compilers of the originals cherry-picked the best performances, this one shows some of Gallagher’s finest have remained unheard for 40 years. All this for only £35? Sell your children, buy a copy./o:p