Rory Gallagher's Check Shirt Wizard - a crackling addition to a rich live canon

A battered Strat. A check shirt. Rory Gallagher wore them both well, as a new live album recorded in 1977 shows

Rory Gallagher: Check Shirt Wizard - Live In '77
(Image: © UMC)

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Cunningly stitched together from tapes of four UK shows in early 1977, this 20-track, two-CD/three-disc vinyl set captures Rory Gallagher, bassist Gerry McAvoy, drummer Rod de’Ath and keyboard player Lou Martin on their final world tour as a four-piece. 

There are, though, no tensions or shortcomings in evidence. Every song, old and (then) new, crackles with life, and the band are mole-grip tight. Calling Card, the sixth (of 11) studio album, was at the time recently released, and eight of its nine songs are featured here, including the bluesy title track, a scorching Secret Agent and Barley & Grape Rag as part of a five-strong acoustic set. 

Rory’s confidence in his new material was well placed, as alongside established favourites Tattoo’d Lady, A Million Miles Away and Walk On Hot Coals it stands proud. And even following the likes of Souped-Up Ford and Bullfrog Blues, Country Mile is a brilliant way to close this collection.

To watch Rory in concert was to know him at his best. There, his check shirt defined him. There were flashier guitar heroes, but none who had his energy or such empathy with an audience. Check Shirt Wizard is a fine addition to an already rich canon of Rory live recordings.

Freelance contributor to Classic Rock and several of its offshoots since 2006. In the 1980s he began a 15-year spell working for Kerrang! intially as a cub reviewer and later as Geoff Barton’s deputy and then pouring precious metal into test tubes as editor of its Special Projects division. Has spent quality time with Robert Plant, Keith Richards, Ritchie Blackmore, Rory Gallagher and Gary Moore – and also spent time in a maximum security prison alongside Love/Hate. Loves Rush. Aerosmith and beer. Will work for food.