Rory Gallagher’s unmistakable identity as both a guitarist and a songwriter is reflected in the diverse range of artists who cite him as an influence, from rock and blues players including Brian May, Slash and Joe Bonamassa, to unconventional stylists like Johnny Marr (ex-Smiths) and U2’s The Edge.
In his youth, Gallagher idolised Bob Dylan, who in turn expressed his own admiration for Gallagher’s songwriting. Despite such accolades, and album sales in excess of 30 million, Gallagher remains relatively underappreciated.
This five-disc box set marks the start of his post-Taste solo career with a fresh perspective on his debut album via a new mix, and unearths lots of previously unreleased material.
Although short lived (1971-1972), Gallagher’s first solo band, including Wilgar Campbell (drums) and Gerry McAvoy (bass), shared a solid rapport. Their output is supplemented here with unreleased studio and live tracks and a previously unissued DVD of their debut Paris concert, on France’s Pop Deux TV show. Crucially, these are worthy of repeat listening/viewing, not cast-off curios.
The new mix retains the original’s intimate atmosphere, adding greater fullness and clarity. Although capable of whipping up a blues rock storm with Sinnerboy’s searing slide guitars, and the percussive riffing of Hands Up and Laundromat, the trio are more nuanced in interpreting subtler tracks that weave in elements of jazz and folk. I Fall Apart, For The Last Time and Can’t Believe It’s True blur the lines between genres, the rhythm section reacting intuitively to Gallagher’s melancholic vocal melodies and singular lead guitar phrasing.
Establishing a careerlong pattern, the album also showcases his deft acoustic picking with bare-bones blues (Wave Myself Goodbye) and Just The Smile’s hypnotic folk feel.
Gallagher was just 23 years old at the time of recording, but his guitar playing and writing were striking in their maturity. His desire to keep the recordings predominantly live pays dividends in alternative versions of each track, his guitar improvisations and suggestions between takes giving insight into the creative process.
Buried gems include faster early takes of Against The Grain’s At The Bottom, and a vibrant BBC concert previewing Deuce’s In Your Town. The unreleased DVD footage captures the band with clear sound and picture.
A powerful and welcome reminder of Gallagher’s unique range and flair.