Rory Gallagher proves again he is master of the Blues

What is there left to say about the late, and truly great, Rory Gallagher? Well from a personal point of view, he was instrumental (pun intended) in opening my mind and heart to the blues. I remember as if it were yesterday (it was 1972 actually) hearing a friend’s copy of Live In Europe…the first track I listened to was Going To My Hometown which, initially at least, sounded so wrong. The singing wasn’t great, the mandolin on its own was strange, my then girlfriend (now my wife) then and now thinks it is ludicrous but before it finished, I loved it and still play it regularly…albeit when she isn’t around! The next track was Bullfrog Blues, which didn’t just wake me up it shook me and turfed me out of bed! The slide guitar was out of this world and relatively rare in heavy rock that was my staple diet until then. Blues became more than just a source of the other bands I was listening to; it became a passion that still burns brightly and has led me to discover all of the blues greats from the early 1900s to the present day…thank you for that Rory, you made a young man happy and keep an old man happy too, listening to blues from around the world and yet always finding time to play one or more of your albums.

OK, I was biased before I even pressed ‘play’ but I promise that the highlights and the genuinely new, new tracks are appraised as fairly as possible on this archive release called simply and accurately, Blues. The three CD version gives us one each of Electric, Acoustic and Live Blues comprising studio outtakes, radio and guest sessions. Covering numerous albums and periods, this set gives performances from 1972 through to 1989 and one from the 90s, although the majority is from the 70s. CD One is the electric sets and begins with the unreleased version of the Sonny Boy Williamson classic, Don’t Start Me Talkin’. This is listed as from the Jinx sessions although Rory did do it on Defender…either way it is different as his harp skills are used on this version. The slide solo is, as expected, majestic with the trademark subtle use of the bottleneck. Tore Down is the famous song written by Sonny Thompson but known from Freddy King’s recording. This is from the Blueprint sessions and, unless I am mistaken, is a straightforward live take that didn’t make the cut and so went unembellished…the guitar playing is pure, instinctive and a delight to listen to. Drop Down Baby was on a Lonnie Donegan album that I bought for this track…in saying that, Lonnie deserves credit for educating many a 60s musician into the blues, even though he was usually called a skiffle man or, worse, a novelty artist…My Old Man’s a Dustman and…chewing gum aside, he should be held in the esteem that Rory did (and Brian May and Ringo Starr who also appeared on the Puttin’ On The Style album). There is a bit of a wince when I hear Donegan’s falsetto but the slide solo makes it puttable uppable. I’m Ready is Rory and Muddy Waters playing together…’nuff said! CD One rounds off with a radio session version of Bullfrog Blues…do we really need another one? Well, it is the same song again but the guitar and slide have sufficient variations for me to give a resounding yes.

On the acoustic CD, my favourites are both from Irish TV sessions…Secret Agent is an electric number off Calling Card and this new acoustic version shows how good Rory is on acoustic too as he translates the song superbly. Walkin’ Blues is, of course, the Robert Johnson masterpiece…Rory pays due deference and asserts his skills and inherent understanding of all things blues in this brilliant version. Muddy Waters’ Blow Wind Blow is a radio session and is a new take on this song…it is fascinating to hear how Rory plays rhythm and lead at the same time on the acoustic too. It is slightly reminiscent of the brilliant diversion that is Unmilitary Two Step, except with vocals. Want Ad Blues has a slide intro that sends shivers with its tone and skill…the rest is brilliant too as he channels the JL Hooker original into an acoustic slide masterpiece. CD three is all live recordings from various concerts around the UK. The tastiest for me are an exquisite version of All Around Man from the Against the Grain album (and extended wonderfully to over eleven minutes from the Old Grey Whistle Test), superb versions of Messin’ With The Kid and Tore Down from Sheffield and Newcastle gigs but the cream, if you’ll pardon the pun, is Born Under A Bad Sign from a guest appearance in 1991 with the Jack Bruce. The guitar playing is great and the bass is stunning too and, although it is a bit high in the mix, it still it is always good to hear such an accomplished player as Bruce doing the business. You Upset Me is from an Albert King live album and to hear the King and the king together is just great. The last track is for fans of blues everywhere as Rory is interviewed and explains his inspirations in that mellifluous Cork accent. The sound isn’t brilliant and it is obviously edited from a couple of different interviews…but it is of great interest to his fans, even the final ‘epitaph’ by one of the interviewers.

So, is this an essential purchase? Well, yes and no…for a fanatic like me it certainly is as I never tire of Rory’s mastery of that sweat eroded Strat. There are very few totally new tracks if you already collect his archive and session works. Plus, even though I have all of those I still find myself playing the original vinyl copies of Deuce, Blueprint and Calling Card in particular, rather than my copies of Meeting With The G-Man or Notes From San Francisco. OK, I have the deluxe version on order and I will pore over the extensive sleeve notes and listen to it again with relish after all, the genius that was Rory Gallgher should be celebrated at every opportunity and this release provides a new way of doing just that.

NINEpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Rory Gallagher “Blues” is released by Chess Records on Friday 31st May. Pre-order the album from https://RoryGallagher.lnk.to/BluesPR

Tracklisting

CD ONE

  1. Don’t Start Me Talking
  2. Nothin’ But The Devil
  3. Tore Down
  4. Off The Handle
  5. I Could’ve Had Religion
  6. As The Crows Flies
  7. A Million Miles Away
  8. Should’ve Learnt My Lesson
  9. Leaving Town Blues
  10. Drop Down Baby
  11. I’m Ready
  12. Bullfrog Blues


CD TWO

  1. Who’s That Coming
  2. Should’ve Learnt My Lesson
  3. Prison Blues
  4. Secret Agent
  5. Blow Wind Blow
  6. Bankers Blues
  7. Whole Lot Of People
  8. Loanshark Blues
  9. Pistol Slapper Blues
  10. Can’t Be Satisfied
  11. Want Ad Blues
  12. Walkin’ Blues


CD THREE

  1. When My Baby She Left Me
  2. Nothin’ But The Devil
  3. What In The World
  4. I Wonder Who
  5. Messin’ With The Kid
  6. Tore Down
  7. Garbage Man Blues
  8. All Around Man
  9. Born Under A Bad Sign
  10. You Upset Me
  11. Comin’ Home Baby


Rory Gallagher proves again he is master of the Blues
Rory Gallagher “Blues” is released by Chess Records on Friday 31st May. Pre-order the album from https://RoryGallagher.lnk.to/BluesPR

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