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Rory Gallagher: Blues - Deluxe Edition

Doug Collette By

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The Chess Records logo appears prominently on the cover of Rory Gallagher's Blues, seemingly a mere cosmetic touch, but in fact a telling facet of the graphic design adorning this handsome three-CD set that underscores the authenticity of the music inside. The glossy fold-out insert inside the slipcase of this Deluxe Edition also hearkens to the missionary zeal with which the sibling founders of Chess Records imbued that seminal label, its imprint the home of artists like Buddy Guy and Muddy Waters, artists who were self-avowed sources of profound inspiration for the late great Irish bluesman.

A mostly-unreleased three-plus hour selection of original material and cover songs of Gallagher's heroes, this compendium spans a spectrum of culls from the studio, the stage and various live television and radio appearances. Like the best anthologies of its kind, this digest constitutes an album unto itself as well as a jumping off point for a discursive exploration of Rory Gallagher's discography; ideally, the collection will function as a primer for the uninitiated on the commanding style(s) of the guitarist/vocalist. But for his longstanding fans, this careful sequencing of electric, acoustic and concert cuts might also serve as a combination re-introduction to, and rediscovery of, his passion, discipline and dexterity. And the humor intrinsic to the genre is not lost here either: witness "Bankers Blues" as well as "Loanshark Blues."

Especially illuminating in this context are multiple versions of songs from the Gallagher canon. Lesser-known selections in both acoustic and electric arrangements (his own "Should've Learned My Lesson") as well as alternating studio and live takes (Sonny Thompson's "Tore Down") vividly illustrate the musician's depth of feeling as much as the breadth of his imagination. It is altogether remarkable, for example, to hear his ever-so-deft use of slide on Tony Joe White's "As The Crow Flies," just one facet of a restless versatility that, over the course of the eleven studio albums, prevented any two Rory Gallagher records from sounding alike. The remastering of Blues at Abbey Road studios can't obscure the varying fidelity of the audio, but given some of the sources, that's understandable, and hardly a detriment because in certain cases— "Who's That Coming" from an Irish broadcast---the comparatively antique sonics suits the use of a National steel guitar (not to mention the timeless nature of blues music in general).

The abiding independence by which Rory Gallagher refused to commercialize his music found a corollary in his loyalty to the form and the feel of the blues. A self-professed (and duly humble) student of the genre, his mastery of shuffle, boogie and I-IV-V progressions et. al.—none of which he belabored, unlike so many of his contemporaries—corresponds to, in turn, the abandon, exultation, despair and delight in (to loyalists) the familiar, like "A Million Miles Away" and "Bullfrog Blues," as well as a number of novel inclusions, that estimable number hardly limited to a pair of takes on "Nothin' But The Devil." The County Cork native's dedication to the blues is also obvious in his bond with icons of this music with whom he partnered, those esteemed personages numbering Muddy Waters ("I'm Ready") and Albert King ("You Upset Me"). And Gallagher's collaborations with peers such as the late Jack Bruce ("Born Under A Bad Sign") and stalwart British jazzbandleader/trombonist Chris Barber ("Comin' Home Baby") are just as self-effacing.

Positioning "Comin' Home Baby" so appropriately near the close of Blues mirrors the nuances that abound across these CDs (equally so in digital form and paired down for a 2LP set of indigo vinyl). And the niceties are not just relegated to the music: the continuity of the photographic portraits is a subtlety mirroring the subject's longstanding devotion to his craft. Meanwhile, award-winning writer Jas Obrecht's essay in the enclosed booklet supplies chronologically accurate detail to complement the individual track credits, the end result of which deceptively elaborate prose is a graphic account of Rory Gallagher's artistic progression as a solo artist upon the demise of the vastly underrated power trio Taste.

That threesome, whose brief lifespan was contemporaneous with similarly-conceived but decidedly more high-profile units, namely Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience, kindled a fervent allegiance in an active fanbase that continues to this day in a variety of forms, including regular festivals in obeisance to this self-styled iconoclast's music. At least in part, that fealty is doubtless at the source of this compilation's curation, just the latest in an extended series of catalog reissues and comprehensive archival titles such as Live at Montreux (Eagle Rock, 2006), compiled and produced under the aegis of the family, that have rightfully elevated Rory Gallagher to the upper echelons of the modern guitar hero hierarchy. In this Deluxe Edition, Blues underscores that deservedly rarefied position.

Track Listing: CD 1: Electric Blues - Don't Start Me Talkin’; Nothin’ But The Devil; Tore Down; Off The Handle; I Could've Had Religion; As the Crow Flies; A Million Miles Away; Should've Learnt My Lesson; Leaving Town Blues; Drop Down Baby; I'm Ready; Bullfrog Blues. CD 2: Acoustic Blues - Who's That Coming; Should've Learnt My Lesson; Prison Blues; Secret Agent; Blow Wind Blow; Bankers Blues; Whole Lot Of People; Loanshark Blues; Pistol Slapper Blues; Can't Be Satisfied; Want Ad Blues; Walkin' Blues. CD 3: Live Blues - When My Baby She Left Me; Nothin' But The Devil; What In The World; I Wonder Who; Messin' With The Kid; Tore Down; Garbage Blues; All Around ; Born Under A Bad Sign; You Upset Me; Comin’ Home Baby; Rory Talking Blues.

Personnel: Rory Gallagher: vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, dolin, harmonica; Muddy Waters: vocal; Albert King: guitar, vocals; Jon Slaughter: guitar; Roger McKew: acoustic guitar; Sammy Lawhorn: guitar; Leo Sayer: harp; Mark Feltham: harmonica; Carey Bell Harmington: harmonica; Georgie Fame: piano; Zoot Money: piano; Lou Martin: keyboards, guitar; Geraint Watkins: piano; Bob Andrews: piano; James Washington: keyboards; Lonnie Turner: bass; Jack Bruce: bass, vocals; Rick Grech: bass; Gerry McAvoy: bass; Jim Leverton: bass; Alan Jones: bass; Vic Pitt: bass; Herbie Lovelle: drums; Alan “Stickey” Wickett: drums; Henry Spinetti: drums; Joe Turner: drums; Rod De'Ath: drums; Brendan O'Neil: drums; Richard New: drums; Lonnie Donegan: vocals; Chris Barber: trombone; Nate Fitzgerald/Steve Wilson/Wayne Preston: horns; Ernie Royal/Joe New/Garnett Brown/Seldon Powell: brass.

Title: Blues - Deluxe Edition | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Chess

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