Check Shirt Wizard: Live in 1977
is yet another in a lengthy string of posthumous archival work devoted to Irish guitarist and songwriter Rory Gallagher
. Like virtually all its predecessors in both audio and video configurations, including Live at Montreux
(Eagle, 2006) and Notes From San Francisco
(Eagle/Legacy, 2011), this double CD set (also available as three vinyl LPs with similarly variegated artwork, action photos and replications of press testimonials of the time) not only does justice to, but enhances the legacy of, the iconoclastic blues-rocker.
A collection of live recordings from early in that designated year, the performances on the two compact discs flow with the logic of a fine concert, capturing the dynamics of Rory arguably in the prime of his life. The ebb and flow of this intensity takes the form of electricity as it courses through "Bullfrog Blues" and "Used To Be," as well as potent acoustic selections like Leadbelly
's "Out On The Western Plain" and Blind Boy Fuller
's "Pistol Slapper Blues;" there, as on originals such as "Too Much Alcohol" and "Going To My Hometown," Gallagher demonstrates the power of his playing comes from within him, not the amplifiers.
Almost exactly two hours in duration, the setlist may be (overly) familiar to devout Rory loyalists, but it offers a virtual primer for the dilettante and/or those curious how something of a cult has arisen around this musician: Check Shirt Wizard
is clearly the work of a man knows his roots and has built an idiosyncratic style all his own upon them. Tapes from all four of these shows were originally captured on the The Rolling Stones
' and Jethro Tull
's mobile studios, and, for the purposes of this release, they've been mixed from the original multi-track tapes and mastered at Abbey Road Studios.
As a result, the mix is skeletal yet punchy, matching the arrangements and the passion in the playing. And it's not just the leader's musicianship either: the rhythm section of bassist Gerry McAvoy and drummer Rod de'Ath is equally skillful at both following and anticipating the frontman's moves, even when moving at the hell-bent pace of "Country Mile, while keyboardist Lou Martin is comparably quick and empathetic, especially in his trade-offs during solos during "Walk On Hot Coals" (and the latter also knows how to stay out of the way too).
Ostensibly touring to support the album release of late the year prior, Calling Card
(Chrysalis, 1976), Rory and his band here also feature material off previously-issued solo titles from Gallagher's solo career, including Deuce
(Polydor, 1971), Blueprint
(Polydor, 1973 )and Against the Grain
(Chrysalis, 1975). That the range of material respectively comprised of "Used to Be," "Walk On Hot Coals" and "Souped Up Ford" exhibits such continuity is a testament to both the bond of the band (at this point aligned some four years) and the values of economy and passion intrinsically honed in the leader's songwriting, plus the raw and often white-hot guitar work since his days as a member of the seminal power trio Taste.
Those essential virtues combine with Rory Gallagher's irrepressible stage presence to evoke the uproarious audience response heard more than once on Live in '77
CD 1: Do You Read Me; Moonchild; Bought And Sold; Calling Card; Secret Agent; Tattoo’d Lady; A Million Miles Away; I Take What I Want; Walk On Hot Coals. CD 2: Out On The Western Plain; Barley & Grape Rag; Pistol Slapper Blues; Too Much Alcohol; Going To My Hometown; Edged In Blue; Jack-Knife Beat; Souped-Up Ford; Bullfrog Blues; Used To Be; Country Mile.
Rory Gallagher: mandolin; Lou Martin: organ; Gerry McAvoy: bass; Rod de'Ath: drums.