The 50th Anniversary Edition
box set of Rory Gallagher's eponymous solo debut is an elaborate expansion upon the virtues at the heart of that 1971 record. In fact, as with brother Donal's prose recount of the album's history, each component of content enclosed in the glossy slipcase---its simple but striking graphic design itself replicating that of the record's original coverilluminates the process of preparing, recording and promoting the record. As such, this classy, handsome package contains everything a fan would want and a dilettante would need to both broaden and deepen appreciation of the man's work.
The roughly twelve-in square enclosure for the five-discs and printed matter is fully in line with the previously-released posthumous curating of the Gallagher archive such as Rory Gallagher: Live At Montreux 1975-94 The Definitive Collection
(Eagle, 2006). Even more so than that comprehensive set, the 50th Anniversary
compendium not only does justice to, but also enhances the legacy of the late the Irish bluesman, largely because its rarities simply add more tangible to the accurate historical documentation of his career. Meanwhile, various elements within, such as bassist Gerry McAvoy's essay on his early days with Gallagher, dovetail with other enclosures like the earliest recordings on CD two that predate the album proper.
Notwithstanding such efforts, not to mention the ardor of his followers, Rory Gallagher remains something of an unsung hero in the annals of contemporary blues-rock. Despite the fact his early three-man band Taste opened for Cream
at the seminal power trio's final 1968 shows at the Royal Albert Hall, the fiery guitarist and songwriter had not by that point ascended to membership in the hierarchy of the era including Eric Clapton
(of the aforementioned iconic three-piece), Jeff Beck
and Jimmy Page
. Even today, Gallagher resides in the contemporaneous shadow of the late Stevie Ray Vaughan
, this despite the fact the Texan was more of a stylist than an innovator and that Rory's body of work, especially on his own, evinces a comparable intensity the likes of which permeates this solo debut.
A true statement purpose, Rory Gallagher
stands as a template for regular recordings and live concerts that would continue unabated from the time of this release til the iconoclastic musician's untimely passing in 1995. The maturity documented in this self-titled LP is hardly the work of a fledgling, perhaps the reason so seasoned an engineer as Eddie Offord sat at the boards after having filled a similar role for two albums for Taste (as well as Yes and ELP, among others).
The level of excellence to which Gallagher's canon has risen via aforementioned exhumations from the vault hits a peak with the 50th Anniversary Edition
. Demonstrating more clearly than ever how the late musician commanded skill sets equally appropriate for the studio and the stage, the multiple outtakes of "Hands Up" on this third compact disc reaffirm Gallagher's attention to detail; as with "Sinner Boy" after and "At The Bottom" before, he was clearly seeking something more than he found in most of the others. In his role as producer, Rory Gallagher knew exactly what he wanted to do.
It might be theorized that the guitarist/composer's perfectionism is exactly that which allowed for his unfettered abandon in live performance. Releases such as Irish Tour '74: The 40th Anniversary Deluxe Box Set
(Sony Music, 2014), among others, speak to the deserved popularity of such concert titles, so the inclusion here of television and radio content is but reaffirmation of the way his disciplineand that of his sidemenallowed for the spontaneous expansion of their collective imagination as well. No one falters even at the most blistering pace on the 'Live On BBC Sounds Of The Seventies' or 'The John Peel Sunday Concert.' Quite the contrary, in fact, as the surety of their shared touch allows for ample illustration of the musicians' propulsive instrumental mesh.
Meanwhile, besides portraying Gallagher as a self-effacing student of his craft in the preceding interview (that attitude mirroring his shy pose for Hipgnosis photographer Mick Rock's front cover shot), the Paris filming for the "Pop Deux" television show reminds how such an impromptu approach was always integral to the man's shows. The varying camera angles by which the live footage was shot and edited impart the sensation of moving around the room within its approximately six-hundred-fifty attendee capacity and also cement the distinct impression of how the trio's abandon energizes an otherwise staid crowd.
In fact, if the three were at all cowed by the prospect of this occasion as the public debut of the band, it does not show. Rather, Gallagher, McAvoy and Campbell take great relish in healthy improvisations on originals like "It Takes Time" and covers such as Muddy Waters
' "The Same Thing," the shifting dynamics of which the men sustain through shifts from electric to acoustic formats and back again, with and without the frontman using slide. It is testament to the leader's indomitableand some would say stubborn spirit that he refuses to curtail his natural predilection for in-the-moment instrumental and vocal interactions for the sake of this audience (or any others for that matter).
The handsome and efficient packaging of the Rory Gallagher 50th Anniversary Edition
box set ascends to an elevated level comparable to the music it encloses. In addition to facsimiles of handwritten lyrics, replications of printed coverage enhance the vivid graphics and, in so doing, complete an arresting portrait of an individual perhaps too unique for his own good in some respects. The thirty-two pages contain more b&w as well as color photos of the musician himself, including an over-sized poster by Barry Wentzell (author of an affectionate reminiscence of his subject): his naturally photogenic appearance begs the question of how high this man's star might have risen had he catered more fully to publicity efforts on the part of his records and tours rather than insist the public (and purportedly his record labels) take him at face value on every front.
Besides those conversations with music publications, The Cork native's only practical acquiescence to promotion amounted to offering most of the tracks from the album in the aforementioned concerts. Adding tremendous depth and breadth to the sound, Martin Dubka's remix of Rory Gallagher
only enhances the inherent virtues of the record; blues-derived but hardly imitative of genre style or structure, gritty originals such as "Laundromat" would become a standard entry in the live Gallagher repertoire.
Meanwhile, such rough-hewn tunes reside handsomely next to quieter selections like "Just The Smile," the acoustic-based likes of which Gallagher featured from the stage for the better part of his career. Gallagher on saxophone for "Can't Believe It's True" and mandolin during "It's You" (as well as various slide guitar interludes) round out the diverse arrangements that accurately reflect this earthy, eclectic mix of material. Not that it was necessary at this point in time, post-Taste, but Gallagher only further ratifies his preferred stance as an individual artist who is strictly his own man.
Still, the combustible nature of the original songs wouldn't mean much without the consistently disciplined approach from the bandleader in tandem with a bassist and drummer/percussionist who, when joining up with Gallagher, successfully parlayed their shared experience in a previous band call Deep Joy. Often lethal in its intensityeven when the piano of Atomic Rooster's Vincent Crane adds somewhat brighter colors to "Wave Myself Goodbye" plus "I'm Not Surprised"the musicianship here is as astute as the choice of tunes. And both those facets of the self-production are a reflection of the technical supervision of the sessions: recorded in Advision Studios in London (and remastered here at Abbey Road Studios by Frank Arkwright), the engineer was Eddie Offord, who had engineered the albums for Taste and also participated in collaborations with Emerson, Lake & Palmer
, among others).
Suffice it to say, however, that, in its original issue as well as in this imposing, expanded form (in a variety of configurations physical and digital) , Rory Gallagher
renders concrete (again) the validity of the man's longstanding adherence to uncompromising creative values. The steadfast and purposeful means by which he conducted himself for the quarter century to follow still rings true, loud and clear as ever. Yet, however much acclaim he received during his lifetime, and to whatever extent his legacy has grown since his tragic death, for all intents and purposes, Rory Gallagher
demanded remembrance in the form of this scrupulously compiled and annotated multi-media collection that is this 50th Anniversary Edition
CD1: Laundromat; Just The Smile; I Fall Apart; Wave Myself Goodbye; Hands Up: Sinner Boy: For The Last Time; It's You; I'm Not Surprised; Can't Believe It's True; CD2: Gypsy Woman; It Takes Time; I Fall Apart; Wave Myself Goodbye; At The Bottom; At The Bottom; At The Bottom; At The Bottom; Advision Jam; Laundromat; Just The Smile; Just The Smile; I Fall Apart; Wave Myself Goodbye; Wave Myself Goodbye. CD3: Hands Up; Hands Up; Hands Up; Hands Up: Hands Up; Hands Up; Sinner Boy; Sinner Boy; Sinner Boy; For The Last Time; For The Last Time; For The Last Time; It's You; It's You;I'm Not Surprised; I'm Not Surprised; Can't Believe It's True. CD4: For The Last Time; Laundromat; It Takes Time; I Fall Apart; Hands Up; For The Last Time; n Your Town; Just The Smile; Laundromat; It Takes Time. DVD: Interview; Hands Up; Wave Myself Goodbye; It Takes Time; Sinner Boy; For the Last Time; The Same Thing; I Fall Apart.
Rory Gallagher: vocals, alto saxophone, mandolin, harmonica.