Rory Gallagher: Against The Grain and Calling Card Reissues

Doug Collette By

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Guitarist Rory Gallagher produced (literally in most cases) a string of remarkably consistent studio albums during the course of a career that stretched from the early 1970s through to the 1990s. Eagle Records has reissued them all on compact disc and, though it's not wholly clear if the titles have been remastered again, and the pre-existing bonus tracks are generally the same, the cover graphics, including essays and photos, differ from the previously-released edition. The musical virtues of the original recordings, however, remain wholly intact.

The fiery Irish guitarist brought a craftsmanlike approach to all these projects. The no-frills arrangements reaffirmed his intuitive understanding of the difference between live performance and studio recording. In addition, at the foundation of each release is a collection of well-wrought original songs that further exemplified the bluesrocker's intelligence. Gallagher's skill as a bandleader also comes into play on Against The Grain (Chrysalis, 1975) and Calling Card (Chrysalis, 1976), albums featuring a well-honed ensemble that, in following the lead of the frontman, displayed its own estimable commitment to the music.

Rory Gallagher

Against The Grain

Eagle Records

2011 (1975)

Against The Grain was an especially apt title for Rory Gallagher's fifth solo release. Referencing the man's staunch refusal to cater to mainstream commercialism—he never allowed singles to be culled from his albums—this studio album, his first for Chrysalis Records, constituted a modernized expansion of Gallagher's style.

On "Let Me In," for instance, the rhythm guitar chording is much more prominent in the mix than usual, far more so than Lou Martin's keyboards, which heretofore received equal emphasis. That's in keeping with the hard rock of the times but, that said, the material never descended to the level of pure riffing: "Cross Me Off Your List" moves in a light jazzy jump, while "Ain't Too Good" is an atmospheric piece where the contrasting textures of electric piano and organ, intermixed with acoustic and electric guitars, build a dynamic arrangement derived directly from the structure of the composition.

While the bonus tracks included here aren't revelatory by any means—both "Cluney Blues" and "My Baby Sure" are the sound of a band warming up---the inclusion of Leadbelly's "Out On The Western Plain," stark as it is, stands as testament to Rory Gallagher's unwavering loyalty to the music that moved him to play, perform and compose with such zeal.

Rory Gallagher

Calling Card

Eagle Records

2011 (1976)

Calling Card marked a decided return to roots for Gallagher. With production assistance from Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover, the guitarist chose to emphasize songcraft over sonic style and did so without sacrificing the intrinsic power of his music.

Like most of the studio albums, this one features future additions to a reliable repertoire that kept Gallagher's music fresh. The core strengths of the man's personal style appear in the selections positioned at the outset of the tracklisting: "Do You Read Me," "Country Mile" and "Moonchild" are all edgy rockers performed with vigor by Gallagher's quartet of the time. Whether the original recordings on this album were remixed and remastered for this round of reissues—the credits on this slightly modified liner booklet are identical to the previously released edition—matters less than the density of the mix, which mirrors the rippling energy of the performances.

And that goes for the mood pieces "I'll Admit You're Gone" and "Edged In Blue." Strategically sequenced amidst the nine tracks, the comparatively subdued introspection at the heart of those songs may account for the fact that this edition, unlike its 1999 CD counterpart, boasts no bonus tracks and rightfully so: Calling Card is an album complete unto itself.

Tracks and Personnel

Against the Grain

Let Me In; Cross Me Off Your List; Ain't Too Good; Souped-Up Ford; Bought and Sold; I Take What I Want; Lost at Sea; All Around Man; Out on the Western Plain; At the Bottom. Bonus tracks: Cluney Blues; My Baby, Sure.

Personnel: Rory Gallagher: guitars, vocals; Gerry McAvoy: bass guitar; Lou Martin: keyboards; Rod de'Ath: drums, percussion.

Calling Card

Tracks: Do You Read Me; Country Mile; Moonchild; Calling Card; I'll Admit You're Gone; Secret Agent; Jack-Knife Beat; Edged in Blue; Barley and Grape Rag.

Personnel: Rory Gallagher: vocals, guitar, harmonica; Gerry McAvoy: bass guitar; Lou Martin: keyboards; Rod de'Ath: drums.

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