Of all the entries in the Rory Gallagher discography-and it's lengthy despite his premature passing in 1995 at the age of forty-seven-none deserve the expanded treatment more than Irish Tour '74
, which is not doubt why it was originally documented on film as it happened by Tony Palmer. Not only did the title set the standard for the many subsequent live releases of Gallagher's career, the abbreviated tour reaffirmed the man's loyalty to his native country, a theme he would also revisit numerous times prior to his untimely demise.
Not his first concert piece-Live in Europe
(Polydor, 1972) has that distinction-Irish Tour '74 Deluxe Edition
captures this particular four-man lineup of Rory Gallagher's band in peak form. Having honed their collective skills in the studio and tours of America and Europe the previous year, late in 1973 and carrying over into January of 1974, Rory Gallagher bravely embarked on an historic tour of Ireland that has been talked about for decades in part because of his courage in confronting the political unrest fermenting within the country, but also because it served as a defining artistic moment for the bluesman. This is where Rory Gallagher, former front man of the trio Taste, and now five albums into a full-fledged solo artist, truly came of age.
Even as he proceeds at a breathless pace through the frenetic likes of "Laundromat," he no more succumbs to the cliches of the genre any more than he does on the the twelve-bar likes of "I Wonder Who" where his sidemen likewise keep as perfect pace as in the headlong rush of faster numbers (and likewise on "Too Much Alcohol" where the audience becomes an integral part of the performance, albeit not to a fault.). Around the midpoint of the set, Gallagher extends the dynamics further with the introduction of solo acoustic interlude. Beginning with one of the few covers Gallagher played, Tony Joe White's "As the Crow Flies," the change in intensity isn't so much a reduction as merely an alteration of its tone from electric guitar, bass, drums and keyboards to a single unplugged guitar except for the requisite pickup) and harmonica. Blind boy Fuller's "Pistol Slapper Blues" continues in a similar vein, while "Unmilitary Two- Step" allows Rory Gallagher to demonstrate the precision of his guitar picking within an instrumental no less arresting for its understatement, especially as it segues without interruption into "Bankers Blues," then into an abandoned, loudly poignant "Going to My Hometown" where the three other players reappear.
Gallagher and his band covered Belfast, Dublin and Cork on what was been dubbed, 'Irish Tour' 74,'the most memorable performances of which was the latter, his homecoming show here, for the first time on CD, is this performance in its entirety. It's the culmination of the tour in more ways than one: sound issues pervaded recordings of the previous concerts but were rectified for the final appearance; no doubt this accounts for the gritty burnish of teh overall audio audio quality as much as Martin Dubka's mix and Andy Pearce's mastering. Given the maximum clarity of the stereo separation alone, it's hard to believe this recording is four decades old, but then, all the archival titles sibling Donal Gallagher has overseen boast the highest premium production values.
The corollary of the original two LP vinyl release is not exactly this the double CD set (a corollary version of which appears now on three pieces of vinyl): no specific show credits exist for that version. But the attention to detail applied to this streamlined package carries over into the comprehensive one, the full tour available on 7 cd's and a DVD containing the Palmer doc in its entirety.
As with other finely curated items like Shadow Play: The Rockpalast Collection
(Eagle Rock, 2009 ) and The Definitive Montreux Collection
(Eagle Rock, 2006), Irish Tour '74
demonstrates Rory Gallagher's personal pedigree and, as a side note, depicts why the Rolling Stones did not in fact hire him when Mick Taylor left the group in the early seventies: Gallagher would've run frenzied rings around Mick Jagger himself not to mention prospective guitar partner Keith Richard.
CD 1: Messin' With The Kid; Cradle Rock; I Wonder Who; Tattoo d Lady;
Walk On Hot Coals; Laundromat; A Million Miles Away; Hands Off; Too
Much Alcoho. CD 2: As The Crow Flies; Pistol Slapper Blues; Unmilitary
Two-Step; Bankers Blues; Going To My Hometown; Who s That Coming; In
Rory Gallagher: vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, harmonica;
Gerry McAvoy: bass; Lou Martin: Keyboards; Rod D'Ath drums