In the end, music is a personal soundtrack to one's life. It is tied to a specific time and place, circumstances and memories that are so tightly integrated in one's experience that having memory with no music cannot even be imagined, much less considered. In the summer of 1974, I went from Little Rock to Chicago to visit my closest childhood friend. While there I purchased two LPs for our listening pleasure, Eric Clapton's 461 Ocean Boulevard
(RSO, 1974) and Rory Gallagher's Irish Tour '74
(Polydor). I had just started listening to the blues and had fallen under the spells of the Allman Brothers Band and Joe Cocker. Like most middle-class white kids of the era, I was introduced to the blues through the British Invasion and southern rock only to discover the real story much later.
I had previously invested in Gallagher's Tattoo
(Polydor, 1973) after having heard Gallagher's "Walk on Hot Coals" from his previous recording, Blueprint
(Polydor, 1973). Tattoo
sported the song "Sleep on a Clothes Line" that was thematically similar to "Walk on Hot Coals." The album was also to contribute "Cradle Rock," "Tattoo'd Lady," "A Million Miles Away" and "Who's That Coming" to this resulting document of Gallagher's tour of his homeland in the early days of 1974. While still getting a handle on blues music and where it came from, I heard Irish Tour '74
as a part of an evolution that involved other bands I had been listening to (Rolling Stones, Faces, Who, and Led Zeppelin).
Gallagher's tour took place during a most challenging and violent time in Northern Ireland, when IRA terrorism was at a global peak. The tour was filmed by rock film director Tony Palmer for a television special he originally envisioned. When all of the material was assembled, Palmer found the footage of such quality that he edited and released it as a theatrical motion picture, to which Irish Tour '74
(taken from Gallagher's Cork, Belfast and Dublin concerts and a Cork soundcheck) represented the soundtrack. Irish Tour '74
was originally released as a 2-LP live set by Polydor Records. Its program contained 10 songs, several lengthy electric workouts by Gallagher. Long considered one of the finest live rock recordings, Irish Tour '74
saw several CD releases that resulted in better sound, but no additional material. Was any recorded concert set wanting for unreleased material it is Irish Tour '74
. Sony Legacy has brought the goods with this 6-CD, 1-DVD (the DVD being of Tony Palmer's documentary) set plus a more modest 2-CD Deluxe release of the entire Cork concert. The big box sports, in addition to the Cork concert, the one from Dublin (January 2, 1974), Belfast (December 29, 1973) and The City Hall Session (the Cork concert soundcheck, January 3, 1974).
Gallagher's talent was such that he was broadly admired by artists such as Queen's Brian May, U2's The Edge and Slash from Guns n' Roses, as well as, Joe Bonamassa and Gary Moore. Gallagher died of acute liver failure June 14, 1995. He was a very capable guitarist and composer with a keen ear for Piedmont-style blues and ragtime. On the original Irish Tour '74
release, only a single acoustic song (Tony Joe White's "As the Crow Flies") was included. Each of the included concert appearances had an acoustic set consisting of "As the Crow Flies" (played on a steel resophonic guitar), Blind Boy Fuller's "Pistol Slapper Blues," Gallagher's own "Unmilitary Two-step," and Big Bill Broonzy's "Bankers Blues" (on acoustic guitar) and Gallagher's own "Going to my Hometown (on mandolin). These acoustic pieces are among the most consistently played songs of the tour.
Gallagher appeared as a free spirit, changing song arrangements on a whim. Muddy Water's "I Wonder Who" appears three times in the set, each time played differently from the others, but the version originally released remains his best performance (it deserves to be ranked with the perfection Allman Brother's "One Way Out" and "Statesboro Blues"). Gallagher slays his "Cradle Rock" and "Walk on Hot Coals" each time he plays, changing the arrangements ever so much with each performance. The 1974 tour was undertaken to ostensibly support his studio recording Tattoo
"A Million Miles Away," from that recording, emerges as a juggernaut over the course of its three performances while J.B. Hutto's "Two Much Alcohol" receives three inconsistent readings, the best coming from the Dublin show, where Gallagher eschews his standard-tuning slide guitar for standard lead guitar introduction. This version should have been put on the original release, omitted due to its additional length. Gallagher's slide guitar playing on the song is grand in the future tradition of Derek Trucks, who plays the best lead
guitar with a slide of anyone. But this Irishman was there first.
On the slide guitar side, Gallagher plays his tour-de- force "Who's That Coming" (from Tattoo
) at every show and well he should. The lengthiest and best performance was released and is molten rock tempered with blues, country, and skiffle. Gallagher pulls all of the influences into an open-G tuning that sears in its intensity. And intensity is what defines this box set. There is nothing refined, exact or precise about this music. It is raw and pathos filled. It is of exposed nerves in a furnace. It is "sleep on a clothsline / It's easy as pie." This is music of hunger and worth deserving of acknowledgement.