“How does it feel to be the greatest guitarist in the world?” the daytime talk-show host Mike Douglas once asked Jimi Hendrix.
“I don’t know,” he responded, “go ask Rory.”
RORY GALLAGHER’s guitar performance of “What’s Going On” live at the Isle Of Wight, alongside his power-trio Taste (one of their final shows) with a single Vox AC30 amp balanced upon a chair, is still commemorated for its opaline, polychromatic textures and needlelike guitar shrills of biddery — and the stunning clarity created by the Irishman on a battered re-wired ‘61 Strat.
This unique spectacle was filled with epic emotion and is shared as the first track on the October 2020 release “The Best Of Rory Gallagher”.
His first Taste album “Taste” 1969 had five Gallagher compositions and three arrangements. The 1969 album opener (on the new collection too) is “Blister on the Moon” that may or may-not have inspired Who’s “Pinball Wizard” (the chronology kinda fits but they played Tommy in its entirety in 1970).
Anyway, this number has a grubby riff that brings shivers and carries a ramshackle indie-approach that foreshadowed the emerging punk phenomena. People say that this number sits in the nubble ‘n’ bone melodic-space left between Who and Cream.
After Taste, Gallagher toured under his own name, and hired the former Deep Joy bass-player Gerry McAvoy to release a ten-track self-titled solo studio album. The track titled “I Fall Apart” from this first solo LP is cited as one of the most graceful songs ever written.
It’s haunting without being introspective and articulate without being melodramatic: “Til the end of time, you’ll be on my mind...” Rory sings, with desiccated relinquishment.
Gallagher collaborated with Jerry Lee Lewis and Muddy Waters on their London Sessions in the mid-1970s and likewise played on Lonnie Donegan’s last album.
His first “Chrysalis” album titled “Against the Grain” (1975) included an electrified and zippy-zeppy version of Bo Carter’s delta blues slide-number “All Around Man” with screeching howls of guitar and sufficient war-whoops to wake Sitting Bull from a ghost dance.
“Moonchild” — found originally on the 1978 album “Calling Card” — with its fizzy riff work and frenetic rhythms has “hendrixy” vocals that don’t altogether match the sprightly vivacity of Rory’s peerless guitar work. Yet this is potent and imperative and is still proclaimed as a blues-rock masterpiece, due to its architectonic drama.
His first 1980s studio album “Jinx” had more of a bold hard rock sound than previous recordings, and “Jinxed” is a multispectral, slow-stepping delight. This number brings high-focus to hollow howls and is all about the brewing troubles that the blues are meant to heal. They say this is one of Gallagher’s most exquisitely crafted compositions. It has edge, glamour and clever rawness.
This 2020 collection is the most vivifying blues you’ll ever hear. Delivered by a guy who could thrill a crowd with one note, or bring them to a state of exultant euphoria with a million. Once heard, never forgotten. Rory remains the benchmark of devout blues-guitar virtuosity.
Slán go fóill Rory. You might be “a million miles away...” But you’re really close. Because you abide in our thoughts. You abide in our prayers. You abide in our hearts.
Words: @neilmach 2020 ©
Main image: 1980 © Strange Music Ltd
The comprehensive new compilation will include Rory’s most iconic songs compiled from across his recording career. PRE-ORDER HERE
The album will be released as a 2CD set featuring 30 tracks including the previously unreleased collaboration with Jerry Lee Lewis.
The album will also be released as a 2-disc black vinyl and direct to consumer limited clear 2LP, plus a 15-track single CD, as well as digital HD and digital standard.