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Irish Tour 74 (40th Anniversary Edition) (7CD + DVD box)

Joe Geesin

joe geesin

rory gallagher

The Ballyshannon born guitarist and vocalist Rory Gallagher is one of THE names in blues/rock guitar and had already made his name in several bands, developing his love of the blues before forming Taste in Cork, Ireland, in 1966.

Originally called The Taste, blues rock power trios were the de rigueur at the time and Taste stood shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Cream, with whom they toured. The band broke up shortly after their performance at the Isle Of Wight festival In 1970.

Going solo, Gallagher soon found acclaim (certainly with his peers if not with the record buying public) and kept a touring and recording schedule that would put many to shame.

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His touring across the UK and Europe was matched by playing both sides of the border in Ireland, his music going beyond politics in uniting a country entering the peak of its political divide (a point reiterated by the Irish Ambassador Daniel Mulhall at the recent celebration of this release at the Irish Embassy in London – witnessed by MetalTalk).

By the end of 1973, Gallagher had released four studio albums and the 'Live In Europe' set, before embarking on some dates that would become the Irish Tour 74 album.

The original album was taken from two shows, at Cork and Dublin, in January 1974 and shows just how powerful and happy Rory was on stage, his spiritual home.

That original live album, mindblowing in its rock and blues power, was genuinely live, no overdubs, and as good as any double live album of the day.

Here, though, we get the complete works, the dog's bollocks, and the kitchen sink. From the December 1973 show in Belfast (the crowd's and Rory's love and respect for each other can be heard, at a political time and place that scared off many from playing) to the Cork and Dublin shows, that's the best six discs of live blues rock in anyone's book. Then there's a 10 track City Hall session, and the final disc is a DVD film of the tour that was considered so good at the time it became a full theatrical release.

rory gallagher
Rory's original Strat, on display in the Irish Embassy

I first met Donal Gallagher, Rory's brother and manager, at the original launch of that aforementioned DVD some 12 years ago, and it was good to catch up at the Irish Embassy on the 13th October. MetalTalk's Steve Goldby, Mark Taylor and myself were amongst a select few invited to the launch of this 40th anniversary reissue where both Donal and Ambassador Daniel Mulhall both gave apt and moving talks, and we were able to mix with those from the label Sony, the box set designer, and guitar legend Bernie Marsden too.

Onto the box set, and from the outset the four piece (they became a three piece not long after) are on blistering form. Here, Rory is backed (and supported) by bassist Gerry McAvoy, drummer Rod De'Ath and pianist Lou Martin.

The Cork show opens with the Blues standard 'Messin' With The Kid' (a track you'll know when you hear it), Rory riffing well. 'Cradle Rock' is a hard rocking number with an uptempo Groundhogs groove and keyboard/bass harmonies driving Rory's riffs and solos alike with aplomb. The slide moments are gripping, and from Rory's vocals he is engrossed in the moment.

'I Wonder Who' starts off slowly and moves up a gear to what's quite a gentle number (by Gallagher's standards) – the guitar work excellent yet not overbearing, the bursts of notes moving forward and back alternating with the rhythm section. It's the kind of number you could imagine Gary Moore covering.

'Tatoo'd Lady' and the longer 'Walk On Hot Coals' are Gallagher standards, and when the band do extend things in a jam fashion it's entrancing throughout. 'Laundromat' moves between chunky blues rock and almost boogie. You can hear the guitar matching Rory's grimace here.

'A Million Miles Away' has that drifting story telling feel and 'Hands Off', running at over 11 minutes, is just a fest of classic Rory. 'Too Much Alcohol' rounds off disc one and has the crowd clapping along; there's some decent fretboard work, and nice guitar/piano interplay too.

Disc 2 opens with 'As The Crow Flies' featuring some solid acoustic slide (Rory sounding masterful here). Whether soloing or power strumming Rory masters the acoustic well. 'Pistol Slapper Blues', 'Unmilitary Two Step' and 'Bankers' are shorter acoustic tracks that still encapsulate while 'Going To My Hometown' gets a few knowing cheers.

'Who's That Coming' is back to the electric and some slide and boogie from the outset, nine minutes of pleasure and the 15 plus minute 'In Your Town' closes the show.

rory gallagher
Box set designer Mark Jarrett with MetalTalk's Joe Geesin

The following shows, Dublin and Belfast, feature variations on a similar setlist that only those with the set in hand will need details of. That said, the Dublin set finishes with a near 20 minute of 'In Your Town' before closing with Rory's highlight, signature and (if slightly ropey recorded, hence not included on the original album) essential track 'Bullfrog Blues'. Here at 10 minutes, it's a track that's worth getting into Rory Gallagher for alone. Don't believe me? Go check it out. Don't argue, just do it. Melody, power, passion, slide, boogie, a very well kicked arse, the kitchen sink, all in this track.

What's notable about the Belfast show, bar the similar setlist and performance to the above disc, is as previously mentioned, just how much Rory loved them and the crowd responded just as enthusiastically. If you want proof that music transcends all politics, violence and bullshit, this is it.

Disc 7 is a 10 track City Hall session (I guess akin to some Radio shows in the UK of the era), recorded 3rd January 1974. The music is fantastic and well recorded and is classic Rory, but it does lack that extra passion and feel, without the crowd. Well, in its own right it does but when compared to the live stage work, Rory's true home, it's hard to judge.

rory gallagher
Irish Ambassador Daniel Mulhall with MetalTalk editor Steve Goldby

The DVD is a full Tony Palmer recorded documentary of Rory on the road over these shows, which made for a theatrical release, and music from the album being the soundtrack.

Seeing Rory in his element, Donal at work with him, the crowd loving every chord, every riff, it's a wonderful documentary and well produced too. Not something you'd want to watch often but an enjoyable eye opener and perfect accompaniment to such a box.

Now for the package – well, bar a less than really stiff spine (my only gripe), there's nothing this 8” 8 disc box doesn't have. The extensive booklet rounds things off nicely. And retailing at under £35, it's both value for money and a lesson to others in marketing.

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