[9 August 2011]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
There’s something about the fact that many Rory Gallagher releases and re-releases have come out in the past couple of years that might make even the die-hard fans balk at the prospect of yet another one. The two CD retrospective Crest of a Wave: The Best of Rory Gallagher and the re-packaged DVD Rory Gallagher Live in Cork are but two recent examples reviewed by this writer. Both of those are fantastic showcases of the often-underrated talents of a true guitar virtuoso, but it’s easy to see how they could leave you wondering, “Do I really need another Rory Gallagher CD?”
Well, the answer is “Yes”. Of course you do. From the moment the music starts, Rory Gallagher: Irish Tour ‘74 more than justifies itself. Gallagher played like his guitar was plugged straight into the universal source, and it probably was. That Gallagher was on his home turf for this tour only increases the sense of some sort of direct connection with his sound. Every note played, every string struck and every song sung vibrates with all the passion and intensity of a spiritual experience, which this surely was.
The set opens with “Cradle Rock”, replete with riffs and heavy rhythm. “I Wonder Who” is a slithering, slow blues that mesmerizes any listeners not already under Gallagher’s spell. It also introduces the band. The ‘74 lineup was Gerry McAvoy on bass, Lou Martin on keyboards and Rod De’Ath at the drums. Next, “Tattoo’d Lady”, arguably Gallagher’s best-known track, revs up the rock before “Too Much Alcohol” brings back the bad-boy blues.
“As the Crow Flies” finds Gallagher playing fast and fiery on an acoustic guitar. Clearly the crowd is in thrall at this point, so when “A Million Miles Away” begins its ascent, it is ready to follow—as are Gallagher and the rest of the band—intently building upon the song’s ever-increasing momentum as they reach intently toward the power at its pinnacle. If any one song on this set illustrates the primal ritual inherent in rock, particular in live performance, it’s this one.
“Walk On Hot Coals” traverses several musical landscapes, while “Who’s That Coming” is the perfect balance between blues and rock. “Back On My Stompin’ Ground” is the band’s jam, complete with showy slides from Gallagher. Finally, “Maritime” provides a roguish instrumental as a close to the concert and as completion of the circuit one imagines had been made with the divine.
Eagle Rock, which has been responsible for so much of the resurgence in interest in Gallagher and his unique talent, has released several companions pieces, in addition to the CD, to commemorate Irish Tour ‘74. A double LP, 180g vinyl version, and a DVD and Blu-ray, with extras, are available, as well. If you’re already a fan of Rory Gallagher, trust that you do, indeed, definitely need this material. If you’re new to the man and his legacy, Rory Gallagher: Irish Tour ‘74 will convert you quite quickly. Prepare for instant initiation.