[15 August 2011]
Rory Gallagher has long been held as the Irish successor to the throne held by Jimi Hendrix, with guitar chops that placed him in the same ranks as contemporaries like Peter Green, Gary Moore, and Eric Clapton. A proud son of Ballyshannon, Donegal, Gallagher came from a musical working-class family. His father worked for the Irish Electric Board, playing accordian and singing in local choirs, while his mother acted and sang in the Ballyshannon Theatre Company. Rory proved to be a precocious ukelele stylist and received his first guitar at age nine. The late ‘50s found the young Gallagher garnering quite a name for himself after winning local guitar competitions playing acoustic and electric guitar.
The young Gallagher maintained an active performing schedule, adding slide guitar and mandolin to his repertoire and becoming known for his long hair and working man’s clothes. In early 1961, he acquired the signature sunburst 1961 Fender Stratocaster that he would play until his death in 1995. The guitar was the first of its kind in Ireland, put up for sale when Fender shipped the wrong color to a player in the Irish Showband. Intrigued by skiffle and Muddy Waters, Gallagher and his Stratocaster tenured in a number of showbands around Ireland before he formed The Taste with two other Cork musicians in 1966. Eventually dropping the article, Taste gained a following as an Irish Cream (who started the same year), with Gallagher’s wild playing a large draw for the trio. Ireland’s young people took to Gallagher, and he soon became regarded as Ireland’s first rock star. Taste released two studio records and supporting Blind Faith as well as Cream, but they broke up soon after a triumphant performance at the Isle Of Wight in 1970.
Post-Taste, Gallagher went solo, linking up with career-long bass foil Gerry McAvoy and a series of drummers to release a string of records throughout the 70s. Worldwide sales numbers total in the tens of millions behind seminal blues-rock releases like Deuce and Tattoo. At the tail end of 1977, Gallagher and his band ended a six month tour in Japan, flying straight to San Francisco afterward to begin production on a new studio release with Neil Young boardsman Elliot Mazer. A noted perfectionist and neurotic, Gallagher eventually scrapped the recordings, his party line being that the mixing process of the recordings was “too complicated”. He reportedly saw The Sex Pistols at Winterland during the mixing sessions and decided that a more Spartan lineup was in order, eventually dropping keyboards from his band soon afterward. In fact, many of the songs from these recordings eventually came out in trio form on 1978 Gallagher release Photo Finish.
The San Francisco recordings with Mazer lay dormant until 2011 when Gallagher younger brother/manager Donal had his son Daniel undertake the process of remixing the recordings, which have been lavishly packaged by the good folk of Eagle Rock as released as Notes From San Francisco, part of large Gallagher reissue and remaster program called Rory: Remastered. Rediscovered. Notes is paired with a disc of fiery live trio recordings from 1979 recorded over a four night stand at the Old Waldorf in San Francisco. Gallagher was always known for the dynamic live performances that often lasted hours. The exertion resulted in the extreme wear his signature Strat displayed and exacerbated a troubled existence that eventually resulted Gallagher’s passing from complications following a liver transplant in 1995. The studio Notes recordings are an interesting expanded take on the tracks that eventually appeared in superior reductive form on Photo Finish, but the live recordings show the real meat and potatoes of where Gallagher was coming from at the time. Both discs are worthy additions to any Gallagher collection. With Notes From San Francisco Gallagher fans would do well to come for the esoterica of the unreleased studio sessions, but stay for the raging live set that brings the songs truly alive.