Rory Gallagher: Crest of a Wave: The Best of Rory Gallagher

Crest of a Wave: The Best of Rory Gallagher is a two-disc retrospective featuring a complete cross-section of the work of one of the greatest guitar geniuses to come out of the blues rock tradition.

Rory Gallagher

Crest of a Wave: The Best of Rory Gallagher

Label: Eagle
US Release Date: 2009-08-25
UK Release Date: 2009-08-25

Crest of a Wave: The Best of Rory Gallagher is a two-disc retrospective of Ireland's own, largely unsung, guitar hero. The set comes from Eagle Rock Entertainment, the company that brought us last spring's excellent DVD of Gallagher's triumphant 1987 homecoming concert, Rory Gallagher Live in Cork, and it is a superb collection of 24 classic tracks.

Of course, Rory Gallagher deserves far more than a two-disc set, even one as comprehensive as this. He also deserves to be mentioned alongside all the other guitar gods of the '60s and '70s, like Hendrix, Clapton, Townshend, Page, and Beck, but puzzlingly, he isn't. Listening to these songs, one has to wonder why. After all, this is a guy who turned down an offer to replace Mick Taylor in the Rolling Stones! He won the 1972 Melody Maker poll for best guitarist, beating out all those other guys by far. He recorded albums with Jerry Lee Lewis and Albert King, sat in on London Sessions with Muddy Waters, and blew headliners like Aerosmith and the Faces off of the stage. His Irish Tour 1974 became a hit documentary film and a best-selling record, he played blistering live shows all over the world and he toured the United States an astounding 25 times. In the liner notes, for Crest of a Wave , Billboard magazine’s Ed Christman talks about how Gallagher put Ireland of the rock 'n' roll map years before the likes of U2, and how there are still week-long "Rory-fests" a couple times a year around Europe. Surely, all these things make up the very definition of a "guitar god".

And then, there's the music itself. Rory Gallagher released 12 studio albums and six live discs during his career, and they are well-represented here, from the rockers like "Shinkicker", to the acoustic blues of Leadbelly's "Out on the Western Plains", from the blues rock for which he's probably best known, like "Walking on Hot Coals" to the folk of "Out of My Mind". There are even incredible, irresistible forays into jazz, with "They Don't Make Them Like You Anymore" and "Calling Card". Crest of a Wave gathers every genre found in Gallagher's work, and underscores every facet of his phenomenal playing skill.

Gallagher's nephew, Daniel, notes, however, that his main intention with this collection was to showcase his uncle's considerable songwriting talent, which is sometimes overlooked in the fervor surrounding his genius as a guitarist. Not that the solos are slighted here -- they are definitely present -- but so are the melodies in songs like "Follow Me" and "Moonchild", so is the storytelling in "Loanshark Blues" or "In Your Town", so are the evocative atmospheres of "Overnight Bag", "Wheels Within Wheels", and "A Million Miles Away".

Another not-as-often-noticed talent of Gallagher's on display in this set is his vocal ability. Unlike almost all of his contemporaries, with perhaps the exception of Pete Townshend, Rory Gallagher can actually sing. The softer songs, particularly, show his gifts in this area as his gently weathered, not-too-gravelly voice carries the listener through the lyrical landscapes. The road-worn weariness and aching emotion he brings to "A Million Miles Away" will enchant you every time. But he can also belt it out like the best of the blues shouters. And it's his delivery on the blues rock tracks, along with the formidable fretwork, that give an indication of what it must have been like to hear him live (for those of us who missed it).

In fact, that it contains none of his live recordings is probably the only real drawback to Crest of a Wave: The Best of Rory Gallagher. But it's a good introduction to his work for new fans and a great overview for others. One hopes it will spark resurgence in recognition for Rory Gallagher and prompt further digging into his back catalogue, so he eventually gets the widespread acknowledgment -- and complete boxed set treatment -- he truly deserves.






PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.


David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.


David Lord Salutes Collaborators With "Cloud Ear" (premiere)

David Lord teams with Jeff Parker (Tortoise) and Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground) for a new collection of sweeping, frequently meditative compositions. The results are jazz for a still-distant future that's still rooted in tradition.


Laraaji Takes a "Quiet Journey" (premiere +interview)

Afro Transcendentalist Laraaji prepares his second album of 2020, the meditative Moon Piano, recorded inside a Brooklyn church. The record is an example of what the artist refers to as "pulling music from the sky".


Blues' Johnny Ray Daniels Sings About "Somewhere to Lay My Head" (premiere)

Johnny Ray Daniels' "Somewhere to Lay My Head" is from new compilation that's a companion to a book detailing the work of artist/musician/folklorist Freeman Vines. Vines chronicles racism and injustice via his work.


The Band of Heathens Find That Life Keeps Getting 'Stranger'

The tracks on the Band of Heathens' Stranger are mostly fun, even when on serious topics, because what other choice is there? We all may have different ideas on how to deal with problems, but we are all in this together.


Landowner's 'Consultant' Is OCD-Post-Punk With Obsessive Precision

Landowner's Consultant has all the energy of a punk-rock record but none of the distorted power chords.


NYFF: 'American Utopia' Sets a Glorious Tone for Our Difficult Times

Spike Lee's crisp concert film of David Byrne's Broadway show, American Utopia, embraces the hopes and anxieties of the present moment.


South Africa's Phelimuncasi Thrill with Their Gqom Beats on '2013-2019'

A new Phelimuncasi anthology from Nyege Nyege Tapes introduces listeners to gqom and the dancefloors of Durban, South Africa.


Wolf Parade's 'Apologies to the Queen Mary' Turns 15

Wolf Parade's debut, Apologies to the Queen Mary, is an indie rock classic. It's a testament to how creative, vital, and exciting the indie rock scene felt in the 2000s.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Literary Scholar Andrew H. Miller On Solitude As a Common Bond

Andrew H. Miller's On Not Being Someone Else considers how contemplating other possibilities for one's life is a way of creating meaning in the life one leads.


Fransancisco's "This Woman's Work" Cover Is Inspired By Heartache (premiere)

Indie-folk brothers Fransancisco dedicate their take on Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" to all mothers who have lost a child.


Rodd Rathjen Discusses 'Buoyancy', His Film About Modern Slavery

Rodd Rathjen's directorial feature debut, Buoyancy, seeks to give a voice to the voiceless men and boys who are victims of slavery in Southeast Asia.


Hear the New, Classic Pop of the Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" (premiere)

The Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" is a pop tune, but pop as heard through ears more attuned to AM radio's glory days rather than streaming playlists and studio trickery.


Blitzen Trapper on the Afterlife, Schizophrenia, Civil Unrest and Our Place in the Cosmos

Influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Blitzen Trapper's new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes plumbs the comedic horror of the human condition.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Fire in the Time of Coronavirus

If we venture out our front door we might inhale both a deadly virus and pinpoint flakes of ash. If we turn back in fear we may no longer have a door behind us.


Sufjan Stevens' 'The Ascension' Is Mostly Captivating

Even though Sufjan Stevens' The Ascension is sometimes too formulaic or trivial to linger, it's still a very good, enjoyable effort.

Jordan Blum

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.