There’s not many live albums that capture the passion, the exuberance and the pure and unadulterated talent like Rory Gallagher’s Irish Tour ’74. It also proves something about originality, creativity and the human condition. It’s as simple as this, it doesn’t matter what you do – it’s how you do it. Rory Gallagher just played good old bluesy R’n’R songs about love and leaving – gravel and spit, gruffly ejected from his throat and blazing guitar licks shooting out of his battered old Fender Strat – the guitar looked like it had been run over by a truck and then dropped in an acid bath.
The album starts with the announcement “Hello, Ladies and Gentlemen, Rory Gallagher” and then a massive cheer and you can hear him check his tuning, turn up the volume on his guitar and with an ice slicing tone and a short introduction, thunder into the beginning of Cradle Rock from his 1973 album Tattoo. He digs his fingers into the strings as he strips the paint off the concert hall walls and the band comes in like a juggernaut. A slide solo that slices mountains in half and all the time he’s talking to his guitar. When the song finishes he immediately introduces the band, long time bass player Gerry McAvoy, Rod De’ath on drums and Lou Martin on keyboards (who died in 2012).
Muddy Waters’ song, I Wonder Who is next with that tree splitting tone and licks that he peels off like a man possessed. It’s never ever boring, it’s so exciting that you wait for each solo section on the edge of your seat. Then he starts singing the notes he is soloing and still talking to his guitar. He makes magic out of basic tools.
Tattoo’d Lady is next – the album Tattoo 1973 would have been his latest album at the time so he’s starting with new material. But at this time just the joy of him playing would have driven the crowd into a frenzy. At this time the IRA bombing campaign was at its height in Northern Ireland and Gallagher continued to go and play in Belfast when most bands were cancelling their shows. This album is recorded in Belfast, Dublin and Cork and if you like the record you can also get a DVD of the film, this album is regarded as the soundtrack to those celluloid concert performances. Even though there is a film, the album alone has sold 2 million copies.
Too Much Alcohol, a song by South Carolina bluesman J.B. Hutto opens Side 2 and then Tony Joe White’s As The Crow Flies on acoustic with harmonica follows. In live performance he makes everything sound so vibrant and he thrives/feeds off the audience, having said that I love his studio albums. I saw him twice in the seventies, once at Liverpool Stadium around the same time as this album and once at Reading Festival. (Van Der Graaf Generator and Camel were also on the bill as I remember).
Next he introduces “A new song, hope you like it” A Million Miles Away, this is also from Tattoo – his guitar tone is beautiful on that old ’61 Strat. He mixes covers of old blues songs and his own compositions to great effect – the songs do different things but all of them showcase his immense feel for the guitar.
Walkin’ On Hot Coals was the opening track on the first of two albums he released in 1973, Blueprint. It’s also the opening track on Side 3 of Irish Tour and at 11 minutes long it’s jam packed with screaming tone bliss.
The other track on Side 3 is the 10 minute, Who’s That Coming from Tattoo and you can hear the audience getting into it, in fact they start singing – “Nice one Rory, nice one son, nice one Rory, Let’s have another one”. Enthusiasm spilling out everywhere – from him, from the band, from the audience, from everyone involved.
Side 4 opens with Back On My Stompin’ Ground and is more slide guitar, recorded with Ronnie Lane’s Mobile from a jam session perhaps at a soundcheck and has a noticeably different sound quality to the rest of the record.
Just A Little Bit the ’50s Rosco Gordon song finishes the album on this version, on other’s it’s a 33 seconds of instrumental Maritime of which I know nothing at all -it sounds like a ’50s standard.
If you want to hear a great rock blues album from the middle of the seventies with a guitarist at the top of his game, with guitar tones that will melt the skin off a rhinoceros and so much heart that the sky turns red wherever he plays, then you’ve found it. Rory Gallagher sadly died too young of complications from a liver transplant at the age of 47 .