Eagle Rock / Capo
All Access Review: B+
No stranger to cameras and lights, Rory Gallagher was a regular on the German TV show “Beat Club” in the early ‘70s, appearing four times over a span of two years, once with his band Taste in 1970 and three others in 1971-72 to showcase material from his brilliant first two solo albums. Listening to The Beat Club Sessions, it’s easy to see why he was asked back time and time again.
From the vaults come 90 minutes of sensational unreleased live material from those shows, all pulled together for this latest testament to Gallagher’s mastery of blues guitar. Intended as a companion piece to the two-DVD “Ghost Blues” package Eagle also released in September that is purported to be the first complete and fully authorized documentary of Gallagher’s life and career, The Beat Club Sessions provides a taste of Gallagher’s inestimable live prowess and a remarkable look at how the Irish guitar gunslinger reinvigorated favorites from his small, but magnificent catalog on stage.
And what a flavorful sampler this is, from the propulsive, double-barreled blast of “Laundromat” and “Hands Up” to intricate and wistful acoustic readings of “Just the Smile” and “I Don’t Know Where I’m Going” – every piece is powerful, beautifully played and joyously articulated. The slow stomp and slide guitar frenzy of “I Could’ve Had Religion” brings to life the ghosts of the Delta blues heroes Gallagher worshipped, and “Used To Be” smolders with intensity, with Gallagher’s slashing solo a stiletto across the neck and his coal-fired band playing with verve and passion, the trio closing the song with a raucous meltdown of pounding drums, thumping bass and soaring six-string magic.
There’s a hard edge to Gallagher’s playing here, and he’s at his sharpest on a dynamic, serrated version of “Messin’ with the Kid” that serves as the live collection’s blistering finale. Handling “Crest of a Wave” with a more melodic touch, Gallagher reveals a less bombastic, more fluid and artful aspect of his instrumental genius. If only the package had more to it.
The liner notes are too short to be sweet and more detailed historical context for Gallagher’s performances on “Beat Club” would have made this essential. Perhaps “Ghost Blues” will fill in the cracks.