CD Review: Rory Gallagher's Irish Tour 74

CD Review: Rory Gallagher's Irish Tour 74
Eagle Records
All Access Review: A-

Though he lived and breathed American blues and was beloved worldwide for his raw talent and fiery passion, blues-rock guitar god Rory Gallagher belonged to Ireland. And that meant Northern Ireland, too. At a time when the place was a battleground, when “The Troubles” were far more disturbing than that euphemism would imply and ethno-political tensions always seemed on the verge of exploding in violence, most artists avoided it like the plague, but not Rory. He went willingly, and for an all-too-brief period when he played, he brought a little peace and unity to a land most people considered a powder keg.

In 1974, Rory Gallagher made stops throughout Ireland, and the tour was filmed by Tony Palmer. Originally, it was a project developed for the small screen, but Palmer instinctually knew that the TV was too small to contain such an epic musical journey. Eventually, Palmer’s shootings were transformed into a movie that was played all around the U.K. and parts of Europe. It would then go with Gallagher on a tour of America, and now, Eagle Rock Entertainment has reissued the film on DVD and Blu-ray. Audio evidence, collected from concerts at Belfast’s Ulster Hall, Dublin’s Carlton Cinema and Cork’s City Hall, of Gallagher’s powerful magic was also captured and released on what many consider to be one of the greatest live albums ever, Irish Tour.

This reissue doesn’t do anything to alter anybody’s opinion of Irish Tour. It has the same track listing from top to bottom, with nothing new in the way of bonus recordings added, except new, laudable liner notes and chunks of historical insight to each song by Shu Tomioka and Charles Stanford. The music is spectacular, with Gallagher cutting through the swirling keyboard smog of the wall-of-sound opener, “Cradle Rock,” with piercing, penetrating solos and lifting Muddy Waters’ “I Wonder Who” to smoky new heights with arrows of bluesy notes of truth shot with conviction and sharpness that other guitarists can only dream of flinging. Shifting into high gear, “Tattoo’d Lady” drives along at an urgent pace, with Gerry McAvoy’s bass galloping hard, Lou Martin electric keyboard firing like pistons and Rod de’Ath’s drums providing the rhythmic horsepower and Gallagher soaring at the end. Gallagher and company give the J.B. Hutto composition “Too Much Alcohol” a mean blues workout, before Gallagher straps on a Dobro 1932 National guitar for the Tony Joe White number “As The Crow Flies” and holds an acoustic séance with ghosts of the Mississippi Delta that dances and moans with religious fervor.

And Gallagher and his mates are far from done. From his own Tattoo album comes “A Million Miles Away,” where Rory and his band exhibit patience in letting the song build and burn away at the same time. His touch and creativity are sublime, as are the fireworks he displays on a feverish “Walk on Hot Coals,” where the band simply lets it all hang out. As the audience grows more and more hungry, Gallagher feeds them a multi-dimensional meal of different guitar textures, stylistic virtuosity, fearless exploration and playful experimentation with the templates of hallowed songs. To immerse yourself in the full experience of Irish Tour, get the DVD of the film and save the CD, if you don’t already have a copy, for lonely reflections on a back porch or a study with a glass of fine whisky or a wild, belated Irish wake for one of the most reveredand brilliant musicians from a tortured country’s painful past.

-         Peter Lindblad

CD Review: Duff McKagan's Loaded - Sick

CD Review: Duff McKagan's Loaded - Sick
Armoury Records
All Access Review: A

There’s nothing unhealthy about this reissue of Sick, the 2009 predecessor to Loaded’s grungier cousin, the 2011 release The Taking. Two years removed, it hardly seems like enough time has passed for a second bite at the apple with Sick, still in its toddler stage as far as music history is concerned. But, The Taking has apparently taken off, gaining favor even with many who’ve forgotten, or no longer even care, that McKagen used to be in Guns ‘N Roses. So, in keeping with the “strike while the iron is hot” line of thinking, the timing couldn’t be better to revisit Sick and Armoury Records gives us good reason to do so.
On balance, where The Taking is unexpectedly heavy and tilting more towards Soundgarden-like grunge – and therefore, a bit more lethargic in spots – Sick takes its cues from punk and maintains stronger, more aggressive tempos, while still managing to traffic in the thick, punishing rhythms and riffs of metal. Really, when it comes right down to it, it’s a matter of taste in comparing The Taking with Sick. Either you’re a fan of the more metallic dynamics and crushing heaviness of The Taking or it’s the sharper songcraft, faster pace and stylistic variety of Sick that heats your blood. Place your bets on Sick if you want an album that’ll stay with you for a long, long time.
From the nasty grooves and stinging guitars of the title track – and its great line, “You’re like Typhoid Mary mixed with the Asian flu” – that opens the 13-song set, plus two bonus tracks, and shoots right on through the wailing kiss-off “Flatline” and its meat-and-potatoes plate of ‘70s hard-rock and straight into the frantic energy of “The Slide,” to the marriage of surprisingly sweet harmonies and strong melody that is “Translucent,” Sick is relentless in its approach. That is until the touching “Mother’s Day” comes along. Beautifully written, this is Loaded’s Paul Westerberg moment. A wistful lament and treatise on loss and aging that’s neither cloying nor saccharine in its treatment of those themes, it’s the best thing Loaded has ever done. And then comes the runaway freight-train of “I See Through You” and, later, the hyper pogo-stick bounce of closer “No More” to remind everyone that Loaded doesn’t dwell on sentiment for very long.
As for the bonus tracks, one is an acoustic version of Sick’s “Wasted Heart,” the original a slow-building beauty that gets only prettier when stripped down to its essential structure. The other is “Roll Away,” a winning mix of contemplative lyrics and guitars that burn like dying embers in a fire. Throw in a 90-minute DVD featuring the scintillating “Live at the Garage” concert filmed in Glasgow in 2008, a promo video for “No More” and various webisodes, and you’ve got a rich, full package of everything you could want in reissue. Loaded? Yes, this version of Sick truly is just that.
- Peter Lindblad
Official Artist Site: