Rory Gallagher – Blues

UMG / Chess three-disk set

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The booklet in the recently issued Blues has a quote from Rory Gallagher recalling the impact of first hearing blues on the radio:

“the following weekend I went into the library in Cork and I got books out on the origins of the blues”.

Rory was a regular user of the City Library on Grand Parade.  Another time he recalled

“I went into the library once and got Teach Yourself How to Read Music or something, and it said, ‘sit down with your piano’. . . We didn’t have a piano, so that went down the chute”.

It wasn’t just the books on music which drew Rory to the Library.  As a young reader he began a lifelong love of the classic hard-boiled crime novels of writers like Dashiell Hammett, Patricia Highsmith, James L. Cain, and Raymond Chandler.  This fascination with classic noir is reflected in the titles of the tracks on the second of the three disk set: ‘Prison blues’, ‘Secret agent’, ‘Loanshark blues’, ‘Pistol slapper blues’ and ‘Nothing but the devil’.  These could have been titles of books by his favourite writers, like e.g. Hammett’s Continental op.

It might seem an absurd thing to say but if Rory had never picked up a Strat and plugged in, these acoustic tracks – 12 in all – would be enough to make his name.

You only have to listen to ‘Should’ve learnt my lesson’ – his playing (including an over-dubbed mandolin track) gelling beautifully with Lou Martin’s barrel-house piano.  ‘Prison blues’ and ‘Bankers blues’ are other standouts, and he attacks ‘Pistol slapper blues’ with a relish that is irresistible.  Some of the tracks on CD2 are versions of songs better known in electric versions; hearing a song like ‘Whole lot of people’ for example in an acoustic version gives more space for the listener to appreciate the lyrics, often overlooked in the electric versions.

This should be no surprise to anyone; as early as ‘See here’ on the 2nd Taste album, and through to ‘Out of my mind’ on Deuce and beyond, Rory’s tasty acoustic playing was a joy.

The last four tracks on the acoustic CD are covers of songs by his heroes and mentors – Muddy Waters, Son House, Fulton Allen, and great versions they are, although you’d have to say his cover of John Lee Hooker’s ‘Want ad blues’ lacks the latter’s roguish menace.  Muddy Waters was always Rory’s main man, and you can feel the love in the versions of ‘Can’t be satisfied’ and ‘Blow wind blow’ (the basis for Dylan’s ‘It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry’) both included here.

Of course no Rory fan would accept that it’s all about his acoustic playing, and if there was even the remotest doubt listen to the first three tracks on CD3, recorded live in Glasgow in 1982, with Brendan O’Neill on drums: ‘Why my baby she left me’ (the Sonny Boy Williamson classic), ‘Nothing but the devil’ and Willie Dixon’s ‘What in the world’.  These are some of the best live tracks we have ever heard from Rory and his band. They were lucky to keep the roof on!

Other standouts include ‘Off the handle’ a slow searing blues, ‘I could’ve had religion’, ‘A Million miles away’ – both familiar live favourites but great versions here – and ‘Leaving town blues’ a studio cut for a Peter Green tribute.  Congrats to the production team, chiefly Donal Gallagher’s son Daniel, for getting a raft of great tracks from the RTÉ vaults.  Many Rory fans will have seen or heard them before, but having them anthologised here is a huge plus.

Of course it has to be said what a joy it is to see these tracks issued on the Chess label, how proud Rory would have been.

The only even vaguely negative comment one can make about this wonderful set is ‘What took ye so long lads?’

 

Liam Ronayne

Liam Ronayne
Cork City Librarian

 

 

 

Remembering Rory

As the Music Library in Grand is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, we are delighted to be commemorating one of Ireland’s most influential and fondly regarded musicians, the peerless guitarist Rory Gallagher. Indeed, the Music Library was renamed the Rory Gallagher Music Library in 2005 and this summer as part of the Remember Rory programme organised by the library there is an exhibition of a select few of Rory’s guitars and memorabilia such as concert posters that were kindly provided by his brother Donal.

An interesting aspect of the exhibition is a collection of Rory’s favourite crime novels. Many fans may be unaware that he was an avid reader of crime fiction and gained much inspiration from the genre which is reflected in aspects of his music, namely the song Continental Op after the Dashiell Hammett novel. Other favourite authors include Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr. Ripley; Strangers on a Train), Raymond Chandler (The Big Sleep; The Long Goodbye), Ian Fleming (Casino Royale; Thunderball), Eric Ambler (Journey into Fear; Epitaph for a Spy) and many others.

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In 2013 the noted crime fiction writer and bone fide Rory Gallagher fan Ian Rankin collaborated with Donal Gallagher to produce a novella with illustrations by  Timothy Truman inspired by Rory’s music entitled The Lie Factory which was accompanied by a compilation of Rory’s more crime noir related music with a narration by the actor Aidan Quinn. The finished product is entitled Kickback City. This is available to borrow from Cork City libraries along with many of the aforementioned titles from your local library branch or to reserve online here https://librariesireland.iii.com/iii/encore/homepage?lang=eng

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Ian Rankin himself praised the wonderful mural by John Coughlan that was recently erected outside the library in a tweet as seen here.

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The exhibition of memorabilia will run until the end of August and there will be more talks and performances throughout the rest of the year.

For further information please check the Rory Gallagher Music Library Facebook page here https://www.facebook.com/RoryGallagherMusicLibrary/ and also the Music Library website http://www.corkcitylibraries.ie/music/

by Conor MacHale

July 2018

Live at the Library – Jack O’Rourke

Jack O’Rourke is a singer/songwriter from Cork.  His debut album, “Dreamcatcher”, was released in 2016, with its edgy baroque pop, plaintive ballads, noir blues and startlingly honest reflections on the world around him.  The album was play listed on national and regional stations.  Jack won the prestigious International Song writing Competition for lyrics for the album’s centerpiece ballad, “Silence” (performed live on the Late Late Show), as well as having sell-out shows around the country.

Jack O'Rourke

 

Here is a short performance by Jack as he chats to Sheena Crowley about his plans for the future and plays a selection of his songs.

 

 

To view the full interview visit our YouTube channel here.

This recording is part of a special programme of events to mark 40 years of the Rory Gallagher Music Library, 40 years of service to the music loving people of Cork, 40 years of pleasure and enjoyment to library users

The series is about contemporary Cork musicians, old and young of diverse styles and backgrounds.  They are invited to do a half hour interview in the music library, followed by a couple of songs.  Each episode is professionally recorded, and kept as part of the Cork City Library Music Archive to reflect the musical culture of Cork.

Live at the Library – The Vestas

The Vestas: Live at the Library: a series of recorded interviews with contemporary Cork musicians, as part of the Rory Gallagher Music Library 40th celebration.

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Jake Kalilec, Leo Mullane and Fintan Mulvihill are three fine singer-songwriters from Cork, who came together whilst studying music in college. They write and perform some of the finest new music on the Irish scene – heavily influenced by soul, blues, pop and jazz styles, reflecting the different influences each of them brings to the group. This gives their music a refreshing and uplifting feel, with appeal to a wide audience. Their catchy melodies and vocal harmonies range in theme from the heartache of lost love to life on the dole. They have supported Damien Dempsey, Declan O’Rourke, Hermitage Green and many more.

Their new EP “In my Head” features soulful original songs that combine moving lyrics with equally moving melodies.

Here, Sheena Crowley talks to The Vestas about their new EP ‘In My Head’

U2 and the Lost Arc

Last Thursday on RTE 1 there was a documentary by Cork filmmaker,  Tony McCarthy called U2 agus an Arc.  It focused on the halcyon days of Cork’s Arcadia Ballroom in the late 70s and early 80s as a venue for visiting English bands like XTC, UB40 and The Specials as well local bands like MicroDisney and Nun Attax.  However, it was an up and coming band from Dublin, formerly known as The Hype and now calling themselves U2 that was the centre of attention here.

U2 played the Arcadia 10 times from 1978 to 1980 building up a strong fan base and developing their style and craft onstage to become within a few short years one of the biggest bands on the planet.

The documentary was a fond look back at the how the gigs were organised by Elvera Butler, as part of the Downtown Kampus, which moved from the Science building in UCC to the Arcadia.  Although there was no footage of the U2 gigs, there were many striking black and white photos of the band in action on stage in the venue.  With insightful contributions from people like John Spillane, Niall Stokes from Hot Press, and Paul Morley from the NME, this is a must see film for those interested in the music scene of Cork in recent years.

It is still available to watch on the RTE player until tomorrow.  Go watch it!!!

Conor MacHale

 

More info here:

https://theblackpoolsentinel.wordpress.com/2017/06/30/u2-and-the-arc/

https://www.rte.ie/entertainment/2017/0717/891004-superb-doc-reveals-the-true-arc-of-u2s-development/

Update 31/07/2017: Here’s a link for those who missed it!

 

 

It’s that Van again!

.. It’s Too Late to Stop Now .. in all its glory

Vol I: the original 2-CD set
Vol II, III, IV & DVD; previously unreleased material (4 disk set)

The early 1970s was an incredible time for Van Morrison; not a period of transition but one of great fulfilment.

Following his breakthrough with Moondance (1970) – Astral Weeks was a whole other thing – he produced a series of albums that together amount to the highpoint of his creative life: His band and the street choir (also 1970), Tupelo Honey (1971), Saint Dominic’s preview (1972), Hard nose the highway (1973), culminating in the live double album .. It’s too late to stop now .. (released January 1974).

In the summer of 1973 he set off on a three-month long tour of North America and Europe with the Caledonia Soul Orchestra. Warner Brothers recorded eight sets on that tour – at The Troubadour (23 May) in Los Angeles, the Santa Monica Civic (29 June), and The Rainbow in London (23 & 24 July).  The eleven-strong Caledonia Soul Orchestra was perhaps his greatest band; it included a five person string section, sax and trumpet, guitar, bass and drums, all led by Jeff Labes on piano and organ.  Many of these musicians had been with him since Moondance, and stayed with him through the first half of the 70s.

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That live recording – long-regarded as one of the greatest live albums ever – has now been revisited. The original has been re-mastered and re-issued as .. It’s too late to stop now .. Vol I; this is accompanied by .. It’s too late to stop now .. Vol II, III, and IV & DVD: previously unreleased selections from the gigs in The Troubadour, the Santa Monica Civic, and The Rainbow respectively.  The Rainbow gig on 24 July was filmed by the BBC for a TV special, but never broadcast.  Part of this concert is issued for the first time on the DVD.

So what have we got?

Each night on that tour he paid due tribute to his R’n’B mentors: Ray Charles (‘I believe to my soul’), Bobby Bland (‘Ain’t nothing you can do’), Sam Cooke (‘Bring it on home to me’), Sonny Boy Williamson (‘Help me’ and ‘Take your hand out of my pocket’) and Muddy Waters (‘I just want to make love to you’).  He included the Them-era classics ‘Gloria’ and ‘Here comes the night’ and his first solo hit ‘Brown eyed girl’.   At the heart of these recordings, however, are selections from his early 70s albums; we get a total of 18 of these songs from his six solo studio albums (including 6 of the 8 tracks on Hard nose the highway recorded that spring but not released until later in 1973).  We get two or even three versions of some songs, such as ‘Caravan’, ‘Into the mystic’ and ‘Cyprus Avenue’.

There are surprising covers as well: ‘Being green’ was written for Kermit the Frog on Sesame Street!, he does a version of ‘Purple heather’ that Francis McPeake – his fellow Belfast man who gave us the best-known rendering of that song – would struggle to recognize; both of them had been recorded for Hard nose the highway. As well as that he does Hank Williams’ ‘Hey good looking’ and a punk cha-cha version of that old chestnut ‘Buona sera’.

Five disks to listen to, one DVD 50 minutes long: is it worth it?

The tour was reaching its end when the Caledonia Soul Orchestra pitched up at The Rainbow in North London on 23 and 24 July 1973. Whether it was because Van and his band had got as tight as could be after a great tour, or they were looking forward to the finish, this is the set (volume IV) with the most verve and excitement.  Morrison has returned to ‘Listen to the Lion’ – first recorded for St. Dominic’s Preview – many times, but he and his band nailed a version here that would be hard to better.  Similarly with the versions on this CD of ‘Domino’, ‘Caravan’, ‘Into the mystic’ and ‘Cyprus Avenue’, ‘I believe to my soul’ . . .

The Santa Monica set is more restrained, somehow feels a little flat in comparison. The Troubadour gig, while still good, is maybe not as essential as the Rainbow CD.  The entire package, though, is a must for anyone with more than a passing interest in Van Morrison.

Everything his fans have loved for four decades can be found here: the unique way Van blends gutbucket blues and breath-taking soul with his romantic mystical longings, his unmistakeable voice, all backed by a fantastic collection of musicians, every one of them fully bought into Van’s way of making music.

Liam Ronayne

Liam Ronayne

 

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Header photo: Art Siegel, Wikipedia Commons

Bittersweet Aftertaste

 

On Friday, 28 August 1970, Rory Gallagher and his Taste band mates stood before what was quite literally an immeasurable crowd and delivered a set that was simply stunning. What’s Going On? Live at the Isle of Wight captures the essence of that performance beautifully. From the dazzling guitar intro to ‘What’s Going On?’ right through to the last notes of ‘Blister On The Moon,’ the band, by now a well oiled machine, exude a raw, primeval energy and a mastery of their craft that few bands then or now could match.

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Isle of Wight Festival 1970, Photo by Roland Godefroy

The fact that Rory — only twenty-two years old, but already a seasoned veteran of the stage — could stand in front of such a huge audience with nothing but his white Fender Telecaster and a slide for company, and perform ‘Gambling Blues,’ the way he did is mind-blowing. But Rory could do that, couldn’t he? Letting the band take a timeout, he could pick up an acoustic or a mandolin or whatever he felt like and still remain the focus of attention. It’s a rare gift. I caught Joe Bonamassa live a couple of years back and, although the show was great, the only low point was when he played acoustically without the band for a short set. We were treated to a cornucopia of fret-board acrobatics but no soul. It was all very contrived. The difference with Rory was that it always sounded so natural and it never interrupted the flow of his performance. His agenda was never to show off but to express his music as fully as possible and to do this he used whatever tools were necessary.

 

Taste was a musical phenomenon. Listening to them play, one could hear echoes of everything that went before and hints of what was yet to come. They had the tight, disciplined professionalism of a Jazz trio, the heart and soul of a blues band and the kind of fire that later ignited the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. In August 2005 I met two of the guitarists from Iron Maiden — Dave Murray and Janick Gers — in Bruxelles Pub in Dublin after a show they played in the RDS, and during a chat about musicians they admired, both axe men cited Rory Gallagher as a major influence. I wasn’t surprised, as I’ve always thought that Iron Maiden’s self-titled 1980 debut had echoes of Rory all over it. Indeed, Rory Gallagher’s influence on the sound of modern rock in general cannot be underestimated. Brian May of Queen readily admits that he got his sound from him. Rory kindly talked him through his live rig after a gig in London’s Marquee that Brian, then a very young Taste fan, attended. Since then the Vox AC 30 and treble booster pedal became permanent fixtures in Brian May’s setup.

Though showing no sign of it on the day, by the time Taste took the stage on the Isle of Wight in 1970, cracks had already appeared behind the scenes and soon afterwards they split. They were even reluctant to let photographer John Minihan take a band portrait backstage. It was only when bassist McCracken grabbed his band mates and jibed, ‘Come on guys, even if it’s the last one!’ that the photo was taken. As you can see in the picture heading this article, they look far from comfortable.

On the one hand, it’s a shame that the band didn’t get the opportunity to realise their full potential, but, on the other, it opened the door for Rory to go his own way and to become an artist in his own right. With the albums Rory Gallagher, Deuce, Blueprint and Tattoo released in the years succeeding the Taste break up, it became clear that Rory had drawn a line under the past and moved on. Out were those frivolous, jam-style interludes between guitarist and rhythm section and in came more focused songwriting with Rory centre stage and bass and drums providing a rock solid backdrop. The dynamic had changed and by the time Irish Tour ’74 hit the shelves, Rory Gallagher and his band were a blues–rock tour de force, and Taste a distant memory.

But what a memory it was. Taste was active during a period of intense cultural and musical transformation and the line-up at the Isle of Wight Festival, the largest musical event of its time, read like a roll call for anyone who mattered in popular music in 1970. What a thrill it must have been for the three young Taste members to play at such a monumental event alongside names like Jimi Hendrix and The Who. Though it was to be the band’s swansong, their performance sent waves across the music world and earned them their place in Rock history.

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With the recent release of I’ll Remember, the Taste boxed set detailing the band’s history, and the film What’s Going On? Live at the Isle of Wight on DVD, it’s important to note that, although Taste represented a relatively short span in Rory Gallagher’s musical career, to his fans and fans of good music in general it was not without value, and sounds as good today, twenty-one years after Rory Gallagher’s passing, as it did all those years ago.

Great music never ages.