Rory Gallagher – Check Shirt Wizard

This year sees the release of a new addition to the Rory Gallagher live canon in the form of Check Shirt Wizard, a collection of previously unreleased live recordings from his 1977 UK tour.

Album cover

Fitting neatly between Irish Tour ’74 and 1980s Stage Struck, this album showcases Rory at his blistering best. The set does feature performances of songs released on the above mentioned albums as well as 1972’s Live in Europe, however, these performances recorded are excellently re-mastered sonically enhancing the tight and sustained virtuosity of not just Rory, but the band as a well-oiled unit blasting the audience away. With the same line-up as 1974, the ever present Gerry McAvoy on bass, Rod de’Ath on drums and Lou Martin on piano, the listener feels as if they are present at the concert. It is highly recommended by this listener to play this album at a very loud volume!

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This 20 song collection sees Rory fresh from recording and touring on the back of his most recent release 1976’s Calling Card and the set includes many of the songs from that album. Also there is a decent five song acoustic set with Rory in fine form on a dobro and slide version of ‘Too Much Alcohol’ and bringing out the mandolin for the anthemic ‘Going to My Hometown’.  The latter song was a runner up on Cork City Libraries’ and Creative Ireland’s recent Cork’s Favourite Song initiative. Deservedly also, at time of writing, Check Shirt Wizard was at No.1 on the Billboard Blues Chart

All these above mentioned albums and many more Rory related material can be borrowed from the Rory Gallagher Music Library. Enjoy!

by Conor MacHale

The Bad Penny Review | Harry Styles’ Fine Line

When Fine Line released in December 2019 it burst onto the scene and became the third-highest debut for an album that year, and with good reason. The album is a rousing and stylish pop record that wears all of its retro-rock inspirations on its sleeve. Rock royalty Stevie Nicks revealed the album has been what she has been primarily listening to throughout the lockdown, proclaiming “Way to go H. It is your Rumours”.

Fine Line Cover Art

So given that, how does the album hold up to the Fleetwood Mac classic? While it doesn’t maintain the same level of consistent quality in all of its 12 tracks, the vast majority offer a delightful and infectious romp through the sounds of rock and pop, both old and new. You can feel the constant drive to create great moments in every track; with catchy hooks, dynamic song structures and superb production. The album is brimming with confidence and draws you in from the beginning through to the end.

The opening track ‘Golden’ launches straight in with a storming progressive indie-pop song that lays bare his 70s and aforementioned Fleetwood Mac influences but unlike his first solo album it clearly frames Styles as the main attraction. ‘Canyon Moon’ also highlights his folk-pop inspirations with its sunny disposition pitching a tent and setting up a campfire by the time it gets to the first chorus.

Other tracks like the standout ‘Sunflower Vol. 6’ sparkle and shimmer with wavy layers of electronic buzz and jangling guitars. Great vocal moments such as exaggerated breaths before verses, layered harmonies and the joyous and silly outro give the song plenty of memorable moments. This track shows Style’s at his most stylish and confident as he commands the dazzling array of sounds and layers with ease.

‘Lights Up’ blends pop rock with the glimmering shades of indie and balances them out with a bombastic chorus. Ticking the box for a big summer banger is ‘Watermelon Sugar’ with its simple guitar based underbelly exploding after the first verse into a raucous big band anthem that practically demands sunny skies.

Meanwhile, funky pop grooves and piercing guitar solos are aplenty on the single ‘Adore You’, paired with themes of unwavering devotion that invoke memories of early Bruno Mars mega-hits, while the last of the singles to appear on the record, ‘Falling’, features a stripped back instrumental for its reflective subject matter and tries to offers a change of pace. However, the song is a more forgettable pop ballad, lacking the defined sense of character on most of the other tracks.

Lyrically the album often follows an honest and open approach, ‘Cherry’ is a bouncy slice of indie folk that laments an obviously personal break-up, ‘To Be So Lonely’ demonstrates that commitment to looking inward over a sparse and fun instrumental while Styles documents his relationship failings.

The guitar heavy ‘She’ is an atmospheric and airy track that proves infectious, despite it lacking the lyrical quality to offer insight into the concept on display, with its soaring guitars and great vocals.

The thematically self-explanatory, ‘Treat People With Kindness’, sees Styles at his most Magical Mystery Tour. Sporting a powerful vocal performance that holds the larger than life instrumental and backing vocals together the song soars and aims to take all bystanders along with it, even if it does often veer into clichéd territory.

The title track ‘Fine Line’ closes the album with a spacious, melancholy ballad that builds steadily with expanding instrumentation and vocal melodies, until the spectacular introduction of a stellar brass section gives both the song and album a great sense of release.

Overall, Fine Line is a very solid second offering from an artist carving their sound out of 60s and 70s influences and using them to create fun, energetic and honest music for a whole new generation.

 

Now available with your library membership to stream and download on Freegal: https://corkcitylibraries.freegalmusic.com/

 

By John Hayes

 

Music To Enjoy At Home

Although concert venues, theatres and general performance spaces remain closed during the Covid-19 pandemic, you can still  access many forms of music online and enjoy them in the comfort of your own home. Here are a few suggestions from Senior Library Assistant, Conor McHale.

Live Stream Concerts
Billboard’s website offers a range of links to live stream concerts from artists such as Metallica to Miley Cyrus with the Philadelphia Orchestra in between.  These are available on the bigger platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.  Billboard regularly updates this list of online concerts.  Visit www.billboard.com

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Jazz and Rock
npr.org is an easy to use website, also regularly updated and is divided into genre such and Jazz, Rock and so on. Visit www.npr.org

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Irish Traditional Music
For Irish and Trad enthusiasts there is a collection of YouTube videos from artists like Sharon Shannon, Rhiannon Giddens, Ye Vagabonds and The Black Family.  Visit www.celtic-colours.com

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Classical Music
For Classical lovers check out an old reliable, Classic FM. Visit www.classicfm.com

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Recorded Concerts
For those who enjoy watching classic music concerts from their favourite artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Queen and many, many more, visit www.quello.com

 

by Conor McHale

 

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

 

 

 

Neil Young in the Ditch

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Neil Young is arguably the most prolific, as well as the longest-lasting, and hardest-working musician in popular music.  His output is so varied that it is difficult to know where to begin to come to terms with his music.  He moved from his native Canada to the USA in the mid-1960s and it feels like he has hardly let his guitar down since.  In this present century alone he has released 17 albums of new music, along with a series of archival recordings, mostly live, curated by Young himself.

Looking back over four decades to focus on one short period in his career might seem a little odd, in that context.  Yet in the opinion of this writer, the three albums he recorded in 1973 and 1974, taken together, amount to his finest work.  He himself coined the name by which this period and its music – ‘The Ditch’ – are known:

Heart of Gold put me in the middle of the road.  Travelling there soon became a bore so I headed for the ditch”.

The music made by Young during that time was brought to mind by the release in early summer 2018 of Roxy: Tonight’s the Night Live.  This album was recorded straight after he and his band had finished recording the Tonight’s the Night studio album.  They went to the newly opened Roxy Club on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles in late September 1973, and played most of the songs they had just recorded.

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Tonight’s the Night – released in June 1975, although recorded in August 1973 – is so good I wondered what the live set would have to offer, but it is a revelation.  Tonight’s the Night captures Young coming to terms with “losing friends, band members and crew members to heroin” according to music journo Jon Dale, who described the recording process as “a dark occluded affair”.

Many of the versions are even better live than in the studio.  Young’s singing, and his and the band’s playing, are much more engaging; witness for example the soulful guitar-playing on ‘Speaking out’ (Nils Lofgren), a beautiful – though haunting – ‘Tired Eyes’ and scorching versions of ‘Roll another number (for the road)’ and ‘Tonight’s the night (Reprise)’.

The first of ‘The Ditch’ records was Time fades away, a collection of eight songs recorded live during a tour of 65 large venues over 90 days, beginning in early January 1973.  Young took against this record soon after its release and has refused for years to have it released on CD; “it’s the worst record I ever made” he says.  Not so, in fact its honesty and sometimes ramshackle playing offers a way into Young’s deepest feelings.  The rawness only adds to what the listener gets out of it.

The third album of the trilogy is On the beach.  This received negative reviews on its release in July 1974, but is now recognized as one of Young’s greatest.  It is a sobering and sometimes savage pen-picture of America in the dying days of Nixon’s presidency, absorbing and reflecting the awful impact of the Vietnam War and the Manson ‘family’ on the youth of the USA.

But to get back to Roxy: Tonight’s the Night Live, one of the striking things is that the sadness and anger of the lyrics are offset by Young’s sardonic and self-deprecating patter on stage.  Surprisingly, in an odd kind of way, this adds depth and humanity to the songs.

The order in which the band play the songs is different to the studio album, and this helps to give Roxy a different vibe:

Studio Album
1 Tonight’s the Night
2 Speaking’ Out
3 World on a String
4 Borrowed Tune
5 Come on baby (let’s go downtown)
6 Mellow my Mind
7 Roll another number (for the road)
8 Albuquerque
9 New Mama
10 Lookout Joe
11 Tired Eyes
12 Tonight’s the Night (Reprise)
Roxy
1 Tonight’s the Night
2 Mellow my Mind
3 World on a String
4 Speaking’ Out
5 Albuquerque
6 New Mama
7 Roll another number (for the road)
8 Tired Eyes
9 Tonight’s the Night
10 Walk On

 

Incidentally the encore, ‘Walk on’, appeared as the opening track of On the beach.

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.

The Gloaming Live at the NCH

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The prog rock group Yes used to be famous (infamous?) for frequently having long tracks that would fill an entire side of an LP.  The vinyl version of The Gloaming Live at the NCH is a double album; sides B and D each contain just one track; does this mean they are about to change their name to ‘Is Ea’?  A risky thing to do, having such long pieces, but saved by the fact that the music is so fantastic.

The Gloaming have played 24 shows at the National Concert Hall (NCH) in Dublin since 2013, most usually as part of series of concerts in the spring of 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 – they’ve just finished a series of seven shows there in March of this year.

The Gloaming Live at the NCH is not, however, a recording of one concert, rather a selection made by Thomas Bartlett, the piano player and producer, of tunes and songs from the 2015 to 2017 concerts.

Doveman opening for the Swell Season in Eugene 2009

When Planxty revolutionised traditional music in the 1970s it was partly through their choice of instruments, putting uilleann pipes alongside guitar, bouzouki, and mandolin for the first time.  The line-up of The Gloaming is also a step change:  Martin Hayes, the renowned East Clare fiddle player, is joined by Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh on a fiddle he adapted himself called a ‘Hardanger d’Amore, as well as by the singer Iarla Ó Lionáird from Cúl Aodha, and Americans Denis Cahill on guitar and Thomas Bartlett on piano.
There are so many gems on this record, it is hard to know where to begin:

The album gets off to a lively and lilting start with ‘The Booley House’, a selection of a hop jig, plus reels and slides.

‘The Sailor’s Bonnet’ opens with the title tune played as a slow air, and then picks up showcasing each of the musicians – not least Bartlett on an extended piano piece – as they build to the flying finish.  They come close to taking the roof off the NCH!
On ‘The Pilgrim’s Song’ it is Bartlett’s piano behind Ó Lionáird’s singing and Hayes’ fiddle-playing that gives them the space to create so beautifully.

Their version of the famous jig ‘The Rolling Wave’ – and even more so ‘Music in the Glen’ which follows on – features two fiddles doing their very different things, with Thomas Bartlett doing the seemingly impossible and accompanying both while also providing a percussive thump – the Kilfenora Ceili Band featuring Thelonius Monk!

Mid-way through the final track ‘Fainleoig’ the great jig ‘The Holly Bush’ emerges out of the maelstrom created by Bartlett’s huge piano sound.  When the jig really gets going it is irresistible.  The tempo and sound then soften for Ó Lionáird to sing the beautiful ‘Samhraidh, Samhraidh’.

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So perhaps surprisingly, given the fame of Hayes and Ó Lionáird, it is Bartlett who is the star of this show, more so than on the two studio records The Gloaming have produced so far.  Bartlett – who also performs under the name ‘Doveman’ – has worked with a wide variety of artists, from Martha Wainwright to Ed Sheeran.  He plays on David Byrne’s American Utopia which also appeared this year.  His jazz-flavoured percussive piano playing is a crucial and defining element in The Gloaming’s sound.

24 gigs at the NCH and surely more to come.  That building on Earlsfort Terrace should sport a big banner out front: ‘The National Concert Hall – home to The Gloaming’.

Liam Ronayne

#rgml #thegloaming #corkcitylibraries

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’

Live at the Library with Joe O’Callaghan

Joe O’Callaghan is well known on the Cork music scene as a master harmonica player and for his high energy performance as one of the best frontmen in Cork. He has gigged regularly for the past five decades and is still going strong.

Joe started out with a band called ‘Boothouse’ in 1970 with band members, Joe O’Callaghan, Declan Pender, Pete Brennan, Ciarán MacCarthy and Dan Sheehan.

In 1977 Bill O’Brien and Joe formed Hot Guitars along with Jeremy Nagle, Pat Lynch, and John Finn. Although the line up has changed many times, the very popular Cork blues/rock band has been gigging for 40+ years. Joe plays harmonica, guitar, sax, and keyboard throughout the set and with his usual gusto on the mic, he entertains the crowd, often strutting along the bar or swinging from the rafters. The audience is glued to such a dynamic personality, following him as he moves through the crowd. They would never imagine that such a vibrant character is known amongst his friends and family as a quiet, reserved man.

Joe O’Callaghan is one of Cork’s finest legends.

 

by Sheena Crowley