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.

Digitising Rita

Soprano Rita Lynch (1914 – 2009) is back in the Big Apple

Sixty seven years ago in 1949 Rita sang in New York, Chicago and Boston. Now in 2016, the RTÉ Lyric FM radio documentary, Digitising Rita has made it to the finals of the New York Festivals Annual Radio Awards, the winners of which will be announced on the 20th of June.

‘It’s a big leap from boxes in my attic to New York’s radio showpiece!’ says Rita’s daughter, Mary Davies.

‘The sifting, sorting, cataloging and curating of approximately 2000 items which included photos, programmes, correspondence, contracts, fan mail, acetate recordings, 78s and cassette tapes began on my sitting room floor in late 2013.’

Over time, the project took shape and the way was guided by admirers and the unfailing help and encouragement of many, including; RTÉ Lyric FM’s Dr. Evelyn Grant, Dr. Orla Murphy of University College Cork, Eibhlin Hegarty (masters student), Cara O’Sullivan (soprano), Liam Ronayne (Cork City Librarian), Kitty Buckley (Executive Librarian of the Rory Gallagher Music Library) and former Lord Mayor of Cork, Mary Shields. Special thanks also for the technical skills of Tadhg Kelleher and Harry Bradshaw.

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Cork Soprano, Rita Lynch

The celebration of the centenary of Rita’s birth on the 2nd December 1914 in Macroom, Co. Cork became the target date to unveil the project and as part of the centenary celebrations, the Rory Gallagher Music Library hosted the launch of an exhibition on Rita’s life, a CD of her recordings (singing from 1948 – 1976) and a Digital Archive of 2000 items.

All the while, Evelyn Grant was quietly beavering away with RTÉ Lyric FM  producer, Eoin O’Kelly completing the wonderful ‘Digitising Rita,’ documentary for the ‘Lyric Feature,’ on RTÉ Lyric FM which was broadcast on the 9th October 2015 and again on the 4th March 2016.

Mary Davies (Daughter of Rita Lynch)

 

Here’s hoping that ‘Digitising Rita’ scoops a well deserved award on the 20th June!

If you would like to listen to the RTÉ Lyric FM broadcast then click below!

Digitising Rita – The Lyric Feature

Roaming in the Gloaming

The Gloaming and The Gloaming 2

The late George Martin was one time quoted as saying

“can you tell me what music is? It’s completely intangible. It grips you, gets into your soul”.

That quote came to mind when listening to Martin Hayes leading his Gloaming comrades out of their own composition ‘Fáinleog’ and into the first few bars of the traditional jig ‘The Holly Bush’. I wish I could describe the feelings that the transition and Hayes’s fiddle-playing create, but all I can say is, go listen to it.

The Gloaming first got together almost five years ago – a fantastic concert in Triskel Christchurch in December 2012 was one of their early gigs. Since then they have often been referred to in the media as a ‘trad supergroup’. Whatever about that there is no doubting their standing in the world of roots music – Iarla Ó Lionáird (voice and keys) is the leading exponent of the Muscraí singing tradition, and Martin Hayes is the king of east Clare fiddle-playing. Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh is a wonderful fiddler as well, playing the Hardanger d’amore, his own creation, Thomas Bartlett, from Connecticut is on piano (and organizer / producer in the studio), and Irish–American Denis Cahill, on guitar, is Hayes’s long-standing music partner.

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The Gloaming

That difficult second album! One of the hoariest old chestnuts in music. The Gloaming have got around it with their second, by creating a companion for their first. Not really a continuation, not the same as the first, but together they form a whole, greater than the sum of the parts. The feeling that the two CDs are a pair is reinforced by the visual presentation of the records by the Real World label — beautiful packaging it has to be said. Both have striking but elusive sepia images on the cover, photos by Robert and Shana ParkerHarrison. The back covers and the inside spreads are also very similar, encouraging us to see them as a pair.

Centrepiece of the first CD was ‘The Opening Set’, track 8 on the album! This is a 16-minute masterpiece in its own right, starting with a traditional song from the Muscraí tradition, and building, layer by layer, through six tunes and airs to a cathartic climax.

There is nothing resembling this on The Gloaming 2, and rightly so. It would have been impossible to equal it. But what we have on both are group compositions using Gaelic poetry, the earliest from the Fiannaíocht or Fenian Cycle, and a 16th-century poem, but most are recent — Sean Ó Ríordáin’s ‘Saoirse’, and Michael Hartnett’s ‘An Muince Dreoilíní’ on the first album; The Gloaming 2 begins with two poems from Ó Ríordáin’s Eireaball Spideoige.

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The Gloaming 2

Their versions of ‘Samhraidh, Samhraidh’ (on the first album) and ‘Slán le Maighe (on Gloaming 2) are worth the price of entry alone. These take their place among the jigs, hornpipes, reels, hop jigs, and slides.

The music on The Gloaming 2 might not be created for dancing, but I would challenge anyone to stay sitting quietly when listening to tunes like ‘The Rolling Wave’, ‘Music in the Glen’ and ‘The Holy Bush’. Iarla sings the old lullaby ‘Cucanandy’ which he learnt from the singing of Bess Cronin from his home parish of Baile Bhúirne. The Gloaming’s version wanders off mid-way but returns to finish with a credo that would apply to any musician:

“Piper sell your pipes, buy your wife a gown

Piper sell your pipes, buy your wife a gown

Yerra I wouldn’t sell me pipes for all the wives in town”.

The Gloaming last played Cork at a sold-out show in the Opera House last year. The way they’re going they will fill the proposed Events Centre, and still leave disappointed fans outside.

Liam Ronayne
Liam Ronayne Cork City Librarian

The Rolling Stones: growing old (dis)gracefully?

When Barrack Obama visited Havana in March 2016, the first American President to do so in over 70 years, it marked the end of decades of a political, trade and cultural embargo imposed by the huge neighbour to the north. One of the few hopeful signs of 2016 so far.

Hot on his heels came the Rolling Stones playing their first ever gig in Cuba. It is surely remarkable that this legendary rock group is still going, never mind that they apparently left the Havana audience baying for more.  Three of the blues-loving youngsters who played their first gig in 1962 were on stage in Havana – Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Charlie Watts.  In the late sixties the odds of all of them being alive in 2016, never mind still playing at the highest level, would have been negligible, especially after the death in tragic circumstances of founder Brian Jones in the summer of 1969.

Nevertheless it cannot be pretended that they are as vital as they once were, although in fairness that is because nothing can compare with the music they produced, on record and on stage, between 1968 and the early 1970s.

The run of records from Beggars Banquet to Exile on Main Street has never been equalled:

  • Starting with Beggars Banquet which came out in December 1968 (with tracks like ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ and ‘Street fighting man’), the Stones produced an incredible string of rock classics;
  • Let it bleed followed in December 1969, and included ‘Midnight Rambler’, ‘Gimme shelter’ and ‘You can’t always get what you want’;
  • Get your ya yas out, one of the all-time great live albums, was recorded at the Madison Square Garden gigs in November 1969, and released the following September;
  • Sticky fingers – ‘Brown sugar’, ‘Wild horses’, ‘Dead flowers’came out in April 1971; some of the tracks were recorded in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, between the Madison Square Garden gigs and the ill-fated free concert in Altamont near San Francisco at the end of 1969;
  • Exile on Main Street, released May1972; this double album of 18 tracks (incl. ‘Tumbling dice’, ‘Sweet black angel’, ‘Let it loose’) was recorded in the south of France where the Stones had relocated to escape UK taxes. This brought the run of classic albums to a close.

 

When the Stones turned up to meet the world’s media in Havana there were just four of them in front of the camera – Jagger, Richards, Watts, and Ronnie Wood, who has been with the band since 1975, joining them after Mick Taylor’s exit.

On stage in Havana, however, there were quite a few more musicians who, crucial though they are to the sound, are not ‘Stones’. It has always been like that.  Ian Stewart, the piano player, was the original sixth Stone in the 60s, but was deemed too old looking and too straight by manager Andrew Loog-Oldham to fit in with the band’s image.  He did not make the photos, but they could not have done without him on stage or in the studio.

Similarly the classic albums and performances listed above would not have been what they were without Bobby Keyes on sax, Jim Price on trumpet, Nicky Hopkins on piano, and often Billy Preston on organ. Percussionist Rocky Dijon, Muscle Shoals pianist Jim Dickinson, and even Ry Cooder were others who added hugely to the Stones output in the late 60s early 70s.

You can’t always get what you want, but if you bring in the right musicians, you get what you can!

Liam Ronayne
Liam Ronayne Cork City Librarian

 

Turning Point for Mile Twelve

Formed in late 2014, Mile Twelve is a fresh, hard driving young band beautifully walking the line between original and traditional bluegrass. Based in Boston, Massachusetts and fast gaining recognition for their outstanding performances throughout bluegrass and folk circles, Evan Murphy, Bronwyn Keith-Hynes, Nate Sabat and BB Bowness create captivating songs and daring instrumental pieces from diverse influences. Banjo Luminary Tony Trishcka says, “Mile Twelve is carrying the bluegrass tradition forward with creativity and integrity.”

In May 2016 the band will embark on their first Irish tour and we are very excited to play host to them on Saturday 7th May. As usual with RGML gigs, there is no admission charge and the show will begin at 1.00 pm.

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Boston’s bluegrass stars, Mile Twelve

 

If you would like to know more about the band, please visit their official website here:

http://www.miletwelvebluegrass.com/

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Video: Discorde Quartet in Cork City Library

A couple of weeks ago we were delighted to have Cork’s own, Discorde Quartet, performing in the City Library as part of an event to commemorate the centenary of the birth of poet, Seán Ó Riordáin.

They played a beautiful selection of Irish airs & melodies to a captivated audience and made a wonderful accompaniment to the Irish language poetry readings from Peann agus Pár.

We captured the performance on video and we thought it might be nice to share it with you.

So, sit back and enjoy!

 

 

A Moment of Discorde

Cork has a new string quartet featuring some very young, but very experienced and talented Musicians. Discorde Quartet will play their debut performance in Cork City Library, Grand Parade as part of the Seachtain na Gaeilge programme.

On Saturday 12th March at 3.00 pm, Cork City Libraries will celebrate the centenary of the birth of Seán O Riordáin with an event entitled ‘Ceol agus Filíocht.’

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Discorde Quartet will play a selection of Irish Melodies while Irish Language poetry writing group, Peann agus Pár, will read from their own poetry and from the works of Seán Ó Riordáin.

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From left to right: Meadhbh Campbell (Cello), Caoimhe Browne (Violin), Cian Adams (Viola) and Maggie O’Shea (Violin)

The first violinist, Maggie O’Shea, studied the Suzuki method and has been playing music since the age of 3. Maggie was a member of the Cork School of Music Orchestra, Cork Youth Orchestra and the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland.

The second violinist, Caoimhe Browne, began violin at the age of 7 when she was inspired by watching a performance of Riverdance on the Late Late Show. She currently studies under the guidance of Gregory Ellis. She is looking forward to what this newly formed quartet will achieve in the future. 

Cian Adams, who plays the viola, has been playing music since the age of 6. He studied under maestro Constantin Zanidache. He performed in the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland. He has been a member of many quartets including the Prima Vera Quartet.

Meadhbh Campbell started cello at the age of six, and is currently studying with Chris Marwood. She has enjoyed playing in a variety of chamber music groups from the age of ten and is a former member of the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland.

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Discorde Quartet on Facebook

 

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