When it’s easy to reel off so many great showstoppers from a musician you know the back catalogue really is something interesting and special. Rory Gallagher was one of those musicians and has a back catalogue many a musician would sell their soul for. Even in his early years in the Fontana showband he showed his roots and drive as he steered their style towards R&B until finally in 1966 he formed and unleashed Taste on the world – and he never stopped from that point on. At the age of 22 he stunned a weary Isle of Man Festival crowd with an inspired set that ended with the superbly powerful “Catfish” – as does this “Best of” release.
A quiet person that had one love – music – he spent his life learning, writing and performing it with the utmost passion. While off stage Rory was a private person – he would find time to chat to the many fans he saw walking round Cork, outside at gigs after a show and yet on stage he was on another plane!, I don’t think any guitarist has pulled more tone and heart out of a Stratocaster and Vox AC30 ever.
In 1970 after Taste folded he went solo under his own name – Rory Gallagher Band – and over the years released 14 albums many with his long-time bass player Gerry McAvoy. Since his passing in 1995 his brother and manager Donal has continued his legacy by releasing unheard songs and recordings to many eager check-shirt wearing fans new and old.
Onto this “Best Of”. Ask any Rory fan what their favourite song is and you will get so many different answers, this was one of the strengths of his music so for anyone to pick a best of is an arduous task indeed. We are taken from the 70’s through to the 90’s in a few hours of pure musical bliss. The raw bluesy tones of the guitar that opens “What’s Going On” is calmed only by the subtle tones of his vocals before ripping into a purest of solos.
The subtleness of the acoustic guitar in “Just The Smile” gives way to the high energy and power behind “Shadow Play”. Rory could go from string bending high energy solo to the subtleness of slide in a beat, and this I think makes his music so accessible and different to so many fans, once they find it!
“Ghost Blues” shows this slide off well and gives a nod to the skiffle music he loved so much.
Included in this “Best Of” is a rare outtake of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” with the legendary Jerry Lee Lewis from the 1973 London Sessions.
It ends with Taste and Rory’s version of the blues classic “Catfish Blues”, it’s raw, dirty and you can feel the soul he is pouring into the music, I’ve not heard better than this.
Widely acclaimed by fans and peers as one of the greatest guitarists ever – yet he still remains in the niche that requires some research to find, but when you hunt out a record and the needle hits the groove for the first time you are hooked forever.
Did Jimi Hendrix say that Rory was the best guitarist ever, one of the greatest myths ever?
So much can be said about his playing, writing and performing but in the end it’s best
just to let the music do the talking. The 2-CD set really is a great selection from a vast catalogue of music and will draw listeners down the wormhole and off to the record shop.
‘The Best Of Rory Gallagher’ is out now on vinyl, CD and digital via UMC