11/11/2018

Irish Tour

Rory Gallagher
1974

Driving blues-rock in excelsis

Rory Gallagher is a bit of a cult favourite amongst guitarists, partly for his superb blues soloing and tone, and partly for his astonishingly battered '61 Strat, which looks like it's been soaked in acid and left in a peat bog for a year. That's the guitar he's playing on this live album (at least according to the footage I've seen), and the sound is legendary enough to have inspired both a replica of that guitar and a set of reproduction pickups named after the album.

To love this album you have to love the blues. I've always liked good tunes and when that can be married with stellar guitar playing then so much the better, like "The Thrill Is Gone", "All Your Love" or "Bad To The Bone", all clearly blues or blues-inspired. And of course you can't ignore the fact that the blues underpins huge swathes of classic rock.

Given the choice, though, I'll take the tune and leave the guitar, because the alternative is almost always dull, and sadly too much of Irish Tour falls into this category. It's probably a different prospect when you're there and the room is rocking, but at home, only a few tracks emerge out of the generic blues-rock on offer.

By far my favourite, and the reason I got the album in the first place, is "Walk On Hot Coals". The first part of the track is a pretty generic but energetic 12-bar boogie that lights up when it swerves in the chorus to an F/Em/D progression. Then in the second half of the track there's an extended instrumental workout over this section, which has superb dynamics and some staggering playing. If we could lose the organ solo I'd be even happier.

I also like "Tattoo'd Lady", an up-tempo number that sounds like Disraeli Gears-era Cream, complete with a decent tune (no idea what he's singing about though); and "A Million Miles Away", a slower, soulful track with an interesting, albeit slightly over-long, solo. The rest just blurs into one for me, though, with nothing standing out.

All that said, Rory's playing is never less than excellent and as a memento of a much-loved rocker in his prime, you can't do better.

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