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He never received the due he deserved, but blues guitarist Rory Gallagher was Ireland’s answer to Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Emerging in 1969 as the leader of a blues/rock power trio Taste (they were signed by Ahmet Ertegun to Atco Records in 1968, but were overshadowed at the label by acts like Cream, Blind Faith and Led Zeppelin), the group made three albums before disbanding in 1970, in order for Gallagher to go solo.

By the time he embarked on the ’76 tour Gallagher had expanded his power trio to a four-piece band with the addition of Lou Martin on piano, organ and synths. They blast off with “Moonchild,” which borrows heavily from the riff The Moody Blues used in their hit, “The Story In Your Eyes.” Next up is “Secret Agent” (a different song than the one made famous by Johnny Rivers with the same name). The show moves forward with “Calling Card,” which was Gallagher’s new LP at the time. The rest of the show is a mix of tracks from Calling Card and staples that had long been part of his set list, including “Souped-Up Ford,” “Western Plain,”(featuring Gallagher on acoustic guitar), and the balls-out rocker, “I Take What I Want,” (which nicks The Beatles’ riff from “I Feel Fine” during Gallagher’s solo).

By the late 1970s, Gallagher’s brand of blues rock fell out of favor with radio programmers, and like artists such as Robin Trower and Steve Marriott, he had to focus on a smaller, but fiercely loyal, following. Although he never received the worldwide recognition of Eric Clapton, Duane Allman, and Jimmy Page, he certainly deserves to be remembered for the many excellent albums and tours he had during his career. Sadly, he died after receiving a liver transplant in 1995 at the age of 47.

Rory Gallagher – vocals, guitars, harmonica; Gerry McAvoy – bass; Rod De’ath – drums, percussion; Lou Martin – keyboards

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The late Rory Gallagher made some very cool records, but he could never capture the excitement and power that were almost always part of his live shows. Just take a listen to this recording made for the King Biscuit Flower Hour on his ’74 US tour. Gallagher had a strong following on the west coast and this show in San Diego was well attended by a large, loyal audience.

Gallagher made a name for himself in 1969 with the band Taste, who recorded three albums before splitting in 1971. Gallagher recorded several solo albums between 1971 and 1991, but is also noted for his session work on Muddy Waters’ The London Sessions album, released on Chess Records. Sadly, he died after receiving a liver transplant in 1995 at the age of 47.

By the late 1970s, Gallagher’s brand of blues rock fell out of favor with radio programmers, and like artists such as Robin Trower and Steve Marriott, he had to focus on a smaller, but fiercely loyal, following. Although he never received the worldwide recognition of Eric Clapton, Duane Allman, and Jimmy Page, he certainly deserves to be remembered for the many excellent albums and tours he had during his career.

Rory Gallagher – vocals, guitars, harmonica; Gerry McAvoy – bass; Rod De’ath – drums, percussion; Lou Martin – keyboards

Rory Gallagher - Irish Tour '74

The Irish blues-rock guitar icon made strong, often great albums in the Seventies. But he was at his best, always, on stage. Rory Gallagher‘s present to the home country, at the turn of ’74, was seven shows in three cities, including Belfast, where sectarian violence had scared off most touring bands. A fantastic 1974 double LP was taken from riotous gigs in Cork, where Gallagher grew up. This boxed set is the tour complete, with similar set lists but vigorously different performances each night by one of rock’s most reliantly electrifying guitarists.

Rory Gallagher was also growing increasingly frustrated at not being able to capture the energy of his live shows in the studio. During one session, he threatened to “chuck the tapes in the dustbin”. It was no ideal threat – he would go on to shelve whole albums in the future.

“He was a live performer,” said keyboard player Lou Martin. “He didn’t like the studio because he was playing to the walls and wasn’t getting any feedback from the audience. But he had to do the albums for the record company.” But  onstage, it was another matter entirely, and Gallagher understandably jumped at the chance to record another live album. But this one would be different: it would be recorded in Ireland. Although his previous live album Live In Europe has a more raw, one-take sound, Irish Tour ‘74 showcases Rory’s growth as a songwriter and shines where he explores his then-most recent studio album, the very musically varied Tattoo. Opener Who’s That Coming, Tattoo’d Lady and the lengthy, looser version of A Million Miles Away show a man who’s enjoying his talent to the fullest musically.

“We were one of the only bands to play Belfast,” says Lou Martin proudly. “Thin Lizzy were not doing it because of the aggravation. But Rory insisted on it. I was from Belfast, Gerry was from Belfast and there was co-operation from ‘The Organisation’ to make sure the concerts went OK.”. “We were taken care of very well,” said drummer Rod de’Ath. “The hotels that we stayed at were carefully chosen, without going into too much detail.” (Neither man was willing to go into more detail about ‘The Organisation’, though we can presume that they’re not talking about the British government).

The resulting album, “Irish Tour ’74”, remains the highlight of Gallagher’s career. Recorded in Belfast, Dublin and Cork, it finally nailed his live performances on vinyl. While the sound quality is variable – partly due to the fact that they couldn’t get insurance for Ronnie Lane’s Mobile Studios in the more troubled areas – the album never loses its primal, raw urgency. It’s the sound of a band leaning out over the precipice – something Gallagher deliberately encouraged, making up the show as he went along.

A DVD of Tony Palmer’s eyewitness film, “Irish Tour ’74”, captures the soft-spoken Gallagher defying the bloodshed in Belfast, determined to play for fans on both sides of the Troubles with no guns drawn except for the one in Blind Boy Fuller’s “Pistol Slapped Blues.” The 40th anniversary expanded deluxe edition release of one of Rory Gallagher’s most celebrated recordings. The most expansive edition to date, of this landmark album.  Featured for the first time on record, all three shows.  Packaged in a special deluxe edition 8 cd, 10” boxset and including previously unreleased tracks, remastered audio, photos, extensive liner notes, feature length documentary, memorabilia and more.

rory box set

“Irish Tour captures some of his finest known live recordings and, while it’s impossible to tell which songs were recorded where, across nine in-concert recordings (plus one after-hours jam session, Back on My Stompin’ Ground), the energy crackling from stage to stalls and back again packs an intensity that few live albums – Gallagher’s others among them – can match.” (AllMusic)

“Unlike many other of his contemporaries, he lived long enough to see his legacy and influence take hold and flourish in the musical world. This display of one man’s ability to unite a people and a country in turmoil through his music is an essential listen for all rock fans, young and old, and is a crucial part of Irish musical history as well as the very legacy of blues rock.” (Sputnik Music)

“From the moment the music starts, Rory Gallagher: Irish Tour ’74 more than justifies itself. Gallagher played like his guitar was plugged straight into the universal source, and it probably was. That Gallagher was on his home turf for this tour only increases the sense of some sort of direct connection with his sound. Every note played, every string struck and every song sung vibrates with all the passion and intensity of a spiritual experience, which this surely was.” (Pop Matters)