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Rory Gallagher is a name that needs zero introduction for any music aficionado, such was his seminal work within the blues rock genre. The man had a great, natural blues-swayed voice, but it was his guitar work that was revered and lauded both within his own lifetime and has continued to be since his untimely death in 1995 at the age of just 47. So much so, that over half the press blurb for this release is constituted by quotes from some seriously heavyweight rock-metal luminaries, all lauding Gallagher with sincere eulogistic worshipping; that’s how loved he was, how enduring his influence can still be felt, and what his music still means to a whole load of people. So, we have high praise from Johnny Marr, Slash, Brian May, Ritchie Blackmore, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Peter Frampton, Alex Lifeson, Ace Frehley, Joe Bonamassa, Bill Wyman, Larry Coryell and Bob Geldof… and… wait for it… Ed Sheeran. Ed fucking Sheeran!??! Yeah, I did read that right, and so did you. Not sure how a drastically overrated, plagiaristic busker, whose popularity has inexplicably swelled beyond the scope of his restrictive ‘talents’, has found his way onto this list of indubitable legends, but at least it shows the wide-ranging power of Gallagher’s music.

So, just what do we have here? Well, for the Gallagher enthusiast, it’s time to get rather excited, not only because ‘Check Shirt Wizard - Live in '77’ is a previously unreleased set of live recordings (20 songs across 2 CDs), but because they all sound rather marvellous indeed. The songs are great but, of course, it’s the man’s fretboard magic that’s the real attraction… for me, at least, anyway. A man who transcended his own virtuosic grasp of his instrument, Gallagher always worked his guitar into passionately profound and sincere expressions of pure emotional rapture. Yep, I’d say that even the more melancholic passages provide a degree of elation through surrendering to their cathartic potential. I always feel emotionally enriched after listening to Gallagher.

1976’s ‘Calling Card’, the album he was still touring with, a year after its release, is heavily represented in the setlist, which has been lifted from four different shows: The Brighton Dome; Sheffield City Hall; Newcastle City Hall and London’s legendary Hammersmith Odeon. And 1975’s ‘Against the Grain’ is also generously drawn from with the tracks aired at these shows, and a handful of other material thrown in there, such as ‘Tattoo’ tracks ‘Tattoo’d Lady’ and ‘A Million Miles Away’, and ‘Blueprint’ number ‘Walk on Hot Coals’. Disc one is predominantly about rocked up blues, although disc two, at least for the first five tracks, showcase a calmer side of Gallagher, with songs delivered through clean guitar; a tad folky, with a country twang here and there, with ‘Out on the Western Plain’, ‘Barley & Grape Rag’, ‘Pistol Slapper Blues’, ‘Too Much Alcohol’ and ‘Going to My Hometown’. He then switches back to his distorted sound for further rocked up blues during the remainder of songs on the second disc, for more of a flamboyantly fretboard finale to this release.

Some of Gallagher’s soloing throughout the songs has a “blemishes ‘n’ all” essence to it… and, yes, this should be regarded as its very essence. It’s obviously free from overdubs that artists so often succumb to before their live works are unleashed upon the world… I mean, who would even want to attempt the unforgivable sacrilege of overdubbing Gallagher’s playing, as he’s not around to do it himself?! No, this is as it went down on each night the songs have been taken from, and the odd ‘mistake’ here and there… and I’m not talking about any glaringly obvious fretboard blunders; rather, for example, occasional arpeggios within a solo that don’t quite flow quite as well as they perhaps could have. It’s these kind of “blemishes” that should be embraced, appreciated and enjoyed for what they are. It’s what makes us human. And there have been rare few players who even come close to the emotionally expressive essence of their own being than that conveyed by Rory Gallagher through his music. Very highly recommended! Fantastic stuff!
Double Album
Review by Mark Holmes
6th March 2020
DISC ONE: 1) Do You Read Me; 2) Moonchild; 3) Bought and Sold; 4) Calling Card; 5) Secret Agent; 6) Tattoo'd Lady; 7) A Million Miles Away; 8) I Take What I Want; 9) Walk on Hot Coals
DISC TWO: 1) Out on the Western Plain; 2) Barley & Grape Rag; 3) Pistol Slapper Blues; 4) Too Much Alcohol; 5) Going to My Hometown; 6) Edged in Blue; 7) Jack-Knife Beat; 8) Souped-Up Ford; 9) Bullfrog Blues; 10) Used to Be; 11) Country Mile
"...there have been rare few players who even come close to the emotionally expressive essence of their own being than that conveyed by Rory Gallagher through his music."