Thursday, January 3, 2013

Rory Gallagher lives on....

I've been on a Rory Gallagher kick recently both informationally and musically. After reading the bio mentioned below (and being concerned by the close match between its content and much of what is available freely online, if you get my drift), I wanted more. Thankfully, much more is available through long-standing bass player Gerry McAvoy's "Riding Shotgun", his account of years on the road with Rory. I was not really looking forward to it, worried that it was an effort to make money from Rory's name but was really pleasantly surprised by the book's content. Gerry makes for an engaging story-teller and pulls few punches in his account of the endless road journey Rory and the boys undertook through the 70s and part of the 80s. By this account, Rory was a rather elusive character, committed to music, particularly the blues, and very uncomfortable with the business side of music. Managed by his brother, Donal, Rory kept the band on weekly wages (a somewhat sore point to them, with Gerry documenting the weekly increases from $35 per week in the early days to $500 later, with annual bonuses for good years). There's lots of great stories here which you need to read for yourself but if you love the music, Rory, or just a decent account of life on the road for a real band during those years, not pop stars or stadium rockers who seek to glamorize their 'recoveries', this is a book for you. Sadly, the end of Rory seems so tragic and avoidable, but it seems Rory had few friends or close partners, and he ended his days badly, alone, and even booed off the stage when his illness prevented him delivering the goods that he so reliably demonstrated for decades. This is an honest account, on all levels, and there's great credit to Gerry McAvoy here, this is far better than a lot of music biographies.

Musically, I've been mining the Rory back catalog and unearthing some gems.
The live BBC Sessions disc is superb and from the opening bars of Calling Card, where the sound mixer realizes the bass is way up and makes a quick adjustment, you get a real 'you are there' listening experience. I've also picked up a couple of reissued LPs to get a sense of what's happening to the back catalog on vinyl. The Back on Black release of "The Beat Club Sessions" is actually a superb, heavy white vinyl double album of live appearances made by Rory and the band over the years on this German TV show. Those thick slabs of milky white vinyl look and feel as good as they sound. Photo-finish, on newly released vinyl from European label Music on Vinyl is decent too, though the treble seems a little hot on my rig, which might be the mix, the pressing or the still-not-completely-broken-in Dynavector. Don't have an original copy to compare this with but the quality is sufficiently good to give me confidence picking up further releases (watch these, the price varies a lot so shop around).

Of course, there also some great video footage of Rory now available, and an Xmas present I loved was a Blu-Ray release of "Irish Tour '74". This is a great fly on the wall rock documentary, not a staged concert with a cherry-picked audience and posed moments, replete with superb concert footage that comes as close as anything I've seen to the experience of Rory live. Happy memories and no little sadness at the loss of this giant. Was Rory really that good? Hah.... he was even better. 

1 comment:

Freg said...

He was the best! I just bought the 2011 remastered CDs of "Jinx" and "Blueprint" and the sound is superb. (I have all of his albums on vinyl, but no way to play vinyl atm.)