Rory Gallagher – The Best Of
(UMC – 2020)
A splendid two CD set that captivates together some of the best sounds of easily one of the finest guitarists ever to flick on an amp.
It's not your typical greatist hits type package either that culminates a batch of singles because Rory was never interested in that game whatsoever. My opinion is that a 'Best Of' should span an array of the top highlights of an artists output over the years which is exactly what this does without adding complete obvious dare I say 'Gallagher by Numbers' cuts like some other releases are guilty of.
This is a remarkable, delicately hand-picked collection of thirty songs that goes from the early Taste days right through to his later solo years in the 80's. It's enlighting to hear 'What's Going On' with its strikingly raw guitar work and the magnificently beautiful 'Daughter Of The Everglades' with the sparkling piano soloing.
You'll of course find classics that make you wanna jam along to that were major staples in the live set like the epically riffed 'Follow Me' & equally ballsy 'Shadowplay' that musically and vocally display polar comparisons to the gorgeous sounds of 'Edged In Blue' or 'Just The Smile'.
Gallagher's aggressive, shouty, bawly vocal style really went hand in hand with his wailing, cranked to the max sound of his beaten up, pained Fender Stratocaster which was a signature style throughout his entire career, influencing hoards of players throughout the decades of both a legendary well-known status to guys just getting it together to make a few quid in a band at their local boozer.
Even the studio recordings to be found here come across like they were played live in front of a concert audience because there is so much emotion and joy in a high abundance of these songs – something that really stands in the blistering 'Walk On Hot Coals' or the echoed greatness of Taste's 'Blister On The Moon' that builds so much that you expect to explode like a Who number.
Then there's the throbbing 'Bought And Sold' with the priceless walking 'n' booming bass playing of Gerry McAvoy; the thunderous drumming of Rod De'Ath and exemplary ebony and ivory tinkling of Lou Martin who really were main ingredients and just as important as the man himself both musically and in heavily vibed in the zone and pocket, energy value.
'A Million Miles Away' shows the loneliness of the man in a bar situation whereas 'Wheels Within Wheels' shows the beauty and love of a man that may actually about him looking at himself as a third person as it's almost tearjerking vocally on such a moving ballad. Who can ever forget the way he could make a Dobro sing with 'Seven Days' being a cooking example of this or the way he could jam tirelessly with his unit on numbers like 'Cruise On Out' with Ted McKenna on Drums in this case.
A real standout is a gem from the London Sessions with Jerry Lee Lewis that sees these two legends perform an almost unique interpretation of The Rolling Stones 'I Can't Get No) Satisfaction' with both the Killer and Rory himself sending the song into steaming and smouldering mode in the way that they slam their own stamp on such a milestone of a Jagger/Richards Worldwide chart smash. Again, hearing is believing here since the way they do it gives the ditty a whole new lease of life.
Marvellous to see that the later greatness of 'Moonchild' is featured here with it's rolling and somersaulting arrangements, not to mention that I am also extremely pleased that this does not omit a crucial take of 'Catfish' that Rory made his own despite who originally penned it or the fact of any other artists also covered this highly enjoyable beast of a blues number – he really owns it on this one!
I really could go on forever how good this set is but I'll let the man himself set the standard here instead.
By Glenn Milligan