Gallagher was also a serious student of blues and folk music who fearlessly shifted between genres and techniques, and he could hold his own with blues legends, as proven by his guest spots with Muddy Waters on The London Sessions, and with Albert King on Albert Live. He was Melody Maker’s “Top Musician of the Year” in 1972, and, in 1974, the Greek-god-handsome guitarist was seriously considered by the Rolling Stones as a replacement for Mick Taylor. Sadly, Gallagher’s life was short. He died after liver transplant surgery in 1995 at just 47 years old. Not surprisingly, he played right up until the end.
Big Guns: The Very Best of Rory Gallagher, 2005
Composed of 24 studio and concert tracks dating from his early band project, Taste, in 1969 to his last solo release (1988’s Fresh Evidence), this is a marvelous introduction to Gallagher’s passion, diversity, and howling wild live performances. It’s also mixed in 5.1 surround sound (SACD format), so you can envelope yourself in Rory’s ferocious genius.
Live in Europe, 1972
Exploding like a caged banshee who had been teased by school kids for hours upon hours, Gallagher literally melts the stage. Everything is full-bore intensity to the point of impassioned lunacy, and yet there’s also precision, nuance, and dynamics. Be humbled.
Irish Tour, 1974
Two years on from the savagery of Live in Europe, and Rory hadn’t stopped uncorking fusillades of molten, soaring blues. With Northern Ireland’s “troubles” in full terrible bloom at the time, it’s amazing he even had the balls to play these dates—which were also filmed for a documentary of the same name.
Calling Card, 1976
Brilliant songs, a rockin’ edge (thanks partly to Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover handling the production chores), and touches of jazz, soul, and acoustic balladry make this a stunning and sensual experience.
Displaying the breadth of Gallagher’s early talent and work ethic, Deuce was released just six months after his solo debut, and a year before the bombastic Live in Europe. Here, the band burns through some awesome songs with the dynamic, ebb-and-flow intensity of cinematic masters.
The rowdy, seven-plus-minute version of “Walk on Hot Coals” is reason enough to seek this out, but you also get an eight-plus-minute version of “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son” that absolutely cooks.
Gallagher adds saxophone to his bag of tricks—and plays some excellent Delta-style acoustic—but keeps the energy pumping with rockin’ party songs such as “Tattoo’d Lady” and “Cradle Rock.” Great driving disc.
Top Priority, 1979
Often criticized for its lack of balance and diversity, Priority’s full-cowabunga display of road-hardened rock and wail is as thrilling as a play date with boozed-up supermodels. No wimps allowed!
Out of print for almost two decades until its 2000 reissue, this is a lost jewel. Gallagher’s solos are all rough-hewn brilliance, and the commitment and expanded emotional range of his voice is chilling.
Fresh Evidence, 1988
Gallagher’s last album during his lifetime serves up a few missteps (zydeco?) and some obvious filler. Just FF to the fabulous blues numbers and you’ll be shakin’ with bliss.
Rory Gallagher, 1971
Gallagher’s solo debut has some cool songs (“I Fall Apart,” “Hands Up,” “I’m Not Surprised”), but it just misses the emotional eruption that was to come.
Against the Grain, 1975
A nice gumbo of blues-rock, country, and Delta stylings, Grain is just that—nice. Rory and the band are well-oiled, precise, and tight, but—man—you sure miss the whup-ass intensity of his other releases.
There’s good stuff here—particularly “Brute Force & Ignorance”—but the songwriting isn’t his best, and some of the tunes suffer from extended jams that, after a point, just sound long.
Stage Struck, 1980
Sadly lost in what is usually his killing field, this live set is tripped up by ragged vocals, ham-handed arrangements, and a frontman who seems tired or bored or simply uninvolved.
Not bad, and even less-than-stellar Gallagher records include piping-hot guitar—in this case, the scorching riff of “Continental Op (to Dashiell Hammet)”—but the thrills and chills are few.