Review Summary: Rory Gallagher returns to form with an incredible and varied album.This review pertains the original release of Rory Gallagher’s Calling Card.
Even though Rory Gallagher wasn't the first white blues rock musician to become known to a wider audience as a guitar virtuoso, he managed to craft his own unique sound by blending the emotional effect of the blues with the energy of hard rock and the laid back attitude of folk. His approach to the blues became apparent from his brilliant debut and continued through each of his output. Up until 1976, he had released five studio albums plus two live ones including the monumental Irish Tour ‘74
. Nevertheless, as consistently great his discography was at this point, it lacked differentiation. This didn't seem to be a problem though simply because each album was excellent in its own right. However, it was not until Against the Grain
where it seemed that Gallagher’s music took a minor step back. As a result, some changes needed to be made in order to avoid stagnation.
was a landmark in a variety of manners. First of all, it was the first album in which Rory employed an additional person in order to help him with its production. Up until then, he personally produced all of his material. The individual he selected was Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover and what a decision that was. The production is exceptional with all the instruments sounding as they should on a blues album; crisp, clean but vintage at the same time. He also made good use of the augmented budget provided by record company Chrysalis and recorded the album in Munich, Germany. This album is a milestone in Gallagher’s career for another reason too; it was the fifth (including Irish Tour
) consecutive album with the same lineup. After this one he retained only long time bass player Gerry McAvoy.
So, did the aforementioned changes have any impact on Gallagher’s music? The answer is an emphatic yes; Calling Card
is one of Gallagher’s most rock driven records. At the same time, it is varied as it includes all of his well known feats plus some jazzy elements. The listener can find riff driven rockers such as “Secret Agent” in which Rory’s guitar playing prevails while the rhythm section is very tight in this energetic track and the gutsy “Do You Read Me” which serves as a great introduction to the album. “Calling Card” is a jazzy bass driven track with excellent fills by Rory and an ambiance that travels the listener to an Irish pub drinking ale. Lou Martin’s piano contributes heavily to the atmosphere of the song which is one of the standouts of the album. And talking about standouts what can be said or written regarding “Moonchild”? It is probably Rory’s most iconic song and the stuff that guitar heroes are made of; a rocking tune with an amazing rhythm and an incredible solo at the end. “Country Mile” and “Barley & Grape Rag” are both acoustic playful tunes which reveal Gallagher’s deep Irish roots while he sounds as confident and jolly as ever. Lastly, the magic of this album lies on its two ballads. “I'll Admit You're Gone” is a heartfelt folk driven ballad dominated by Gallagher’s beautiful voice and his acoustic guitar. “Edged in Blue” is one of Gallagher’s most underrated songs. A touching ballad beautifully produced that brings forth one of the most important elements of Gallagher’s music; emotion. Some of Gallagher’s best guitar parts are included in this track.
To sum up, Calling Card
is definitely one of Gallagher’s best albums and arguably his crowning achievement. Rory Gallagher with his working man clothes on stage looked like a down to earth, next door neighbor guitar hero and if we remove all the pyrotechnics and the bravado of his blistering guitar playing, one thing stands out from this man’s music; emotion matched only by a few in the music business.