Review Summary: Take that sinner boy home!
I would like you to think about great classic bluesrock guitarists for a second. Who comes to mind, if people bring up the greatest blues or rock guitarists of all time" For most people the answer will include people like Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page or Jimi Hendrix, if you go a bit further you might let Mark Knopfler or Chuck Berry into the club. All of these guys, especially Clapton, Page and Hendrix, are so widely regarded as godlike guitarists, that even people who know jack *** about music and think that „#willpower“ is the best album of 2013, have at the very least heard of them or seen their face on some hipster T-Shirt. Hell, Clapton is so famous that he get's away with releasing boring, uninspired, uninteresting albums until today, without being able to destroy his legacy. The same thing is true for Mark Knopfler, although his solo albums are at least a little bit better. Hendrix is dead for over 40 years now and he's still releasing albums, which people happily buy, although it's just a collection of glorified B-sides. Now, before you get mad at me for talking *** about some of the most influential and beloved guitar players of all time, let me add that all of these guys deserve it. Because everyone of them was (or is) an accomplished guitarist and a great songwriter.
Point being, history is a bitch sometimes. While some talented musicians become immortal and glorified, some others, who are equally gifted and wrote influential music, get banished to the shadows and are doomed to be loved by some who obsess about music and ignored by everybody else. And I am not even talking about guys like Paco di Lucia, Al Di Meola or Buckethead who choose too make music that is, by definition, designed for music nerds. Altough I wish more people would know about those great musicians, I can grasp why not many do. I also could imagine that many of them don't want to be more famous than they are. (I mean, seriously Buckethead, what's the deal with you hiding your face all the time") No, I'm talking about guys who brought everything to the table that is needed to become a legend, and still somehow got swept under the rug.
Enter Rory Gallagher (1948 - 1995). The irishman certainly does not have to shy away from being compared to any of the big guns that I was talking about earlier. In fact, he was highly regarded by his fellow musicians, and certainly inspired many of them. But I'm pretty sure, many of you have never even heard of him and if you did, you will most likely know about that one Live album („Irish Tour 74“) and little else. It's not like nobody has ever heard of him, but he certainly did not get a fair share of the fame, compared to the really big names. And if you have in fact never heard of him, you are missing out, and you certainly don't have to be obsessed with technical guitar playing to enjoy his music.
Having said that, until about 6 weeks ago, I had never heard about Rory Gallagher and I would consider myself pretty well informed about music in general and especially regarding gifted guitar players.
Then I finally came across the self-titled debut album by Rory Gallagher (who played shortly in the bluesrock outfit „taste“ before he decided to go solo). On this album, as well as an on many albums to come, he's accompanied by Gerry McAvoy (bass) and Wilgar Campbell (drums). Supported by these two, Gallagher invites the audience on a ride through his heart and soul, and it's a enjoyable ride indeed. Right off the bat the album starts out great, with the fast and catchy riff on „Laundromat“ being one of the most memorable ones on the entire album, and Rory delivering as a vocal performer as well. „Laundromat“ gives the listener a very good outlook at the way Gallagher plays guitar. Like his more famous peers Clapton and Page, he obviously drew heavy influence from black blues guitarists like Chuck Berry and B.B. King. And while he's an outstanding technician on the guitar, his playstyle does not focus on crisp and clean play (unlike let's say progressive rock ala David Gilmour or Steve Hackett), but instead it's rather impulsive and heartfelt, which is a perfect fit, because bluesrock is all about delivering personal emotions. On his debut, Gallagher manages to do just that, through his often times wild, very emotive guitar playing. In more than one instance („Sinner boy“ and „Can't believe it's you“ come to mind) you get the impression that Gallagher is just going crazy on his stratocaster without any restrain what so ever, but it always works.
Like I already pointed out, this album is way more, than a wank-wank festival for guitar fetishists. As a vocalist, Gallagher is mimicking his way to play the fender. While he might not hit every note and his vocal delivery might not be the most clean and his voice trembles here and there, he certainly knows how to convey emotions and feelings very well. That's why the songs never the run the risk of being to focused on his guitar playing. Additionaly to that the rhythm sectiont, does not let him down at any point. Especially Gerry McAvoy on the bass supports the rambunctious Gallagher very well (especially on „Hands Up“), although there is no moment on the album where the rhythm section takes the spotlight away from their leader, they definitly get the job done.
From a lyrical standpoint, this album is nothing outstanding. Most of the songs on this album are about the desire for a woman, about bad relationships with a loved one, or about the hurtful end of a relationship, and while these are the some of the most generic and common subjects in music, and it's pretty obvious that Rory is not Bob Dylan, he sounds so genuine and earnest, that it never becomes a problem.
This album further elevates itself by being fairly diverse. Don't get me wrong, all of the songs are some form classic bluesrock, but Gallagher and his boys mix it up quiet a bit. Some of the songs, like „Sinner Boy“ and „Hands Up“ are very energetic, the vocals are confident and the guitar is going wild all over the place. But you also get sweet, downtempo and songs like „Wave myself goodbye“ where Gallagher sounds resigned and sad, but he also seems to be kind of okay with his fate.
This album also has some great and heartfelt ballads, for example „I'm not surprised“, which mixes it further up, by including a piano. But although „I'm not surprised “ is a great ballad, it's outdone by „Fall apart“ which is without a doubt an instant classic, and far and away the best song on an album that is filled to the brim with great songs. I really can't overstate the brilliance of „Fall apart“. Gallagher gives us both his best vocal performance, as well as the best guitar solos (yes two of them) on the whole album. The song revolves around a simple yet touching metaphor about his heart falling apart in a confusing and abusive relationship. Gallagher clearly feels that he's on the recieving end of the whole affair. Hence he sounds very frustrated and sad, at times even aggressive. Gallagher sells the rather simple concept, like it's the last thing he's ever going to do in his life, until it culminates into a swirling and abrasive climax in the end, that is sure to give you chills.
In conclusion, more people need to know about this album and about Rory Gallagher in general. The songwriting is sublime, the guitar playing is good enough to regard the irish virtuoso as one of the absolute best at his instrument. He deserves a place among the great legends of bluesrock, this album alone would justify it, but others („Photo Finish“, „Deuce“, „Calling Card“) further solidify his brilliance. The Album lacks any real lowpoints and is sure to satisfy everyone who likes classic rock or bluesrock.