Sunday, 12 February 2012

"Rory Gallagher" by RORY GALLAGHER (January 2012 Sony/Capo//Legacy CD Remaster by Andy Pearce and Matt Wortham in Card Digipak with Bonus Tracks) - A Review by Mark Barry...


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Under the supervision of Donal Gallagher (his older brother and former tour manager)  - Irish guitar hero RORY GALLAGHER had his LP back-catalogue first reissued onto CD between 1998 and 2000. Each of those RCA/Capo releases came in jewel cases and had previously unreleased bonus tracks. The campaign culminated with a tremendous outtakes compilation in 2003 called "Wheels Within Wheels".

This latest version of his debut album is the first of six 'new' remasters released to coincide with the 40th Anniversary of his Solo career. So what's different? In a nutshell - cheaper price, upgraded packaging and 2011 mastering from the original tapes. Here are the finite details...

Released 16 January 2012 in the UK (31 Jan 2012 in the USA) - "Rory Gallagher" by RORY GALLAGHER is on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88691917352 (Barcode 886919173529) and comes in a card digipak rather than a jewel case (55:12 minutes). 

1. Laundromat [Side 1]
2. Just The Smile
3. I Fall Apart 
4. Wave Myself Goodbye
5. Hands Up
6. Sinner Boy [Side 2]
7. For The Last Time
8. It's You 
9. I'm Not Surprised 
10. Can't Believe It's True

11. Gypsy Woman
12. It Takes Time
These two bonus tracks first appeared on the 1999 CD - two previously unreleased studio outtakes from the sessions - rough and exciting covers of "Gypsy Woman" by Muddy Waters and "It Takes Time" by Otis Rush.

The gatefold card sleeve repros the black and white artwork of the original vinyl album (front and rear) while the booklet is only slightly extended over the previous 1999 foldout inlay (8 pages as opposed to 6). There are two extra photos of Rory, but disappointingly the Donal Gallagher liner notes are exactly the same as before (bar a few mistakes corrected). Both the picture beneath the see-through tray and on the CD itself is the black and white Mick Rock photo used for the front cover artwork.

Although it has to be said that the card digipak is nice - two new photos and the same essay is hardly pushing the boat out in terms of anything new - but retailing at less than six quid (and even cheaper online) - I'd say it's more than adequate. But while the packaging might be underwhelming, the real fireworks comes in the sound department...

The initial discs were 'remixed and remastered' by Tony Arnold at Courthouse Facilities in Dorset - these are 'untampered' versions remastered by ANDY PEARCE and MATT WORTHAM at Wired Masters in the UK in November 2011 (55:12 minutes total playing time). Andy and Matt have been involved in and received praise for remasters of Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy, Frankie Miller, Wishbone Ash and The Kinks. For these reissues the original 1/4 master tapes have been returned to - therefore giving the fans the album Rory himself would have approved rather than the slightly 'altered' preceding version. The results are really great...

If I was to use one word to describe this remaster it would be 'fresh' - everything somehow sounds new - clean, present, none too trebled up the nines - and it's easy to hear why Donal and Daniel Gallagher (Rory's nephew) would want these new versions in the marketplace.  While the guitars of the opener are in your face (and for all the right reasons) - the harmonica in the background of "Laundromat" is still part of the mix - it's not rammed out front for effect - nicely handled - don't mess with the original. The Bass is so sweet now on "Sinner Boy" as the guitar pans from speaker to speaker in the solo (lyrics above). In fact his backing band of GERRY McAVOY on Bass and WILGAR CAMPBELL on Drums and Percussion can be heard 'so' clearly on every track - very impressively transferred. VINCENT CRANE of Atomic Rooster and Arthur Brown fame puts in superb keyboard work on two tracks - "Wave Myself Goodbye" and "I'm Not Surprised".

The long mid-tempo Blues of "For The Last Time" has been a huge favourite of mine for decades now - I've put in on loads of 70's Fest compilations as an example of an unfairly forgotten nugget. The guitar solo at the end of the track is beautifully clear. The witty and languid "Wave Myself Goodbye" sounds fabulous too. But the sonic-best has to be the last two album cuts - the acoustic Fats Domino R'n'B of "I'm Not Surprised" and the John Coltrane jazz-influenced seven-minutes of "Can't Believe It's True" where Rory puts in rare Alto Sax playing (double-tracked). The last in particular makes for an odd Gallagher listening experience (he was experimenting) but a great one nonetheless - and I'd forgotten how good his guitar work is towards the end as he harmonics his way to the final fade.

Originally released May 1971 on Polydor 2383 048 in the UK and Atco SD 33-368 in the USA (with all tracks self-penned and also self-produced) - his unflashy debut didn't make the top 50 in either country for the 23-year old and has always been hard to find on original vinyl ever since. The British original in particular (some 40 years after the event) has become increasingly expensive in Auctions (much like the TASTE studio albums from 1969 and 1970). So this budget-priced CD with nice packaging and even nicer sound is a great way of acquiring a rarity at a very reasonable cost.

Like most Irishmen, I can't be rational about Rory Gallagher. I saw him and his band as a teenager live in Dublin in the early Seventies and the experience was mind-blowing. I then bought every album he put out after that for years to come and always looked forward to hearing where his flying fingers would go to next.

Rory was sadly lost to us in 1995 through liver failure - and it still hurts to think that this most unassuming and brilliant of guitar heroes is gone. He's up there now as far as I'm concerned - talking the Blues with all the greats. And I for one will be buying the rest of these reissues with a sense of excitement and affection.

The Eleven Titles in the 2012 RORY GALLAGHER Remasters Series
CD Digipaks, Downloads and 'Music On Vinyl' LPs:

16 January 2012 CD DIGIPAK and DOWNLOAD:
1. "Rory Gallagher" (May 1971 debut) – released January 2012 on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88691917352 (Barcode 886919173529)
2. "Deuce" (November 1971 2nd studio LP) – released January 2012 on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88691917372 (Barcode 886919173727)
3. "Live! In Europe" (May 1972 1st Live LP) – released January 2012 on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88691917432 (Barcode 886919174328)
4. "Blueprint" (February 1973, 3rd studio album) – released January 2012 on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88691917452 (Barcode 886919174526)
5. "Tattoo" (November 1973, 4th studio album) – released January 2012 on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88691917462 (Barcode 886919174625)
6. "Irish Tour '74" (July 1974, 2nd Live Set, 2LPs onto 1CD) – released January 2012 on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88691917472 (Barcode 886919174724)

27 February 2012 VINYL:
1 to 6 above also released 27 February 2012 on Limited Edition 180-gram vinyl versions on the "Music On Vinyl" Label

24 September 2012 CD DIGIPAK and DOWNLOAD:
7. "Against The Grain" (October 1975, 5th studio album) – released September 2012 on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88725461492 (Barcode 887254614920)
8. "Calling Card" (August 1976, 6th studio album) – released September 2012 on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88725461472 (Barcode 887254614722)
9. "Photo-Finish" (October 1978, 7th studio album) – released September 2012 on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88725461462 (Barcode 887254614623)
10. "Top Priority" (September 1979, 8th studio album) – released September 2012 on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88725461452 (Barcode 88725461452)
11. "Jinx" (April 1982) – released September 2012 on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88725461432 (Barcode 887254614326)

22 October 2012 VINYL: 
7 to 11 above also released 22 October 2012 on Limited Edition 180-gram vinyl versions on the "Music On Vinyl" Label

PS: Most of the eleven above have been reissued since 2012 in standard jewel cases but have different catalogue numbers and barcodes. The jewel case version of "Deuce" for instance is Barcode 886919369625 and has the restored artwork, picture CD and expanded booklet of the 2012 issue. So if you want the 'digipak' repro artwork versions – use the Barcodes provided above when ordering...

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