Irish Tour '74 (Polydor í74) Rating: A-
When discussing Irish rockers, I suppose you'd start with Van Morrison and U2, followed perhaps by Thin Lizzy, but you'd better damn well fit Rory Gallagher into the discussion somewhere. A live performer first and foremost, Irish Tour '74 provides a great starting point for getting acquainted with his music, though you canít really go too wrong with any of his albums as the manís career was remarkably consistent. The highlights of this 71-minute live showcase are Gallagher's fiery guitar playing and his band's loose but powerful ensemble playing. Fittingly, a blues player of Gallagher's stature attracted sidemen of sizable talent; Lou Martin lends several spotlight stealing keyboard runs throughout the album, while drummer Rod De'Ath and bassist Gerry McAvoy ably hold down the bottom end. Yet Gallagher is by far the album's biggest star. Although they do Muddy Waters proud on "I Wonder Who (Who's Gonna Be Your Sweet Man)" (which is a straightforward blues but with lots of scorching guitar playing and solo spotlights), and their version of Tony Joe White's "As the Crow Flies" is an impressively lively Unplugged-styled change-up, these are mostly his songs, after all, certainly the best ones are, and the band burns big time on "Cradle Rock" (a heavy high energy thumper), "Tatoo'd Lady" (a fast paced, explosive rocker that's my personal favorite for the simple reason that it rocks relentlessly, with bluesy vocals, explosive riffs and rhythms, nimble keyboard runs, and some smokiní guitar solos being the main selling points), "A Million Miles Away" (a moody slow burner with a simmering intensity and a big memorable chorus), "Walk On Hot Coals" (another explosive if slightly over-long entry), and "Who's That Coming" (a stellar slide showcase with a powerhouse performance by De'Ath). Sure, these long (the average song length is over 7 minutes), mostly mid-tempo songs have their downs as well as their ups, mostly on the more straightforward blues tunes, which can plod a bit in places. Yet even on these songs Gallagher and company perform with great conviction, and the many ups on this album far outweigh the few down moments. Simply put, Rory Gallagher was one of the premiere blues rockers of the í70s (and into the Ď80s), and these songs most definitely do rock, with an expansive power and imagination that would do Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, or Stevie Ray Vaughan proud.