Rory Gallagher

Notes from San Francisco

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It's surprising, considering the interesting back story on the studio portion of this posthumous Rory Gallagher release, that there are no notes on the actual packaging to chronicle its eventual appearance in 2011, nearly 33 years after being recorded in December 1977. According to the press release though, Gallagher clashed with producer Elliot Mazer about the mix on these dozen tunes and not only shelved the tapes, but broke up his longtime band after the San Francisco session ended. Out went keyboardist Lou Martin and drummer Rod de'Ath, replaced by skinsman Ted McKenna (bassist Gerry McAvoy remained) to strip down the sound for his next phase. About half these songs, such as "Mississippi Sheiks," "Fuel to the Fire," "Brute Force & Ignorance," "Cruise on Out," and "Overnight Bag" appeared on 1978's Photo Finish in different performances. Some, like the closing "Out on the Tiles" and "B Girl," will be new to all but the most ardent Gallagher followers. Shortly before his death, the guitarist apparently mentioned to his brother Donald that he'd like the tapes to be released someday if they were remixed, which is exactly what Donald's son Daniel did in 2011, resulting in these long-lost tracks finally seeing the light of day. Despite Gallagher's reservations, everything here is up to his usual high standard, and he obviously respected the material enough to re-record the bulk of it with a different band and producer later that year. The electric violin on "Mississippi Sheiks" is a new twist on both Gallagher's blues-rock style and the song, which helps differentiate this version from the more famous one that appeared on Photo Finish. Saxophone, played by Martin Fiero, enhances two cuts, also bringing a unique groove, especially to the lumbering "Brute Force and Ignorance." The package includes a December 1979 live show, also recorded in San Francisco, that finds Gallagher and his two-piece in typically fine fettle. They revisit the Taste-era chestnut "Bullfrog Blues" and tear into the rarity "I'm Leavin'" with their notorious paint-peeling approach. He digs back some years for a tough take on "Tattoo'd Lady," but most of the set is derived from his mid- to late-'70s albums Top Priority, Photo Finish, and Calling Card. A breathless "Sea Cruise" closes the set, and is probably a nod to Jerry Lee Lewis, on whose album Gallagher guested. It caps off a roaring, electrifying show that, along with the studio disc, makes a worthwhile addition to any Gallagher lover's collection. Even lacking detailed liner notes, this is a keeper and an important historical document in Rory Gallagher's short but eventful career.

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