Rory Gallagher Blues

Rory Gallagher Blues
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This multi-format release (three CDs, double vinyl or single CD) celebrates what would have been the 50th year of Irish blues-rocker Rory Gallagher's recording career. Gallagher's reputation has been heightened posthumously (he died in 1995, at age 47), though he still seems to be ranked just below the holy trinity of Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page in the pantheon of British blues-rock axemen.
 
This comprehensive retrospective focuses on his solo career, from 1971 through 1994, and includes previously unreleased tracks, special guest sessions with blues legends (Muddy Waters, Albert King) and lost radio sessions. It would have been nice to have some material from his late '60s band Taste, but there is plenty here to keep Gallagher fans happy.
 
The deluxe edition is divided into "Electric," "Acoustic" and "Live" CDs, and the uninitiated are best advised to check out his electric side first. As a vocalist, Gallagher would never be mistaken for Muddy Waters or BB King, but he is emotionally expressive enough to complement his key asset, his fluent and formidable guitar playing. He has a lovely ringing tone, and never over-plays. He may not have been as stylistically versatile as Beck or Clapton, but few captured that classic '70s blues-rock sound this well.
 
"Acoustic" CD tracks like "Who's That Coming" and "Prison Blues" show that Gallagher could also sound convincing on classic country-blues material, while the "Live" CD reaffirms his powerful presence in performance. A highlight of the latter disc is his pairing with Jack Bruce on a version of "Born Under A Bad Sign."
 
The well-curated single disc should suffice for the curious, with the deluxe 36-track edition recommended for the committed fan. (Chess / Universal)