Rory Gallagher Tattoo / Against The Grain

When Jimi Hendrix was asked what it was like being the world's greatest guitarist after appearing onstage at Woodstock, he supposedly replied that the reporter should go and ask Rory Gallagher. And even if it isn't true, anybody who's actually sat down and listened to Gallagher in his heyday will know that it's indeed very plausible, as he was one of the finest blues guitarists of all time. This latest batch of reissues kicks off with Gallagher's fourth solo album, Tattoo, his second album to be released in 1973. It's very much the typical Gallagher album, with a surprising amount of variety, thanks to the ease with which he could move between styles. That translates into songs like "A Million Miles Away," which suggests fellow Irishmen Thin Lizzy, the blues rock of "Cradle Rock" and the Southern blues of "Who's That Coming," meaning he covers all the bases. One of his best records, and one without any weak spots. 1975's Against The Grain, on the other hand, is a little less impressive. It was his first album for a new label, but while his band knew how to play well together after a rigorous touring schedule, the songs weren't his best. That there are three covers (including a Leadbelly song) speaks to the fact that he wasn't in his songwriting groove. It isn't without some strong moments, particularly "Souped Up Ford" and "Cross Me Off Your List," but he was simply treading water at this point. (Eagle)