Sound — 9
Rory Gallagher, predominantly a blues-rock artist, particularly in this (an earlier) part of his career. There are hints and flavours of folk and jazz, but generally has a traditional blues spine. This album, recorded from several different venues across Ireland and Northern Ireland during early 1974 is Rory Gallaghers second live album. The songs are long, which is why this was originally a double LP, but you don't realise it. The songs flow; ducking, weaving and stop-starting, taking you on a journey led by Gallaghers guitar work. This is certainly the case with 'I Walk On Hot Coals' where the other instruments take a back seat as Rory toys with pinch harmonics before building back up again. From the off, we know where we stand with the album. It sets off with an energetic and raw blues-rock number and the energy level never falls, not even for his solo acoustic version of 'As A Crow Flies', where Rory also shows his talents at playing simultaneously with harmonica. Lou Martin is on keyboard and piano and in my opinion wasn't used enough on the album considering his ability. He seems only to be there in the majority for short fills and bulking out the sound. Rory Gallaghers' guitar tone differs from his earlier days with Taste. He uses less distortion, is more melodic but is no less powerful. Arguably at his peak creatively and in commercial success, but without a doubt he produces his best on the live stage.
Lyrics — 7
Gallagher's overall singing skills, I feel are unique to the business. Technically not the best singer and the octave range is limited, but he delivers. His Irish accent combined with classic blues singing gives it a rare quality as it isn't a traditional genre to the country. He can be subtle and suave and then can be brash, forcing the lyrics to you. He does, however sometimes leave you wondering what he said. Not only does he play his guitar solos completely improvised, but sometimes his lyrics get mashed or rather mushed together, making them unclear. The lyrics themselves are nothing contempory or mind-altering. Mainly a load of traditional blues lyrics with the usual themes, either self-penned or covers (I Wonder Who, Too Much Alcohol, and As The Crow Flies). Tattoo'd Lady, a story about his own experience at a fairground is considered one of his best works, live and studio. A solid melody and well-matched lyrics. The same goes for A Million Miles Away, which deals with disconnection, again a bluesy-style theme, but put with melody.
Overall Impression — 9
At the time of release, the blues boom from the 60's and early 70's had slowed dramatically and experimental/alternative and progressive rock were at force. In the Billboard blues chart, Irish Tour hit number 1, as it did in the mainstream Irish chart. It faired very well in many countries, getting well within the top 50, but you feel that if Rory entered a single (as a chose never to release any), he would have been boosted up a lot higher, just from the publicity. The songs on the whole are nothing less than superb on the album, but I don't think it can be stressed enough that listening to studio versions to compare them with would brighten opinion on how good the performances are. My personal favourite moments are the introduction to 'A Million Miles Away' and 'Walk On Hot Coals', showing everything coming together extemely well. I also love the track order and the flowing continuity, the calm in the storm being (a rather fast 'slow one'! ) 'As A Crow Flies'. I have this album in three different formats and twice on CD (remastered version as well as standard) and also the Tony Palmer film. I wish the song 'Hand's Off' appeared on the album, but apart from that I cannot fault it. It is regularly played and held in high regard. It's infectious and like a decent movie, I find new things in it every time I listen. I would want a copy for life.