Notes From San Francisco review by Rory Gallagher

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  • Released: May 17, 2011
  • Sound: 9
  • Lyrics: 9
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 9 Superb
  • Users' score: 10 (24 votes)
Rory Gallagher: Notes From San Francisco
1

Sound — 9
"The man who changed my musical life was Rory Gallagher, I picked up a guitar because of him." Those words were delivered by none other than Smiths/Modest Mouse/The Cribs guitarist Johnny Marr, and a bevy of others have long been influenced by the Irish musician who has not always gotten his due since his passing in 1995. Gallagher's impeccable guitar work was both technically inspiring and emotionally captivating, qualities that are immediately apparent on "Notes From San Francisco". The 2-CD release features a never-before reissued studio album recorded back in 1978, as well as an unreleased 1979 concert from San Francisco. These unheard gems are classic Gallagher fare, with even familiar tracks like "Overnight Bag" taking on new life thanks to the guitarists' constantly transforming style and creative fills. A few decades back, Gallagher had opted to shelve the studio album that you'll now hear on disk one. Apparently Gallagher wasn't pleased with the overall mixing process, one of the many issues that eventually caused the break-up of his band. Thankfully the recordings were recovered by Rory's brother and manager, Dnal, who allowed his son Daniel to recover/restore the archived album. It paid off, with the 12 tracks (which included 3 bonus tracks) from that original record rarely delivering a dull moment. There are certainly bluesy overtones to the vast majority of the tracks, whether the opener "Rue The Day" the slide-rich "Mississippi Sheiks", or the gritty rocker "B Girl". The band's chemistry is undeniable, with particularly engaging moments coming from pianist/keyboardist Lou Martin and saxophonist Martin Fiero. But in the end it's Gallagher who never ceases to amaze with the amount of seemingly off-the-cuff licks he comes up with throughout the course of one song. It may seem overkill to some, but it's hard not to listen in awe as he peppers each track with ever-changing licks ("Persuasion" and the big finale "Out On The Tiles" are prime examples). With the concert heard on disk two, you get a rawness that might not have been quite as apparent in the studio setting. Classics like "Bullfrog Blues", "Calling Card", and "Do You Read Me" are among the 12 songs on that playlist, and Gallagher's energy never seems to ebb. The live CD comes across very much like a best-off offering, but once again, Gallagher has a way of shaping familiar songs into new entities via his keen sense of improvisation.

Lyrics — 9
The liner notes included within "Notes From San Francisco" feature content that Gallagher fans should truly appreciate: handwritten lyrics by the legendary guitarist himself. Arrows, boxes, and written guidelines like "repeat first verse" scattered on the pages provide some insight into how Gallagher crafted his songs, which range from the introspective "Wheels Within Wheels" ("If you keep your heart closed; You'll live out in the cold; And you'll go on searching; It's such a lonesome road") to the courtship-drive "Persuasion" ("Perfection, you seem to me; This connection, we ought to seal; My emotions, I can't conceal; Your heart I'll steal away"). Most of the tracks do have an emotional quality to them, making it a suitable match for the blues genre.

Overall Impression — 9
"Notes From San Francisco" could easily be considered an album catered to guitarists, but the songs are so infectious and well-written that it should appeal to a wide audience. Gallagher seems to deliver nonstop licks and/or riffage, which although may be much for someone with simpler musical tastes, reinforce precisely why Jimi Hendrix referred to Gallagher as the best guitarist in the world at one time. Although Gallagher passed away at the age of 47 in 1995, it's releases like "Notes From San Francisco" that will ensure a whole new generation of guitarists and music lovers in general give proper credit to the Irish rocker.

24 comments sorted by best / new / date

    NukeSpoon
    For pure unadulterated blues rock, Rory Gallagher is the goddamn tits and it's great to see him getting the recognition he deserves here. However, Hendrix referring to Gallagher as the best guitarist in the world is a myth, as far as I know, and either name is often interchanged with another. And as much as I love him, he doesn't really change it up a lot in the electric area, despite being technically excellent. Most of my favourite stuff of his comes from his acoustic and slide work. Nonetheless, I'll definitely be picking this up.
    fobster
    JLowU571 wrote: Man, Norn Iron has produced some Kick-ass guitarists, Rory and Gary Moore are the best exmples of why we are freakin' epic!
    Rory spent most of his childhood in the Republic and so Norn Iron can't really lay claim to having given the world Rory. Gary Moore yes, Rory Gallagher no. Not arguing, just stating facts.
    micktagg
    I've followed everything of Rory since the 70's as a 13 year old listenign to my older bro's record collections. This is a good album from the start of Rory's 'heavier' era. He reigned in things a bit for 'Defender' (his last great album IMHO and well worth investing in) in the mid-80's wherein the heaviness was based in the bluesy riffs rather than lengthy improv. But, I agree with lazybustard - you can't beat the Irish Tour DVD for a glimpse of the essence of the man caugh in his moment, oozing understated magnetism, humility, sheer unencumbered joy of playing to live audiences and outputing pure miscial magic. Cradle Rock form that album is a pearl and today remains one of my favourite all-time tracks. If you can't get that DVD then certainly get the CD.
    lazybustard
    If you really want to catch the spirit of the man- get the film (dvd) of the 74 Tour by Tony Palmer....the man, the music, the time, the place..it makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck. Walk on Hot Coals (LIVE) can't be bettered. Enjoy.
    lazybustard
    kratos379 wrote: Warrior47 wrote: Garci wrote: Kratos: The Essential Rory Gallagher is a quite comprehensive "best of", Irish Tour '74 is probably his best recording IMHO This. I would pick up Irish Tour. It is an amazing album. Pretty much every song sounds amazing. Thanks guys. I'm going to pick it up.
    kratos379
    I have the Irish Tour album and I am currently listening to it. It's nothing short of amazing. I will look up the other albums later. Thanks again guys.
    Palxrh1
    Kratos: Live in Europe is probably the best live album (imo). The first two studio albums, 'Rory Gallagher' and 'Deuce' plus 'Calling Card(produced by Roger Glover of Deep Purple)which came out a few years later are all great and will give a real cross-section of Rory's oplaying.
    Palxrh1
    ZZ Top used to open for Rory also when he toured the states. Billy Gibbons was a big fan!
    kratos379
    Warrior47 wrote: Garci wrote: Kratos: The Essential Rory Gallagher is a quite comprehensive "best of", Irish Tour '74 is probably his best recording IMHO This. I would pick up Irish Tour. It is an amazing album. Pretty much every song sounds amazing.
    Thanks guys. I'm going to pick it up.
    stef123
    Love Rory. I'll be picking this up. It's a shame we can't see his tabs anymore.
    Warrior47
    Garci wrote: Kratos: The Essential Rory Gallagher is a quite comprehensive "best of", Irish Tour '74 is probably his best recording IMHO
    This. I would pick up Irish Tour. It is an amazing album. Pretty much every song sounds amazing.
    CrawlingHorror
    "However, Hendrix referring to Gallagher as the best guitarist in the world is a myth, as far as I know, and either name is often interchanged with another." That guitarists is often said to be Billy Gibbons when Billy was still in the Moving Sidewalks, who opened for Hendrix during one of Jimi's tours. Anyway, great review. I have been a fan of Rory's since the mid-1970's and have almost all of his albums. I will definitely be picking up this one.
    williamagrogan
    This is from answers.com "Yes he did, in a 1969 interview shortly after Woodstock." Interviewer: So Jimi, what's it like to be the best guitarist in the world? Jimi: I dunno, ask Rory Gallagher.
    Garci
    Kratos: The Essential Rory Gallagher is a quite comprehensive "best of", Irish Tour '74 is probably his best recording IMHO
    kratos379
    I've seen that quote by Jimi Hendrix about Rory Gallagher being the best guitarist and my interest has been piqued. What's a good album by him to start out with?
    JLowU571
    Man, Norn Iron has produced some Kick-ass guitarists, Rory and Gary Moore are the best exmples of why we are freakin' epic!
    TheLukeMaxfield
    great guitarist. definately think about getting this one, have most of them already.
    Angus~Young wrote: The best sounds I have ever heard coming out of a strat came while it was in the arms of this great man, Rory Gallagher.
    agreed
    Angus~Young
    The best sounds I have ever heard coming out of a strat came while it was in the arms of this great man, Rory Gallagher.
    micktagg
    p.s. for the Rory newbies - there are some tasters (ho ho) of Rory's 70's live performances on the official website - www.rorygallagher.com