Updated: Aug 16, 2020
This live recording shows the G Man at his peak
When was the last time you heard a guitarist really play guitar? If the tour posters were anything to go by, you had to be at one of the 1977 concerts of Rory Gallagher to find out. Thankfully those who never got the chance to see the adroit skills of the G Man can get a flavour of his energy and bravado from this superb live recording.
The 20 song album is previously unreleased and comprises tracks from Rory's tour dates in London, Newcastle, Sheffield and Brighton and was recorded on the Rolling Stones and Jethro Tull's mobile studio.
Chants of 'Rory, Rory' at the beginning of the record gives the impression that Rory was a household name, a superstar of the epoch equivalent to Hendrix and Clapton. Sadly this musician's musician never got the full recognition he deserved, even if his abilities were equal to – or even surpassed his peers. Still, his legacy and influence lives on inspiring everyone from Iron Maiden to Ed Sheeran.
Do You Read Me warms things up with a standard blues rock and by the time we arrive at Calling Card things have heated up, leading to a playoff between guitar and Gerry McAvoy's bass that epitomises Rory's live energy and spontaneity. Tattoo'd Lady is a solid example of Rory's mastery as a guitarist. The varying levels of the track show Rory's abilities to exude a variety of emotions from his guitar with technique and a just little bit of magic. Rory was known for being hypercritical in his playing, but on this tour, he appears relaxed and at ease with what he is creating. It's as if in the five years between the Live In Europe recording and the 1977 tour he's evolved from blues hotshot to fully-fledged blues virtuoso.
His power and presence are not diminished when he abandons the band and the Strat in favour of the acoustic guitar on Barley & Grape Rag. Later he switches genre and shows his versatility with some impressive country style fingerpicking on Pistol Slapper Blues.
Great live recordings aim to capture a symbiosis between musicians and the audience. It's a moment in time that can never be replicated in a sterile studio environment. There's little doubt that he was at his best in a live arena, and Check Shirt Wizard Live in '77 is the sort of live album that all musicians want to be remembered for.
Photo credit Chris Nation