Classic on the road movie now with extras...
The legacy of Rory Gallagher lives on as year by year archive material is recycled or issued for the first time. And in a year when the 15th anniversary of his death was commemorated with the unveiling of a statue in his hometown, more releases trickle through to influence a new generation.
'Irish Tour 1974' is essential viewing and has has always been an excellent first-hand account of a rock musician on tour in the early seventies, but more poignant when that musician is Gallagher and, arguably, at the height of his powers. What emerges is a portrait of a musician seemingly untainted by the trappings of popularity although very mindful of what fame can bring. For now he can seemingly walk the streets of Cork without too much fuss.
Documentary maker Tony Palmer filmed Rory and his band on the tour in early 1974. It is a fly on the wall insight to life on the road and is now presented in remastered format. Originally it got a cinema release although was only ever intended as a TV documentary. Of course, Gallagher was particularly bold in touring in Ireland at a time of great political unrest and the rock-starved crowds lap it all up.
A fresh-faced Gallagher is seen tuning up and showing off his battered Strat or his bottleneck, or giving a mini-masterclass on acoustic blues guitar and for the most part Palmer lets his images do the talking, not least the ecstatic crowd scenes ('Rory, Rory...') and the close ups of a master showman in action. Whilst Palmer's approach captures well the musical energy and attitude of Gallagher, aficionados will probably bemoan the lack of close-ups of his actual playing.
All this is of course well known to the fan. It is the bonus material that may entice them: a 30 minute RTE documentary from 1972 made commercially available for the first time (30 mins) and some Japanese home movie footage shot in 1974 (11 mins). The former explores Gallagher's musical influences and background in his own words, reminding us that - by 1972 - Gallagher had already experienced success with his blues rock power trio, Taste.
Sadly, whilst the main feature has an optional audio commentary supplied by Rory's brother (and tour manager, now flame-keeper) Donal and Gerry McAvoy there is no commentary for the home movie footage which lacks an original soundtrack.
The extras perfectly round out a package which celebrates Rory Gallagher in his prime and provides a fascinating insight to his routine on the road and his route to wider acclaim.
Review by David Randall