Tag Archives: Rory Gallagher

T.G.I.F. – Ten for Jim McCarty

What’s the difference between Detroit and Upstate New York?

On any given Friday night I can hit a bar and find a bunch of middle-aged guys playing covers. In Detroit, my buddy Sue can do the same thing, except the guitar player is Jim McCarty.

McCarty blazed on axe for Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels. Jammed at Electric Ladyland with Hendrix. Played toe to toe with Buddy Miles. Took Cactus into the stratosphere. Kicked ass all over again in The Rockets. Recently rocking again in The Detroit Revue, The Hell Drivers and finally, the 2010+ reincarnation of The Rockets.

But all the way through, he kept playing the blues, often on a Friday night in a Detroit bar, with friends.

I’ve been listening to this guy for over forty-five years and two things always come to mind – (1) holy shit, is he great, and (2) why is he not mentioned in the same breath as Blackmore, Page, Clapton, Beck, Gallagher and other consensus giants? He can blow your doors off or lay it bare. He can play anything, anytime, anywhere. I’m not going to argue with you.

I’m going to prove it to you.

Here are Ten Titanic Jim McCarty Tunes for this week’s TGIF.

(01) “No Need To Worry” / “Parchman Farm” (live at the Atlanta Pop Festival, 1970)

(02) “Taking It Back” (The Hell Drivers, live in Detroit 2009)

(03) “Hoochie Coochie Man” (live with Mystery Train and Willie D Warren!)

(04) “See See Rider” (live with the Detroit Rock Revue)

(05) “Oh Well” (sitting in with The Reefermen!)

(06) “Turn Up The Radio” (The Rockets, 1979)

(07) “Evil” (Cactus, live in Buffalo, 1971)

(08) “Goin’ Down” (live with Smokin’ Moses, 2008)

(09) “Let Me Swim / Long Tall Sally” (Cactus reunion, NYC, 2010)

(10) “Rock and Roll” (The Hell Drivers, 2009)

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New Album! Rory Gallagher

After Elvis Presley died, there was such a flood of posthumous album releases and collections that even loyal devotees who cried at Graceland that weekend began to wonder if he wasn’t cranking them out from a studio behind that Dunkin Donuts in Minneapolis. The Who aren’t literally dead (although their career might be), but their catalog over the past couple of decades has consisted mostly of repackaging similar groups of hits, a trick The Rolling Stones only exceeded by actually recording them live.

Maybe it takes the artist’s family to intervene and bring sanity. Although the Jimi Hendrix releases aren’t culling a bottomless well of new material, at least love and care are shaping some definitive packages for posterity. And while Gail Zappa might have a wee bit too much stranglehold control on her husband’s name and likeness, every year there’s an intriguing new Frank Zappa release that meets the highest standards; an album that Frank himself would be proud to stand behind.

Donal Gallagher has taken a similar approach when it comes to the legacy of his brother. Rory Gallagher was one of the best guitarists ever to walk this planet (I’ll save you the fawning here as I’ve done it enough over the years). Those who knew him were mesmerized by his performances, but despite a history of heavy touring he still slid under the radar of too many listeners. Recent DVD releases have made great strides to right that wrong, especially Live At Cork and the unbelievably rich Rockpalast Collection (a three DVD set featuring hours of amazing footage). Sure, there have been a couple of “best of” titles over the last twenty years, but gems like the acoustic Wheels Upon Wheels album have been the focus.

The latest releases feature Rory’s live work for Radio Bremen that were broadcast on the German music show Beat Club. Featuring what I feel was his strongest band – the trio with Gerry McAvoy on bass and Wilger Campbell on drums – The Beat Club Sessions is another sizzling testimony to his genius. The CD features many of his best tracks (“Laundromat”, “In Your Town”, “Messin’ With The Kid”) and demonstrates why people are still buzzing about his talent fifteen years after his death. Gallagher was able to play ferociously or delicately with equal skill; a premiere blues soloist and slide guitar player, he also made the mandolin a weapon of choice.

Video: “Goin’ To My Hometown

The twelve cuts (culled from sixteen on the Ghost Blues DVD) feature stomping rockers (“Sinnerboy”), blues workouts (“I Could Have Had Religion“) and acoustic treats (“Just The Smile“). As a  contemporary of Cream and asked to replace Clapton in that lineup after his departure – one wonders why his songs  “Used To Be” never found the acclaim that “I’m So Glad” did, let alone his great interpretations. (His is the definitive version of “Messin’ With The Kid“, and “Toredown” is simply amazing)

I’m expecting my copy of the Ghost Blues documentary any day now and will be certain to have more on that in the near future. And Donal and family are working to secure the full BBC archives as well as work from Rory’s prior band Taste. Eagle Vision is now the official distributor of Rory Gallagher’s work, and if this is any indication of what’s to come, I am thrilled. This is magic stuff.

The Official Rory Gallagher Website

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Rock’n’Roll Hall of Shame (Again)

The Mistake By The Lake

The Mistake By The Lake

I don’t know why I even bother getting agitated anymore. 

I don’t take it seriously, and it’s been a long time since I have gone out of my way to look for the list of nominees, let alone actually root for someone to make it in. It’s a sham, a political clusterfuck of a process, and certainly bears no resemblance to a recognition of the truly worthy. But the other day an email hit my mailbox listing some of the nominees, and well…here we go again.

Some of the finalists this year include The Stooges (again), and KISS (finally), two bands that have obviously made an impact on rock’n’roll, albeit in very different ways. Even The Hollies surfaced after being eligible for over two decades.

But Donna Summer? Disco-thumping, heavy-breathing Donna Summer? Are you kidding me? Sure, she sold a lot of records in the 70s, but so did Cheap Trick and Deep Purple. She might get in before them? They haven’t even hit the finalists list yet! Hall and Oates were way bigger than Donna Summer could ever dream of, with a long string of hit singles that dominated the charts, but I don’t see their name.

And L.L.Cool J? Why- because he stars in a new CSI spin-off show? I like the guy, but not only does his music have nothing to do with rock, there are tons of deserving artists with longer careers who sold more records – what’s the criteria here? And how are rap artists more rock than progressive rock veterans like Yes and King Crimson? Where are The Moody Blues and  Procol Harum?

And before you start tossing the race card at me, I’m not rushing to send Laura Nyro in there, either. At least she has been an influence on a number of rock artists, but until the day Carole King walks through that door, don’t talk to me about great female songwriter/performers. (I wouldn’t have voted Bonnie Raitt in that quickly – yes, she’s had a lengthy and brilliant career, but she’s far from a household name. John Hiatt is a far better songwriter and he’s not in; and if you want to talk underappreciated musical geniuses, where’s Rory Gallagher’s name on that wall?)

And I’m still appalled that bands like R.E.M. – worthy eventually – are in while earlier artists aren’t.  No J. Geils Band, Humble Pie or Johnny and Edgar Winter? All those record sales and The Guess Who, The Turtles and Tommy James are waiting? No Small Faces? Where the hell is Lou Reed?

Some of the elections are artists who also have success as producers, but Todd Rundgren and Rick Derringer have done both – where are their names on the ballot? And if the anything-but-rock Madonna is in because of cultural impact and huge record sales, why not The Monkees?

No idea who the final five will be, but since it’s the 25th Anniversary you can be sure that fanfare will trump honest voting (just ask The Dave Clark Five about that one) because they gotta sell those dinner tickets. Predictability? You’ll see a female artist or female fronted band, a disco or rap artist, a blast-from-the-early-days, a hugely famous artist/band, and one crapshoot. That’s how they roll in Cleveland…well, actually New York, where Jann Wenner and his cronies run the floating crap game. They need to uproot the damned thing and move it to Detroit where it belongs.

The absurdity can be summed up in five words: Alice Cooper isn’t in it.

Here’s a list of the current inductees. For a list of the truly worthy artists and a real Hall of Fame, do what I do – look at your record collection.

If not, enjoy your Eminem and Beyonce inductions. Maybe you can hang on until 2034 when Chickenfoot is eligible.

Without some of this kind of DNA, you ain't rock'n'roll

Without some of this kind of DNA, you ain't rock'n'roll

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New Album! Rory Gallagher

Rory Gallagher Cork DVD 1

Well, not new, because this Rory Gallagher show was available in Europe for quite some time, and on VHS as Messin’ With The Kid prior to that. I never had the tape, but I do have a region-free DVD player and have been enjoying this title for a while. So for those who were unable to play a Region 2 DVD, Eagle Vision’s recent Region 1 release is a godsend.

Prescription readers know I revere Rory Gallagher and his music. His versatility and passion enabled him to shuttle effortlessly between blues and rock – equally genius on acoustic or electric with a juxtaposition of subtle phrasing and sheer power. Seeing Gallagher play guitar was like watching someone with an extra limb; thoughts emanating from mind and heart, seamlessly translated through fingers and guitar with peerless tone. It’s the textbook definition of pure soul.

Cork was Rory’s hometown, and this was his first performance at the Opera House; fortunately Irish Television (RTE) was on hand that night to capture the event. Recorded in 1987 while touring behind the Defender album, Rory was visibly showing the signs of wear and tear that the road and alcohol will bring. But Rory Gallagher nevercheated a crowd; his performance that night was stellar. (Check out McAvoy taking a deep breath just before plunging into “Shadow Play” – he knows what’s coming!). Multiple standing ovations and vocal participation demonstrate the love Cork had for its native son.

Backed by longtime bassist Gerry McAvoy along with Brendan O’Neill on drums (and some tasty harmonica thanks to Mark Feltham), Gallagher runs through several landmark recordings like “Tattoo’d Lady”, “Continental Op” and “Messin’ With The Kid”. Those familiar with his barn-burning Stratocaster licks might be stunned to see his finger-picking expertise on acoustic (“Out On The Western Plain”) and National Steel guitar (“Wanted Blues”), where he conducts a master class on slide guitar. The camera captures many close-ups with great clarity, and it’s a real treat to see the dazzling fretwork. (I’m hoping some over-noodling players might get their hands on a copy and learn a valuable lesson in restraint and technique.)

Audio and video are excellent, although I did not detect a great advantage to the 5.1 sound. Since it was a television production, cuts are clean and not overdone, and the DVD now boasts the supplement “Rough Guide to Rory’s Cork“, an animated compilation of photos, trivia and anecdoteal information compiled by Rory’s brother (and Gallagher Estate archivist) Donal Gallagher.

Track Listing:
01. Continental Op
02. Tattoo’d Lady
03. Don’t Start Me Talkin’
04. I Ain’t No Saint
05. Follow Me
06. When My Baby She Left Me
07. Off The Handle
08. Out On The Western Plain
09. Wanted Blues
10. The Loop
11. Shadow Play
12. Messin’ With The Kid
13. Loanshark Blues

Real (L) and Tribute (R)

Real (L) and Copy(R)

And be sure to check out the other Rory Gallagher DVD titles. They’re all great values, but more importantly I don’t know if we’ll see a player with Rory’s skill and soul in one package again anytime soon. I still get goosebumps every time I watch the version of “Going To My Hometown” on my personal favorite, the concert/documentary DVD Irish Tour. The two-disc Live at Montreaux set is also excellent, and the Live at Rockpalast set is stunning in its breadth – nine hours of material over three discs.

The original Region 2 cover art

The original Region 2 cover art

 

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R.I.P. Ellie, Larry, Ted, Dominick…

I never intended R.I.P. to be a regular feature. Damned if life isn’t forcing my hand.

I’m not one who obsesses over calendars; I don’t have a list of who was born when and who died on any day, but I do have a couple of websites that are easily checked on occasion. The idea about the feature – and in fact the focus of some of the first columns – was to reminisce about artists who impacted my life greatly, like Rory Gallagher, Ronnie Lane and Frank Zappa. Being of a certain age, I sometimes take for granted that everyone is as familiar with these artists as I am, or at least has had the opportunity presented to them to be. Apparently nothing could be further from the truth.

And I guess because I did grow up following these artists and collecting their work, I shouldn’t be surprised that some of them are now leaving this mortal coil. Sure, we still lose too many too soon, but no one can say that Les Paul didn’t have a blue ticket ride on this Earth. But from my vantage point, late 60s is far from old age, and that’s when Larry Knechtel and Ellie Greenwich got the call.

Words plus music equals magic

Words plus music equals magic

Ellie Greenwich – where does one even start? As part of the Brill Building sound she – along with husband Jeff Barry –  gave us some of the greatest rock’n’roll songs ever written. Frankly, some of the bands you revere might not have been in your windshield without her. Hell, Brian Wilson admits that his entire being is merely a byproduct of “Be My Baby” (arguably the greatest pop song ever…and certainly in the upper echelon of anyone’s list). It’s sad that she doesn’t have the public recognition that some of the artists she helped make famous have. From The Ronnettes to The Ramones, from “Chapel Of Love” to “It’s My Party” to “I Can Hear Music”…Ellie Greenwich was rock royalty.

Larry Knechtel might not be a household name, but I’ll bet his handiwork is in your house. Own any albums by Simon & GarfunkelThe Beach Boys, The Doors or The Mamas & Papas? How about Elvis Presley’s famous ’68 special? Fan of Duane Eddy? You’ve at least heard of Bread, yes? Well, that’s musician extraordinaire Larry Knechtel on bass and/or keyboards; an intregal part of Phil Spector sessions that we now know as the Wall Of Sound as a member of the famous Wrecking Crew. Like Ellie, almost 70.

Of course I was saddened to hear about the passing of Ted Kennedy, although this is a date I thought I saw coming many times before. I don’t politicize in the Prescription, and certainly there are a thousand in-depth articles that you will be able to read about the man, so I won’t expound on his faults or his gifts. But for someone who grew up in the Kennedy Era, who cringed and wept and feared for our country when Jack, and later Bobby, were assassinated, this is truly the end of a political dynasty, at least at Camelot levels. Yes, children and grandchildren remain, and we may yet see another Kennedy aspire to the upper ranks of politics, but that will be a sequel, not another chapter.

In a related passing, Dominick Dunne was also familiar with loss – his daughter’s murder resulted in a career pivot that saw this social observer become a watchdog for justice, albeit from a sideline seat. Perhaps his wealth and celebrity standing gave him a pulpit others would never have gotten, but in a society where Nancy Grace is taken seriously I prefer to think of his endeavors as an attempt to hold the famous accountable for their actions. At least his motivation was not as blatantly myopic as that of the former prosecutor.

I Can Hear Music...and thanks to these musicians, I want to.

I Can Hear Music...and thanks to these musicians, I want to.

I should mention that although I was aware of Knetchel’s passing the day it occured, I did not want to make it the headline of the day. I figured I’d drop a relevant post-script into another piece during the week as a way of paying my respects. However, when the number of famous names passing in but a few short days skyrocketed and I decided to air another obituary, I certainly did not want to omit him. Please know he is not an afterthought; I have great respect for his work.

But keeping up with the bad news has been daunting. We’re not quite two-thirds of the way through 2009 and already the losses have been staggering. Many of us have suffered our own personal losses as well.

If nothing else, this week is another reminder that life is short and unpredictable. No grudge is worth keeping. No warm feelings toward someone are worth hiding. No card or letter or email or call is worth putting off. Don’t procrastinate. Because you can’t take your love and warmth and appreciation with you…you must share it.

Peace.

Ellie Greenwich website.

Larry Knechtel website

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Friday – Time To Rock

Thank God it’s Friday!

Here’s a musical interlude to enjoy until the next blog feature.

You're never too old...

You're never too old...

The Dictators:   “Who Will Save Rock’n’Roll?”

Geraint Watkins:   “Nobody

Willie and the Poor Boys:   “Saturday Night

The Faces:   “It’s All Over Now” / “I Can Feel The Fire”

Humble Pie:   “Thirty Days In The Hole”

Jim McCarty:  “Lucille”

The Rockets (2008):   “Turn Up The Radio

Johnny Winter And:   “Johnny B Goode” (w/Floyd Radford on guitar!)

Rory Gallagher:   “Bullfrog Blues

 RAWWWKKKKK!

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Under The Radar: The Muggs

Rock didn't die. Not in Detroit, anyway.

Rock didn't die. Not in Detroit, anyway.

If you were wondering why no one seems to be carrying the torch for bands like Cactus and The James Gang and Humble Pie, you can stop. The Muggs play white-hot power trio blues rock like the aforementioned bands did; timeless riff-dominated, air-guitar, roll-down-the-window-and-blast-it glorious rock’n’roll…and they’re from Detroit, natch! But their brand of hard rock is an organic outgrowth from the classic origins, not an exhumation of days gone by. It’s somehow simultaneously fiery and tasty, subtle yet hammer headed. And my god, does it sound great when you play it loud.

(Hear some live Muggs from Can You Hear Me TV.)

The Muggs are a three-headed force of nature that share both musical and personal chemistry – the backstory to the band is as incredible as the music. Bass player Tony DiNardo suffered a severe stroke in 2001 that left him paralyzed on his right side and unable to speak. Unwilling to consider replacing him, his bandmates waited two years while he recovered and taught himself how to play the bass lines on a Fender Rhodes Mark 1 (and no, you can’t tell the difference). So now drummer Matt Rost locks down the groove with DiNardo once more, which frees up guitar monster Danny Methric (also the axeman for The Paybacks) so he can flat out wail. I could tell you their whole story, but why not  let the boys speak for themselves. 

They’ve won a slew of local awards, are getting great press and are building up a fanbase, but they probably have more fans in Europe than they do here in the States. Did we learn nothing from Jimi Hendrix? Apparently not…Mitch Ryder still lives and record in Germany because sometimes they just don’t get it over here. And no, they didn’t win The Next Great American Band contest – how could they? The Muggs play rock’n’roll music

The Muggs on MySpace.  Buy The Muggs and On With The Show.

The Muggs website is here. No, they are not the ugliest band in the world. Don’t make me name the band that is.

Muggly

Muggly

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