First RORY GALLAGHER SOLO ALBUM – Released on 23rd May 1971 – Review by Denise J. Wilden
Track 1 – Laundromat – a very ordinary subject but when Rory took it upon himself to write and sing about something the ordinary became extraordinary. I can’t think of anyone who would sing about such a place, its kind of bizarre to be in a Laundromat anyway. I did read that Donal said there was a Laundromat very close to the flat Taste shared in London.
Just the Smile, track 2 on the Rory Gallagher solo album. This is an amazing track, Rory starting to show what a great songwriter he was going to be, Its about a girl in particular, someone he met along his travels so he wrote a song about her, we may all have met someone like this, someone who is so different that they stop you dead in your tracks, suck all the air out of your lungs. There may or may not be a romantic connection but the girl from the song had a smile so bright, so lovely, that Rory thought that smile could set a room on fire, I doubt the girl was aware of the fact that this song was written about her. Its a blessing if your life is touched by someone like this. You will always remember them very fondly and feel happy that you were able to see such a person even if you never met them.
Track 3 from the album Rory Gallagher – I Fall Apart, beautiful lyrics, so quiet and still but powerful at the same time, personally I think it’s unrequited love this refers to, a would be romance, I’ve had a couple of those in my life, seeing the one you have the hots for with someone else and there isn’t a damn thing you can do to change the situation, wanting to see them, hear them and slowly unwinding till you fall apart inside but still wanting to see and be with them, even at a distance, all the time willing them to “see you” – won’t you come where you should be
Track 4 from Rory Gallagher’s first solo album – Wave Myself Goodbye. Lost love, she left for whatever reason, Rory has the blues, melancholy, the black dog – call it by whatever name fits, the lyrics are beautifully written, from the heart not just any old sayings, all Rory’s lyrics are from the heart. I’ve been here myself, done that and got the T shirt as they say, emotionally knocked for 6 but not giving in, Rory was no quitter, it’s a beautiful sad song, one of my favourites, my favourites are the sad ones, I made a list
Track 5 from Rory Gallagher, his first solo album after Taste.
The lyrics say to me that Rory is in the driving seat, This is just a game I’m playing – she (whether she was real or no) has been changeable in her affections and he said enough, didn’t need the hassle so he called it quits. His lyrics are definitely saying “I’m done with you”.
Sinner Boy, track 6 from Rory Gallagher’s first solo album, one of his Taste songs, shows Rory’s big heart for those less fortunate – take that sinner boy home, wrap him up keep him warm, I believe Rory was trying to say that everyone’s life could be turned inside out at the drop of a hat, be kind to those in need as any of us may need a kindness at any time, from what I have read about his generous nature and compassionate side, he would go out of his way to help the homeless and what are termed “down and out”, not the only song he wrote about this, it’s wonderfully written and very prophetic, a beautiful song.
For The Last Time, Track 7 from Rory Gallagher, his first solo album. This is quiet but strong and powerful at the same time, Gerry’s solid bass and Wilgar’s (R.I.P) drumming complimenting perfectly Rory’s lead, the lyrics say to me that Rory has been given the run around – from the very first day – now he has had enough and says so in no uncertain terms – I’ll be gone, in the night, Don’t cry when I’m gone. Its final, she blew it and now she will be history as far as Rory is concerned. All his lyrics came from the heart, he didn’t write just to please the masses, he wrote what he felt, its the essence of who Rory was and what made him tick as a human being. I love this song, its sad (I feel sad for Rory) but says he will carry on, bit battered and bruised but still standing. He was a tremendous lyricist, under rated in my humble opinion.
Track 8 from Rory Gallagher, his first solo album. This is a really upbeat song, Rory using his telepathy to connect with the one who pulls him through when he needs them, no hint in the lyrics of whether this was a female or not, but someone he could connect with on a ESP level – an empath or a telepath, unknown to everyone else. Its a really nice song and I love the lyrics, its happy and cheerful.
Track 9 from Rory Gallagher’s first solo album, I’m Not Surprised. Like all of Rory’s songs, it can’t be pigeonholed into this or that, he was truly unique. He isn’t surprised that she is gone out of his life but is surprised that she has gone totally and he found out through other people, she didn’t tell him either by phone, letter or in person and ends with asking her not to talk about him when he isn’t there. Rory’s licks are as always perfectly matched to the lyrics and the piano accompaniment by Vincent Crane fits in perfectly. Gerry solid as ever on bass and the late Wilgar Campbell on drums. All of Rory’s “quieter” songs are quiet and powerful at the same time, everything beautifully placed where it needs to be. Rory really was a genius.
Track 10 – Can’t Believe It’s True, from Rory Gallagher’s first solo album. My favourite track from the album, Rory’s lyrics are just perfection, plus saxophones!!! Oh one of the sexiest instruments on the planet, almost crashed the car the first time I heard this track, had no idea there were sax’s on it and doubly knocked out when I discovered Rory played sax on this track, was there anything he couldn’t play? I have compiled a CD for my funeral, 11 tracks and this is the first one on the CD, if I could only listen to one song for the rest of my life, this would be it, it has everything to knock me sideways, I love it.
Track 11 from Rory Gallagher’s first solo album, Gypsy Woman – a Muddy Waters song. Rory was a huge admirer of Muddy and got to play with him on The London Sessions, as with any song written and or performed by someone else, Rory could always put his own stamp on it, usually in the music, different instrument to the original which changes the sound and tone, he always nailed it 100% and made the sound unique to Rory, always let his audience know whose song it was but he made it a bit different, this song is no exception, it’s brilliant
Track 12, It Takes Time from Rory Gallagher’s first solo album. This is an Otis Rush song but Rory being Rory puts his own mark on it and nails it. He could always make a change to someone else’s song, maybe different guitar, lighter or heavier strings, just to change the sound slightly, but whatever he did you knew it was Rory. Such a talented man, i believe there was much more to him than he let people see, much of him hidden in plain sight.
Deuce tomorrow. I’m posting on every album I have, every one on my IPod.
DEUCE – Released on 28th November 1971 – Review by Denise Wilden
Originally reviewed on 10th October 2014
Track 1 – Used To Be, the beat is real punchy, Rory’s lyrics as always make me think, lots of other peoples songs are kind of blah, blah, blah, but Rory wrote what he was feeling, from the heart, I’m not 100% certain these lyrics relate to a female he was involved with, they are a bit ambiguous in that way, Rory again keeping the listener on their toes, the only lines, to me, that say it may be a real person are “Baby I remember a time when you really used to try, nowadays baby you can’t even look me in the eye”.
New Notes: After being immersed in Taste for 6 months of 2015, I think this relates to the break up of Rory’s baby “Taste”, whereas on his first solo album the songs I believe relate to Taste and not a romance, they are more broken hearted lyrics, this one is mad, I’ve moved on, you will see me but don’t come looking for me, I’m done with you.
As I have said before and no doubt will say again quite a few times during my postings, there was a lot more to Rory than people realised, even people close to him, I think he played his cards really close to his chest, he didn’t let people in very much, if they don’t get in then they can’t wound you (myself – been there, done that and got the T shirt). Its a great song, there is only one song he wrote that, to me, seems out of place, a bit to one side, when I get to that in my postings you will know.
Track 2 – I’m Not Awake Yet, I so love this track, its upbeat in tempo, some fabulous acoustic fingerwork from the great man, the lyrics are just mind blowing. She is coming back, he is looking forward to seeing her, he won’t be late and they can be together. Its a really “good feeling” song, this is the vibe I get from the music and lyrics and from Rory, he wrote what he felt, some lyrics are from the heart, some from the soul and for me personally the most painful are from his heart and soul together.
Track 3 – Don’t Know Where I’m Going. The tune is upbeat, happy but some of the lyrics say otherwise. I’ve read much about Rory’s melancholy feelings, and the lyrics show this – Broken hearted but you won’t see a trace, Feeling disconnected, these blues are out to kill; These say to me that he was “down” when he wrote them, however blue he was this didn’t get in the way of his song writing which was quite prolific – the lyrics also say I got sand here in my pockets from the place that I come from, that’s where I’m going so I’ll say so long.
Sand/the sea meant a great deal to Rory, a Pisces, water sign, there are references in a few songs to the sea, which from my readings of as many articles as I can read say he got inspiration for songs from the sea.
New notes. Taste again, he was going to have to dig deep and get back to his roots to find out where he was going musically. Taste would have gone up and up, right to the top I believe, so a regroup was necessary, take stock, move on.
Track 4 – Maybe I Will. This is a really lovely song, I get the feeling of running at the start, just like running through a pool of rain, the tempo stays the same for the second verse then goes quieter, like sitting down reflecting, again Rory’s love of mystical things by reading the leaves in his cup before he puts it away. The tempo picks up again to the running, but its not fast running, you don’t notice anything if you run fast, not able to see the field of grain or the pools of rain – not puddles but pools. Water again, the Pisces and water. The lyrics are very upbeat and cheery, a happy good feeling song. I hadn’t really noticed this one before, sounds bad given how much Rory I listen to, but it is a really lovely song.
Track 5 – Whole Lot of People. I’ve had a struggle with this, it has great significance for Rory, the lyrics are relating, I believe, to a life changing event in Rory’s musical/working life, things are going to change eventually, the tune is again punchy with lots of twists, but it’s a hard one to for me to diagnose, I believe it may relate to the demise of Taste and Rory’s feelings on that, they were a good band but got “stitched up” and for self preservation had to be disbanded, I like the song very much but it is a hard one to decipher the meaning.
New notes: I wrote originally in 2014 that I thought this related to the break up of Taste and I’m more convinced than ever that it does. Rory poured his heart and soul into his lyrics, what he couldn’t or wouldn’t say outloud, he put to music.
Track 6 – In Your Town, A great driving beat from Gerry on Bass and the late Wilgar Campbell on drums to perfectly compliment Rory’s lead, his lyrics seem to be about someone out of prison at the end of their time who wants to “have it out” verbally with the people who put him in prison, to me it says some people tried to screw him over but he won’t roll over and play dead, still standing despite what they tried to do to him, doesn’t want any trouble but is saying “you put me down but hey, I’m back again”, Rory was a master at hiding things in plain sight, it’s a great song
Track 7 – Should’ve Learned My Lesson. Real gutsy and bluesy, seductive and sexy. The lyrics say she has “done the dirty” on him, he should have taken his friend’s advice but didn’t, and realises his first mistake was in thinking she would be true. The lyrics are “heart painful” to listen to, for those of us who have had their heart broken, they understand and can empathise. It’s a beautiful track, again one of Rory’s quiet but powerful songs.
New notes: This could also relate to Taste, the band had commitments to fulfil and as Rory had decided on the way to the IOW Festival in 1970 to break up Taste, this couldn’t be a clean break after IOW, they still had 4 months of obligations to carry out.
Track 8 – There’s A Light. The music is jazzy and bluesy, some parts are almost what I would say “floaty”, like things floating round in the air, the lyrics are of the light that shines on him since she appeared, (ever since you came to me). There’s a strong psychic connection between them, words don’t need to be spoken to each other, they sense each other without words. As I have read often that Rory always had his antennae “on”, used telepathy within his band and they all knew what he wanted from them without having to say. It’s a wonderful gift to be psychic. I think this is an under-rated song, Rory was a wonderful lyricist and poet as his songs are often poetic, mostly the quieter, reflective songs. This song is a personal favourite of mine.
Track 9, Out Of My Mind. An acoustic number, Rory could literally turn his hand to anything, the lyrics say to me that although he is “here” in body his mind is elsewhere “I’m only over here”, again another psychic connection with “her” she appears just when he needs her, found him staring at the stars, she lights up the darkest night. Its a beautiful track with beautiful poetical lyrics, I’ve said it before and will say it probably a few more times while writing these posts, Rory wrote from the heart, what he was feeling went down on paper and then to music and song. I am dazzled by his talent and in awe of the man himself. I never met him but miss him a lot.
Track 10, Crest of a Wave. It says to me that someone has outstayed their welcome, smiling but are they really happy? Kind of obvious that this person/s isn’t wanted or needed, “you can see by the way that they are talking, its time for you to pick up your grip and start walking” then basically says keep going, don’t turn round and don’t come back. I gather someone really did a good job of back stabbing and the lyrics say “get lost”, the person or persons won’t quit or give in but they will get the message that the door has been closed on them and it won’t re-open for any reason – “but you’re gonna fail, sometimes you just don’t understand”
The lyrics have no romance in them but the message is very clear.
New notes: I think this relates to Taste as well. I have read that the other band members went their own way rather than stick with Rory. He was saying “are you sure you are happy because you don’t look happy to me”, but he was done with them.
I also believe the disbanding/breaking up of Taste was very painful to Rory and this pain stayed with him for the rest of his life. Donal has said the legal stuff relating to getting Rory’s songs “back” getting the legal permission for him to perform them dragged on and on for the rest of Rory’s life and as we know it took till 2015, 20 years after Rory passed on, to get the Isle of Wight DVD and the Taste Box set out for the fans.
All through the rest of Rory’s musical career there were little riffs popped into songs, the Taste fans would recognise them instantly, but there were only a few notes, shows that Taste was always in his mind and he would allow little snippets to come out for an airing now and again. I listen to his songs constantly and now I notice a handful of notes, I get pulled up sharp and I often say outloud “oh, what’s that one from”
I am reading all the lyrics as well as listening to the songs, I feel I gain more insight than just listening.
LIVE IN EUROPE – released on 1st May 1972 -Review by Denise J. Wilden
First reviewed 10th October 2014
Track 1 – Messin’ With The Kid. Written by Mel London according to the sleeve notes. Rory nails this 100%, its a foot stomping, roof raising, punch you in the jaw rocking beat, Rory as always giving everything he had, Gerry McAvoy solid and dependable on bass and the late Wilgar Campbell bringing up the rear on drums. A tight tight band who I am sad that I never got to see.
This is the first album I bought back in 2012, Easter weekend, HMV in Edinburgh, had the choice of this or Tattoo, I went for the live CD and didn’t get to play it until the Tuesday after Easter as I flew to Glasgow for the weekend. I took a leap of faith as I had no knowledge of Rory before this. By 1/3 of the way through this track I was hooked, 110% Roryfied. Since then I have bought every album I could afford, 41 so far, studio and live, 11 by Taste plus DVD’s and 20 of the 23 albums Rory guested on. Rory is totally awesome.
Track 2, Laundromat first appeared on Rory Gallagher – his first solo album, this is a live version, Rory giving every ounce of energy he possessed when he performed live, I can feel the blood and sweat in every note – so sad I never saw him perform, he must have been a fireball on stage, Laundromat is an amazing song, about a subject pretty ordinary but in Rory’s hands becomes extraordinary
Track 3 – I Could’ve Had Religion, a brilliant gutsy blues number from Rory, he did everything so well whether electric or acoustic – his little girl wouldn’t let him pray, another twist on the blues from the multi talented Rory, the blues being either about love, lost love, cheating, killing the one who has done you wrong or religion, it’s a brilliant track, done to perfection by Rory, I love it.
Track 4 – Pistol Slapper Blues by Blind boy Fuller. Rory’s first ‘Live” album after Taste.
Not a song written by him but he managed to put the Rory twist on it and made it his own, not in a bad way, it’s just different to the original and I love it. Acoustic, which he was equally at home with along with electric. It’s just a real amazing song, Rory’s fingerwork on the strings is awesome, its a song I really love a lot.
Track 5 – Going To My Hometown, Rory starts out like he is wound up like a tight spring, lets a bit out and then launches into the song, squeezing every ounce of life out of the mandolin, its got a complete foot stomping beat, this is for me very serious dance music, shoes off in the corner and giving it 200% in response to Rory’s serious energetic playing. It’s an absolute stunner of a number, if you don’t get into the spirit of it then you must be dead. I play this in the car and sing along as if my life depends on it, can’t have the man singing alone can I?
Track 6 – In Your Town. Over 10 minutes according to the You Tube video. Rory “LIVE” – he had the audience in the palm of his hand and kept them there, his fingers flying like lightning up and down the strat, taking the listener here, there and back again all the way through the song, virtually stopping at one point before launching back into the brilliantly relentless beat of this song. It makes no difference how many times I hear this song it knocks me dead, Rory takes the listener (in this case me) on a journey of musical excellence. I’m totally in awe of his talent – did I say I LOVE THIS SONG, well I do.
Track 7 – What In The World, a Willie Dixon number, so gutsy and bluesy, I adore gritty, gutsy, seductive, sexy blues, and Rory just nails this, really nails it to the floor, walls and ceiling, throwing in some amazing harmonica playing as well, some people may think he is just a blues/rock tornado but there was much more to him than that, this track shows where his musical heart really lay, the blues has to be felt deep inside and when it grabs you then you just hold on tight for the ride of your life!
Track 8 – A Sonny Boy Williamson track, Hoodoo Man – again another gutsy blues number that Rory loved and played so well, this has everything, quiet parts, seductive parts and bucketloads of Rory awesomeness backed up solidly by Gerry McAvoy on bass and the late Wilgar Campbell on drums, it’s a powerful song and Rory as always nails it to the floor and anything else that is loitering about.
Track 9 – Bullfrog Blues – just a 200% ball of lightning, Rory blasts in at a hundred miles an hour and if you are not moved to dance like your life depends on it then you either don’t have the blues or you are dead, I find it impossible not to dance – when Gerry, Ted and Marcel played this – barefoot, it’s just an amazing song and “live” it is like a nuclear explosion! Love it so much. Well did you eva!!!!
Not much really of a “new” review, but I revisited everything I wrote the first time and just added extra bits.
TATTOO –released 11th August 1973 – Review by Denise Wilden
Originally reviewed on 29th April 2015
Re-reviewed on 8th February 2016
Track 1, Tattoo’d Lady. Rory had a love of funfairs, probably circus’s too, tattoo parlours, although to my knowledge he didn’t have one himself, apart from being self evident in the title, the song and lyrics relate to a nomadic lifestyle, like a wandering minstrel, a troubadour, going from town to town, country to country entertaining people. Its a real fun song, someone surrounded by people they love and trust, the family, never let you down, always have your back. I really like this song.
Track 2, Cradle Rock. This hits you right between the eyes like a bullet from a gun, the pace never lets up, if you dance its not for the faint hearted, the pressure is on from the 1st note. The lyrics are amazing, comparing himself to many things and how she wouldn’t let things happen to him BUT if she was true to him she would listen when he talked! I love this song, Rory doing this live must have been cosmic, out of this world. I’ve heard Band of Friends play it and it’s awesome.
New Notes: its not possible for me to sit down to this, I think Rory would be most unhappy if I wasn’t up dancing to this!
Track 3 20:20 Vision. It’s a fun song, all about a girl who makes him and everyone else happy, she can make his grandpa not only feel like he is 6 years old but also get out of his wheelchair. It sounds as if a lot of fun was had recording it as at one point Rory laughs while singing. I really like this song a lot, I get the vibe that everyone was having a really good time in the studio and they were all in a “good place” while doing it. Its really upbeat and fun.
Track 4 – They Don’t Make Them Like You Anymore, I get the impression this is a girl/woman that Rory is very smitten with, she is his “dream” he has been standing close to her, but hasn’t made a move, she might run from him and he hopes she will see he just wants to be near her, I really love this song so much, I have made a “my funeral CD” and this is the penultimate track. Lyrically it’s perfect, just perfect.
Track 5, Livin’ Like A Trucker. The lyrics speak of constant travelling, constant touring, always on the move – livin’ like a gypsy, travellin’ man, it’s full of “yet to do” – I’ve seen some places, but more I ain’t seen yet – in contrast later with Overnight Bag which
sounds like the constant touring and travelling is starting to become tiring, but that’s a few years down the line. This also says to me that he would have maybe liked a companion – tell your mama not to worry baby, get on up here, to take the journey too, also given a choice he wouldn’t change a thing but would do it all again.
New Notes: The life of a travelling minstrel/troubadour going from town to town, city to city, always moving, no permanent fixed roots for this kind of lifestyle. It’s a very upbeat song.
Track 6, Sleep On A Clothes-Line. I’m a little unsure if this relates to a real woman or a “dream” woman, he has been looking for her all night, the lyrics speak of all the things he would do for her to prove his devotion and love, all these things he would do just to hear her say “I Love You”. Its very heart stripped, baring his soul lyrics. Rory always felt things very deeply and wrote from his heart and soul, not just words but real emotion in these lyrics. Its got a nice driving beat. I love this song.
Track 7, Who’s That Coming. I feel that this concerns an “ideal” woman, Rory’s ideal woman, she would know what he was thinking even before he did, “She’s always had just what it took, to read me like I was an open book”, someone so in tune with him that they might not speak to each other much but communicate by telepathy, so together, so one, that words would not be needed very much between them. I’ve read that Rory’s antennae were always “on” and he used telepathy/ESP a lot with the band. This “she” is not called darlin’ or baby, but just she. It’s a beautifully upbeat song, I like it a whole lot.
Track 8, A Million Miles Away. Its a brilliant track, lyrically and musically, Rory with the blues in a room full of people talking, having a good time, but he is sitting on the edge of this, not feeling quite the ticket. I read that he and Donal had been walking close to the sea, on the cliff path and Rory vanished, Donal walked about for a while then really started to panic, suppose Rory had fallen and broken his leg or something, suppose he had fallen in the sea, he said it was a stressful period, then kind of at the last look about before he went for help, he spotted him sitting staring at the sea. Rory said he had the inspiration to write a song, A Million Miles Away it became and just needed to get it down on paper, so he just vanished to get it written. Gave poor Donal a heart attack almost.
Rory got a lot of inspiration from the sea/water, being a Pisces, a water sign, and water/sea/flowing figures a lot in his lyrics in a number of songs.
It quickly became a “must play” at gigs as everyone liked it and I imagine the fans would demand it as they loved it so much.
I find it rather sad, Rory all alone staring out at the sea, he was too nice a person to be alone.
Track 9, Admit It. This is really specific, calls her baby – Admit it, baby. The difference between Who’s That Coming when the woman was called She and I understood this to mean an “ideal or dream woman” and this song, this is so definite, this one has really driven him nuts, she has gone and broken her word, he is mad with her, really mad, wants her to “walk right out of his mind”, not out of his life but out of his mind, this is really permanent.
But, if they hadn’t met before and met now, he guesses he would fall, again, he is a fool for her and can’t say no to her.
Rory wrote his lyrics from the heart and often from his soul, all the words had deep meaning for him even when he wrote about trains or travelling or anything else.
The song starts with Rod’s drumming, Gerry comes in on bass followed by Rory, Lou is quietly bringing up the rear, no-one is left behind, they all get a chance to “do their own thing” during this song as during all of the songs. They are a tight tight unit. I love this song.
New Notes: Rory never overshadowed the other band members, he could happily take a back seat and let each of the guys shine, no jealousy, no “its my band and I’m the leader” from Rory, as a human being this is why is he so loved by other musicians, fans, anyone and everyone who met him.
Track 10, Tuscon Arizona. This is the last track on my CD but I have seen there could be another track on a different album. Mine only goes up to 10. This is a Link Wray song, given the Rory treatment. I’ve listened to the version by Link and its more acoustic, has a longer intro and sounds more country than Rory’s version and Link’s also has a Hawaiian sound to it.
Rory uses a lap steel guitar which gives the song a deeper sound and I much prefer Rory’s version. He must have been able to hear the potential in Links song in order to record it himself, to be honest I thought Link’s version was a bit bland. Rory’s version, in my humble opinion is a whole lot better. Kind of understated almost, it’s not a song I will forget, its really nice, I get a warm fuzzy glow.
New Notes: Rory could take a song by anyone else and give it the Rory treatment, he never overshadowed the original, always always told his audience it was a “this person” song, he had the ability to give the song a new life, the same but different. Unique.
BLUEPRINT – released on 18th February 1973 – Review by Denise Wilden
Originally reviewed on 10th October 2014
Track 1, Walk On Hot Coals, one of 2 albums Rory recorded and released in 1973 – this is a blaster, it explodes like a nuclear bomb at the start and never let’s up, Walk on hot coals, Sleep on a bed of nails, Walk on thin ice, Skate on razor blades – where did those lines come from? There, speaking for myself, some lines from a variety of songs that slap me in the face and give me hot and cold chills – these lines are in that box – it’s an awesome track – any live version is off any scale for energy, Rory as always giving the listener everything, enjoy the ride, always inventive, always a joy and pleasure to hear.
Track 2 – Daughter of the Everglades. A real contrast to Walk On Hot Coals which hit you like a train, this is a quieter song, it has a dreamy quality, about a girl who leaves her home and the thing that sustains her – the bayou and the river, to go with her man to the city, but she has to go back as the city is killing her, he didn’t quite understand, and when he goes to find her she has drowned, I’m guessing she didn’t want to choose between the man and the bayou so she chose neither, it’s one of Rory’s amazingly sad songs, a beautiful song about lost love, lost opportunities, lost future – an amazing track.
Track 3 – Bankers Blues. This is a Big Bill Broonzy number with the Rory treatment, he was just so good at taking a good song by another artist and making it spectacular, Gerry McAvoy on bass and Rod de’Ath (R.I.P.) quietly bringing up the rear with Lou Martin (R.I.P) on piano and Rory fingerpicking the acoustic guitar – in this case a 12 string – and harmonica, showing just how talented he was and only 25 at the time! Rory had the ability to nail other artists songs without taking away from the original but giving them his own mark and in my humble opinion Rory’s sounded better and still do than the original songs.
Track 4 – Hands Off. You are led into the song by finger clicking, then the drums and guitar at the same time begin and Rory sings, I can imagine him (as I have seen in videos and photos) using the strat like a gun, pointing it like a weapon. Rod de’Ath (R.I.P) on drums provides the perfect pounding backdrop to the song, Lou Martin (R.I.P) on keyboards, non of the instruments overpowers the others, they are balanced perfectly, as always with Rory every other member of the group gets a chance to shine.
I’ve had enough interrogation – now, had someone been doing this? If you get asked too many questions it can seem like interrogation, then letter writing until the ink turns green, trying to ruin my reputation, sell it to a magazine. I think at this point in time there was the start of the “expose’s” in the tabloids and Rory, being such a private man, would have avoided anything like that, but that didn’t stop him from incorporating the subject into a song.
Its a stormin’ song, smokin’ menacing, brilliant. Rory had far more sides to him than people realised, a true genius.
Track 5 – Race the Breeze. Trains, one of Rory’s favourites, along with circus’s, funfairs and westerns. Musically Rory has made this sound like a train running along the tracks – no train whistles as often appear in other songs about trains, I just get the feeling of actually being on the train as its travelling along the tracks. On a moving train you can actually race the breeze, I find it a comforting sound listening to what I call “a proper train” with a funnel and steam and hearing it almost fly along. As always Gerry and Rod (R.I.P) minding the back door by providing a solid sound and on this track, Lou Martin (R.I.P) who normally played keyboards, plays guitar. Makes me want to find a steam train and hop aboard for a spell.
Track 6 – Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. This is the only one of Rory’s songs that has me completely foxed, according to the notes in the CD he asked the promoters what was the next act/show after his Irish Tour and they said they had booked Finbar Nolan, the faith healer. Everything I have read emphases Rory’s interest in spiritual things, telepathy, his antennae were always “on”, he had a sixth sense, so it seems logical for a song about this subject. Its a very “wordy” song, like some of Bob Dylan’s are “wordy”, I’ve listened to this a lot while re-visiting the album and I think I may be foxed because the beat hardly changes for the entire song, usually there is an intro, middle and end, the back beat from the drums and bass vary and in this song, and as far as I am aware, only in this song, its constant for the entire song. I like the song but it really seems “out there”, does not fall into any other category that Rory’s songs would fit in – slow, sad, manic, danceable, fast, blues – it seems to me that this truly is a one off.
Track 7 – Unmilitary Two Step. This is a gorgeous acoustic number, no lyrics, it’s really a fun track, very happy, I like it a lot. Rory had such a lot of talent; I’m in awe of his prowess musically. I honestly don’t think there was a stringed instrument he wouldn’t have been able to play – even an actual sitar had he put his mind to it!
Track 8 – If I Had A Reason, Rory on lap steel guitar and Lou Martin (R.I.P,) on honky tonk piano, it’s a sad song, Rory wrote, in my humble opinion, very poignant sad songs, it’s about love gone away, it could mean the loss of a loved one in the case of a grandparent, someone who figured greatly in life who is now no longer here, I don’t get the impression of a romantic partner who has gone but someone else, the picture curling in it’s frame with a face smiling patiently. I’ve listened to Rory sing this and also Band Of Friends do a version in their CD with Gerry and Ted singing and both versions bring on tears, it’s a very moving and emotional song.
Track 9 – Stompin’ Ground. Its a short song, less than 4 minutes, but OMG, it blasts at you at a hundred miles an hour, there’s a hell of a lot packed into this song, the pace never lets up, it crackles and spits fire – Live Rory could have stretched this to 8 minutes or longer, depended on his mood at the time and being able to read the audience he would have kept them in the palm of his hand for as long as he thought they needed to be there – and the fire would have continued to the end. It’s a really awesome song, kind of bluesy as well, someone has been away for a long while and is going back home for a spell. I love it.
Track 10 – Treat Her Right, bonus track from the remastered Blueprint. A Roy Head number, I played Roy Head’s version and its kind of tinny, very very 1960’s sound. Rory’s version, about a million times better, Rory works the Rory magic on it and although the skeleton is the same, the coating is all Rory. He was such a genius, could take songs by other writers/artists and do such wonders with the sound and it was like a different song. This is only short, again under 4 minutes, but what Rory does with those 4 minutes, with the solid backing of Gerry McAvoy on bass, Rod de’Ath (R.I.P) on drums and Lou Martin (R.I.P) on keyboards it becomes epic.
Re-reviewed on 1st February 2016
IRISH TOUR – released 21st July 1974 – Review by Denise Wilden
Track 1 – Cradle Rock – this comes at you like a missile, locked on target and fired, it’s on fire, takes no prisoners, you grab it and hang on tight – it’s a blistering, smokin’ fireball of pure Rory energy. Appears on Tattoo, would have been performed live before The Irish Tour, but here it’s something else, Rory at his absolute best, the audience loved it and I love it too, Rory was the best of the best, 10 out of 10 always!
Track 2 – I Wonder Who. It’s a Muddy Waters song, Rory guested on Muddy Waters London Sessions and this was done, that version is on my funeral CD. This totally Rory version is blues just the way I love them, gutsy, seductive, sexy, it pulls your soul out a strand at a time, takes bites out of it then strips your nerve endings to shreds till you drip blues blood – for me this is sheer bliss, heaven on earth!
Track 3 – Tattoo’d Lady. Came from the album Tattoo, its an awesome track on a studio album but live it enters a whole new dimension. I’ve listened a lot to Rory live and also seen a lot of DVD footage and You Tube footage, my great regret is that I never saw him perform live, he must have been something else, I’d have been hooked from day 1 if I had. Smokin’ Hot!
Track 4 – Too Much Alcohol. A song by J B Hutto, but again Rory works his magic on it and it sounds spectacular. Twists and turns, slide work of magnificent proportions, Lou (R.I.P) on keyboards, Gerry on bass and Rod (R.I.P) on drums giving as always the solid backing to perfectly compliment Rory’s lead. Its a really brilliant version, every live version has a few changes, but I have read that Rory would often make these changes as he was singing so some lyrics were always a bit different. Keep the audience on their toes begging for more. I was singing along in the car on the way to work.
Track 5 – As The Crow Flies. Tony Joe White wrote this, I have an album with him singing it but Rory’s sounds more spectacular, Tony Joe even said he really liked Rory’s version. Rory never did anyone else’s songs like a copy or tribute, he sprinkled some Rory magic on it and although the frame is the same it sounds like a different song, it’s brilliant, whether he played electric or acoustic nothing sounds the same, he played every instrument differently so each time he played the same song it never sounded the same, always adding a bit here, changing the tone or key just a bit, keep it fresh, he was a genius, I love Rory’s version of this song
Track 6 – A Million Miles Away. From Tattoo, on the CD of the Irish Tour this track is over 9 minutes long. The intro is stunning, takes my breath away, the solo comes in at about 3 minutes into the song, the notes from 4.26 to 4.42 just totally blow my brain like a nuclear bomb, might not affect other people the same way but it just almost knocks me out cold, its out of this world, I can’t find the words to praise this song highly enough, every version is different but this one for me is beyond brilliant, its cosmic, what Rory does with the strat is jaw dropping.
Its lyrics are tinged with sadness too that even in a room full of people he felt alone – the joint is jumping all around him but his mood is really not in style, the blues want to surround him but he is trying not to let them. He is there but not there, a million miles away from these people all having a good time. There in body but mentally is somewhere else.
I know that feeling myself. Its a brilliant brilliant song, lyrically, musically it really is one of the greatest songs ever written in my humble opinion.
Track 7 – Walk On Hot Coals. First appeared on Blueprint. Over 11 minutes of scorching perfection, 1-2-3-4 Bam! Comes in at a million miles an hour, the pace barely slows, its 11 minutes of pure powerhouse brilliance, Gerry McAvoy’s solid bass as the anchor for the others to hang onto, Rod de’Ath (R.I.P) giving his all on the drums, Lou Martin (R.I.P) providing the keyboards and Rory being Rory and bring brilliant, giving 110% as always, this track hits the listener right between the eyes, its a totally awesome track, absolutely perfect as Rory and the boys were on fire, like a comet blasting through the sky. It slows just enough for the winding up to the virtual frenzy at the end which again smacks the listener right between the eyes!
Track 8 – Who’s That Coming. Appeared on Tattoo, the album prior to Irish Tour, it’s a powerful song, about a dream or ideal woman, called she or her, someone Rory was seeking, she’s always had just what it took, to read me like I was an open book, someone telepathic like himself, studio version is awesome, live it takes on a whole new persona, it becomes cosmic, Rory had the skill and talent to transform his own songs from studio to live, never a carbon copy but becoming something else. It’s a gorgeous song and showing what a great lyricist he was
Track 9 – Back On My Stompin’ Ground (After Hours) – first appeared on Blueprint. The studio version is amazing but live! it takes on a whole new persona, 1-2-3-4 – kaboom and you are hit right between the eyes with a cosmic storm of unbelievable proportions, Rory’s fingers flying on his strat, Gerry solid as always on bass, Rod (R.I.P.) keeping perfect time on drums and Lou (R.I.P.) on keyboards, always live giving 110% of blood and sweat, never ever disappoints, totally awesome track!
Track 10 – Just a Little Bit. This is a gorgeous little number, the tempo is like a train on the tracks, not hurtling, just a steady paced journey. Rory isn’t greedy, he doesn’t want all her love, just a little bit. It’s a fun song, sounds like everyone enjoyed the train ride. I really love this song too.
AGAINST THE GRAIN released on 1st `October 1975 – Review by Denise J. Wilden
Track 1, Let Me In. Does this concern someone in particular I wonder? Only calls her baby once in the song. Its fast paced, zooms along like a high speed train, Rory’s fingers flying on the guitar, Gerry solid and dependable on bass, Lou (R.I.P) on piano and Rod (R.I.P) on drums. Rory had an ability to bend the strings like no-one else I have heard, on this track they wail like a banshee, plays havoc with my brain cells, just totally cosmic and off the planet. I really really love this song, for me personally it’s lose my shoes and dance like the world will end at the end of the song.
Track 2 Cross Me Off Your List. A real person, gets mentioned as “baby” several times. Seems she is blowing hot and cold – You can rub me out and cross me off your list, try to clean the slate just like I don’t exist – But I keep on holding baby and you keep on holding out. Rory isn’t mad with her, like in other songs where its evident that the she in question there has really crossed the line, this is more playful lyrically, You can try to get rid of me but I’ll still be here, I’m not that easy to get rid of. It’s an upbeat tempo, lots of opportunities for each member of the band to “shine” for a bit, but Rory is the sun. It’s a kind of tongue in cheek song. I like it very very much.
Track 3, Ain’t Too Good. Slow, seductive and bluesy, just gets right under my skin. Sad and melancholic lyrics but not about anyone specific. No terms of endearment in the lyrics – baby, darlin’ I mean. The lyrics speak of a love that burned bright but its dying now, might be able to come back to life – it ain’t too late to change your mind but better be quick, ‘Cause I got plans, from now on. It’s a beautiful song, beautifully written, perfect melody; I love this even though it’s sad.
Track 4, Souped-Up Ford. The tempo/beat really is like a car driving fast along the road, blowing all the other cars out of the water, I’d be windows down, sounds up loud and just having a blast. It’s a really fun song, very upbeat and the lyrics match the beat of the song. Its great, I love it very much. Rory and the boys having a great time.
Track 5, Bought and Sold. This became one of Rory’s standards at live shows, I’ve read that it kind of refers to his Taste days, it’s fast paced on this album, live it would have been cosmic, Rory was such a great showman, giving 110% every performance, it’s an amazing song, really amazing
Track 6, I Take What I Want, a Hayes, Porter, Hodges song, had been done by Sam and Dave but Rory worked his magic on this song and it became something else, it’s fast paced like a car racing, they sound as if they are having a ball, it’s a real fun song, a dance till you drop song, one of my favourite dance tracks, Rory’s version has a lot more soul!
Track 7, Lost At Sea. It’s only a short song but it says such a lot. He was lost at sea but was saved, being battered about but someone grabbed him and saved him. I’ve read that some of Rory’s songs/lyrics related to Taste, and the fallout from Taste is still going on today, it must have been a source of dismay and hurt to Rory as it continued from the disbanding of Taste right up to his death. “Friends of no-one – Who knows where but I was Spared”. Reading between the lines there is a lot of pain there but he carries on sailing on his own sea. It has some beautiful slide work, just like waves lapping the shore.
Track 8, All Round Man. According to the sleeve notes this was written by Bo Carter who was a member of the Mississippi Sheiks, a band Rory admired. Its gutsy, gritty and bluesy, Rory as always works his Rory magic on it and nails it to the floor. Lou Martin (R.I.P) produces a beautiful solo, Gerry McAvoy as always solid and dependable on bass, like the anchor on a ship keeping it steady, Rod de’Ath (R.I.P) bringing up the rear and minding the back door. They were a tight band, perfectly balanced and working as one unit. To dance to this you have to be up real close and personal with your honey, it’s the only way to dance to this song.
Track 9, Out On The Western Plain, by Huddy Ledbetter, better known as Leadbelly. A favourite of Rory’s, often performed at live gigs, the fans almost demanded it. Rory was a big fan of western films, as always Rory worked his own magic on this song, a twist here, different note there. It’s a lovely song, the lyrics tell of a cowboy who has worked all his life on the Western Plain, made his money, just re-visiting riding into Jesse James and Buffalo Bill – Come a cow-cow yicky, come a cow-cow yicky, yicky yea.
Track 10, At The Bottom. I’ve read that this related to the demise of Taste. This obviously bothered Rory a lot, kind of being stabbed in the back and having to cut loose to survive. He likens himself to a fish on a hook at the bottom, as low down as you can get but he has to rise up again. “Takes a fall to land you on your knees, kick that ball if it lands right at your feet, watch it fly, high above the trees, till it lands in tomorrow”. Pick yourself up, strap your armour on and you are ready to do battle again another day.
Track 11, Cluny Blues. An instrumental, only just over 2 minutes long, it’s a real fun song, Lou (R.I.P) playing a honkey tonk beat on keyboards. Everybody gets a turn to shine even though the song is so short. It sounds as if they were having a lot of fun.
Track 12, My Baby Sure. Another short song, starts with Rory doing voices, Deputy Dawg gets a mention, the first time I heard this I wondered what was going on, that maybe the wrong song had been put on my CD! Then I realised it was Rory. Another fun song with a country and western feel to the tempo. About a girl who is rather footloose and giving him the run-around, She sure knows her way around ‘Cause her daddy owns the whole damn town, and he don’t give a damn for me. It’s really upbeat and again sounds as if the guys were having a whole lot of fun recording this.
Calling Card, released on 1st October 1976 – Review by Denise Wilden
Track 1 – Do You Read Me – I believe this song does relate to a real woman, Rory makes no mention of any romantic relationship – no baby or darlin’ but I am guessing it was someone he was keen on and she didn’t realise – “why am I the only one that’s misunderstood” then “if you won’t take me then I guess the devil must”. Musically and lyrically this is an amazing song, on a studio album it is brilliant, live it would have been cosmic. I’ve heard Band of Friends perform it so I can only use my imagination.
Track 2 – Country Mile – the beat starts to this and never lets up, you have to run alongside to keep up with it, this pounds the road like a runaway train. Again a roundabout reference to life on the road, never staying in one place very long, always on the move, cars, trains, planes, relentless travelling from place to place. It’s a fun track, I’d have my shoes off to dance to this.
Track 3 – Moonchild – Its about a mythical girl, a child of the moon, of the night, Rory wants to make her smile and paint the sky blue forever for her. It’s a dreamy kind of song, Rory, Gerry, Lou (R.I.P) and Rod (R.I.P) working as a tight unit to keep the tempo flowing like a stream over pebbles. It’s a really beautiful song.
Track 4 – Calling Card – a standard live track, loved by everyone. “the rain ain’t fussy about where it lands, it’ll find you hiding wherever you stand, it’s gonna rain brother, and it’s gonna rain hard, when the blues come calling with his calling card”. Those blues again, they will seek you out, a little bit or a lot, but when the blues come calling you will be found. A nice driving bass from Gerry, perfectly balanced with Rod (R.I.P) on drums and Lou (R.I.P) on piano and Rory on guitar. A beautiful twist on the blues, Rory taking the listener on a different journey.
Track 5 – I’ll Admit You’re Gone – those blues again taking hold, he can’t believe she has gone, and it will take a while for him to get used to her not being there, to admit to himself that she has gone and isn’t coming back. He can only see blue days in the future, they have taken quite a toll but he wants to see the dawn of the day when he stops hurting. The lyrics are so sad, so painful, Rory again writing from his heart and soul.
Track 6 – Secret Agent – spies, intrigue, cloak and dagger – his baby has hired a secret agent to keep an eye on him, she is jealous and wants to know his every move but he plans to run rings round this secret agent – you’ve crossed me once, don’t cross me twice – he won’t stand for being spied on especially by someone packing a .44!
Track 7 – Jack Knife Beat – This is a bit of a sneaky song, by that I mean it comes along and you don’t realise its there till “the rhythm gets inside your shoes” or in my case my feet as the shoes would be off. “Jack-knife beat, killer of a back beat, sounds like an ice truck rolling down a back street” – where the heck did that line come from? It comes along and just smacks you right between the eyes. The beat is like a jack-knife, its gutsy and seductive, it has a gorgeous beat between the bass and drums, not rolling like a train but it has everything I would need to do it justice on the dance floor.
Track 8 – Edged In Blue – Oh, what can I say? The intro is just off the scale of gorgeous, its bliss, pure bliss. I really wonder how this would have turned out had Rory kept the same lines for the rest of the song, maybe an instrumental or kept the tempo the same for the lyrics – that’s something we may never know. It’s such a beautiful song “I’ve cried enough tears to fill up an ocean, surely you see that my heart’s been broken” “All my days are edged in blue” “Here am I, where are you, help me please, pull me through”. The lyrics are so sad, Rory wrote from his heart and soul and some of his lyrics are a bit blue, some a lot blue and some are really heartbreakingly sad, this song falls into the last category.
Track 9 – Barley & Grape Rag – A fun song, “My baby’s done me wrong you must have guessed it” so he is off to town to drown his sorrows till dawn, might get arrested, might not, he will worry about that tomorrow and own up to any wrongdoings. I did read that on one of the recordings of this with The Dubliners, they were all mixing the barley and grape and having a wonderful time and one or two of them were much the worse for wear and at least one of the Dubliners was missing from their show the next night because of it!
Track 10 – Where Was I Going To? – I wasn’t able to find the lyrics to this on the interweb, so I listened to the song slowly and wrote them down, then listened again and made a couple of changes here and there. I believe this involves a real person, the lyrics say that to me, “how could I leave without you, how could I go anywhere without you, never thinking what he could lose by going without her”. It’s a song of loss, what has gone and cannot be again, another sad song, only someone who has felt real heartbreak can write about it. Its beautiful and sad at the same time.
Photo Finish, released on 1st October 1978 – Review by Denise Wilden
Track 1 – Shin Kicker – Comes at you like a bullet out of a gun, Ted McKenna’s pounding drums providing the beat along with Gerry McAvoy’s bass leaving Rory free to be Rory. All working together to blast out this awesome track. It has to be played LOUD for maximum enjoyment, this is no shrinking violet. I only got two speeds and it’s slow and fast.
Track 2 – Brute, Force & Ignorance – Concerns a band who hit a small town for a one night stand, they blow the place apart and end up being escorted out of town. Even the mayor wants to see them but it’s not his night to go out. It’s another amazing Rory track that just blows you out of the water, has to be played LOUD for maximum pleasure, Ted McKenna pounding the life out of his drums (awesome) and Gerry McAvoy as always solid on bass. It’s got a seductive beat to it.
Track 3 – Cruise On Out – This track is a personal favourite of mine, the pace is constant, Rory, Gerry and Ted are tighter than a straight jacket, the beat for me is off any scale you care to mention. “The boys in the band will play all night, if they would have their way” “In this full scale commotion, the pace will never drop, you’d better retire gracefully if you’re too pooped to pop”, well I’m never too pooped to pop, I can dance all night and this song is just the business. Band of Friends played this at The Great British R&B Festival in Colne in August 2014, I was very very happy, had my shoes off and danced like my life depended on it!
Track 4 – Cloak & Dagger – A slower paced song, swampy it says on the sleeve notes, yes, that’s a good way to describe it. Its not blues and not jazz. This concerns the “Moll” either a gangsters moll or the hardboiled private eye’s moll – silent danger in her style. Rory was a big fan of Dashiell Hammett and Patricia Highsmith along with other writers of detective novels, so this is where “she” came from. Rory plays harmonica in this song.
Track 5 – Overnight Bag – a direct contrast to Livin’ Like A Trucker from Tattoo. This says to me that life on the road was becoming tiring, always on the move, hardly ever sleeping in the same bed 2 nights in a row, he has little to carry, toothbrush and guitar and his overnight bag, he also packs his sorrows in an overnight bag. Constant travelling and touring must have been lonely, even though thousands of people wanted to see Rory and his band, it’s still easy to be lonely even in a crowd of people. I love the song very much but the lyrics are sad.
Track 6 – Shadow Play – written, according to an interview Rory gave, while he was ill in bed with flu!! Wanting something to do while he was not well, he wrote this! The lyrics are inspired – stars colliding, shadows running in full flight to run, seek and hide, lights blazing away, he feels strange in side a bit of Jekyll and a little Mr. Hyde. Rory paints a visual and audible picture of the night and wondering where he fits in the Shadow Play. I love the song, studio its brilliant, live, Oh my stars, its cosmic!
Track 7 – The Mississippi Sheiks – The tempo for this song is just sublime, Rory talking about older blues musicians who played in the south. Was it just a dream that he saw the Mississippi Sheiks or maybe he had been travelling in a time machine. You’ve never lived at all till you’ve done that Georgia crawl. It’s a beautiful song. Nothing Rory did was ever easy and by that I mean there was always more to any song, any lyrics than just listening to the song, I’ve said before that some artists songs are blah, blah, blah and that’s ok sometimes but Rory never did that, he was constantly inventing new little twists, often very subtle twists but they are what make you sit up straight or stop you in your tracks and say “woah” or “what was that”. Genius.
Track 8 – The Last Of The Independents – this is another song that I could say is either like a runaway train or you get grabbed by the hand and just pulled along, fast tempo, like someone on the run, having to keep one jump ahead of the chaser. Ted McKenna again pounding the life out of his drums (awesome by the way), Gerry McAvoy solid on bass, both of them holding the back door shut and Rory just being Rory and doing what he did best. The lyrics tell a little story about someone who knows where the loot was buried 11 years ago and everyone wants to know where it is. The sleeve notes say he wrote this after reading a review of the movie Charlie Varrick with Walter Matthau and Andy Robinson – they stole money from the mob and had to keep one step ahead to stay alive. I’ve seen the movie, its pretty violent but a great storyline. The end of this track has sirens wailing indicating a chase. Rory was a total independent, never let the music business get one over on him, always his own man, did things his way.
Track 9 – Fuel To The Fire – Oh, what can I say about this. Its stunningly beautiful, Rory bearing his heart and soul in his lyrics, talks about his soul being on fire, it’s heartbreakingly beautiful, so sad, like a Million Miles Away sad and Wheels Within Wheels sad. One of my favourite tracks. Nearly all the songs I love just a bit more than all his songs are the sad ones, the soulful ones.
Track 10 – Early Warning – Another fast paced song, and about a subject that occupied much time in the press in 1978, the threat of nuclear war. This had been on-going for longer than just ’78. Rory could write a song on just about any subject, he didn’t get political but this was a subject that concerned everyone. The lyrics are very clever – “Ain’t no pity for my city, well let me at you, no I’ve got to run” “See no tomorrow time to borrow, now I’m waiting for the nuclear nurse” – really clever lyrics. There are very few songwriters who would be brave enough to put pen to paper much less actually record a song like this. Its inspired.
Track 11 – Juke Box Annie – Ted McKenna starts off with what sounds like cow bells being tapped with drum sticks (sorry they probably have some proper name for them but I’m no expert), Rory plays harmonica, it’s a honky tonk tempo, he is in love with Juke Box Annie but she listens to everybody telling their stories, he can’t get any credit from her but she charms him to bits and makes time stand still. He is trying his best to “chat her up” but she isn’t buying, but he keeps trying anyway, he thinks about her all the time. Annie is the best barmaid in the world. This is a fun song, it sounds like they had a lot of fun recording it, it’s a feel good song.
Review of Top Priority – released on 1st October 1979 – by Denise Wilden
Track 1 – Follow Me – Quickly became a standard “must play” at live gigs. The lyrics don’t refer to anyone specific – no baby or darlin’ just you, “won’t you follow me where I’m bound, time’s for borrowing now, won’t you follow me, time is tight, before things swallow me down” “It’s time to depart, go with your heart” its an open invitation to follow him to the ladder into space and leave without trace before things swallow him down. It’s kind of mystical, spiritual even. I really love the song; Rory was so very clever with his lyrics.
Track 2 – Philby – Rory on the Coral electric Sitar, this gives the song a mystical Eastern feel, the lyrics I feel have a double meaning, Philby, the spy, can’t come in from the cold, but the travelling singer/minstrel/troubadour – Rory – Lost in transit in a lonesome city, his eyes never seem to close, morning comes and he must be moving on again, all night long his mind’s been burning, makes him feel a long long way from home. The lyrics are inspired; Rory was a master of taking something and making it extraordinary. Using the Coral on this was a stroke of genius.
Track 3 – Wayward Child – A wild child, may have referred to someone Rory or any of the guys knew along their travels, someone who does her own thing, plays with fire and knives, lives a bit close to the edge and seems to enjoy doing that. “You always were a problem, never meek and mild, life is just a street fight, you know you’re the wayward child”.
Track 4 – Keychain – Rory wants to lock up all his troubles and leave them behind, he is going someplace that will be hard to follow, he wants to get away and not be followed at all, not giving his number or a forwarding address, he is out of here, train or plane but he is gone, until things get better he is gone. He is as mad as he can get, playing Russian roulette. It’s a stunning blues number, not as bluesy as Off The Handle but pretty close.
Track 5 – At The Depot – Fast paced tempo, I was going to say typical but then I corrected myself, Rory was never typical and that would have been insulting for me to say that. I’m gathering from the lyrics that Rory was getting itchy feet again, wanted to be off playing live, “feeling kind of sloppy, waiting for a call” “Running out of patience, running out of cool”, it definitely says to me that he wasn’t happy “chilling” but needed to be busy all the time and he was at his best in front of an audience. As always Gerry McAvoy provides the solid bass so necessary to any song and Ted McKenna is driving the drums like a juggernaut – an awesome song.
Track 6 – Bad Penny – Rory’s lyrics speak of a woman who meant something to him but now she is history, but she is trying to pick up where she left off, the bad penny has turned up again, trying to fit into the picture, she did the dirty on him and he broke like a shell, but he is on the mend now and is not about to let it happen again. The Coral electric Sitar is used again on this track.
Track 7 – Just Hit Town – According to the sleeve notes, it was about this time that Rory’s fear of flying was getting worse, after a horrific flight to Norway seemed to be the catalyst for this. Rory was touring more and more, this required more flying and his lyrics say that whatever happens he has no plans to change his ways, there is even (to me) a reference to the tablets he was given to cope with the anxiety of flying – “Well I can’t slow down, got to take some more of these, more of these” “I’m flying all over the land and it ain’t no use to change the way I am”. This also says (to me) that Rory would do whatever it took to keep on travelling and touring, nothing would stop him and if he had to take help for this then he would. It has a pounding driving beat from Gerry, Ted and Rory.
Track 8 – Off The Handle – Really gutsy seductive blues, just the way I like my blues to be. Rory’s lyrics speak of being at home alone, well just him and a cat who prowls round the house all day not doing what cats should do, “It’s one of those nights when you know you’re alone, feeling half crazy, just body and soul”. Rory also plays harmonica on this track. It’s a song I never get tired of listening to, Band of Friends play this and it’s awesome.
Track 9 – Public Enemy No. 1 – This she looks like a gangsters moll but she drives the getaway car, whatever they are doing tonight, she must keep the motor running, keep one step ahead of the law as they will go down if they get caught this time. Rory was a big fan of American gangster films, all those old black and white brilliant movies of the 1940’s and 1950’s; this song is a nod to them. I’m a fan of them myself, James Cagney, George Raft, Edward G. Robinson, Bogie – they don’t make them like that anymore.
Track 10 – Hell Cat – I love this track, Rory plays a bit spooky, again another twist to keep the listener on their toes, he has a hellcat on his trail, he can hear it wail, seeing things out of the corner of his eye, he knows there is something there but when he looks he can’t see it, but he knows its there “a shadow in the doorway, freeze where you stand” “it’s the darkest feeling this side of hell”. Rory was a superstitious man, his antennae were always “on” and he was in-tune with this side of his world.
Track 11 – The Watcher – The base for this is Ted McKenna’s pounding driving drum beat followed by Gerry McAvoy’s steady bass, these provide the foundation to allow Rory to put the icing on the cake.
I love to dance, and preferably barefoot, I have always said the music speaks to me and normally by the second or third note I know which instrument is speaking the loudest, in this case it’s the drums and I follow the drumbeat to dance to. Everything else is necessary but incidental (for me) to the driving drum beat.
Review of Stage Struck Live – Released on 1st August 1980 from the World Tour November 1979 to July 1980 by Denise Wilden
Track 1 – Shin Kicker – Kind of thought of as a “biker’s anthem” but it applies to anyone who either drives some machine with an engine or someone in the music profession who is driving their instruments to the limits of their capabilities. Live for energy is off any scale, Rory in full flow and giving every ounce of energy he possesses, Gerry and Ted matching him for intensity. This comes at you like heat seeking missile, locked on target and POW!
Track 2 – Wayward Child – Another in the stable of “must play” songs in live gigs, never disappoints, always 110% of energy from Rory, Gerry and Ted, they are all complimenting each other perfectly, tight as a straight jacket, I am so sad I never saw Rory and his band live, I’d have been exhausted watching them perform.
Track 3 – Brute Force & Ignorance – Another powerhouse song, blasting at you like an explosion from a landmine, the pace never lets up – to quote a line from the song “And I could hear that music, still strolling through my mind – mind – mind – mind”, listening to the crowd roar their appreciation says it all.
Track 4 – Moonchild – A not so million miles an hour smack you between the eyes song but impressive non the less. Still a tiny bit dreamy but live gives Rory the opportunity to “go with the crowd” to dazzle them backed up by Gerry on Bass and Ted on drums holding the back door.
Track 5 – Bad Penny – the background to this is Gerry McAvoy’s seriously impressive bass, its evident to me through the entire song. Bass to me is the framework, the skeleton that everything else clings to, in a three piece band everyone has to work as one unit and Rory, Ted and Gerry were so tight musically that a breeze couldn’t have got between them. It’s a brilliant song, I’ve heard Band of Friends play this and it’s still awesome and Gerry still plays a mean bass.
Track 6 – Keychain – Rory “bent” the strings further than he had ever done before and changed the tuning on the guitar, I had never seen this done before till I watched some videos on You Tube of Rory actually pulling the strings away from the neck – the sounds he could get by doing this are totally cosmic. These sounds play havoc with my brain cells, it’s brilliant, I love the feelings I get from these sounds.
Track 7 – Follow Me – Another completely awesome song from the “must play” stable. No two show were ever the same, Rory never played from a set list he mixed it up as he felt would better suit the audience. His band may have a very rough idea of what might be played but never the order and often he didn’t say but would just start off the next song and they had 2 or 3 seconds to follow him, had to be on the ball all the time but as they were on a 9 month world tour during the making of this album, they would have been very “in tune” with each other. Its evident that everyone gave everything they had during the entire shows.
Track 8 – Bought & Sold – A tremendous song, the boys are tight, tight, tight making this an absolutely awesome live track. The audience loved it judging by the cheering and whistling that went on.
Track 9 – The Last Of The Independents – This is another blaster, comes at you like a bullet from a gun, the pace never lets up, brilliant powerhouse drumming from Ted McKenna, 2 drum solos in this, this gets the blood pumping and the heart beating like a jackhammer, excellent excellent track.
Track 10 – Shadow Play – Absolutely stonking powerhouse drumming from Ted McKenna. Phenomenal. An excellent song to finish this album on. Shadow play is inspired lyrically, I love it, Rory could keep it as short or as long as he wanted, he read each audience perfectly and knew instinctively what they wanted and for how long, plus he was having such a blast playing that he would probably have played all night, I have read of him “over running” his time, going out into the street on at least one occasion and giving an impromptu performance there, the band would have given as much of themselves as Rory did, the adrenaline pumping and giving them what the needed to keep going.
The entire album is composed of “songs from the stable”, the powerful, blindingly brilliant get the blood pumping, the heart racing, the feet moving songs, there would have been a lot of acoustic songs during this 9 month world tour but they do not appear on this album. This is a kick ass album. Has to be played LOUD for maximum enjoyment, its not an album for the faint hearted, its like I was there.
Review of Jinx – released on 1st April 1982 – by Denise Wilden
Track 1 – Signals – A kind of spooky intro, through the medium of telepathy she is calling him, sending messages via telepathy – “Who’s that calling way out there? I’ve got your signal loud and clear” So the message was delivered but that was all, they never connected. The lyrics are inspired, I love this song, this is my second favourite on the album. All my favourites are the sad soulful ones or the “spooky” ones, well they would be spooky to some people but not to me. Its only supernatural if you don’t believe in it. I’m a believer.
Track 2 – The Devil Made Me Do It – a fun kind of song, about going into town (any town) for a fun night out but struggling the next day to remember how good a time you had – in this case ending up in the trash can and having to go before the judge to explain what went on the night before, but, as often happens, parts of the night before are rather a blur and if your friends were in the same state they will be no use to you because they wouldn’t remember either! Another one to get me on the dance floor, barefoot as it really is the only way to dance.
Track 3 – Double Vision – a girl who has turned him on his head just by walking in the room, he is not sure if he is coming or going, she makes him feel like he is walking sideways, nights become days when she is around.
Track 4 – Easy Come, Easy Go – Slightly difficult to “see” the meaning, Rory’s songs always had a meaning behind the words, it could be someone he knew who is having a hard time emotionally and Rory is saying things will be ok in the end, “won’t you let me in, don’t you need a friend? If I can help just call me”. Its not a romantic song in the true sense of romance, this is offering help to a friend in need, letting them know he will be there for them. It’s a beautiful song, beautiful lyrics.
Track 5 – Big Guns – another “powerhouse” song from Rory, gangsters, running from the law, this guy has run so much he has run out of places to go, his back is against the wall and his future is “a lump of lead”, its just a question of whether the Law gets him first or the Big Guns of people like him. It’s a “pounder”, gets the blood pumping, the heart racing and in my case my feet on the dance floor.
Track 6 – Jinxed – One of the most gutsy seductive and sexy songs Rory wrote. The tempo is just beyond awesome, the lyrics are off my scale of soul stopping. This is my favourite song from this album and when I get to this on the CD I press replay several times. “My hearts uneasy, my soul’s on fire, you’re the ice, please put out this fire” – what a poet Rory was and a tremendous lyricist.
Track 7 – Bourbon – I get the feeling this is semi autobiographical, drinking down the bourbon like it was soda pop, another destination, some other place to play, the music befriends him it can take him anywhere. I’ve read between the lines.
Track 8 – Ride On Red, Ride On. Written by M. Leavy, H. Glover and T. Reid, another one given the Rory treatment and just made more brilliant. Absolutely superb slide work from Rory along with harmonica. Just completely stunning. I could go on and on but I’ll let the track speak for itself.
Track 9 – Loose Talk – This has what I call a “hitching” beat for dancing, can’t think of another way to put it. It probably has some proper name for the tempo. Rory’s lyrics speak of the need to keep on his toes, the music industry is a cut throat machine and he needed to keep one step ahead to avoid being sucked in and tossed out, he was always his own man, stayed true to his music and his beliefs.
Track 10 – Nothin’ But The Devil, written by Gerry West. Rory used the National on this track, its acoustic, Rory at his finger picking best. Not a Rory song but he worked his magic on it and gave it a new life. I love this song very much.
Track 11 – Lonely Mile – According to the sleeve notes, this refers to a section of the Fulham Road that Rory would walk a lot during his bouts of insomnia. I don’t know if there was a girl involved in this or whether he just wrote as if he was turning up at her place during the early hours and she was not answering the door – “cause you never no answer, but I know you’re there”. The more I listen to it the more I love it, if it were possible to love a song more than I do already.
Review of Fresh Evidence – Released on 1st May 1990 – by Denise Wilden
Track 1 – Kid Gloves – About a boxer who won’t compromise but is being steered towards a corner due to circumstances, he hates himself for allowing the mob to “buy” him “I’m back on the mob’s payroll” they can buy his body but not his soul. They expect him to dance to their tune and do as they want, even having a man in the front row with a gun should he not do what the mob want. It has a really edgy beat to it, fabulous to dance to (me the dancer again) – all Rory’s songs have a beat to dance to, without that songs become blah blah and go in one ear and out of the other, this NEVER happens with Rory, his music and lyrics hit me like a bullet from a gun. Awesome.
Track 2 – The King of Zydeco (to Clifton Chenier). I’d never heard of Clifton Chenier or the kind of music he played. I now have 3 albums by him and I had also never heard blues played on an accordion. Rory was a massive admirer and fan of Cajun music and Clifton “the King of Zydeco” Chenier. This is an amazing track, I can imagine the crickets on the bayou, feel the heat from the swampy ground, Rory really nailed the sounds on this one, Geraint Watkins on accordion as well.
Track 3 – Middle Name – all the way through this song is Gerry McAvoy’s driving bass, it doesn’t dominate the song but for me it gives it the added edge needed to make this song awesome. The lyrics say to me that she has gone – “Still can’t find you, what can I do?”
Track 4 – Alexis – a deep blues instrumental in homage to the Godfather of British Blues, Alexis Korner. Rory didn’t do many total instrumental numbers but the ones he did are just mind blowingly brilliant. The sleeve notes say this was a new challenge for Rory but in my mind, he stepped up to the front, grabbed this challenge with both hands and nailed it 100%. I wish he had made an instrumental album, just completely instrumental – it would have been A M A Z I N G.
Track 5 – Empire State Express – An Eddie ‘Son’ House song. I’ve heard Eddie’s version and Rory’s is different. Rory was a genius at taking someone else’s song and working some magic on it, different key, lighter or heavier strings, slightly different instrument, something, which made it uniquely Rory.
Track 6 – Ghost Blues – It’s a gorgeous track, but the lyrics are so so sad. A really gorgeous Celtic intro, just stunning, takes my breath away. “My blood burns just like toast” – WOW that line is inspired, like skate on razor blades. From lots of articles I have read I think this was a semi autobiographical song, Rory is reported in the articles as drinking a lot before starting on this album. He did stop but I get the feeling the lyrics relate to that time. It has a really strong drum line from Brendan O’Neill, Gerry McAvoy on bass, solid as always holding the back door.
Track 7 – Heaven’s Gate – This is one of my favourite tracks off this album, Brendan O’Neill on drums and Gerry McAvoy on bass providing the solid backing to this number to allow Rory to flow like a river, pulling heartbreakingly painful notes from deep inside. Mark Feltham on harmonica just adding to the amazingly beautiful music.
Track 8 – The Loop – the second instrumental on this album; this concerns the public transport system in Chicago, which is called The Loop. It’s a bluesy number but it’s full of fun, it’s not possible to feel unhappy when I listen to this.
Track 9 – Walkin’ Wounded – “I’m walkin’ wounded, got my heart in a sling” I plan to have those 2 lines tattoo’d on me. This is a song full of heartbreak and pain; the lyrics are Rory baring his soul again through his music. “You’ve done your damage, are you sure that you’re through? Don’t cross me no more, I’ve had enough of you” John Earle and Ray Bevis on Saxophone, Dick Hansen on Trumpet.
Track 10 – Slumming Angel – A girl in the wrong place, come from the “rich side of town” for a look about but she is where she shouldn’t be, “take off those rose-coloured glasses, this is no wonderland”, she has been noticed and the song ends “Slumming Angel, let me show you around”. The music has a few twists and turns that the listener isn’t expecting. Typical of Rory to take you on a journey you didn’t expect to take but it’s a good journey to go on.
Track 11 – Never Asked You For Nothin’ – Cajun blues and accordion again with Geraint Watkins. This takes the listener again on a journey they were not expecting to take. Some girl has “done the dirty” on him and now he is in prison “cell block number three”, he can’t work out why she did this when he has never asked her for a thing. The lyrics are really thought provoking, telling a story. Brilliant. Mark Feltham plays beautiful harmonica to go alongside the guitars.
Track 12 – Bowed Not Broken – Rory writing about someone less fortunate, someone down on their luck but not broken, still fighting, won’t give in no matter what. Musically it’s wonderful, tiny bit challenging for me as someone who loves to dance, but I wouldn’t be foxed for long. It’s a beautiful song again telling a story.
Lou Martin also appears on this album playing piano, and Mark Feltham on harmonica, John Cooke on keyboards.
Review of Defender – Released on 1st July 1987 by Denise Wilden
Track 1 – Kickback City – The lyrics are inspired, a not nice place to live, fear eating your soul, but you learn to play your part to survive but you are still lost before you start. The Coral electric Sitar was used for a few phrases in this, gave it the extra kick Rory was looking for, this song also paves the way into Loanshark Blues, I think that was probably Rory’s intention.
Track 2 – Loanshark Blues – The beat for this is absolutely amazing. As I love to dance I would dearly love to dance barefoot to this one. I have read that this was Rory’s favourite track on this album; he had to keep it controlled so it didn’t run away. Again the lyrics are about Loanshark’s, which, unless I am wrong, I don’t think anyone else has written a song like this about people who have to use Loanshark’s because they are absolutely desperate. He managed to keep the lyrics precise and stopped short of being a “moany” song, the kind of “poor me” thing. I love this song very much.
Track 3 – Continental Op (to Dashiell Hammett) – Rory was a huge fan of Dashiell Hammett books and the Continental Op was a favourite, it was only natural for him to write a song dedicated to one of his favourite authors of crime novels. It has the kind of beat (again my dancing feet) that lets you think you have got away but then it pulls you back, very very clever but then Rory was so inventive, always looking for ways to surprise and keep the listener (and dancer) on their toes.
Track 4 – I Ain’t No Saint – Real gutsy seductive sexy blues beat, I, and probably a lot of other people, wish Rory had done a complete blues album, it was probably in his mind to one, I have read he wanted to do an acoustic album but unfortunately this never came to be. I am immensely fond of this track, as I adore gutsy blues and this track also has Rory on Saxophone but he didn’t credit himself with it, he double tracked it.
Track 5 – Failsafe Day – the drums are the dominant instrument on this song, does this refer to the unrest in the world, it seems that way to me, “What I see just takes the heart from me” “They’re gonna fade us all away”, Rory never just wrote words and put music to them, every word meant something personal to him or every line, I feel he was under-rated as a lyricist, he was very prolific and who knows how many songs never made it to the recorded or played at gigs stage?
Track 6 – Road To Hell – I have read the lyrics “so many times I’ve tripped and fell, No chances left” “Too late to save me” “Broken Wishes and broken dreams, close to the edge I cut it lean, no regrets” “The sky’s coming down on me/The wall’s coming down on me/The flame’s getting higher on me/The Ground’s opening up on me/The devil’s go the jump on me/The pain’s coming down on me” I feel that Rory was not in a good place when he wrote this, this again is from the heart and soul, he wrote what he felt, good, bad, happy or sad. I don’t want to say any more on this song.
Track 7 – Doing Time – Rory plays a killer slide on this track, great drumming from Brendan O’Neil and Gerry McAvoy solid and dependable as always providing the base for everyone to hang onto. The lyrics are kind of reminiscent of the gangster/prison movies of the 1940’s and 1950’s, the he is in prison, his girl is on the outside with his friend, he drove the car and took the fall for them and they are just ready to stab him in the back. He has had enough of breaking rocks while his girl and his friend are having a high old time on the outside, so he is breaking out today – “Revenge is sweet so they say, watch your step I’m breaking out today”. It’s an excellent song, I love this one a lot.
Track 8 – Smear Campaign. During the mid 1980’s we had a lot of smear campaigns on various politicians, lots of “kiss and tell” stuff being printed in the tabloids and then it made the TV as well. I don’t think it was about anyone in particular but at the time all the politicians and wannabe politicians were having to watch their backs and not let the skeletons fall out of their closets. The strat was doubled up for this song, its inspired lyrically.
Track 9 – Don’t Start me Talkin’ – A Sonny Boy Williamson song. As always Rory was able to take a song by someone else an work his Rory magic on it, lighter or heavier strings, different guitar, different key, something to make anyone else’s song sound a bit different, and by doing that he nails them to the floor, often the walls and ceiling as well. There is some excellent harp playing from Mark Feltham in this song, not that Mark doesn’t play brilliantly every time but sometimes its just more brilliant – to me that is.
Track 10 – Seven Days – this is another gutsy blues number, an acoustic song, Lou Martin (R.I.P) played keyboards on this and again there is some excellent harp work from Mark Feltham. A man on the run from his past, feeling like he has experienced seven days of thunder and eight days of rain, like a ball and chain, plans to trade in his razor for a .44 and go knocking door to door till he finds who he is looking for, he will be locked up for sure this time and then face the electric chair. He needs to keep one step ahead of everyone or they might track him down.
Track 11 – Seems To Me – Blues, hold me back, I’m just going to die a happy woman. Drums and Bass working in perfect harmony to provide the solid backing, what is called a “Strolling Blues” tempo. I’d have my shoes off to dance to this; it’s an amazing track. One I am very very fond of.
Track 12 – No Peace For The Wicked – this is hard blues, gritty and gutsy. The lyrics say someone has come looking for sanctuary I guess, he isn’t buying because he has been stitched up/done over by this person and now they turn to him for help, nobody else will help, friends in high or low places won’t help – this person is on their own.
I love everything Rory wrote, played or sang, some songs I like more than others, some make my “love them” list, but I haven’t heard anything I didn’t like, he was so inventive, never samey, never blah blah like some artists are.
I do feel that Defender and Fresh Evidence had “darker” lyrics, than his earlier songs.