The beginning of a new stage
After their renowned appearance at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970, Taste seemed destined to stardom, but financial disagreements with their manager and a clash of egos among their members - basically that the other two components also wanted a share of the credit that Rory Gallagher took – led to the band splitting before the end of that year.
It was not easy for Gallagher to get back on his feet, but the Irishman went at it with all his might. His manager had left him bankrupt and he had to borrow money from his mother but, even so, his reputation as one of the best guitarists in the world preceded him and when he started auditioning for a new rhythm section he got to play with Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding. But it would have been too much that just a few months after Jimi Hendrix's death Gallagher released the first solo album of his career with the remaining two-thirds of the Experience. So he went for drummer Wilgar Campbell and bassist Gerry McAvoy, who are also Irish; and they weren't a bad alternative.
In February 1971 Gallagher began recording his eponymous debut album, a work in which he continued where Taste had left off, opening with the powerful riff of Laundromat, which is a fabulous blues rock song. But with the next cut he showed that his interests went beyond the blues, with the beautiful acoustic Just A Smile, in which his admiration for a guitarist with whom he would collaborate later in his career, Bert Jansch, was evident.
Then came one of the best songs of his career, I Fall Apart, which showed that beyond his most volcanic pieces, Gallagher could offer the best of himself on mid-tempos and ballads. And when Rory slowed down the tempo, the magic usually appeared in spurts. On this song, for example, he builds a magnificent crescendo and then unleashes a brutal riff that serves as a preamble for a solo in which his Strat flies free; plugged to a Vox AC30, acting as a final climax.
Wave Myself Goodbye is an acoustic blues with Vincent Crane on piano, in which Gallagher recalls Clapton on vocals. Much better is Hands Up, which is pure Rory, one of those pieces with which he was to set the stages of half the world on fire, in spite of his well-known fear of airplanes. This song is a rock classic on which he once again demonstrated his enormous quality on the six strings.
Sinner Boy opens Side B. The song starts slowly but gradually grows to reach the level of intensity of Hands Up, especially at the moment when his spectacular slide comes in. For The Last Time is a brilliant midtempo that deals with the bittersweet separation of Taste. The bitterness was reflected more in the music, with his Stratocaster sounding superb, than in the lyrics. At only 23 years old you can appreciate the fact that he is an absolute master of his instrument, and is capable of drawing pure emotion out of it. Rory may not have been great at writing lyrics but with his melodies and guitar work he was able to express himself with the same feeling as a poet laureate.
It's You is playful and has a slight country feel to it, with his guitar sounding almost like a pedal steel. The song also features a mandolin. On I'm Not Surprised the British folk influences reappear, albeit with a very bluesy edge. While Can't Believe It's True is the remarkable closer, a song with light jazzy touches, on which Gallagher also plays alto saxophone. On this track McAvoy shows his chops as a bass player by providing the perfect rhythm for Gallagher to play a great solo on which his harmonics shine.
Rory Gallagher was released on May 23, 1971 and it didn't need the presence of Mitchell or Redding to show the world that the electric guitar had found the rightful heir to Hendrix.