Crest of a Wave: The Best of Rory Gallagher (Eagle Records)
I’m a sucker for guitar heroes. Check out my CD stash and you’ll find the biggest sections are reserved for Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Winter, Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton, Gary Moore, and Joe Satriani. But in recent years my main guitar-god focus has been on building up my Rory Gallagher collection. I’ve come to the realization that I should own everything the shockingly underrated Irish picker has ever recorded.
It’s not as if I just recently discovered Gallagher. I loved his only North American hit, “Tattoo’d Lady”, when it first came out in ’73, and I remember buying a used copy of 1972’s Live in Europe, which featured his concert standards like “Messin’ With the Kid” and “Goin’ to My Hometown”. But for some sad reason I never got around to following his career closely and scooping up the studio albums, 11 in total, that he recorded before his untimely 1995 death at the age of 47 from liver-transplant complications.
Just like 2005’s Big Guns, Crest of a Wave sports 24 songs on two discs, but, lucky for me, it includes 16 tracks that weren’t on the previous compilation. It kicks off with the rampaging rocker “Follow Me”, off 1979’s Top Priority, and is followed by “Shinkicker”, a prime example of Gallagher’s dynamic melding of rock and blues, off 1974’s Photo Finish. Both tunes feature his exhilarating guitar solos, which sometimes overshadow his skills as a songwriter. (All but one of the tunes on Crest were self-penned, the only non-original being Huddie Ledbetter’s “Out on the Western Plain”.) But a rock-guitar freak can’t ask for more than to hear Gallagher rip it up on his famously battered and worn-out ’61 Sunburst Stratocaster, the same one that spent days getting rained on in a ditch after it was stolen in Dublin in the ’60s.
If you’re the type of person who went nuts for a Strat master like SRV yet somehow got left out of the loop where Gallagher was concerned, now’s the time to make amends. After you score Crest of a Wave you might want to do like me and start sniffing around the used record shops for that precious Gallagher vinyl that got away. It’ll lessen the shame of missing out on his genius the first time around.
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