Songs & Stories: New York Remembers Rory Gallagher

 

By the time the cultural revolution that was the 1960s was happening in most of the Western world, Ireland was quiet. Despite being such a young state, the pervading consciousness was one of fear and repression. A grey, dour poverty was spread thick across the land, as church-state collusion led to a firm grip on people's attitudes and an enforced piety prevailed.

Yet through the darkness, some sunshine managed to force its way through. For young people who were reading about rock 'n' roll in the U.K. and U.S., it must all have felt so distant. Things changed when Van Morrison growled his gnarly majestic way into the Top Tens that mattered with his snarling group, Them. Van got big quick and soon left the troubled streets of Belfast for the more hippified environs of San Francisco and Woodstock, N.Y. But the man who was the true symbol of Irish rock was Rory Gallagher.

Rory was a one-man Plant and Page, a man possessed of the spirit of Robert Johnson, but a man born in Donegal and raised in Cork. While Van the Man's poetic championing became ever more distant, Rory was always real.

 

Following an apprenticeship stint in a showband, Rory formed his first group, the powerful trio Taste. As Taste's legend grew, so too did Rory's. As songwriter, singer and guitarist with the band, he was the central force that whetted the palates of the fans. After an explosive show-stealing turn at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970, Rory disbanded Taste and went it alone. This was the beginning of a solo career that was to reach incredible highs, garnering critical acclaim from critics and peers, but also the unbridled love and adulation of a massive fanbase, particularly in his native country where he was nothing less than a god. This was never more in evidence than during his funeral following his tragic death in 1995 at the age of 47.

Songs & Stories: New York Remembers Rory Gallagher looks at the tribute paid to Rory by a number of mainly Irish-American musicians in New York's The Bottom Line club on Oct. 23, 2002. Organised by Blackthorn guitarist and Gallagher devotee Seamus Kelleher, the concert featured contributions from Kelleher himself, Pierce Turner, Larry Kirwan (from Black 47), Sean Fleming, Bugs Moran, Justin Jordan and many more.

 

The DVD features footage from the concert as well as interviews with the main players and Donal Gallagher, Rory's brother and manager. Interspersed throughout are performances from Rory himself, and it is these that add the requisite poignance to the whole thing. We are also reminded of the power and the glory of the main man himself, and what a tragic loss he was to the world of music.

Highlights are the sets from Fleming, whose voice has an Irish bluesy twang and power, Turner (who also gives it loads!) and Kirwan. Organiser Kelleher deservers special mention also -- not just for taking on the whole undertaking, but for his brilliant guitar work.

 

It sounds like a cliche, but the gig seemed to have made some kind of spiritual connection with the late, great hero, and his spirit comes through the musicians' performances. I know, I know, but it's true.

Songs & Stories is a great document of what was obviously a special night for all who were in attendance.

 

by Sean Walsh
Rambles.NET
8 April 2006

 


 

New York Remembers a Legend
By Mike Farragher

 

“When Rory came to town, it was rough going, you know, it was the coming of Jesus!”

So says Seamus Kelleher, producer of the magnificent concert tribute, Songs and Stories: New York Remembers Rory Gallagher.

 

If you think that sounds biased, you would be right. Kelleher, the lead guitarist for the Celtic rock powerhouse known as Blackthorn, has been a loving curator of the Gallagher legacy here in the States.

 

On October 30, 2002, Kelleher booked Manhattan’s Bottom Line and invited other Gallagher fans to pay tribute to the Cork blues great. I was at the show, which still represents one of the musical highlights of the decade in my mind.

 

The event was captured by Home Team Productions, which created an hour-long documentary around the performance with highlights of Rory’s life and work. That show is the spine of this DVD, which splices in historical snippets, interviews with the likes of Sean Fleming and Black 47’s Larry Kirwan, and rare Gallagher interviews in between fiery performances by Manhattan’s Irish American greats.

 

Kelleher pays his debt to the guitarist in spades with this loving tribute. A strange magic happened at the legendary Bottom Line in New York City that night. I recall being in the room and feeling a blue breeze that was surely Gallagher’s presence. He must have been proud to see Sean Fleming turn in a blistering read of “A Million Miles.”

 

He must have had a tear in his eye when Larry Kirwan sung “No More Messin’ With the Kid,” or when fellow Wexford native Pierce Turner unleashed the song “Rory Gallagher” that night.

 

“Rory Gallagher bought a cheap guitar/and into Cork his port of call/came sounds of blue notes/played em small/he lost no time in moving on/he was going places/a fire contained was now enraged/a bold of blue came from the stage/and Rory roared like a lion uncaged,” sings Turner over a pensive chord structure.

 

“He was there before Boomtown Rats and U2,” he says in the documentary. “Whether those folks know it or not, they owe a great debt to Rory Gallagher.”

 

While Kelleher cut his own formidable guitar chops on Gallagher’s riffs, the Salthill native formally began his love affair with Gallagher’s music when he met his idol after a gig in Galway.

 

“He was just after playing for three hours, and I asked him to talk to me for a few minutes,” recalls Kelleher. “He spoke with me.”

 

The concert has highlights that are too numerous to mention. Pat McGuire does justice to the funky shuffle of “Brute Force and Ignorance,” while Jersey Shore blues hound Matt O’Ree evokes the spirit of the fallen legend with his fiery blues riffs and his eerie likeness to Gallagher himself.

 

“He was a huge influence,” Kelleher says. “During a career spanning 30 years he sold over 20 million albums. He was not only a great blues guitar player, but also a wonderful songwriter and a favourite of Bob Dylan and John Lennon.”

 

In other Kelleher news, his band Blackthorn are currently in the studio working on a new CD, which is scheduled for a March release.

 

“It is being produced by a wonderful character called Eamon McElholm,” says Kelleher. “He is the guitar player with Solas. He is really getting the best out of us.”

 

To order a copy of Songs and Stories, log onto the HomeTeam website at http://hometeamproductions.tv/songs.html or Film Baby http://filmbaby.com/.

 

(Irish Voice) 14 December 2005


 

The big gun
Remembering the real Rory Gallagher
By Ray O'Hanlon rohanlon@irishecho.com

 

Eric Clapton and Cream recently raised the roof at Madison Square Garden with a series of reunion concerts.

 

Rory Gallagher's passing ten years ago precludes such a remindful and nostalgic gathering. That's good news for the Garden's roof.

 

It could take Clapton and just about anybody else.

 

Gallagher would have peeled the thing off the walls.

 

Gallagher's guitar has been silent for a decade, but others have taken on the task of plucking, strumming and jamming on the great man's behalf.

 

The result is a tribute featuring an ensemble of New York-based singers and musicians who sing and tell of their hero on a new DVD entitled "Songs & Stories."

 

Rory Gallagher was an early-days Irish guitar hero who took his legions of Irish fans on a pulsating ride through the Mississippi Delta, Memphis and Chicago without ever having to step off the island.

Over time, and along with his band Taste, Gallagher took his rollicking blues stage show to Europe and beyond.

 

No record collection in Ireland was complete during the 1970s without Gallagher's "Live In Europe" LP.

The passing of vinyl was merely incidental to the passing on of Gallagher's musical legacy from one generation to the next.

 

The man truly was, and is, a rocker for all ages.

 

He was born in Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal in 1948, but grew up in Cork City. He died in London in June of 1995. He was buried in Cork. And his legend lives everywhere the blues is played.

But of the DVD itself -- a Rory Gallagher fan will be familiar with some of the footage and will doubtless pine for more.

 

But the relative newcomer to Gallagher's three decades of recording and performing needs a little perspective and scene setting. This is provided in what is an hour-long documentary by an eclectic bunch of singers and musicians led by Seamus Kelleher, a well-known guitarist in his own right who plays in the group Blackthorn.

 

The tribute portion of "Songs & Stories" was filmed at the Bottom Line in Greenwich Village shortly before the storied venue itself passed into musical history.

 

The evening's combination of talk and musical odes to Gallagher was recorded by filmmakers Victor Zimet and Stephanie Silber of Home Team Productions in collaboration with Kelleher, who lays strong claim to the title of world's number-one Rory Gallagher freak.

 

Others in the film who take the stage to pay homage to Gallagher include Larry Kirwan of Black 47, Pierce Turner and Sean Fleming.

 

There is, of course, footage aplenty of Gallagher himself, some of it from concerts, some taken at home, or simply out walking in the Irish air.

 

Donal Gallagher, Rory's brother and manager, adds insight into the guitarist's private life and troubled soul.

Along the way there are facts for the record book. Gallagher sold 20 million albums in a 30-year career, played in almost every U.S. state, was a favorite of Bob Dylan and John Lennon, and wrote great songs in addition to being an ace blues guitarist.

 

Then there is the intriguing scrap about Gallagher being in line at one point to join the Rolling Stones.

Just as well he didn't. Gallagher was not a support player, even to the likes of Mick Jagger.

 

Indeed, a Gallagher performance in the man's heyday would have more than matched the combined energy output on stage of Jagger and his merry minstrels.

 

Gallagher gigs had an intensity that Bruce Springsteen fans would immediately recognize. There were times when he had to be virtually dragged off the stage after multiple encores.

 

"Rory was fiercely independent. He rejected the trappings of a rock star," is filmmaker Zemet's take on Gallagher.

 

The viewer gets a clear sense of that in Zemet's film.

 

Rory Gallagher was many things, but he was no prissy fashion-conscious icon.

 

Donal Gallagher described "Songs & Stories" as being "just a wonderful bouquet to my brother."

And that it is, though a bittersweet one.

 

Gallagher fans will lap this film up while the merely curious will find reason to seek out the musical legacy of an Irishman who made a uniquely American music form his very own -- and then some.

 

This story appeared in the issue of December 21-27, 2005



Total Music Magazine

 

Songs & Stories
New York Remembers Rory Gallagher
(Home Team Productions)

 

On June 14th 1995 Rory Gallagher died due to complications after liver transplant surgery. He was just 47 years of age (a more detailed look at his life can be found here). A guitarist of consummate skill and a blues player fully in touch with his muse Gallagher still has yet to really receive the recognition he truly deserves, something everyone involved with this film clearly also believe. The story is interwoven with a concert recorded at the Bottom Line in New York as a series of musicians step up to play tribute songs or reinvent slices from the much loved, late lamented Irish blues guitarist’s massive back catalogue. Dotted with cracking live snippets of the man himself - taken from all eras of his performing career - and some fascinating home movie footage this lovingly constructed documentary come live concert is a must for Gallagher fans. The only real complaint is that at just over fifty minutes in length you are left desperate to see and hear more, but given the paucity of decent material about the man Home Team Productions are to be applauded for taking on the project in the first place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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