Rory Gallagher Album Buying Guide

A guide to the blues-rock guitarist's best recordings

Rory Gallagher
Redferns / Getty Images

Irish-born guitarist Rory Gallagher first came to our attention as the frontman of the power trio Taste, a well-regarded band that rode the second wave of the 1960s-era British blues-rock boom to a modicum of success and fame. Gallagher launched his solo career with a self-titled 1971 album and immediately hit the road, touring almost constantly until his death in 1995.

Along the way, he recorded better than a dozen studio, and a handful of live albums that showcased his incendiary playing style and underrated songwriting skills. Often overlooked in favor of contemporaries like Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page, Gallagher stands among the best blues-rock guitarists in the history of the genre.

Essential Albums

Live! In Europe (1972)
Released a mere year into the Irish blues guitarist's fledgling solo career, Live! In Europe captures a young stallion prancing and preening across the stage, getting his legs beneath him and developing his dynamic live show on which a large part of his reputation is based. Long on interpretations of traditional and standard blues songs like "Messin' With The Kid" and "Hoodoo Man," and short on original material, Live! In Europe captures the reckless energy and youthful enthusiasm of the guitarist at the first stages of a career that would stretch across three decades.

Irish Tour 1974 (1974)
Two years after the release of Live! In Europe, Gallagher returned home to Ireland for a series of nine shows that showcased a confident, seasoned veteran guitarist with a handful of studio recordings under his belt and an expanded musical palette that he applied to a larger catalog of songs. Irish Tour 1974 features musical highlights of the tour and serves as a companion to the documentary film of the same name shot by director Tony Palmer. The album offers an inspired mix of original songs like "Tattoo'd Lady," "Walk On Hot Coals," and "A Million Miles Away" as well as choice covers of J.B. Hutto's "Too Much Alcohol" and Muddy Waters' "I Wonder Who," standing as one of the best live blues-rock recordings of the era.

Solid Artistic Efforts

Calling Card (1976)
Produced with a steady hand by former Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover, Gallagher's Calling Card found the guitarist stretching his sound out a bit beyond the confines of blues-rock to include soul, jazz, and even pop in what would prove to be one of his strongest sets of original material. While hook-laden rockers like "Country Mile" and the title track would become fan favorites on the live stage, melodic tracks like "Edged In Blue" and "I'll Admit You're Gone" display a different dimension to Gallagher's talents.

Deuce (1971)
Gallagher's sophomore album was released a short six months after his self-titled debut but shows an incredible amount of artistic growth and maturity. Featuring eleven original songs, with Deuce Gallagher wrote the blueprint that he would follow through much of the rest of the decade, mixing up rambunctious, guitar-driven blues-rock with scraps of acoustic country blues, intricate roots-rock, and heartfelt R&B. His guitar tone and phrasing is excellent throughout, and his songwriting skills were developing at an amazing pace. While Deuce placed only one song—the rowdy "Crest Of A Wave"—into Gallagher's canon, there's literally not a bad track on the album.

Notes From San Francisco (2011)
This long-anticipated "lost" album, recorded by Gallagher and his four-piece band in San Francisco in 1977, was finally released in 2011 and proved to be well worth the wait. Featuring nine original songs, some of which would be re-recorded a year later for Photo-Finish, as well as a couple of "bonus tracks," Notes From San Francisco shows the artist straining at the confines of the blues-rock form and trying to expand his sound. The two-disc set includes a rock solid live performance from 1979 that puts the (later) Stage Struck to shame.

Worth A Listen

Blueprint (1973)
Gallagher's pair of 1973 album releases would showcase the guitarist at the top of his form, and yielded a number of songs that would become fan favorites, performed by Gallagher for the next decade. Blueprint was the first of the pair, and if it's often overlooked in favor of the admittedly superior Tattoo, it's a solid collection of material nonetheless, highlights including the raver "Walk On Hot Coals," the sultry "Daughter Of The Everglades," and the extended jam that was "Seventh Son Of The Seventh Son." A lively cover of Big Bill Broonzy's "Banker's Blues" is another good 'un, showcasing Gallagher's acoustic blues skills.

Photo-Finish (1979)
After the disastrous 1977 sessions that would (much) later result in the long-lost Notes From San Francisco album, Gallagher broke up his band of five years. Stripping down to a power trio, retaining only bassist Gerry McAvoy and adding drummer Ted McKenna, Gallagher re-recorded a handful of songs from the previous session for Photo-Finish, adding a few new tunes and pursuing a harder-edged blues-rock sound. While not the best album in the Gallagher milieu, Photo-Finish still includes hard-hitting fan favorites like "Shinkicker," "Mississippi Sheiks," and "Last Of The Independents" as well as overlooked gems like the twangy "Juke Box Annie."

Tattoo (1973)
 represented an amazing accomplishment, as Gallagher found the inspiration to pen nine new tunes while touring heavily in support of his Blueprint album, released mere months earlier. The muse was obviously hitting the guitarist hard, as Tattoo includes some of the best, and most popular songs of the artist's lengthy and prolific career, songs like "Tattoo'd Lady," "A Million Miles Away," and "Cradle Rock" staples of Gallagher live show for years, while tunes like the Delta-inspired folk-blues of "20/20 Vision" or the Chicago blues-styled "Who's That Coming," with some tasty slide guitar, display the other side of the guitarist's musical ambition.

For Collectors Only

Fresh Evidence (1988)
Gallagher's last studio album is a mixed bag of blues styles and performances, the guitarist trying his hand at interpretations of zydeco, Chicago, and Delta blues, and jazz along with his typical dirty blues and British-styled blues-rock. While not a bad album by any means—Fresh Evidence includes several inspired performances, including a cover of Delta blues legend Son House's "Empire State Express"—it nonetheless doesn't meet the lofty standards established by Gallagher during his incredible string of solid 1970s-era albums.

Stage Struck (1980)
Culled from Gallagher's 1979/1980 world tour, a tired song selection isn't helped any by the guitarist's lackluster performances. Lacking the immediacy and playfulness of the live set captured by Notes From San FranciscoStage Struck displays little of Gallagher's natural onstage charisma and energy. After a decade of constant touring, however, and the writing and recording of nine studio albums in as many years, it could be that the man was just dog tired rather than inspired.

The Artist's Best

Crest Of A Wave (2009)
The first shot, really, in Eagle Rock's restoration of the Rory Gallagher catalog, this two-disc, 24-track collection includes some of the guitarist's most beloved material. Songs like "Walk On Hot Coals," "Tattoo'd Lady," "Calling Card," "A Million Miles Away," and the title track are arguably among Gallagher's best, while overlooked gems such as "Edged In Blue" and "Wheels Within Wheels" display a fuller range of Gallagher's often-overlooked talents. While the hardcore faithful already owns all this stuff, newcomers are well-served by the diverse selection of material found on Crest Of A Wave.


The London Muddy Waters Sessions (1971)
Early 1970s attempts to provide a contemporary edge to the aging sound of blues masters like Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf by having them record with British blues-rock acolytes were usually panned by critics, but they've stood up to the test of time. On The London Muddy Waters Sessions, Gallagher fits right in with Waters' old school crew, which included guitarist Sammy Lawhorn and harp player Carey Bell. The Irish guitarist's contributions are inspired and electrifying, Gallagher playing like a kid in a candy store at the opportunity to perform with a legend like Waters.

Box of Frogs (1984) / Strange Land (1986)
The 1980s-era "supergroup" Box of Frogs was a reunion, of sorts, for the trio of Chris Dreja, Paul Samwell-Smith, and Jim McCarty, best known as the heart and soul of 1960s-era blues-rock pioneers the Yardbirds. Recruiting former Medicine Head vocalist John Fiddler, and a host of famous guitar-playing friends like Jeff Beck, Steve Hackett, and Rory Gallagher, Box of Frogs recorded this pair of overlooked albums. Gallagher's contributions on the slide and lead guitar lively up every song on which he appears, bringing bright electricity to the performances that outshine those of his contemporaries.