Across The Water: An Irish Man In The USA 1973 – 1976 (The Godfather Box 21)
Since Godfather first started releasing box sets back in early 2011, the label has been consistent with putting out excellent quality multi-sets, many featuring upgraded sources and always beautifully packaged. Rory Gallagher gets the treatment from The Don here. Across The Water collects several recordings taken between 1973 and 1976. This comes during a time when Gallagher decided to expand his original trio format by adding Lou Martin on keyboards. All tapes with the exception of some bonus tracks come from American shows and are a great example of how this band evolved in such a short time span.
The box set follows in the design of Godfather’s past offerings utilizing separate tri-fold paper sleeves to house the individual years and includes a 16 page booklet with both introductory notes and additional notes pertaining to the respective years. Bottom line; every Rory Gallagher fan needs this box in their collection as it contains some great shows all from very good to excellent soundboard tapes. Not too many labels are releasing Rory titles these days, let alone box sets, and Godfather should be celebrated for putting together such an awesome box as this.
1973 (G.R. Box 21 A)
Disc 1: (69:50) Richard’s Niteclub, Atlanta, Georgia, USA – September 1973 – Messin’ With The Kid, Hands Off, A Million Miles Away, Laundromat, Cradle Rock, Hoodoo Woman (cut), In Your Town – Radio Station Studio, Atlanta, Georgia, USA – September 1973: Pistol Slapper Blues, As The Crow Flies
The source for Richard’s Niteclub comes from a very good sounding broadcast tape. There is some hiss present but the label did a good job and didn’t try to remove too much as this would have clearly left the recording dull sounding. Instead they chose to leave some of the hiss and as a result it still has a good amount of top end. There is also a small amount of distortion in places but certainly nothing worth complaining about. The gig itself has a nice small club atmosphere and the audience really seems to be enjoying themselves.
This particular lineup had only been together for about a year at this point but sounds very solid. “Messin’ With The Kid” starts us off and takes a minute or two for the mix to balance out but once it does becomes very enjoyable. It is clear from the opening licks Rory rips out that he came to play. “Hands Off” keeps things moving and is dominated by the talents of keyboardist Lou Martin but also features some great solos by Gallagher. Martin was a tremendous keyboard player and the perfect compliment to Gallagher’s style.
“A Million Miles Away” mellows the mood a bit and is a track from the yet unreleased Tattoo. It is a good version but hasn’t quite captured the magic it would on later tours. “Laundromat” has a great boogie feel and Rory really gets to show his stuff in the breakdown.
“I’d like to keep the tempo up and do a brand new one that I hope you like…a song called “Cradle Rock”. A true highlight in any Gallagher show, this version absolutely kicks butt with Rory breaking out the slide in the solo. He uses a nice tremolo effect on his guitar for “Hoodoo Woman” adding to the classic blues vibe. The slow blues track has an unfortunate cut at 3:16 but appears to only be missing a small amount of music.
“I’d like to take the tempo up to round out the set, which I hope you enjoyed. This last one is called “In Your Town”, thank you” is Rory introduction for the final song. The track lasts for 15 minutes and features some more awesome slide work, an electric piano section and an introduction of the band.
The bonus tracks come from an intimate performance of Gallagher alone on acoustic guitar and vocal for an Atlanta radio broadcast. Both tracks are from an excellent sounding source with a moderate amount of hiss in the background.
1974 (G.R. Box 21 B/C)
Disc 2: (73:02) Agora Ballroom, Cleveland, Ohio, USA – August 12, 1974 – Messin’ With The Kid, Cradle Rock, Just A Little Bit, I Wonder Who, Pistol Slapper Blues, Laundromat, (show outro stuff) – Agora Ballroom, Cleveland, Ohio, USA – August 13, 1974 – Cradle Rock, Just A Little Bit, A Million Miles Away
Disc 3: (74:05) Pistol Slapper Blues, They Don’t Make Them Like You Anymore, Bullfrog Blues – Electric Ballroom, Atlanta, Georgia, USA – August 1974 – Hands Off, Tattoo’d Lady, Walk On Hot Coals – Bonus Tracks: Acoustic Session, French Radio, Paris, France 1974 – Pistol Slapper Blues, Too Much Alcohol, Don’t Know Where I’m Going, Instrumental, Out On The Western Plain, All Around Man, Banker’s Blues (take 1), Banker’s Blues (take 2), Unmilitary Two-Step (cut), Interview with Rory
The Agora shows are also taken from a broadcast as evident in the DJ comments at the start of the disc. The sound quality is excellent with a great balance between instruments and an overall nice full range of frequencies with the first night sounding a little better than the second. The audience is only heard faintly between songs. There are a couple spots of some very minor distortion but otherwise these come from a nice clean source. I would assume that these aren’t the full performances for each night but possibly edited down for broadcast.
The band sounds tight yet relaxed and delivers two knock out performances that will have you going back for repeated listenings. “Cradle Rock” and “Just A Little Bit” from both shows are standouts. The latter has a nice funky groove and the band gets to stretch out quite a bit. There are tracks unique to each performance that always makes it nice as well. “I Wonder Who” from the first night is a slow blues that has an amazing electric piano solo while “A Million Miles Away” appears to take its place on the following evening. Although it’s the slowest track in the set it does pick up a bit in the middle.
“Pistol Slapper Blues” from August 12th switches to a lesser source from 2:39 to 3:30 (maybe spliced in from the following evening?) but is hardly an issue as the edits are absolutely seamless. “Bullfrog Blues” from the second night features a short bass solo followed by a drum solo and the track reaches 14 minutes.
Godfather always provides the listener with extensive bonus tracks to fill any extra time on the discs and we get a few tracks from the Electric Ballroom in Atlanta during August 1974. The sound is excellent soundboard again and we are treated to three tracks not included in either Agora Ballroom recording. The liner notes place this performance two weeks after the Cleveland affairs and the playing is equally as fired up.
The French Radio Session features Rory solo on acoustic guitar, vocal, harmonica, and occasionally on his resonator. The sound quality isn’t as good as the other recordings in this set as it sounds a little more muffled and flat but is still very good and enjoyable. Gallagher’s multi-talents shine through here and shows how entertaining he could be without the accompaniment of his band.
1975 (G.R. Box 21 D)
Disc 4: (73:41) Record Plant, Sausalito, CA, USA – October 31, 1975 – Let Me In, I Take What I Want, Ain’t Too Good, Souped Up Ford, All Around Man, Tattoo’d Lady, Cradle Rock, Bought & Sold, Lost At Sea – Agora Ballroom, Cleveland, Ohio, USA – October 28, 1975 – Garbage Man, Messin’ With The Kid, A Million Miles Away
Rory Gallagher visited The Record Plant in Sausalito, CA on October 31, 1975 to record a session for broadcast on KSAN. He had a brand new record, Against The Grain, to push and what better way than a radio show. The show generally ran for about an hour but the station breaks between the tracks have been edited out. These guys were definitely an exciting live act to catch and the fact that they can deliver in a quiet studio setting like this is not easy. With no audience reaction to feed off of Rory and crew still deliver an exciting performance.
The session features seven tracks from the new record and kicks off with two barn burners. The mix comes full circle by “I Take What I Want” and is excellent broadcast quality with a solid low end. Rory takes a moment to introduce the band before “Ain’t Too Good”, his latest attempt at a commercial ballad.
If the slide guitar in “Souped Up Ford” isn’t enough just wait until “All Around Man”. Rory is totally locked in and Lou Martin follows with a smokin’ piano solo as well. “Tattoo’d Lady” and “Cradle Rock” are the only older cuts and are from the previous Tattoo LP. The latter segues into “Bought & Sold” but seven seconds in the sound drops to a lesser quality version of the tape. It is thankfully restored just as they start “Lost At Sea”.
Three lengthy bonus tracks from the Agora Ballroom on October 28th are included. They come from an excellent soundboard source as well. “Garbage Man” makes its first appearance in the box set and Lou Martin taps into some really cool Hammond sounds that have to be heard.
1976 (G.R. Box 21 E/F)
Disc 5: (52:35) Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles, CA, USA – November, 18, 1976 – Introduction, Moonchild, Secret Agent, Calling Card, I Take What I Want, Bought And Sold, Western Plain, Do You Read Me, Souped Up Ford
Disc 6: (67:04) Hands Off, Bullfrog Blues, Early In The Morning, A Million Miles Away, In Your Town – Bonus Tracks: Acoustic Session, Dutch Radio, Holland – March 1976 – Banker’s Blues, Where’s My Baby Gone? (aka Garbage Man), If The River Was Whiskey (aka Divin’ Duck)
Gallagher released his sixth studio LP, Calling Card, on October 24, 1976. After some dates in Europe including an appearance on the German television show, Rockpalast, Rory headed to the states to support his latest effort. His stop in Los Angeles at the Shrine Auditorium was recorded and broadcast by the King Biscuit Flower Hour and is the source of this excellent professional recording.
“Moonchild” and “Secret Agent” are played non-stop before Gallagher addresses the crowd. He introduces the title track from the new Calling Card record. This track is definitely a bit of a departure for Rory, having a very light jazzy groove. Martin dazzles on piano here and Gallagher adds some nice volume swells to great effect. It picks up and really starts to swing as Rory takes off with the solo.
The rhythm section of Gerry McAvoy and Rod de’Ath stand out during “I Take What I Want”. They keep a nice fast paced tight groove together for Gallagher and Martin to wail over. They incorporate The Beatles’ “I Feel Fine” riff in for good measure. This runs directly into “Bought And Sold” with full cooperation from the clapping audience. Rory switches over to acoustic guitar for a solo performance of the cowboy ballad “Out On The Western Plain”. “Souped-Up Ford” fades out after 9:30 but sounds like Gallagher was getting ready to finish it off anyway so more than likely, it isn’t missing much of the track.
The second disc in this set is dominated by tracks with extended jamming with all reaching eight minutes or more. “Bullfrog Blues” allows for separate bass and drum solos and “Early In The Morning” delivers some amazing blues playing and goes through some great dynamic highs and lows. Martin’s Hammond has a nice presence here. The final track “In Your Town” unfortunately fades out at 10:35.
Finally, the set is capped off with an acoustic session from Dutch radio from earlier in the year. The recording is lacking a bit of top end but again still holds up to the other excellent sounding sources featured in the box. Rory is solo in front of a small studio audience who can be heard between tracks and entertains them with some acoustic blues.
Godfather has released what should be considered the definitive statement on what Rory Gallagher brought to the stage during the 1970’s. Everything in this box sounds very good to excellent and the packaging is top notch to say the very least. All the individual tri-fold sleeves are well thought out with an array of classic photos of Rory and crew. This stands as another excellent Godfather box set that is sure to sell out so I would recommend grabbing one if you find it.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)