Sunday, 30 August 2015

"I'll Remember" by TASTE [featuring Rory Gallagher] (2015 Universal/Polydor 4CD Book Set – Paschal Byrne Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

Features the album "On The Boards" from 1970

"...Blister On The Moon..."

When "On The Boards" by Rory Gallagher's TASTE was released on the first day of the new decade (1 January 1970) – yours truly was a goofy 11-year old Dublin kid recently progressed from short pants into long trousers with a rapidly growing obsession for Girls, Thunderbirds 2 and Rock Music (yum yum). As you can imagine - guitar-heroes who were 'Irish' could be typed on a very small piece of paper indeed. But man oh man when we stumped up our candidate for selection – Ireland produced a proper goodun.

So what of this much-anticipated reissue? As much as I worship the ground Rory Gallagher and his battered Stratocaster walked on – this 2015 Universal 4CD Reissue is both good and awful in very equal measures. The good news is that the PASCHAL BYRNE remasters of the two studio albums are off-the-wall good. Byrne has a long and distinguished history as an Audio Engineer having handled the "Spirit Of Joy" Polydor 3CD Box Set and hundreds of other quality reissues for Universal and Esoteric Recordings over the last decade. But I'm sensing awards are in order because the boy has excelled himself here. The audio on the two albums is fabulous – the best I've ever heard - and I've known and loved these LPs for over 45 years. The Previously Unreleased outtakes from those studio efforts are also genuinely worth having too – stuff that will make blind men see, preachers lay their Bibles down and even persuade politicians to go straight (well lets not ask for too much shall we).

But (all puns aside) Discs 3 and 4 are a different matter. The very well-recorded Swedish gig is electrifying (it really is) but the 'Off Air' "BBC Live In Concert" stuff that finishes off Disc 3 is virtually unlistenable – poor bootleg standard at best. And the fact that an exclusive song like "Feel So Good" on the officially released "Live Taste" and "Live At The Isle Of Wight" LPs from 1971 and 1972 has been replaced with this lesser stuff will only rub salt into the wounds for fans. Disc 4 is not much better - the 'Belfast Sessions' are Demos notoriously inflicted with tape dropouts on almost all tracks that 'has not' been fixed - so they're curio value at best rather than a pleasurable listen. In fairness to the makers of the box – this stuff is included of course for completeness and some of the earlier tracks are actually worth listening to. But if they're audibly damaged – then why include them at all. The Major Minor single is crap and the Woburn stuff good rather than great (a very so-so recording). In truth - had this been a 3CD set containing the Swedish gig and the stragglers not duplicated from the official live albums slapped on at the end of Disc 3 – then it would have been perfect. As it is – I know I'll only be playing those first two discs and the live Swedish gig off the 3rd – and ditching the inferior rest. Here are the full details...

UK released Friday 28 August 2015 – "I'll Remember" by TASTE on Universal/Polydor 472 269-7 (Barcode 602547226976) is a 4CD Book Set Of Remasters and pans out as follows:

Disc 1 – "Taste" – 63:25 minutes:
1. Blister On The Moon
2. Leavin' Blues
3. Sugar Mama
4. Hail
5. Born On The Wrong Side Of Time
6. Dual Carriageway Pain [Side 2]
7. Same Old Story
8. Catfish
9. I'm Moving On
Tracks 1 to 9 are their debut studio LP "Taste" – released April 1969 in the UK on Polydor 583 042 and August 1969 in the USA on Atco SD 33-296

BONUS TRACKS (all Previously Unreleased):
10. Blister On The Moon (Alternate Version)
11. Leavin' Blues (Alternate Version)
12. Hail (Alternate Version)
13. Dual Carriageway Pain (Alternate Version)
14. Same Old Story (Alternate Version with No Vocals)
15. Catfish (Alternate Version)

Disc 2 – "On The Boards" – 71:10 minutes:
1. What's Going On
2. Railway And Gun
3. It's Happened Before, It'll Happen Again
4. If The Day Was Any Longer
5. Morning Sun
6. Eat My Words [Side 2]
7. On The Boards
8. If I Don't Sing I'll Cry
9. See Here
10. I'll Remember
Tracks 1 to 10 are their 2nd and last studio album "On The Boards" – released January 1970 in the UK on Polydor 583 083 and in the USA on Atco SD 33-322. It charted in the UK rising to No. 18.

BONUS TRACKS (All Previously Unreleased):
11. Railway And Gun (Take 2 – Off The Boards Mix)
12. See Here (Take 1 – Alternate Version)
13. It's Happened Before, It'll Happen Again (Take 2 – Beat Club TV Audio)
14. If The Day Was Any Longer (Beat Club TV Audio)
15. Morning Sun (Beat Club TV Audio)
16. It's Happened Before, It'll Happen Again (Beat Club TV Audio)

Disc 3 – "Live In Konserthuset" - 77:45 minutes (all Previously Unreleased):
1. What's Going On
2. Sugar Mama
3. Gamblin' Blues
4. Sinner Boy
5. At The Bottom
6. She's Nineteen Years Old
7. Morning Sun
8. Catfish
Tracks 1 to 8 recorded Live in Konserthuset, Stockholm, Sweden, 1970

"BBC Live In Concert"
9. I'll Remember
10. Railway And Gun
11. Sugar Mama
12. Eat My Words
13. Catfish
Tracks 9 to 13 are an "Off Air" Recording of TASTE Live at The Paris Theatre in London, 1970.

Disc 4 - "The Belfast (Early) Sessions" - 56:12 minutes (Previously Unreleased on CD):
1. Wee Wee Baby
2. How Many More Years
3. Take It Easy Baby
4. Pardon Me Mister
5. You've Got To Pay
6. Norman Invasion
7. Worried Man
8. Blister On The Moon - April 1968 UK debut 7" single on Major Minor Records MM 560, A
9. Born On The Wrong Side Of Time - B-side of 8, both are different mixes to the versions on the debut LP (which were re-recorded)

"Live At Woburn Abbey" (Woburn Abbey Festival, UK, 1968)
10. Summertime
11. Blister On The Moon
12. I Got My Brand On You
13. Medley: Rock Me Baby/Bye Bye Bird/Baby Please Don’t Go/You Shook Me Baby

TASTE (or The Taste as they were originally called) was Rory Gallagher on Lead Guitar and Vocals, Richard McCracken on Bass and John Wilson on Drums.

"I'll Remember" comes in one those 8" CD Book Packs with an attached 40-page booklet. Produced by Donal and Daniel Gallagher (his family) alongside Joe Black – the superbly detailed sleeve notes are by NIGEL WILLIAMSON and go into Rory’s early days in Belfast at The Maritime Club (Taste took over residency from Van Morrison's Them) on to their first reference on a London billboard (August 1967 as a support act to Robert Hirst at The Marquee) and even meeting John Peel in a transport café (he remained a huge fan of Gallagher for years). Pages 28 to 29 are festooned with photographs I’ve never seen before of the young band in Cork, on their way to a date Scotland, tours with Traffic, sharing the Bill with Roger Chapman’s Family at the Camden Roundhouse and so on. There’s even a very old newspaper clipping of a happy Rory amidst a bunch of Cork hopefuls on a 'Spot The Talent' show smiling beneath a Mrs. Mary Carey-O'Mahony who had to be 75 if not a day! It's properly great stuff and affectionate too...the only error I can see is that a Danish titled picture sleeve of "Born On The Wrong Side Of Time" is credited as a UK release when it never had a picture sleeve in this country.

Eagle-eyed fans will know that the first Taste 45 was "Blister On The Moon" b/w "Born On The Wrong Side Of Time" on Major Minor Records MM 560 in April 1968 (long before they had an album) – and both cuts were different mixes to the re-recorded versions that turned up on the debut LP in 1969. Although it doesn’t state it directly on the packaging (it is mentioned in the excellent booklet) - they are here on Disc 4, Tracks 8 and 9 as part of ‘The Belfast Sessions’. That whole recording was issued in the UK as a Rory Gallagher LP called "In The Beginning" on Emerald Records GES 1100 in 1974 (it was later subject to successful prosecution). The only officially released British Polydor single came when the label put out the newly recorded LP cut of "Born On The Wrong Side Of Time" b/w "Same Old Story" as a first 7" single on Polydor 56313 in March 1969. But in that strange way that Polydor didn't support the first Stone The Crows LP with a 45 when they should have done – Polydor didn't bother to plug the 2nd Taste LP "On The Boards" with a single either although "What's Going On" was an obvious choice. In fact that track flipped with "Railway And Gun" and "If I Don't Sing, I'll Cry" b/w "I'll Remember" were both released as 7" singles in many European countries (a set of those picture sleeves adorns the last page of the attached booklet).

Produced by Tony Colton - the debut LP opens with a belter - "Blister On The Moon" - and immediately I'm hit with the quality remaster – the bass and drums so clear. We now get the first of the album's four cover versions – Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter's "Leavin' Blues" which sounds incredible – that strangely sparse slide sound he’s getting. The other three covers are a grungy (and hissy) "Sugar Mama" by Howlin' Wolf, his amazing cut of Robert Petway's 1941 Bluebird Records stalwart "Catfish" and a Countrified shuffle through Hank Snow's "I'm Moving On” (the rest are Gallagher compositions). His acoustic-only "Hail" sounds incredible while it's easy to hear why the re-recording of "Born On The Wrong Side Of Time" was an obvious single. “Dual Carriageway Pain” was badly recorded in my opinion and still sounds strangely tame - as if the song just needed to let rip somehow to infuse it with some genuine excitement. The same unfortunately applies to "Same Old Story" – a good tune hampered by a weedy recording. But then we get a true monster and surely why Hendrix was so impressed by Gallagher - his cover of "Catfish". Hendrix recorded "Catfish" himself in a similar 8-minute Bluesy vein (It was finally released as "Catfish Blues" on the superb "Blues" CD from 1994). It's as if Gallagher knew that something needed to be done – so he cranks the amps up to 90 and does an 8-minute Blues Rock thrashing of "Catfish". With heavy riffs like he's auditioning for Led Zeppelin - you can hear the amps rumbling in the background – his playing inspired because the structure of the song allows him to let go. It's a standout on an otherwise strangely tame debut LP...

The 2nd album "On The Boards" is an entirely different beast to the first – so much more sophisticated and filled with far better songs (all Rory originals). Again produced by Tony Colton but Engineered by Eddie Offord (late of Yes fame) – the audio is brilliant and the remaster absolutely brings that to life. "What's Going On" has always made me throw undignified shapes around my living room with a tennis racket (still does) – but little prepared me for the stunning audio on Bluesy "Railway And Gun" and the jazzy "It's Happened Before, It'll Happen Again" (Rory gives the Alto Saxophone a rare outing on this one). The Fleetwood Mac "Then Play On" boogie of "Morning Sun" is wicked too. The Johnny Winter style cool slide of "Eat My Words" sounds awesome, as does Rory's clever Harmonica inclusion on "If The Day Was Any Longer" (again with gorgeous Audio).

A six-minute "What's Going On" allows Rory to stretch out and get the crowd going but it’s the fabulous Blues Rock riffage of "Sugar Mama" that gets them clapping and screaming. He does a wicked electric slide version of Melvin Jackson's "Gamblin' Blues" where he sounds like Mike Bloomfield enjoying himself even though " woman eat me out of house and home..." We then get a track that would eventually turn up in studio form on his 1971 debut solo LP – "Sinner Boy". He slows it down with a 'new one' called "At The Bottom" which features his Harmonica playing (he would eventually record it for 1975's "Against The Grain"). Next up is a very cool version of Muddy Waters' "She's Nineteen Years Old" which has the crowd clapping to its salacious Blues beat – a great inclusion. It's followed by a forgotten nugget from "On The Boards" – a huge rocking version of "Morning Sun" fully brought to life in the live environment where Taste suddenly sound like a four-piece band and not just a trio. And it ends on the crowd-pleaser Blues-Rock of "Catfish" sounding every bit as powerful as the debut LP version – hair-raising note bending and all that. This is Heavy Hard Rock and I love it...

After the high of the Swedish recording – the BBC tracks come as a truly dreadful disappointment – they’re no better than a bad bootleg recording and even though "Eat My Words" is electrifying in all its slide-guitar glory – the audio makes it virtually unlistenable. Disc 4 offers some solace in 1967 demos of Big Joe Turner's "Wee Wee Baby", Howlin' Wolf's "How Many More Years" and a wicked Bluesy version of Sonny Boy Williamson's "Take It Easy Baby" which stretches to 7:13 minutes. The bad news is that those three-or-four-second tape drop-outs on "How Many More Years", "Pardon Me Mister", "You've Got To Pay", "Norman Invasion" (a three-minute instrumental) and "Worried Man" are still there making the listen a curio rather than a genuine pleasure. The Major Minor single versions of "Blister On The Moon" and "Born On The Wrong Side Of Time" in Mono sound strictly amateur-hour compared to their 1969 Polydor re-recordings and the Woburn Abbey gig is good rather than great. All in all – there's too much of Disc 3 and 4 that's dismissible. So there you have it – a very mixed bag - but I have to say that I’m lapping up the remasters of the studio albums and their alternate versions.

Once asked what’s it like to be seen as the greatest guitar player in the world – Jimi Hendrix reputedly replied, "I don't know. You should ask Rory Gallagher..." And at least parts of this "I'll Remember" 4CD release hammer home why the mighty Jimi was such an admirer...

No comments: