I’ll Remember (4 CD Box-Set)
Re-Appraisal of Legendary Blues-Rock Band
As a teenager Rory Gallagher was my first ‘grown up’ musical hero; with Blueprint being one of the first LPs I bought and subsequently Live in Europe still one of my favourite ever albums.
My elder brother Melvyn was already a fan and owned Taste and On The Boards; which I went on to savour with relish.
Rory eventually went on to great success as a solo act and in recent years has been lauded by a new generation of guitarists as the reason they took up the guitar in the first place.
But 45 years after the eponymous Taste album was released, how does this music stand up today?
Well; dear reader, in my humble opinion The Taste have aged rather gracefully compared to many of their peers (when was the last time you listened to Cream or Deep Purple?).
The four albums here represent four completely different stages in the bands career; and when listened to in chronological order (which I did twice) you can hear the progression quite clearly from the ‘Early Sessions’ in 1967 through to the live tracks in 1970.
Disc 4 – The Early Years, is something of an artefact; three teenagers going through a series of standard Chicago Blues tunes in the studio and only hinting at the fire and brimstone that they would breath into the same songs on stage. Of these seven songs; the harmonica laden Take It Easy Baby, is the one track that you can hear the quality that we would grow to love, ooze out in every note.
The next two tracks were new to me; the demo versions of Blister on the Moon and Born on the Wrong Side of Time; which would be released as a single on the Major Minor label. For research purposes I played them side by side with the later album versions; and although a bit ‘thin’ in parts; there’s not an awful lot to choose between the two recordings; proving that Rory’s talent was there from day one.
The last four tracks on this disc were recorded live at Woburn Abbey Festival in 1968; a year before their debut album would be released. Okay the sound quality may not be ‘Dolby perfect’ but you certainly get a sense of how exciting they must have been; especially the frantic version of Blister on the Moon.
Now we jump to Disc One; the debut album Taste, itself. I can still remember the feeling of disbelief when I first heard that opening track Blister on the Moon. A lot more polished; as you’d expect from the live version at Woburn; and if you had to bottle excitement; it would be a lot like this song.
If I closed my eyes I think I could still name the majority of songs here – Sugar Mama, Hail, Wrong Side of Time, Dual Carriageway Pain and the epic Catfish are here in all their glory; and I found myself headbanging to them all as I drove around Scotland in the rain. The six ‘alternate’ versions ; and make for interesting listening, including instrumental versions of Same Old Story and Dual Carriageway Pain and a slower, rawer Catfish.
By 1970, The Taste had toured virtually none stop; including supporting Blind Faith in the USA, where Rory famously ‘discovered Jazz’ and the outcome is evident throughout On The Boards, which is probably my second favourite Rory album.
Unlike today when bands issue all kinds of stuff before albums are released, in the olden days if you lived where I did, you couldn’t even listen to an album in the shop; you had to wait until you got home before you had your mind blown by first track What’s Going On? Already you can hear how the Maestro’s guitar playing had progressed and was now a lot more fluid. Even listening in 2016 I couldn’t stop smiling when I heard It’s Happened Before. The guitar parts are brilliant; alongside the now Jazzy influenced Gallagher on Alto-Sax and the bass and drums of John Wilson and Richard McCracken; without whom Taste wouldn’t have been half as good.
Again, the album has stood the test of time with songs like Morning Sun and If I Don’t Sing; I’ll Cry remaining unsurpassed in the 21st Century.
Of the six bonus tracks, the first It’s Happened Before gets off to a stumbling start on a Beat Club TV recording and then goes on to outstay its welcome at 11 minutes long. A second version comes in at a measly 9.46 minutes and while featuring some sublime guitar work; still feels a bit too long; but that’s how it was in those days. If The Day Was Any Longer, from the same recording, on the other hand has Rory’s voice sounding uncannily like Paul McCartney.
Then we have Disc 3; which features a blistering concert recorded in Stockholm, Sweden and 5 songs from a BBC recording with John Peel, both in 1970.
The Swedish concert opens with 110mph version of What’s Going On? And we then go on a Rock n Roll Rollercoaster ride for 45 solid minutes; leaving me out of breath and perspiring; never mind the band.
I’m a fan; not a historian so two tracks here particularly caught my attention; a ‘new song’ At The Bottom, which later turned up on Rory’s Against The Grain album many years later in 1975; and a ‘thrilling bottleneck showcase’ on a Muddy Waters song, She’s 19 Years Old; which I’ve never heard from anyone before.
This disc closes with the BBC recording from The Paris Theatre and the combination of Rory Gallagher and Taste couple with John Peel’s laconic introductions had my stomach in knots; taking me back to a freezing cold bedroom in a colliery house in NW Durham, where I would listen to albums and radio broadcasts just like this when I was meant to be doing my homework.
Alongside the four discs is a booklet telling the history of the bands and some of the songs themselves plus some amazing archive photos and gig posters.
I’m a Rory Gallagher fan; so will cherish this set; but if you are vaguely interested in Blues Rock, I heartily suggest you investigate Taste in general and this box-set in particular.
Released Autumn 2015