Irish Tour 1974
A film by Tony Palmer.
I was asked by BMG records to review the long
awaited IT ’74 DVD. The film has been released on DVD and on VHS in PAL
format. BMG expects a North American release in the next couple of
months. Many thanks to BMG for providing a copy to review!!
The sound has been remixed using tapes from the mobile studio recordings at the venues and is EXCELLENT.
I suggest watching the DVD as normal the first time through. The DVD then offers a very enjoyable addition that isn't available on the VHS version. If you turn on 'Commentary" you will hear Donal Gallagher and Gerry McAvoy offering a running commentary as the video plays. They offer stories, observations, information and a good bit of humor. I found it thoroughly enjoyable and informative.
The DVD also includes an discography and an
article from New Musical Express from June 1974.
There is also a short piece of amateur film from Japan. This piece is lower quality than the rest of the film.
The songs included are:
Craig Stamm's Review of the DVD
Well, where do I start! Irish Tour '74 can be reviewed on many different levels. You can review it as a documentary type of film, as an update to from the old video many of us had, as a DVD, and in many other ways. I will probably be jumping back and forth, so bear with me. I am not a
professional movie reviewer; don't try this at home:).
What I did I (we) have? Well, it wasn't a great copy, but I
bought a video of IT74 from a major Rory "booter" a year ago. The
video was grainy, the sound pretty decent (without breaks), and there was
the major irritant of a counter running CONSTANTLY at the bottom of the
screen and rather large white subtitles in German. Although the DVD
has it's faults, it is a vast improvement on what I (we) had and is much
more accessible to the non-hardcore, or the starting Rory enthusiast.
Sure, in the DVD transfer there are occasional minor film streaks and "age
spots", irritating breaks in the sound (that didn't happen on my poorer
video), and the fact that
interview levels are far too low (as opposed to my video), BUT W. Rory Gallagher in all his GLORY kicks these problems for the better part aside. Sometimes the performer is able to rise above the medium, and that is my perception here. Rory kicks ass, and the back scene shots and commentary tell a lot (notice the "3rd world dressing rooms" for instance). This film, with "Isle of Wight" and the "Live at Cork" from video disk, form a triumvirate of three high quality films. Of course there are other great videos and great camera work and direction such as the superb Rockpalast broadcasts and Montreux, but in terms of celluloid media clarity, these three are a sort of "Holy Trinity". We are truly lucky that the Irish Tour film exists in any form at all! I understand that this is a print, and the original film was destroyed by a fire.
When I first saw the film on my old video, I was disappointed that the film started at a point well past the lyrics in "Hot Coals" and into the improv. However, in retrospect, that is a fitting start--the waves at the Old Head in Kinsale (there is a golf course there that you should check out on the Web, Randy) pounding the rocks like Rory pounding out the rhythm section to "Hot Coals" in front of a highly enthusiastic homecrowd. In fact, in the commentary, Donal and Gerry point out that cameraman Les Young was nearly swept out to sea in trying to get those dramatic shots. It is obvious that a lot of editing had to be done in making the film, since it appears that Les was the only cameraman! Check out the editing mistake in the "Going to My Hometown section" for instance. It makes me wonder what was left on the cutting room floor! Is the extra footage gone as well, or lost in a locker somewhere? Wouldn't this be the additional footage that we'd love to see? We have to remember the early state this was in the recording of rock concerts, and how things have changed. However, I must say that most scenes in this film segue fairly seamlessly together, and I am very pleased with the direction overall by Tony Palmer. For example, Rory will be talking about slide playing on various guitars and wham, you see it demonstrated right afterward on "Who's that Comin'" onstage. Notice that he is not in denim playing this song! Also note the smooth transitional segment of Rory showing the guitar styles that ends with him on his National guitar backstage and picks up with him onstage playing it on "As the Crow Flies".
This is a historical film from an important time both in Ireland
(with "The Troubles") and for Rory in his career. Seeing Rory start
to make that backstage-to-onstage transformation (wringing his hands) makes
me feel tense myself to watch. Rory comes across strong, young, and
driving, in the film--urging his band on, and making signals to a unit
that by this time was
on a plane of their own. The energy here is tremendous and the driving homecrowd champion that energy away (a chip off the old block in "power generation"). Rory is shown sweat and all (I understand he disdained make-up), with no pretense to be a pretty boy. "A Million Miles Away" is done so somber ("photo noir"), and with such nice retrospect in looking at the scenery in Cork, the harbor, and what Rory might be thinking about. I love seeing that backstage jam from which Donal took a different version of "Who's that Comin'" for the remaster of the IT74 CD. The jewel for me comes at the start of the jam, when Lou puts his classical training to work. He starts into Mozart's "Rondo alla Turca" and he and Rory try to adapt it to Rock and Roll--real fun stuff!! The ending with "Bullfrog Blues" brings the house down and ends the film in a way that is traditional to a Rory show. Thus, the film is a good piece of work, and even with our modern wizardry of today, it stands the test of time and shows the times at hand.
The DVD has a beautiful picture of Rory on the outside cover.
An excellent picture of Rory playing the cream Tele, harmonica draped around
his neck, has been superimposed on a wavy shoreline in grey tones that
grab the heart. The single-page double-sided booklet inside
has the general film info (director, camera, lights, etc...) with Donal
being added as Executive
Producer. This info is printed small, in a portion of the original picture of Rory playing that makes up part of the composite on the outside cover of the DVD. The inside has an original review of the movie by Steve Clarke of New Musical Express. The review is nice and shows some aspects of Rory, but it spends too much time concentrating on the events surrounding the premier of the movie and not much time on the movie itself (IMHO). The DVD offers the following choices: Programme, Chapter Search, Discography, Extra Footage, Commentary, and Audio Options. Programme is to play the basic movie. Chapter Search contains 17 chapters: Walk on Hot Coals, Backstage, Tattoo'd Lady, Bottleneck, Who's That Comin', Cork, A Million Miles Away, Belfast/Going to My Hometown, Rambling Around the Street, Cradle Rock, Jam,
Guitar Styles, As the Crow Flies, Hands Up (Off), Leaving the Stage, Bullfrog Blues, and End Credits. Discography show covers of the new re-releases--what is currently commercially available on CD. Extra Footage is a short bit of home movies from the Japan leg of the 74 tour. Commentary is the impromptu dialog of Gerry McAvoy and Donal Gallagher against the
downmixed sound and pictures of the movie (you never see Gerry or Donal). Audio Options let you chose between stereo or surround sound. One thing that disappointed me was the lack of Captioning. I think this would be of big help on the whole DVD. For example, the foreign fan who has enough problems with English, let alone low sound levels and Celtic accents, would
be better served to have captioning (especially, since on many DVDs, you can even change the language of the captioning). When I had the volume up loud enough to hear the backstage portions, the live segments would come on and blast you out. Captioning would help out those of us that are hard of hearing (uh, me), and give us the intimate lyrics to those great Rory songs.
The revealing information of the Commentary section was a
hit to me. This is for the hardcore and does add background and color.
For one thing it gives more insight into Gerry and Donal by being done
in an improv, "off the cuff" fashion. You could not get this with
a script! Their personalities come through over the course of 83
minutes of dialog against the running
film. It was probably a little harder for Gerry, in that you could tell that Donal had most likely seen the film recently. There are a lot of stories there--such as: how Rory's cream Tele ended up being painted green, who was the jokester and loosest person in the band, the massive weight of
Rod's drumsticks, info on the soup'd up Ford, thoughts on the tapers at concerts (and cutting their cords), and much more... Something caught my eye during the playback of one scene. In fact, at one point I did a "Hands Off" and put 1 and 2 together and got 3 (excuse me Rory). That point came in the commentary of a section called "Leaving the Stage", when backstage we
see Rory and a crowd people, and several people were being pointed out by Donal or Gerry. Donal says, "Gaa.. There's Mickey Connolly, Tim's partner and righthand man, ..he's a Lublick man". And then, young lady comes up to congratulate Rory and she is introduced simply in the commentary as "(pause)...Gabrielle" (said in such a soft loving way, I think by Gerry). You can clearly see that Rory is moved, and he keeps staring back her way (3 times) after she is gone (back-stagestruck?). Perhaps I am reading too much into this, but I have heard of a Gabrielle... Anyway, I found the commentary quite interesting, but in testing it on a young man (my 13
year-old son) interested in Rory's music--it did not work for him (he just wanted to see and hear Rory). The Chapter Search is nice in that it takes you right to what you might want to see and hear. There is no camera angle change option on the DVD (I guess it is dumb of me to even mention that).
The Extra Footage of low quality home movies by Donal from the Japan leg of '74 was very brief and a bit of a waste of time and effort. I would have much more enjoyed still pictures of Rory from the family album, other commercial shots, or lesser known but better quality footage. Of course the Audio Options are straight forward, but I would have opted for better sound (I know that Donal said in Stagestruck that he was disappointed with the sound, and probably still is). I guess you can't just take the sound from the remastered IT'74 CD and graft it on to the video, but that would have certainly brought it up to DVD quality.
Anyway, these are my thoughts, and I must say that I enjoy having
this DVD. Perhaps in the future, there will come remastered copies
of IT'74 where the film is restored by digital remastering and the sound
is straightened out (get busy fans, LOL). I know that restorations
can become very costly and as with classic movies here in the States, private
contributors often have
to help out (we are losing so much that is on celluloid!). King Crimson often does remastering upgrades with classic albums, but they do it AS the technology changes (there is no ultimate remaster I guess). Given what I had before, and with the added revealing commentary (only on the DVD), this is a must have DVD for any Rory admirer and for the initiation of the young
fan. I must say, that as I was exiting the shower the other day and heard my son (who I have tried on numerous occasions to turn on to Rory) recording "Who's That Comin", I knew that the film had made an effect where all my trying didn't. This is the video generation, I guess (sigh). And, I remember cuddling up to my AM radio listening (especially to westcoast baseball games) when my parents thought I was asleep....
Best wishes to All,
Back to Main RoryON!!