A Taste of free form rock and roll

MM follows two top bands to Paris…

THE ROCK revolution somehow missed France.  While neighbors Germany and Scandinavia have followed similar lines to those developing here, the hip French have only recently discovered alternatives to soul and Johnny Halliday.

Regrettable as this delay may be, it has one advantage in that it is now giving them the chance to import packages, the like of which would be seldom put together in Britain.

At the Olympia, at the beginning of a week of what the organizers called “underground music,” Parisiennes heard three young British groups – Manfred Mann’s Chapter Three, Taste and Renaissance – as well as America’s Canned Heat.

Between the blues of Canned Heat with Harvey Mandel and Manfred’s big band jazz, Taste sat comfortably with their mixture of the varying musical forms.


On listening to the three Irishmen, it is obvious that they have done a lot of listening in their time.  And as they have developed through show bands, hesitatingly mentioned by bassist Ritchie McCracken, through to blues, it is also obvious that they are finding an expression through jazz.

I asked songwriter and guitarist, Rory Gallagher, about the jazz influence that shows in their music especially in their current album ‘On The Boards.”

“We listen to jazz but we’re not wrapped up in the jazz thing.  The sax, which we used for the tune on the album, just fitted in to the context of the songs on the album, it just happened.  Obviously the numbers are becoming more complex, but that doesn’t stop me from taking up the bottleneck and taking it back to something very traditional and simple.”

“The principles of On The Boards are a little guiding light to what we will be doing.  We have no intention of changing with any trend, but there are loads of little unanswered musical questions in our heads that we have to answer.”

“We might add other instruments if they come along in a natural way which the sax did, but we won’t add a brass section, for instance, just for the sake of it.  It depends on the songs which we are doing.”

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Gallagher (guitar, alto sax, harmonica, vocals), Ritchie McCracken (bass) and John Wilson (drums) is their ability to improvise on each number they do.
Gallagher will play phrases, which will be answered in turn by Wilson and McCracken, a variation of the interplay that Led Zeppelin’s Page and Plant use a great deal with vocals and guitar.

Drummer John Wilson, after reviving memories of fellow Irishman Van Morrison whom he played with in Belfast in the early days before Van left for the States, enlarge on the group’s improvisation and jazz feelings.

“We don’t play jazz in that sort of accepted way.  We do funny times in that we usually follow whatever Rory does at the time.  Sometimes it’s really free like this afternoon when it was a lot of blowing.


“We usually take it off Rory, taking it at his pace, as they’re mainly his songs that we use “Railway and Gun” for instance, is basically a 12-bar, but sometimes we take different rhythms.”

“Sometimes Rory will just play tonal riffs, sometimes it’s valid and sometimes I suppose it may get lost.  Nothing we do is planned, although there are arrangements that come with the songs as you have to have a strong basis to improvise on.”

Ritchie McCracken, the bassist from Omagh, agreed with John that it is hard to label what the Taste are doing.  They came up with “free form rock and roll.”

“Some nights when you are improvising a lot you take a chance whether it comes off or not.”

“But it’s worth taking chance to get something good.  With just the three of us we can move at three times the pace that bigger outfits can.  If there’s any more you lose things or they won’t be worth doing.  Three is ideal, any more and it clutters it up.”  

From Melody Maker – January 17, 1970
Thanks to Brenda O'Brien for sharing this article and to Eva Ivan for the Rory artwork
reformatted by roryfan

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