slightly uneven in recording quality, the 14 tracks feature intriguing
collaborations including recently departed Skiffle king Lonnie Donegan,
Juan Martin, Bela Fleck, Martin Carthy, Bert Jansch, and the Dubliners.
The disk also features tracks from the 1994 Montreaux Jazz Festival
where a surprised Gallagher encountered Bela Fleck onstage, banjo in
hand, in place of the expected Bob Dylan, and a 10-minute spontaneous
jam followed. With accompaniment from harmonica virtuoso and Gallagher
sideman. Mark Feltham, the guitarist leads with an introduction to Amazing
Grace and segues into a stomping Walkin' Blues and Blue
Moon of Kentucky.
Another standout track is the instrumental Flight to Paradise where Gallagher trades Flamenco-style licks with guitarist Juan Martin. Ironically the title track of the album, Wheels Within Wheels, is a tender wistful melody Gallagher wrote and fully recorded early in his career but later abandoned. "To me it was such a beautiful song," says Donal Gallagher. "It was a turning point in Rory's life. In a spiritual sense, he probably knew of his own destiny: about [eventually] fading away."
The new album has been met with glowing reviews and a measure of radio play. The initial catalyst for Gallagher's revival was a re-mastering and re-issuing of his entire music catalog on CDs. A fiercely loyal and vocal fan base fueled it and ensured that his music, heavily bootlegged during his career, appeared on the airwaves, in music magazines, and on the Internet. In recent years the guitarist's music has also spawned quality European cover and tribute bands, who along with former Gallagher bandmates, introduce the music to new fans regularly at shows and festivals.
Shortly after its release, Radio Scotland broadcaster Tom Morton spotlighted Wheels Within Wheels as his "album of the week" on his show. "I can safely say that the reaction to the Gallagher material we have played has far outweighed that to anything else featured on the show," he says. Mr. Morton explains the revived interest in artists such as Gallagher. "There are loads of mid-40s people --male mostly -- with income to dispose on revisiting the passions of youth," he says. Another ingredient is "the return to 'roots' rock values among comparative youngsters, many of them heavily influenced by their parents' record collections.
"And no one should underestimate how important first Taste and then Gallagher solo were to a generation discovering rock," Morton says. "He was not just a guitar hero, but a terrific and hugely underestimated songwriter. All of this packaged in the most deliberately down-home, accessible, unassuming, 'real' person of the man himself." Since his passing in 1995, a street has been renamed in his honor near a music club in Paris, France, and a square at a plaza carries his name in his hometown of Cork, Ireland, and the Irish Post included Gallagher in a series of stamps featuring Irish rock icons.
Donal Gallagher continues to sift through his brother's studio tapes for future releases or even concerts on DVD. Until then though, Gallagher's fans have in this collection another reminder of the music hero's enduring image at fiery performances......his gracious acknowledgment of audience applause after a song with trademark modesty: "Thank you. Thank you very much indeed. Thanks a million."
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