“Photo-Finish” was Rory Gallagher’s ninth studio album (if you count the two he made with his previous band Taste) and out of the trio this one is my favorite – perhaps because it has such a ‘live’ feel about it or maybe because so many songs on this album became stage favorites.
There was a two year gap before this album was released after “Calling Card” came out in 1976. An album had been recorded under the title of “Torch”, but the results were so dissatisfying that it was shelved (the album sounded great to these ears when it was posthumously released in 2011 as “Notes from San Francisco”.)
Gallagher decided to change directions after “Torch” and while he retained long time bass player Gerry McAvoy, he dispensed with the services of keyboardist Lou Martin and drummer Rod de’Ath, bringing in Scotland’s favorite percussionist Ted McKenna (ex-Sensational Alex Harvey Band), tightening up the sound and reverting to a power trio format.
The three musicians encamped in a studio just outside Cologne, Germany and set to work, with a very close record company deadline hanging over their heads, hence the album title.
The results were stunning, just straight ahead Rock & Roll and the opener “Shin Kicker” gives you an early taste of Gallagher at his best in this stripped back format. Joe Bonamassa calls this his favorite Rory Gallagher song and often plays it in his live set.
There follows a lesson in Rock music as one classic leads into another. “Cruise On Out” is a pure rocker while “Cloak and Dagger” touches on Rory’s love of spy mystery stories whilst giving plenty of room for some guitar pyrotechnics. “Overnight Bag” chronicles the life of a travelling musician and “Shadow Play”, with its infectious beat is a great stage number often drawn out to over ten minutes in the live arena.
Perhaps the center piece of the album is “The Last of the Independents”, the story of a bank robber who has served his time, but still knows where all the loot is buried. The final song “Fuel to the Fire” is a smoldering number where Gallagher begs the indulgence of his two band members to take long solos.
Although this is a Rory Gallagher album, the playing of both Gerry McAvoy and Ted McKenna should be also held in the highest esteem.
If you buy the CD today there are a couple of bonus tracks tacked onto the end. Both are rather throwaway.
Album Rating: 5 Stars
Brute Force and Ignorance
Cruise On Out
Cloak and Dagger
The Last Of The Independents
Fuel To The Fire
Rory Gallagher Band:
Rory Gallagher- vocals, guitar and harmonica
Gerry McAvoy- bass guitar
Ted McKenna- drums