Rory Gallagher – Check Shirt Wizard: Live In ’77 (Chess/UMC)

There’s a perfect imperfection at the heart of this endearing retrospective.

Rory Gallagher never needed to rely on studio gimmickry or multiple takes to make beautiful music.

And the raw and often unforgiving live environment was where this master of his trade excelled.

Gallagher doesn’t hit every note on every song (although he nails the majority) here.

But he does give his best work the space to breathe and some of his most affecting songs the opportunity to grow.

Twenty tunes culled from 1977’s extensive trek across the UK serve as a timely reminder of a truly remarkable talent.

Stops in London, Brighton, Sheffield and Newcastle were captured in all their glory, recorded by the Rolling Stones and Jethro Tull’s mobile studios and mastered at Abbey Road.

But until now this snapshot in time of a colourful career had been archived and never released.

First and foremost Check Shirt Wizard: Live In ’77 stands tall alongside masterworks Live! In Europe and Stage Struck.

It’s that good.

And the decision to draw songs from four shows (rather than release an entire concert) ensures there’s never any slackening of pace or loss of momentum.

If the tour was scheduled to support Calling Card then Gallagher also revisits the very best of 1975’s Against The Grain.

And there are glimpses of the blues rock hero’s formative years as a solo artist.

The Hammersmith Odeon version of Walk On Hot Coals, from 1973’s Blueprint, is Gallagher at his intricate and instinctive best.

Tattoo’d Lady from the same year’s Tattoo, on this occasion culled from the January 1977 Brighton Dome show, is another highlight.

But Calling Card represented another major career progression: closing out this stunning collection with Country Mile, recorded at Newcastle City Hall, proves the point.

It’s no coincidence that Gallagher is beloved of everyone from Slash to Ed Sheeran and Brian May to Bob Geldof.

And you don’t have to look far for myriad examples of his blistering live work.

But Check Shirt Wizard: Live In ’77 is a worthy addition to a catalogue of material that never fails to disappoint.