In some ways you can blame Johnny Rotten. Having travelled Stateside to make an ‘’American’’ album as a follow to the excellent Calling Card, Rory Gallagher was disillusioned with what he perceived as the over-complication and overproduction of the project. That feeling was compounded when he took a break from mixing the new record to attend a Sex Pistols’ concert and experienced the rawness and the fury of Johnny and the boys. Out went the new album (and indeed the old group) as Rory returned to power trio mode for his next album, Photo Finish.
The abandoned San Francisco album, meanwhile, became something of a Holy Grail for Rory fans who knew it was out there. Somewhere. Now Rory’s brother, Donal, and his nephew, Daniel, have remixed the original tapes and added an unreleased live album from Rory’s 1979 San Francisco concerts.
The studio half of Notes from San Francisco includes five tracks that would appear on Photo Finish (Fuel To The Fire, Brute Force & Ignorance, Cruise on Out, Mississippi Sheiks, Overnight Bag); one track, B-Girl, that would morph into Public Enemy #1 in time for Top Priority; two tracks that were later included as bonus tracks on the CD re-releases of Calling Card (Rue The Day) and Deuce (Persuasion); the title track of Rory’s posthumously released album, Wheels Within Wheels, plus a cracking blues number, Out on the Tiles.
As fresh (and remixed) as they sound today, you can understand the great man’s misgivings at the time. Even now, the solo guitar on the superb Fuel To The Fire lacks the energy of Rory’s later versions, while the saxophone elements add nothing to Brute Force & Ignorance. These are minor quibbles, however, for what is a tremendous addition to the Rory canon. And that’s not even to mention the accompanying live concert during which Rory, Gerry McAvoy and Ted McKenna deliver a blistering set of Gallagher favourites including Follow Me, Bullfrog Blues, Shadow Play and the album’s outstanding track, Off The Handle. Welcome back, Rory.