Wheels Within Wheels
Released March 1st, 2003
Wheels Within Wheels (WWW) is the title of the new album by the much-missed Irish hero of blues-rock guitar legend. Not only does it represent the realization of a long-held dream of Rory's to release a record of acoustic folk flavours, it also bathes his musical legacy in an elegant new light. The album follows a recent emphatic endorsement of Gallagher's cultural standing, when the Irish Postal Service included him on a set of four music stamps along with U2, Van Morrison and Phil Lynott.
Longtime Rory Gallagher fans always loved the acoustic sets with which he would regularly season his hard-driving blues and rock performances. His untimely death in June 1995 left his ambition to make an album of such material unfulfilled, but not any more. Keenly in tune with his brother's tastes in acoustic music, Donal Gallagher has crafted long at this labour of love, working with material spanning some 25 years of Rory's four-decade career. Wheels Within Wheels is the remarkable result.
The album features contributions and collaborations from Martin Carthy, recently departed skiffle legend Lonnie Donegan, Bela Fleck, Bert Jansch, Ronnie Drew and the Dubliners, acclaimed flamenco player Juan Martin and others. Recording locations include San Francisco, Ghent, Montreux and other spots closer to home, and the results are just as varied, encompassing flamenco, traditional Irish, skiffle and American folk-blues styles.
"Rory made inroads on doing an album like this," says Donal, "But sadly he didn't get a chance to complete something that was a wish for him something he would have done whether it was released or not."
"Every Rory album that was released had at least one acoustic rock track, but it's when you compile the complete collection you see the whole basis, and the power of blues, Irish music, any traditional form I think that's where Rory's head was going. It's a real troubadour set of works. Essentially it didn't set out to be an album with collaborations on it, it really took its own turn that way, as we'd speak to people tracks were uncovered. Obviously as with any album, there are some repair works, but by and large it's mainly as the tracks were intended to be, we haven't added orchestras."
"I wanted to keep a sense of lightness about it, and it shows him as a well-rounded musician. Blues was his mantle, but it came in different forms. He was constantly listening to Martin Carthy, good pals with the Clannad people, he was just checking all types of folk music out. Folk was getting him back to the roots and the true art of playing."
Wheels Within Wheels has even a further distinction, visually speaking. From works found, Rory had been planning to have a painted cover, or even a self portrait. Renowned artist David Oxtoby had previously refused all requests to paint an album cover, but his love and respect for Rory led him to accept this invitation. "I had met David in 1991 when he was selling all his paintings for Nordoff-Robbins," says Donal, "and I happened to mention that Rory and I had two of his Elvis lithographs. He said he was fond of Rory, he'd done a painting of him in 1969 when Rory was with Taste, but never finished it. If he found it, he'd finish it and let me know."
"Ten years later, I got a catalogue in the post from him, he'd completed the Rory painting, but very set in 1969. I contacted him in the hope that he'd do the album cover, but he said he didn't do that sort of thing. He called me the following day, it was a Saturday, and said your brother's a bugger, he woke me up at 2.00 this morning, I stretched my canvasses and I've already started sketching him, bring me some shots. When I looked at what he did, it was eerie and a bit frightening if you like, but it matched the spirituality of the album."