Rory Gallagher’s sixth and most accomplished studio effort is a perfect blend of his idiosyncratic style and the popular rock sound of the late 1970s. Gallagher moves fluidly between Delta blues, Irish folk, jazz-flavored riffs, and the sort of escapist, spacey hard rock pioneered by the album’s producer, Roger Glover. Glover, best known as the bassist of Deep Purple, succeeds in showcasing Gallagher’s virtuosic talent. The production is clean, but not overly slick, and Gallagher, Gerry McAvoy (bass), Lou Martin (piano) and Rob D’Ath (drums) are as tight as ever.

The album opens with “Do You Read Me,” which became a live standard. Rory’s modest vocal talents are covered up by inventive, crystal clear lead lines, and the uncanny tone of his 1961 Fender Strat takes center stage. “Country Mile” is a hard-driving tune featuring Gallagher’s unique slide style. The third cut, “Moonchild,” is an up-tempo run best suited for a late night road trip, which anticipates the sort of solos that would become commonplace in 1980s rock.

The album’s title track is a self-assured jam with tasteful jazz accents. An example of superior songwriting, “Calling Card” demonstrates how many varied styles can feel perfectly at home on a Rory Gallagher record. Lou Martin has nice moments on piano, and the track comes to a close with appropriate swagger, as Martin and Gallagher trade licks.

The contemplative change-of-pace, “I’ll Admit Your Gone” features understated acoustic slide work, and comes together at its own pace, but the track is not helped by a distinctive pop sensibility. “Secret Agent” sees the album taking a turn back toward hard rock. Glover’s influence is felt most here, as the wailing guitar, powerful organ and heavy cymbals recall classic Deep Purple.

“Jackknife Beat” is a relaxed groove marked by Gallagher’s colorful playing and McAvoy’s bass. “Edged in Blue” can’t decide whether it wants to be a ballad or a barroom favorite, and is the lone throwaway on the disc. The album concludes with “Barley and Grape Rag,” which rocks with confidence and ease. The story goes that the track was cut late at night in the kitchen of the recording studio. There is an informal feel, and Gallagher seems to be having more fun here than anywhere else on the record.

All in all, “Calling Card” remains the best release from a player known for underwhelming studio work and raucous, unapologetic live performances. Originally released by Chrysalis (and distributed in the states by Reprise), the re-mastered CD from Buddha features two additional tacks, “Rue the Day,” and “Public Enemy No. 1.” They are nice inclusions, but don’t offer much to the set.

Highlights:

Do You Read Me, Calling Card, Jackknife Beat, Barley and Grape Rag

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