Taste To Reform

Rory Gallagher's old band members to release two new albums

One of Ireland’s most fondly remembered rock/blues bands Taste, founded by the legendary guitar icon Rory Gallagher, are making a sensational comeback to mark the 40th anniversary of the release of their first studio album.

The 2009 Taste line-up are also touring Northern Ireland in mid-June and releasing two brand new albums, one of them a tribute to the music of their late friend and colleague, Gallagher, who died 14 years ago.

The driving force behind the revival is County Down-based drummer John Wilson who, along with Omagh-born bass player Charlie McCracken, helped Gallagher shape the ground-breaking albums Taste and On the Boards in 1969.

Wilson is also launching a new record label, Harlan Wolf, designed to promote blues bands and musicians in Ireland. The new Taste frontman is the multi-talented Belfast singer-guitarist Sam
Davidson, a popular figure on the music scene in Northern Ireland for years.

'It is a hard ticket being the guitarist in Taste, but Sam is a magnificent musician with his own distinctive style,' comments Wilson. 'He doesn’t try to copy Rory. He is very much his own man.'

McCracken, who now lives in London, will play with Taste regularly but for the forthcoming Irish gigs his shoes will be ably filled by Nicky Scott, one of Ireland’s most respected bass guitarists, who has played with Van Morrison's band.

Wilson, McCracken and Davidson revived Taste on a part-time basis several years ago but such was the response to their concerts that the band have now decided to go full-time. 'It is quite amazing just how many people remember Taste with affection, especially in Europe,' continues Wilson. 'Obviously there is a strong connection with Rory Gallagher whose fans currently run no fewer than 50 fan sites for him.

'But while many musicians play Rory’s later material from the era after our band split up, we play the old Taste songs because they are our songs too. Charlie and I were integral members of the band and made a significant contribution to the music. It is still a great thrill for us to play the old Taste songs.'

The part-time Taste played gigs all over the world. 'We were in Russia one week, America the next. And the reason why we have decided to go full-time is because of the pressure from fans telling us they want to see us.'

One of the albums which Taste are releasing is called John Wilson’s Taste of Rory, his own heartfelt tribute to Gallagher, the band and their music. Eight of Taste’s classic tracks, including 'Blister on the Moon' and 'Same Old Story', are re-worked by the new line-up on the album.

In the band’s second release, Wall to Wall, Taste have recorded ten new blues and rock songs written by Wilson and Davidson, who have signed a major distribution deal with a French record label, Bad Reputation.

'They’re powerful songs which reflect the energy and drive of the old Taste but they have a very distinct and fresh sound too,' admits the 61-year old Wilson, who has the unique distinction of having played alongside not only Rory Gallagher but also Van Morrison in his old group, Them.

Wilson and Davidson have also designed a new recording studio in Newtownards to allow up and coming - and established - blues artists to showcase their work. 'The talent out there is quite remarkable,' says Wilson 'Yet the opportunities for them to record their music are limited. We aim to change all that with a dynamic collective behind the new record label which will be a platform for bands like Swanee River and musicians like Lee Hedley and Mike Wilgar.'

The name of the label Harlan Wolf is, of course, a playful amalgam of the names of Northern Ireland’s most famous industrial company Harland and Wolff and the American blues maestro, Howling Wolf.

The Taste tour in Northern Ireland kicks off in Strule arts centre in Omagh on Thursday, June 18. On the following night, Taste play the Black Box in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter and on Sunday, June 21 they will be playing Sandinos in Derry.

Taste will also be touring England and Europe in September, October and November. A DVD of the history of Taste, stretching right back to their formation in Cork, is also planned.