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Old 12-04-2021, 05:12 PM   #11 (permalink)
Trollheart
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A Different Beat (1999)


I don't know, maybe the impending new millennium shook him up, or maybe he just went a little crazy, but there are few reasons to explain, or excuse, this serious blip in Gary Moore's career. Like a speedbump you suddenly and unexpectedly encounter while tearing along a flat, smooth road you've travelled many times before, A Different Beat was certainly that, different, but not in a good way. At least, not for those who prefer (like, I would think, the vast majority of us) to hear Gary play rock and blues. Hey, if I want to hear dance beats or hip-hop I know who to listen to, but I don't expect to run into it on a Gary Moore record!

That however is exactly what you get with this album. Gary unaccountably decided to start stretching out beyond his rock/blues base and experimenting with dance beats, calling in house/rave producers Jay Hurren and Alex Banks, together known as E-Z Rollers, to mix and produce the album. But these two can't be blamed for the content of the album, as Gary again wrote every track himself. And helped produce the album, and it still turned out as it did! Oh, shame on you, Gary!

It starts out encouragingly and innocently enough, as “Go On Home” opens with the familiar snarling guitar, some house-ish beats behind it, then someone pops up with a rap-like backing vocal (presumably one of the E-Zs?). Roger King and Phil Nicholls are both at the programming board, the former also playing keys, and as an opener this is not the cold-water shock I'd been led to believe this album would hit me with, though behind the hard-edged rock there is a suspiciously dancy beat. Nevertheless, Gary's guitar shines through as ever, commanding and in control, then “Lost in Your Love”, far from being the expected ballad (although this would be a little early in the album to slow things down, true), is another acceptably rock track, but with a funky dancebeat that removes it from the grinding rock we've come to expect from Gary. Sort of more leaning in the direction of pop, but not too bad a song for all that.

Gary tries his hand at keyboards on this album, also bass, and not surprisingly he's very competent on both, though as ever it's on the guitar that he shines, and there's plenty of that here. So far anyway. You would hope that a song titled “Worry No More” might calm any fears about the content of this album, but this seems to be the first time that the emphasis shifts from hard rock towards more dance music, though the guitar is hard and heavy; the drums definitely sound like they're being made electronically, whether they are or not I don't know, but they sound programmed. It's the chorus that saves this song, with its tough, rough, loud guitar chords churning out some great sounds, but when it drops back to the verses there's a definite sense of restraint, of the guitar being pushed to the background.

Still, I'm not traumatised yet. And his reworking of Hendrix's “Fire” is certainly encouraging. The dance rhythm is pushed right to the side as Gary stands front and centre, loud and proud as he racks out the classic, perhaps to the bemusement of the E-Z Rollers... Hendrix lives again? No, it's not that good, but it's damn close, a faithful retreading and a great tribute to one of the guitar gods. Unfortunately, that's about as good as it gets, and things take a decided turn for the worse with “Surrender”.

Slow, lazy, laidback is all very well, and the soul-type melody is quite nice, but the song is overlong at almost ten minutes, and based mostly around keyboards with a slow dance beat, ending up as being quite boring really. It probably wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't so long, but though I've heard and enjoyed Moore songs this long, and longer, before, this one just doesn't cut it for me. There's not enough variety, there's not enough direction, and there's not nearly enough guitar. Oh dear. “House Full of Blues”, despite the title, starts off at least like some sort of new romantic song, like maybe Fiction Factory or the Human League.

Guitar bites a little as it goes, but the song isn't rock enough for me, relies too much on the synth and the muted percussion. “Bring My Baby Back” goes back to stripped-down Memphis blues, with an almost bluegrass feel to it, some nice harmonica in there (made on synth? Perhaps) and some fiddle (ditto) providing a welcome return - if only temporary - to the sort of music we want to hear from this man. Is that a Jews harp I hear? VERY country. Sadly, “Can't Help Myself” goes right back to the left-of-field, with a clangy, almost The The drumbeat and a very restrained vocal from Gary, lots of keyboard and synth fiddling, very little actual guitar, and a dancy beat more suited to the likes of Prince than Gary Moore. Worryingly, the album closer is an extended version remix of this track. I don't like the original, and I'm certainly not looking forward to hearing a longer version!

“Fatboy” doesn't do a lot to help, with semi-rap and dance rhythm, although Gary does get some nice guitar licks in, but they're kind of subsumed by the synthery going on, and it really comes across as more of a sampled track than a proper song. Quite annoying, I have to say. “We Want Love” then is the closest we get to a ballad since “Surrender”, and it's equally unimpressive: dull, lifeless, monotonous, boring. At least it only runs for just short of six minutes this time. The scratching on the track just makes me hate it more.

And so we close with the dreaded “E-Z Rollers Mix” of what was in the first place a mediocre song. I'm torn between whether I would have wanted a new track to close, given the generally disappointing quality of the songs on this album, or just for the album to have stopped at “We Want Love” (or, indeed, “Bring My Baby Back”, which seems a very long time ago now!) At least the track opens with some decent guitar, but it's not long before the synths are at it and the drum machines are fired up, and the expected double-tracked/echo/sampled vocals start being fired off like the opening salvo of a barrage that I feel is sure to destroy any lingering hopes I had that this album might not be as bad as I had been led to believe.

Basically, it just goes on and on, as remixes often do. It certainly doesn't endear itself to me anymore the second time around. And then, at the eight minute mark, for no obvious reason, they throw in another recording of “Surrender”. I mean, why? What is the point? Just lunacy, which in some (unkind) ways describes this album.

I'm reluctant to put down any work by Gary Moore, but we have to be objective, and it's quite clear that this was a failed experiment, an idea he had that did not work out, as evidenced by his return to, and remaining with, the blues and rock of his youth for the remainder of his catalogue. Some things do not mix, and some things should never be put together. You'd never have bananas with burgers, would you? Well, maybe you would, but you'd probably be sick afterwards. Might seem a good idea at the time, but...

There's not an awful lot good I can say about this album. There are a few good tracks on it before the dancebeats kick in, and in the middle there somewhere “Bring my baby back” is welcome respite from what goes on for most of the album, but generally speaking I would have to unequivocally place this as the very worst Gary Moore album ever. Thankfully, he learned his lesson and it was never repeated.

TRACK LISTING

1. Go On Home
2. Lost in Your Love
3. Worry No More
4. Fire
5. Surrender
6. House Full of Blues
7. Bring My Baby Back
8. Can't Help Myself
9. Fatboy
10. We Want Love
11. Can't Help Myself (E-Z Rollers Remix)

Rating: (A very generous) 5.0 (only because I really don't want to rate anything lower than that, unless it is absolute trash)
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