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Old 12-04-2021, 06:12 PM   #11 (permalink)
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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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Old 01-14-2022, 06:24 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Still Got the Blues (1990)

Although I personally saw this as something of a disappointment after albums like Corridors of Power, Victims of the Future and Run for Cover, there's no denying that it represented a serious shift in Gary's musical direction and focus, as he went back to the tried and trusted blues standards he had grown up with, learned and practiced, and which to some extent characterised his first two albums. For this, his first “real” blues album, Gary invited some blues legends to play and write with him, and it's an album on which he writes the least amount of the tracks, only five out of a total of twelve; the rest are all covers. This may be why at first the album did not appeal to me.

The title could, I guess mean two things, the first obvious, as in a declaration of feeling down, miserable, well, blue. The other meaning though I think may be talking to fans of his from the early days, who may have been somewhat underwhelmed by what they might have seen as his later move towards more poppy/rock material and away from the music he grew up on. This, then, perhaps reassures them that Gary is very much still a bluesman, and has not by any means forgotten where he came from.

It opens with one of his own, a short fast rocker called “Moving On”, itself perhaps a declaration of his future intentions with regard to his musical influences. Even the guitar work on this is more blues than rock, and the album involves more brass than before, with trumpets and sax, as well as strings. This however is a stripped-down rocker, then “Oh Pretty Woman” is a storming version of A.C. Williams' classic (not the Roy Orbison song of the same name), with a boogie, creeping bass and some really nice upscale guitar from guest legend Albert King, trumpets adding a real Chicago blues feel to the song. Gary's old mate Brian Downey is back hitting the skins, and Don Airey is at the keys, while longtime bandmate Bob Daisley keeps the bassline tight.

Jimmy Rodgers' “Walking By Myself” is big, bold and brassy, with stop-start guitar and a great strut with some fine harmonica from Frank Mead, then it's one of Gary's own, a future classic as the title track moves into view. Six minutes plus of pure laidback, angst-ridden, gut-wrenching blues ballad, it really is "Parisienne Walkways" for the nineties, and it stands very firmly alongside the standards here, and should last the test of time, being required reading for new blues guitarists in years to come. Beautifully understated keyboards from Airey mesh gracefully with a stunning string section, given the whole thing a lush, grandiose feel. Some bluesy piano from Nicky Hopkins also flows through the song, and it really is one of Gary's best. It fades out on a two-minute electric guitar solo (electric in every sense of the word!) from Gary.

“Texas Strut”, another Moore original, starts off as a blues ballad but on a shouted “One, two, three, four!” from Gary it kicks into life and becomes a fast rocker, kind of similar in ways to Lizzy's “Leave This Town” off Renegade, just in places. Downey is in his element on the drumstool, and the whole band seem to be thoroughly enjoying themselves as Gary Moore gets back to what Gary Moore does best, the sense of exuberance and joy running through this album almost palpable. Johnny “Guitar” Watson's “Too Tired” is next given the Moore treatment, as another legend, Albert Collins lends a hand to the standard, then the trumpets are back to herald another Gary original, “King of the Blues”, with some stirring organ from Don Airey and great trumpeting from Raoul d'Olivera.

The other standout is also a blues ballad, though not one of his own. It's Deadric Malone's timeless “As the Years Go Passing By”, with some really mournful trumpet and sax and some truly inspiring piano work from Hopkins. It's actually the longest track on the album, almost eight minutes long. “Midnight Blues” creeps along on blues/rock feet through dark alleys, with a great bassline from Daisley leading the song, the last written by Gary on the album. George Harrison then puts in a guest appearance on a cover of his own song “That Kind of Woman”, with some jazzy trumpet and a fun uptempo beat, then Otis Rush's “All Your Love'” keeps things rocking before the album wraps up with one of Gary's idols, Peter Green, and his “Stop Messin' Around.”

Like I say, maybe it's because I had expected to hear original Gary Moore songs that I didn't really like this album, or that the likes of the ones that had come before it had ill-prepared me for an album of blues songs and covers. Even now, it's still not my favourite, even though I now have a slightly better appreciation of the blues. Nevertheless, it would mark a shift in how Gary played his music, right up to 1997's Dark Days in Paradise, and then two albums later in 2001 Gary would go right back to the blues, and never change that format until his death. Still Got the Blues was a glimpse into Gary Moore's future, and what he would do with forthcoming albums.

TRACK LISTING

1. Moving On
2. Oh Pretty Woman
3. Walking By Myself
4. Still Got the Blues
5. Texas Strut
6. Too Tired
7. King of the Blues
8. As the Years Go Passing By
9. Midnight Blues
10. That Kind of Woman
11. All Your Love
12. Stop Messin' Around

Rating: 7.8/10
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Last edited by Trollheart; 01-14-2022 at 06:29 AM.
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Old 01-21-2022, 10:46 AM   #13 (permalink)
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Parisian Walk by Gary is my favorite song of his.
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