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Trollheart 09-30-2021 01:12 PM

Trollheart's Album Discography Reviews: Gary Moore
 
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This year marks the tenth anniversary of the untimely and tragic death of one of rock's favourite sons, a modern icon and champion of the blues, and one of Ireland's, if not the world's most talented guitarists. Gary Moore died in Estepona in Spain on February 6 2011 of a suspected heart attack. He was only fifty-eight.

During his time, Gary played with Thin Lizzy, being fast friends with founder and frontman Phil Lynott, who was to die in 1986, twenty-five years before Gary himself was taken from us. He also worked alongside some of the greats in the business, the respect and affection he held for figures like Albert Collins, BB King and George Harrison reflected in their participating in recording and/or performing with him. Raised listening to giants of the blues, Gary was hoisted on their shoulders and by the end of his career and too-short life, was proud and competent and respected enough to stand toe-to-toe, alongside his heroes. In the end, Gary leaves a legacy few can boast, and will go down as one of the greatest guitarists and proponents of the blues from certainly the twentieth century, if not of all time.

Robert William Gary Moore was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, but left the north just as the “Troubles”, the conflict that raged across the border for nigh-on thirty years began, moving to Dublin and later to the UK. In Dublin he met a young black singer who was in a band with his mate Brendan “Brush” Sheils called Skid Row, and Gary joined the band as their guitarist, but soon after Phil Lynott left the band, eventually forming Thin Lizzy, whom Gary would later join on an on/off basis. Gary thrived in Skid Row, performing on both their official albums, and touring the USA with them, where he met one of his later idols, Fleetwood Mac's Peter Green. This would prove to be a turning point in Gary's young career, as Green took to the kid with the burgeoning talent, taking him under his wing and becoming his mentor, introducing him to a record label.

When he left Skid Row Gary decided to put out his own solo album (although it was released under the name of “The Gary Moore Band”) and sought the help of Lynott, who wrote some of the songs, and sang on most of it, also playing bass, which Shiels had taught him in recompense for having fired him from Skid Row. The album was well received but did nothing to break him commercially, so Gary then joined Thin Lizzy at Phil Lynott's behest, but was only really involved in three tracks, one of which made it onto Lizzy's album Nightlife, and would go on to become a solid standard for them. The version of “Still in Love With You” though, that Gary performed on, bears little resemblance to the classic it later became.

The next year Gary left Lizzy to join John Hiseman's band, Colosseum II. They cut three albums (two of which were almost entirely instrumental) before disbanding, and Gary moved on, joining Thin Lizzy again in 1978. This was in fact the third time he had joined Lynott's band, as he had helped out in 1976 for one of their tours when Brian Robertson was unable to play, having injured himself. This time, however, he stayed long enough to record and be featured on an album, the only Thin Lizzy album he features in, Black Rose: A Rock Legend. He left shortly thereafter and did not return until after Lynott's death, in support of the Irish version of Live Aid, Self Aid, and again in 2005 for a reunion concert to mark the erection of a statue of Phil Lynott in Dublin.

His second album, on which Lynott again guested, was released in 1978, while he was still in Lizzy, and proved to be his breakout, containing the classic “Parisienne Walkways”, on which Lynott takes the vocals but which is written by both. The record catapulted him to international stardom, and while on tour with Lizzy in the States, Gary decided to try to put together his own band, ending up with G-Force, with whom he released one album in 1980. It was successful but the band did not last, and it would be two more years before his first “proper” solo album since Back On the Streets would hit the shelves.

Corridors of Power was very successful, and brought his music firmly back into the public eye, with radio-friendly ballads like “Falling in Love With You” and “Always Gonna Love You” sitting alongside hard-rockin' stuff like “Gonna Break My Heart Again”, “End of the World” and “Cold Hearted”. This album started a commercial “purple patch” for Gary which would last through to 1987, and along the way he would renew his partnership with Phil Lynott, just a year before the Thin Lizzy frontman's death.

After the success of the last of those albums, 1987's Wild Frontier, Gary would soon return to the blues which had informed his first two albums, and with the exception of 1999's A Different Beat, which would prove a wild left-turn in direction for him, he never really deviated from that pattern. As a result, there were few if any singles and no more commercial successes like “Over the Hills and Far Away”, “Empty Rooms” or “Out in the Fields”, in which he once again reunited with Lynott.

To the general public, Gary disappeared from view after 1987, but he was still there, plugging away, playing and recording great albums right up to 2008, three years before he died. A timeless servant of the blues, the world is poorer and a little darker for the loss of Gary Moore, but brighter thanks to the wonderful music he left us to remember him by.

Trollheart 09-30-2021 01:32 PM

Dark Days in Paradise (1997)
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If Gary can be said to have had three distinct phases in his music, or at least, his album releases, this would be from the third stage. The first I see as being his debut period, from 1973-1982, which left him relatively unknown up to the release of Corridors of Power, then a sequence of albums that brought him more to the attention of mainstream music listeners with some hit singles during a period stretching from 1982 to 1987, (the aforementioned "purple patch", if you like, at least commercially) where after Wild Frontier, though he continued to make albums - and great ones - he seems to have stepped back from the spotlight and concentrated on more blues and rock than hit singles, leading the uncognescenti (is that a word?) to mistakenly believe that his last album was Wild Frontier, and remembering him (again inaccurately) as “that guy who wrote "Parisienne Walkways" and "Empty Rooms"”, and maybe “your man who sang with Phil Lynott on "Out in the Fields"”.

Sadly, outside the Thin Lizzy fanbase and his own, and to all others who refuse to appreciate good rock music, Gary Moore's career consisted of the above three highlights, and he had “a few albums”, but generally speaking he would appear (to them) to have dropped out of sight circa 1988. Of course, that's not the case: Gary was making records up to his death, his last effort being a live set from Montreaux recorded the previous year and released in 2011. But his last studio album came in 2008, when he recorded Bad For You Baby.

Dark Days in Paradise pulls away a little from the overall rock/blues flavour of albums he had recorded post-1987, with a softer, more balladic and even pop-oriented feel, but this did not serve to relaunch his successful singles count from the 80s, and after it he decided to try dance music (bad move, Gary! What were you thinking??) before falling back on his old faithful, the blues, for another six fine albums, including one with his new band Scars, before his untimely death.

“One Good Reason” gets us underway, with a low-key, almost mono vocal to start, before the guitars and drums blast in and things get going, with the addition of what sounds like violins, which was a new thing for Gary to include in his sound. It's a passable opener, nothing terribly special though, and moves on to the darker, moodier “Cold Wind Blows”, with thick bass and an almost Native American rhythm, Gary's voice firmly lodged in the lower register as he adds layers of menace to the song with his deep, dark drawl, the song mostly carried by the rhythm section. Even the guitar, when it inevitably comes in on a solo, sounds very western and Indian-like. Interesting song.

Another shift in musical direction, “I Have Found My Love in You” is a laidback cool soul ballad, piano-led with a nice keyboard line that reminds me of Rose Royce's “Love Don't Live Here Anymore”. It's a nice song, though very unexpected, and you would have to wonder if Gary was deliberately trying to write songs that could take him back to the charts? He writes everything on this album solo, so there's really no other influence to blame; all the decisions must surely be his. It seems there may be very little in the way of fretburning solos on this album.

The tracks are quite long too, most over five minutes, with a few hitting six, and one monster seventeen-minuter (though it does contain the title track hidden within it). “One Fine Day” is a decent rocker, with some pop elements, almost Beatles-like with a little Marillion circa Anoraknophobia in there too, some nice keyboard flourishes from Magnus Fiennes and Phil Nicholas. It's an uptempo, optimistic song as Gary sings ”One fine day/ We will walk in the sunshine/ One fine day/ We will reach to the stars.” It's also the first song where the guitar starts to come to the fore, which in and of itself is almost unheard of on a Gary Moore album: the guitar is always king on his recordings, but here it's a little late arriving to the party. Still, when it does arrive, it's the life and soul, and worth having waited for.

A beautiful, tender ballad then on “Like Angels”, with some nice backing vocals and a really nice keyboard and piano line, though Gary's guitar does lead this song again. This is the first time we really hear him cut loose with one of those oh-so-emotive solos we're used to hearing though, and it's wonderful to hear. Actually, there are two solos, each as good as the other, the second of which fades out the song. Great stuff. “What Are We Here For” is another dark, moody track, similar to “Cold Wind Blows” but with a lighter, slightly more upbeat melody. More funky, dancelike beats in “Always There For You”, which has a general balladic construction but kind of pops along on a dancy bassline. Not mad about that one, have to say. Shivering presentiment of what would come on the next album...

There's definitely more of a pop than a rock sound to the low-key “Afraid of Tomorrow”, with something that sounds like a sitar, but is probably made on a synth. Again, Gary's guitar takes something of a back seat here, letting the keyboards take the main melody while he adds more or less rhythm guitar, though it's quite obvious that the guitar is in there, just not leading. More eastern-style influences on the keyboards, with a false ending and then reprise to the end. But if you thought “Like Angels” was the standout ballad, you've yet to hear “Where Did We Go Wrong?”

Without question the standout track on the album, I'd even mark it down as one of the top five best ballads from Gary Moore. It just has everything. Opening guitar and keyboard line, impassioned vocal from Gary, lovely hooks that just lodge right in your brain and, to be honest, bring the tears every time I listen to this excellent song. It's worth the price of the album on its own, a real harkback to the classic Gary Moore ballads we've been blessed with. Very Floyd Dark Side of the Moon style backing vocals add another level to the song, with soulful keys and beautiful string arrangement and then to top it all off, a fantastic, heartstring-tugging guitar solo from the man himself, which, I'm glad to report, lasts the whole two minutes plus to fade out the song. Stunning.

I would have been happy for the album to end there, but there's still over seventeen minutes of music to be heard. “Business as Usual” is an epic thirteen minutes long, which I think qualifies as Gary's longest track ever. It opens on wibbly (Yeah, I said "wibbly": what of it??) keyboard and acoustic strummed guitar, turning into, unbelievably, another super-powerful and emotional ballad. And now I'm confused. I had picked the previous track as the standout, but this is just as good, perhaps better! Where did the guy get the creative energy? After a song like “Where Did We Go Wrong?” you would think he would have been drained, but no, there's more left in the gastank, and so “Business as Usual” fights hard for the place of standout, and it's a close run thing. Beautiful string arrangement as the song moves to the halfway point, then around the eight-minute mark the tempo picks up slightly, and Gary's guitar takes over.

The title track comes in a few seconds after the end of this epic, and to be fair it's something of a disappointment, with its calypso/island rhythm. It's a hidden track, and would probably be better remaining hidden, as “Business as Usual” makes a far better closer.

This album has undoubtedly some weak tracks, but I believe the good ones more than make up for the few duff songs, and although Dark Days in Paradise is a much less rockier album than his previous efforts, and with a lot less blues than the ones that would follow, it has managed to find a way onto my top ten Gary Moore albums, which surprises no-one more than myself, but the more I listen to it the more I like it. It's certainly an important and almost unique release in the long catalogue of this master of the guitar and proponent of the blues.

TRACK LISTING

1. One Good Reason
2. Cold Wind Blows
3. I Have Found My Love in You
4. One Fine Day
5. Like Angels
6. What Are We Here For
7. Always There For You
8. Afraid of tomorrow
9. Where Did We Go Wrong
10. Business as Usual (incorporating “hidden” track, Dark Days in Paradise)

Rating: 8.9/10

Plankton 09-30-2021 01:37 PM

One of the many greats on the plank. Awe inspiring phrasing, face melting trills, and emotion dripping from every note. The dude played his heart out every time he picked up a guitar.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7k07j7LcLqw

Trollheart 09-30-2021 06:18 PM

Absolutely. I can take or leave his uptempo blues stuff, but when he slowed it down my god that man could make a guitar weep. Terrible loss.

Trollheart 10-01-2021 12:28 PM

Wild Frontier (1987)
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One of my favourites of his, 1987's Wild Frontier betrays Gary's deep connection to his Irish roots, and many of the songs on the album are either written about Ireland or in an Irish, Celtic style. The album would have been topped off by having Phil Lynott sing the title track, as was Gary's intention, but Phil's passing the previous year put paid to that, and so Gary took the vocals himself. There's a huge feeling about this album, a feeling of wide-open spaces and nature, and yet at the same time the sense of being crushed and crowded and pinned down by the weight of history, particularly the troubled history of Northern Ireland. All drums were programmed, though no programmer is credited, and Gary uses only two other musicians on this, surely his most personal album.

It opens with “Over the Hills and Far Away”, which was also released as a single, and the Celtic feel is immediately evident, with fiddle and uileann pipe sounds made by Neil Carter on the keyboards, Gary's guitar as ever the star of the show as he tells the story of a man who must go to prison for a crime he did not commit, rather than betray the honour of the woman he loves. The sheer power in the song is almost breathtaking, reminiscent indeed of the very best of Big Country, with a huge sound and an atmosphere about the music that makes you think in terms of ancient battles and castles, men riding or marching to war, smoke and banners in the air, and shouts of “Freedom!” all around.

The title track then, is Gary's first and most direct reference to “The Troubles”, as we colloquially called the thirty-some years of sectarian violence, death and conflict that plagued Northern Ireland till just relatively recently. It's another powerful rocker, riding on squealing guitar from Gary, as he cries ”I remember the old country/ They called the Emerald Land/ And I remember my own home town/ Before the war began.” There's a lot of uninhibited anger in the song, anger for those who lost their lives for a pointless cause, but halfway there's a short, introspective little guitar passage, when he sings softly ”Those are the days I will remember/ Those are the days I must recall/ We count the cost/ Of those we lost/ And hope it's not in vain/ The bitter tears of all those years/ I hope we live to see those days again!” This was, of course, before peace, of a sort, came to Northern Ireland, thankfully.

After two strong tracks, I find “Take a Little Time” slightly weaker, a fast rocker built mostly on a keyboard melody, though with plenty of Gary's trademark screaming guitar. Top quality is soon restored however with the amazing instrumental “The Loner”, which I have featured probably about three times already in my journal. The first song not written by Gary, it's a searing, emotional workout on the guitar which just wrenches at the heart, and demonstrates not just how proficient Gary's guitar playing was, but how he could make the instrument do just about anything he wanted it to: cry, sing, scream, yell, whisper.

I could definitely do without the cover of the Easybeats' “Friday On My Mind” - I didn't even know who they were until I heard this song, and I care less - I think it takes from the general theme and feel of the album, and is a cheap attempt at creating a hit single for the album. Which in fact it was, but it does not to my mind reflect the kind of music I associate with Gary Moore, not at all. Much better is “Strangers in the Darkness”, co-written with Neil Carter, which tells the harrowing story of the dispossessed, the homeless, the destitute, those who walk our streets, no matter where we live, and pass by as unnoticed by us as ghosts. The whole aura of the track is of desperation and danger, the vocal from Gary low and restrained until it rises as his guitar punches its way into the song, backed by Carter's expressive keys.

Gary sings of the woman who ”Sells her fading beauty/ To the passersby/ And tries to hide that far-off look/ That's in her eyes.” and as for the guy? Well, ”They found him after midnight/ On a city street/ A young man with a problem/ That he couldn't beat.” The guitar goes into overdrive as the song winds to its end and Gary asks ”Why is it no-one seems to care?” His other effort with Carter is next, the rocking, blazing “Thunder Rising”, with not surprisingly a strong keyboard melody from Carter to lead the song in, in fact in some ways he emulates Darren Wharton on Thin Lizzy's “Angel of Death”, his keys shimmering and racing while Gary pounds out the chords and sings with effortless power.

The Celtic theme is back for “Johnny Boy”, an almost acoustic, indeed almost acapella ballad sung in traditional Irish style by Gary, as he sings ”When I look to the west/ Out across the River Shannon/ I can still see you smiling / Johnny boy, oh Johnny boy.” Whether this is a reference to someone he lost, or just a generic character I don't know, but it's a moving and powerful song, amply demonstrating that the deepest emotions and the biggest effect can be achieved with the very minimum of instrumentation, mostly driven as it is on I think uileann pipes or maybe even bagpipes.

The next two tracks are twelve-inch (ask yer dad!) versions of two of the tracks, and so not really worth discussing, but the closer certainly is. Starting off with a very Journey-ish keyboard intro, quite similar in fact to “Who's Crying Now”, it's another ballad which again explores the plight of the lonely, this time two lovers who see each other, having broken up, but ignore each other, perhaps unable to look into the eyes they used to adore, or else just not caring, hatred or apathy having replaced love. Again, Gary looks at the problem from the view of both a woman and a man, cleverly (or not) simply switching “he” for “she”, “his” for “her” and repeating the same lyric in alternating verses, thereby avoiding laying the blame, as it were, at the feet of either. And so the lyric goes from ”Sometimes he sees her walking by/ He never looks her in the eye” to ”She doesn't know, she doesn't care/ What he is feeling” and so on. Great soulful little guitar solo to back up Carter's lush keyboards as the song moves towards its conclusion, as well as good backing vocals from the keyboard man.

Like I say, one of Gary's best albums, or certainly one of my favourites of his, Wild Frontier occupies pride of place in my Gary Moore collection, alongside the likes of Corridors of Power and Run for Cover. Rarely has any artiste delved, I believe, so deeply into their own emotions and history to lay bare their soul and committed it to music. But then, with Gary you always got one hundred percent, and you would have expected no less.

TRACK LISTING

1. Over the Hills and Far Away
2. Wild Frontier
3. Take a Little Time
4. Friday On My Mind
5. The Loner
6. Strangers in the Darkness
7. Thunder Rising
8. Johnny Boy
9. Crying in the Shadows

(The album also contains 12” versions of both “Over the hills and far away” and “Wild frontier”, but as they're additional/bonus tracks I haven't included them in the tracklisting here.)

Rating: 9.2/10

DianneW 10-01-2021 02:13 PM

Trollheart, that was a really really great take on Gary Moore and will be reading that over again Tomorrow...Yes I miss the Guy, but could see he was taking the wrong path with his lifestyle...
Love the way you write stuff...Hope you some more on Great Musicians.

Trollheart 10-03-2021 02:19 PM

Thanks Dianne. Stay tuned... ;)
Meanwhile

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Another step along the pathway to success for Gary, he built much of his varied guitar sound around the three albums he cut with Colosseum II between 1976 and 1978. The sound was more oriented towards jazz/fusion, and two of the albums were almost entirely instrumental. Here he played with Don Airey, who would later go on to play of course with Rainbow, but who would also feature on many of Gary's solo albums, and Neil Murray, who would become famous with Whitesnake and later Black Sabbath, and who would also play on three albums with Gary.

Strange New Flesh --- Colosseum II --- 1976 (Bronze)
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The first album from the new band, Strange New Flesh opens on a very psychedelic, seventies progressive rocklike instrumental, called, cleverly, “Dark Side of the Moog”, both obviously tailored to tie in with the earlier release of Pink Floyd's seminal Dark Side of the Moon and to pay tribute to the Moog synthesiser, which we have to assume is used by Airey here, and which carries the bulk of the track. There are guitar splashes from Gary, but it's restrained and the piece is mostly keyboard-led. “Down To You” is the first track where we begin to hear what would become Gary's signature guitar sound, a long track at just over nine minutes, it's also the first with vocals.

Mike Starrs is the man who takes them, though after this album both he and Neil Murray would be fired by the label, off the back of disappointing sales. Starrs' vocal is quite rich and full, powerful without being shouty or screamy, and Airey plays some lovely piano on the track. It's all very laidback, a jazzy, easygoing ballad with little of the frenetic rock Gary would later be involved in, and create. “Gemini and Leo” is a lot more uptempo, with some calypso-style beat tinged with a lot of jazz, a bit of blues guitar snuck in by Gary perhaps unnoticed, and on this track you can hear the more powerful side of Starrs' vocal, still very clear and never seeming to have to strain.

There's a pretty solid and boogie-ing bassline too, laid down by Murray, showing the promise in his talent and what he would later go on to achieve, then “Secret Places” is the first attempt at real straight-out rock, with a supercool solo from Gary to lead the track in, atmospheric keys from Airey ushering in Starrs' vocal, with clearly audible backing vocals from Gary. Interesting lyric: ”Could you pick yourself out/ From a crowd?/ Would you know what to look for?” Powerful solo then from Mr. Moore takes the song to new levels, and it sounds like he's using the talkbox or some effects pedal on his guitar, unless that sound is being made on the synth? Lovely digital piano takes us into “On Second Thoughts”, with gentle guitar from Gary, a really nice slow easy ballad, with Starrs back to his soft, soulful best while Airey paints flourishes of synth across the soundscape. A solo the likes of which we would grow used to hearing from Gary in the middle, and a beautiful almost two-minute one to take the song to its gentle but triumphant conclusion. Well, almost. Hiseman's drums kind of kick it up a notch, but I think they could have been used to better effect really, and sort of spoil the ending.

And so we come to the closer, and I have to say, unlike the Skid Row albums, I'm actually enjoying this and it's almost too soon that “Winds”, ten minutes long and so the longest track on the album bursts in on what is essentially a drum solo from Hiseman, joined soon enough though by Gary and then Don Airey and Neil Murray, a lot of energy and enthusiasm in the song. It's more jazz-oriented than rock, with dashes of prog-rock in there as well, another powerful vocal delivery from Mike Starrs, in what would in fact be his last contribution to Colosseum II.

Much of the track develops into an open-ended, improvisational jam, with Gary vying with Don Airey to see who can be the most expressive on their instrument. This level of, as I call it, technical wankery is probably not needed, but considering how well they mesh it's probably forgivable, and it does all come more or less full circle as the song winds up, leaving you with not an entirely unfavourable ending to an album which for its six tracks is pretty good value for money, and certainly gives us a valuable insight into the burgeoning talent of Gary Moore.

TRACK LISTING

1. Dark Side of the Moog
2. Down To You
3. Gemini and Leo
4. Secret Places
5. On Second Thoughts
6. Winds

Rating: 8.1/10

Trollheart 10-06-2021 05:21 AM

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After the War --- 1989 (Virgin)
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The last straight-ahead rock album Gary released before his return to the blues, After the War is bookended by two instrumentals, both called “Dunluce”, part 1 opening the album and part 2 closing it. Both are celtic-influenced, as are other tracks on the album, carrying over his Irish heritage displayed on the previous Wild Frontier. The album utilises many guests, including Don Airey, Sam Brown, Ozzy Osbourne and Brian Downey. The title track is quite AOR in its way, almost harking more back to 1985's Run For Cover than Wild Frontier, with a softer, keyboard-led approach, longtime contributor Neil Carter on the keys as well as Airey, and I find the song in fact to have a very definite Alan Parsons Project feel, especially in the keyboard arpeggios.

“Speak For Yourself”, one of three tracks on the album on which Gary collaborates again with Carter, is heavier, rockier and more in line with tracks on Wild Frontier, very much more guitar-oriented. The rock style continues with “Livin' On Dreams”, with a more boogie feel, guitar again very much to the fore, and in some ways resembling Thin Lizzy's “Dancin' in the Moonlight”, while “Led Clones”, with its mock-”Kashmir” melody is a poke at bands who try to emulate Led Zeppelin, and features Ozzy Osbourne on vocals. I think - though I may not be right - this is the first time Gary ever handed over vocal duties to anyone, other than Phil Lynott. I hope Ozzy was suitably honoured.

The beautiful instrumental “The Messiah Will Come Again” brings a lull in the rock, one of the few instrumentals Gary has ever included on his albums. It's a cover, but does not suffer for it, given here the full Gary Moore treatment as his guitar wails and sighs, rises and falls and describes the most exquisite arcs in the musical firmament, tearing at your heartstrings in a way few musicians can do, without the benefit of words. The contribution made by the organ sounds of Airey and Carter can't be overstated either. In a word, stunning.

Sounding unaccountably like “Out in the Fields”, things speed right up and rock on with “Running From the Storm”, with Carter's keyboards back playing a fairly prominent role, then “This Thing Called Love” thunders along with a great fun vibe and tons of energy before “Ready For Love” takes a more mid-paced, AOR approach, with the wonderful Sam Brown on backing vocals adding her inimitable touch to the song. The last song, as such, is an epic tribute to the late Phil Lynott, one of Gary's greatest friends, and recalling Gary's youth growing up in Belfast.

“Blood of Emeralds” is a Celtic-styled rocker, with a sort of marching beat, the last of the songs on the album to feature writing from Neil Carter. It's a powerful, anthemic song with backing vocals from Andrew Eldritch of Sisters of Mercy. It has a slow, introspective section in the middle, making it quite close to being progressive rock really, one of the few times Gary would attempt such a thing. The album then closes properly on the second part of the instrumental “Dunluce”.

TRACK LISTING

1. Dunluce Part 1
2. After the War
3. Speak For Yourself
4. Livin' On Dreams
5. Led Clones
6. The Messiah Will Come Again
7. Running From the Storm
8. This Thing Called Love
9. Ready For Love
10. Blood of Emeralds
11. Dunluce Part 2

Rating: 8.2/10

Trollheart 10-12-2021 10:14 AM

Dirty Fingers (1984)
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Following the critically-acclaimed and fan favourite Corridors of Power, this album continues the mixture of hard rock and tasteful ballads started on its predecessor and seen again on albums like Victims of the Future and Run for Cover. It opens with “Hiroshima”, a fast but grinding hard rocker which evidenced Gary's occasional foray into political themes on his albums. The chorus is a little twee, and the song is not as hard-hitting as the music suggests it could be, but although it's a shaky start the album does get better. Well, sort of. A bit. The title track is a short, one-minute instrumental which is really little more than Gary running up and down the scale on his guitar and showing off, then “Bad News” is a hard rocker with real bite, very guitar-led and quite Zeppelin in its approach.

Dirty Fingers displays a more raucous, wild side to Gary Moore's music; whereas previous outing Corridors of Power was a polished, professional and slick product with just about every track on it worth listening to, this album feels like it belongs to an earlier time, a time perhaps when Gary was still finding his feet, when he was just making music for the fun of it. It really sounds about ten years older than it should be, and even Grinding Stone sounds more professional than this. Which is not to say it's a bad album, but the polish is definitely not there.

A cover of the Animals' “Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood” doesn't do a lot to raise the quality, though he does a decent job of it, with Don Airey laying down some smooth organ grooves. Oddly enough, with production from Chris Tsangarides and Gary himself, it all seems a little muddy, at least thus far, with the guitar sounding a little too grungy and even muffled at times, and it's a million miles removed from Corridors of Power. Another hard rocker, “Run to Your Mama” isn't bad, but it's nothing terribly special, decent backing vocals with a nice boogie rhythm, but it's not until “Nuclear Attack” that things finally get going.

With a guitar riff shamelessly ripped off Rainbow's “All Night Long”, it's a powerful, driving rocker which warns of the impending danger of a global war. Gary's voice sounds better here for the first time to me, clearer, less forced and growly. The guitar sounds great too, as Gary cries ”The Russians are ready/ The US is armed/ They're trying to tell us/ There's no cause for alarm!” It has a great keyboard hook which in its turn must have been grabbed by Europe, for their megahit “The Final Countdown”. Great ambulance sounds made on the guitar add to the feeling of panic and paranoia engendered by the lyric, and it's pretty close to the standout, though then again from what I've said about the album so far, that really means it's the first track I like.

Unfortunately, after that “Kidnapped” is fairly standard rock fare, nothing marks it out at all, and then “Really Gonna Rock”, as you might expect, is another unremarkable rocker, basically “Rockin' Every Night” from the previous album slightly rewritten. It's got plenty of energy, yes, but that's about it. I suppose every rock album has to have a track like this, the obligatory “gonna rock ya” song. Keeping things heavy and fast, “Lonely Nights”, which you would surely expect to be a ballad, is nothing of the sort. Hard grinding guitar, thumping drums and some rather nice backing vocals lift this song just a little out of the ordinary, but it's the closer that saves the album. Almost.

One of Gary's finest ballads, it's almost out of place on what is generally to my mind a pretty mediocre album. Carried on gentle twangly guitar with a soulful, hurt vocal from Gary, it's the sad tale of the spirit of a loved one who refuses to leave, perhaps not realising they're dead. Losing your lover is bad enough, sings Gary, but when they won't go to their reward it makes it doubly harder: ”Rest, rest in peace/ You have gone, please leave me alone./ Rest, rest in peace/ You must go/ Heaven is your home now.” Of course, it can be argued that it's just the memory of the girl that persists in the man's memory, rather than some sort of supernatural visitation. Lovely sweeping synth from Airey helps create the eerie atmosphere of the song, and Gary's singing is heartfelt and moving.

Of course, no ballad of Gary's would be complete without the requisite emotional guitar solo, and so it proves here, the song riding on the edgy, ethereal guitarwork of the master, and it's a fine, and mostly unexpected closer to an album which I sadly have to rate as one of Gary's least impressive. Were it recorded in the seventies I could maybe make allowances, but on the back of fine releases like Corridors of Power and Back on the Streets, this one is a big disappointment, bar the two excellent tracks which help to partially save it.

TRACK LISTING

1. Hiroshima
2. Dirty Fingers
3. Bad News
4. Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood
5. Run to Your Mama
6. Nuclear Attack
7. Kidnapped
8. Really Gonna Rock
9. Lonely Nights
10. Rest in Peace

Rating: 7.1/10 (would be lower were it not for those two tracks; really quite poor)

Trollheart 11-23-2021 10:19 AM

Close As You Get (2007)
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Gary's penultimate album - not planned as such I'm sure, but the next-to-last he recorded before his untimely and tragic death - Close As You Get reunited him with his ex-Thin Lizzy colleague, drummer Brian Downey, and continued Gary's singular concentration on the blues which he loved so much, the album featuring five of the eleven tracks as covers of blues standards, not to mention a Chuck Berry number. The remaining songs are all written by Gary solo.

Classic Memphis-style blues opens the album, though “If the Devil Made Whisky” is actually a Moore original, showing how well he could write a blues tune. Had there not been credit for this, I would have thought it was one of those old blues numbers from the fifties or sixties. Great distorted guitar with a solid drumbeat that denotes Downey back where he belongs, and the two friends really seem to gell, even after all this time. It's one to get the feet tapping and the air-guitar cranked up for sure, then “Trouble at Home” is a slow blues burner, with soulful organ from Vic Martin lending a real mournful air to the song, and it's a real crash-comedown from the energetic happy blues of the opener, certainly shifting the focus and keeping you off-balance.

A sad and moody song about the breakup of a marriage, it gives way to the old Chuck Berry “Thirty Days”, which rocks along nicely with wild abandon and an almost country beat, then “Hard Times” struts along with some really cool harmonica courtesy of Mark Feltham, who has also played for that other exponent of the blues, the late Rory Gallagher. Great guitar breaks from Gary make this song just masses of fun, the real blues idea of turning something bad into something good, almost glorying in your misfortune.

It's not hard to see why this, and previous albums post-1997 did nothing in the charts, and why Gary had no more hit singles after Wild Frontier. This is not music made by someone interested in, or worried about, pleasing the common denominator, getting hit singles and radio airplay. These are albums crafted by an artist who truly loved and respected and revered the blues, and who knew how to properly pay homage to the greats who had gone before him - as no doubt future generations will pay their dues to Gary Moore - and his cover of John Mayall's wistful “Have You Heard” is a case in point. You can just feel Gary's love for the blues in this track, can hear him revelling in the music he grew up on, cut his teeth playing, inspired him to pick up a guitar at an early age, and no doubt kept him company right up to the end. Again, Vic Martin's expressive keyboards help bring this song further to life, though it is as ever Gary's dexterity and fluidity on the guitar that makes it.

The guy just played the guitar, like all the greats, as if it was not quite so much an instrument he used to make music, but more as if it was an extension of his body, part of him, something he could almost make play just by thinking about it. Or not thinking about it. It was music that came from deep within, from the heart and the soul, not necessarily from the fingers. Musicians like Gary Moore are not made, no matter what the Simon Cowells of this world may believe: they are born, and sadly, all too seldom, but in a way that's all right. When a star like Gary Moore comes along he lights up the sky and blazes brightly, then is gone all too soon but leaves a trail across the sky that never fades, and we can see from any point on the planet.

One of two songs by Sonny Boy Williamson II, “Eyesight to the Blind” is a swaggering, striding boogie rocker with funky organ and screeching guitar, then things slow down again and get all laidback for Royce Swain's “Evenin'” with again perfect keyboard backing from Martin and minimal percussion from Downey. A plaintive little guitar solo from Gary just puts the icing on this particularly tasty cake, then there's another Moore original in “Nowhere fast”, itself a lovely little blues ballad, following which things ramp right up again for the second Sonny Boy track, this being “Checkin' Up On My Baby”.

With again great little harmonica solos from Mark Feltham, it proves to be the last uptempo number on the album, the last two being one written by Gary, “I Had a Dream”, a beautiful, emotional ballad with blues overtones, tiny touches of percussion all that's needed from Brian Downey to punctuate the song, Martin's keyboard again keeping an undercurrent for Gary against which he lays down some seriously beautiful guitar, including a stunner that takes the song to its conclusion, leaving us with one more cover to close the album, and it's Eddie James “Son” House Jr's “Sundown”. Seriously acoustic, the whole song is I think played on the dobro, and it's a powerful and yet in its way low-key ending to a damn fine album.

TRACK LISTING

1. If the Devil Made Whisky
2. Trouble at Home
3. Thirty Days
4. Hard Times
5. Have you heard
6. Eyesight to the Blind
7. Evenin'
8. Nowhere Fast
9. Checkin' Up On My Baby
10. I Had a Dream
11. Sundown

Rating: 9.0/10

Trollheart 12-04-2021 05:12 PM

A Different Beat (1999)
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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)

Trollheart 01-14-2022 05:24 AM

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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

Plokol 01-21-2022 09:46 AM

Parisian Walk by Gary is my favorite song of his.

Trollheart 02-02-2022 12:01 PM

Like I said in the Genesis thread (what do you mean, you haven't been in it?) it's been a while so make mine a double!

Starting off with this oldie...

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Back On the Streets (1978)
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Some artists rush out their second album, eager either to capitalise on the success of their debut (though usually that's the label talking) or to put a failed first effort behind them and show they can do better. Gary's debut was well-received but didn't exactly burst the charts wide open, but he waited five more years before trying again, this time under his own name, where Grinding Stone had been released as “The Gary Moore Band”. Of course, in the interim he had been playing on and off with Thin Lizzy and Colosseum II, but nevertheless it seems he did the right thing, as this was the album that broke him commercially, spawning the massive hit single “Parisienne Walkways” and setting him on the road to stardom.

At heart, it's an odd little album, containing only eight tracks, three of which are instrumentals, plus two songs written by Phil Lynott, one of which appeared on a Thin Lizzy album, and of course the breakout hit. It also features Lynott on bass and Brian Downey on drums for much of the album, making it almost a Thin Lizzy record. It opens on the title track, great powerful combination of guitar and keyboards heralding a new direction for Gary, and you can hear his voice has improved in leaps and bounds from his debut, possibly due to his time with Colosseum II, with backing vocals from Lynott. It's a real rock song, sounding unaccountably a little like early Queen...

Lynott does much of the vocal work on the album, taking over for “Don't Believe a Word”, which had appeared on Lizzy's 1976 album Johnny the Fox, though in a much different format. Here, it's given a slower, bluesy feel, which is great but it is hard, knowing the popular version so well, not to compare it to the faster, rockier original. As it heads into the last minute though it speeds up and gets a big more boogie-like, taking on the characteristics of the original as it fades out. Odd, indeed. The next track is also voiced, and written by Lynott, and “Fanatical Fascists” opens with a burst of electric guitar that puts me in mind of “Jailbreak”, and in fact has something of the punk rock about it, with some nice heavy guitar and thumping drums, Lynott's signature bassline keeping the beat and injecting a lot of Lizzy into the song.

The first of the instrumentals on the album is up next, and “The Flight of the Snow Moose”, no doubt a tribute to Camel's classic album, is the longest of them, coming in at just over seven minutes. It opens on lovely classical guitar from I believe Lynott, and some gorgeous keyboard-created strings from Don Airey, with a very progressive rock air about the tune, then Lynott's bass comes slowly in, bringing with it some technical wizardry on the keys before Gary's electric guitar shoulders its way in, standing alongside the frankly totally prog keyboard runs from Airey, which really only serve to confuse me more about this album: is it a rock or a prog rock album? With all the input from Lynott, is it a Phil Lynott solo with Gary playing guitar? With three instrumentals, the closer on which we know he doesn't sing, and having only sung on one track so far (the opener and title), how much of Gary Moore is actually getting across on this album?

There's no doubting his skill on the guitar, as he displays here, but I just think he should perhaps have taken more of the vocal duties upon himself, stamped more of his own identity on this, as they say, his sophomore album. Okay, so he only got to sing twice on two Colosseum II albums, which is hardly prolific, but even so. Another instrumental follows, and maybe you could say Gary is letting his guitar do the talking. Well, it certainly speaks well, of that there's no doubt, but we know from later albums that Gary can sing: maybe he just needed the confidence to tackle a whole album himself, or maybe he was deferring to his more experienced friend in the hopes of making this album successful. Either way, “Hurricane” certainly demonstrates his love for, and talent on the guitar, more a jam than anything else really, with some pretty frantic organ by Airey, then we finally get to hear Gary sing again on the rather nice “Song for Donna”, even though at the beginning he does sound like he's way too far from the mike, and it's hard to make out what he's singing.

The song is a soul/blues ballad, with some really tasty guitar, and again Moore moves back from the mike (or doesn't sing up enough, or the production is bad), only being properly heard when the chorus kicks in. Pity. Makes it hard to assess his voice on this record, though from the title track I would say there were no complaints. Even so, buying a solo album I would expect to hear the guy sing on at least the non-instrumentals, but then I guess at this point Gary was a guitarist first and a singer second, and only later came really into his own on the latter.

One more instrumental, the fun “What Would You Rather Bee Or a Wasp?”, and then we're into the classic, and obviously standout, and indeed breakout song on the album, the legendary ballad that would go on to define his early career, and become a staple at all his gigs, the song those who weren't fans would even know him by. Written in collaboration with Phil Lynott, and with the Thin Lizzy man on vocals, it has gone down as a total classic, and those first bass notes that announce the opening of the song were always greeted by mad cheers from any audience. There's little I can say about the song, as everyone surely knows it by now, but it's a stylish, clever and fitting way to perhaps pull a rabbit out of the hat right at the end.

Back On the Streets is not a fantastic album by any means, but that all becomes rather meaningless once “Parisienne Walkways” hits your ears. Once that song made it onto the radio, into the charts, Gary Moore was a new star, and he was certainly going places. Often even performed onstage during his brief time with Lizzy, it's a well-loved and timeless classic that just helps lift this album out of the depths of sophomore hell and up to the giddy heights of success and fame and glory.

TRACK LISTING

1. Back On the Streets
2. Don't Believe a Word
3. Fanatical Fascists
4. The Flight of the Snow Moose
5. Hurricane
6. Song for Donna
7. What Would You Rather Bee Or a Wasp?
8. Parisienne Walkways

Rating: 6.2/10

Trollheart 02-02-2022 12:18 PM

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Victims of the Future (1984)

This, and Corridors of Power, were the first two Gary Moore albums I bought. Well, correction: the first two my brother bought, but which I half-inched and listened to. Although the previous album edges it for me in terms of just total song quality and quantity, I have a real soft spot for Victims of the Future, not least because of the classic “Empty Rooms”. But it's not by any means a perfect album, as we will see.

It opens on the title track, which fools you into thinking it's going to be a ballad, with its crying guitar intro and the slow synthesiser melody, Gary's vocal slow and mournful, with nice vocal harmonies until he strums one more chord on his guitar and the whole thing explodes into a heavy rock cruncher with political overtones, Gary punching out the vocal with his full power, guitars crashing like an indictment on our leaders. This is the only song on the album on which the entire band collaborate, though keyboard player Neil Carter does pen two more with Gary. It's a thundering opening to the album, which unfortunately takes a serious nosedive next with the frankly awful “Teenage Idol”.

It's almost like someone bet Gary he couldn't write the worst song of his career, and he took up the bet. The lyric is puerile, banal, cringeworthy, the idea in the song put forward that anyone can make it as a rock star if they want to - forget all the many hundreds or thousands who fall by the wayside, and the fact that a very small percentage of “wannabes” even make it out of the traps - I find to be intelligence-insulting to the max, and in fact the whole song annoys me so much that I'm going to pass it over, but not before giving you a sample of the kind of lyric in the song: ”He dumped his chick/ Sold his car/ Bought himself a hot guitar/ He joined a band/ And they cut some tracks/ He hit the road/ And he's never looked back.” Er, yeah. So if it was that easy, why aren't we all doing it? God, that song makes me so.....

Aaaaanyway, luckily enough normality is quickly restored, albeit via a cover version, the Yardbirds' “Shapes of Things”. However, Gary gives the song (which originally sounded quite plodding and boring in my opinion) a real rock makeover, hard thundering drums, screeching guitars and Gary's voice rising to near-manic scream right at the end. It's followed by the pure classic rock ballad, “Empty Rooms”. Mostly carried on soft synthesiser and acoustic guitar, the song is a sad, reflective look at a broken love affair, and features some of Gary's most delicate guitar work, as well as excellent and deep lyrics: ”See her face in every crowd/ Hear her voice but you're still proud/ So you turn away/ Tell yourself you'll be strong/ But your heart tells you/ This time you're wrong.”

Gary re-recorded this for 1985's Run for Cover, which I think was a mistake, as it sort of diluted the song, and it was only a year later: it's not like he waited ten years and then re-released it. But anyway, it's a great track and one of his best ever ballads. It's also one of the ones on which he collaborated with Neil Carter, proving that the pair were quite a songwriting team. It features a quite stunning instrumental midsection, including a soulful bass solo by Mo Foster which would have probably made Phil Lynott weep, then a fantastic soaraway guitar solo from Gary.

The quality stays high then for another standout. Referencing the shooting down of Korean Airlines flight 007 over the Sea of Japan in September of 1983, “Murder in the Skies” opens on an angry, heavy guitar solo, which goes on for over a minute before the song gets going properly. It's a rockin', poundin' axefest with some very effective keys from Carter and thunderous drumming from Ian Paice, Gary bewailing the loss of over two hundred souls on that fateful day. No doubt the song was banned in Russia, as Gary does not pull his punches in the lyric! ”The Russians have shot down a plane/ On its way to Korea/ Two hundred and sixty-five innocent victims have died!” This song is a continuation of the partnership with Neil Carter, and it's no coincidence I think that the two tracks are the standouts on the album. Great, raging guitar solo by Gary here, and a fadeaway, siren-like ending.

After that, “All I Want” comes as something of a disappointment. It's not as bad as “Teenage Idol” (nothing could be!) but it's a fairly standard rocker, and really passes by not quite as filler, but not too far from it. “Hold On to Love”, on the other hand, gets the top quality going again, with a yearning, powerful fast ballad, if you can imagine such a thing. With the definite elements of a love song it's nevertheless a fast song, more in AOR mode than heavy rock, bringing to mind the likes of Journey or Asia, with a great keyboard melody laid down by Carter, and a great hook that should have made it a hit single, but didn't. This song is in fact so good that it should have been the album closer, but there is one more track left.

“Law of the Jungle” is not bad, a down-and-dirty rock cruncher with Gary screeching the vocal, but I don't feel it's the proper closer the album needs. It opened well, dipped once or twice, but generally speaking maintained a high level of quality throughout, and I think it should have finished better than it does. That said, the closer is not a bad song at all, just somewhat rock-by-the-numbers, opening with an almost Peter Gabriel vibe circa “No Self Control”, then Gary tries to go all Metallica, slow and doomy chords with a sort of drawled, growled vocal while Carter does his best to keep his at least interesting keyboard melody at the forefront, but is mostly drowned out by Gary's heavy guitar and the bassline.

Despite its few defects though, I still consider Victims of the Future to be one of the better Gary Moore albums released. It has the classic hit single, the political commentary, the updated cover song, and unlike many of his later releases does not rely too heavily on Gary's love of the blues. It's very much a snapshot of the man at a particular time in his career, when he was beginning to achieve some chart success, which would be extended with Run for Cover, but then more or less dry up, and he would concentrate more on the blues and re-recording old standards.

TRACK LISTING

1. Victims of the Future
2. Teenage Idol
3. Shapes of Things
4. Empty Rooms
5. Murder in the Skies
6. All I want
7. Hold On to Love
8. The Law of the Jungle

Rating: 8.7/10

Trollheart 03-03-2022 10:45 AM

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Back to the Blues (2001)

After the failed (and rather scary!) foray into dance music that gave us A Different Beat, Gary returned to his first love for the appropriately-titled Back to the Blues. After this album he never moved far from blues territory, which really suited him. The experimentation of the previous album and even the more laidback, pop approach that characterised Dark Days in Paradise was finished with, and it was straight, no-nonsense, out-and-out blues all the way for the next seven years.

For this album Gary took all the writing upon himself, apart from the covers of standard blues tunes he includes here. But at times his own original songs could be almost mistaken for standards themselves. Modern classics? Perhaps. Gary certainly knew how to write a great blues song, and it's no exaggeration to predict that in future years aspiring guitarists may look back to some of the songs on this, and his later albums, for inspiration.

It starts off with “Enough of the Blues”, a heavy cruncher with plenty of smart guitar, and oddly enough there doesn't seem to be an actual bass player, though Gary is credited with “bass arrangement”, so whether he played the bass himself, or the bass player is either uncredited or else different bass players played on different tracks is unknown. This song kind of maybe reflects the way Gary had been feeling when he produced A Different Beat, as he sings ”I'd had enough of the blues/ But the blues ain't had enough of me!” Just as well, really: sometimes you're better sticking to what you're good at, and Gary was very, very good at playing the blues.

Horns feature aplenty on BB King's striding “You Upset Me Baby” - in fact, Gary drafted in three separate sax players for this album, and there's a very jazz/blues feel to this song, a real uptempo rocker, and the pace doesn't slacken for “Cold Black Night”, with some very cool bass leading the melody. The horns are in evidence again, adding a lot to the track, and Gary's guitar work as ever is frenetic and energetic, and he sounds a lot happier to be back doing what he is best at.

Slow melancholy blues then in “Stormy Monday”, with Vic Martin at the keys setting up a really powerful backdrop. Gary would link up again with him for 2007's penultimate album, Close As You Get. He does a great version of the old T-Bone Walker classic, and there's an absolutely searing guitar solo running through this one, almost as you might expect: this is the man, back to his best.

Clarence Carter's “Ain't Got You” is another short and boppy blues rocker, then “Picture of the Moon” brings the mood and the tempo right back down again, with echoes of “Still Got the Blues” in the melody, and a bit of “Parisienne Walkways” too. “Looking Back” then is another short fun rocker, with Martin's keyboards playing a central role, and giving Johnny “Guitar” Watson's old favourite new life, and it's followed by one of the very few Gary Moore instrumentals, “The Prophet”, carried again mainly on Martin's organ, counterpointed by Gary's expressive, emotional guitar playing. How that man could make a guitar speak and say exactly whatever he wanted, or needed it to, without a single word.

“How Many More Lies” is a big rockin' blues stormer, which would probably have got an approving nod from the likes of John Lee Hooker, BB King or Howlin' Wolf. It's the last uptempo track on the album, Gary's last chance on this to rock out, and he certainly does, giving it his all, while behind him Vic Martin's fingers fly over the organ keyboard like a man in the deep throes of religious fervour. The album then ends on a beautiful ballad, a nine-minute slowburning epic which goes by the title of “Drowning in Tears”, with some very prominent bass and some nice keys, and basically the same melody throughout. It's quite a low-key ending to what is mostly an uptempo, powerful album that shows Gary Moore back doing what he loves, and delighting the fans with his return to basics after what might be termed “the wilderness years”.

TRACK LISTING

1. Enough of the Blues
2. You Upset Me Baby
3. Cold Black Night
4. Stormy Monday
5. Ain't Got You
6. Picture of the Moon
7. Looking Back
8. The Prophet
9. How Many Lies
10. Drowning in Tears

Rating: 8.0/10

Trollheart 04-01-2022 07:54 PM

After going back to the blues, it's time to head back to the past, to a time before Gary, as it were, though it really isn't, and the second album released by the band which would help make his name.

Electric Savage - Colosseum II - 1977 (MCA)
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With Neil Murray and Mike Starrs fired by Bronze, Colosseum II moved labels to MCA, where they remained for this and their third and final album. With no vocalist recruited, it was decided to make the album mostly instrumental, with Gary taking the vocal on the only track that isn't, and new bassist John Mole replacing the departed Murray. Opener “Put it This Way” is another jazz rocker, uptempo and with some great guitar from Gary, more excellent keyboard work from Don Airey, then “All Skin and Bone” is more ethereal, with gongs and shimmering percussion from Jon Hiseman, synth effects from Airey before Gary's guitar comes in, knitting the whole thing together. The piece does seem to be mostly a vehicle for the bandleader's drumming, however.

The lovely ballad “Rivers” proves to be the only non-instrumental track, and as mentioned it's Gary's first chance to take the spotlight as singer, a task he handles with aplomb and obvious talent. Of course, he had already sung on his debut solo album Grinding Stone by now, so was no stranger to the mike, but this is the first time his voice is heard - at least as lead vocalist - within the Colosseum II unit. He polishes the song with his trademark evocative guitar, of course, then we're back to instrumentals with “The Scorch”. There are no nine or ten-minuters on this or the next album, and in fact none go over six minutes, this one just edging being the longest track by two seconds. Opening on proggy keyboards from Airey, it's joined by a thumping, heartbeat bassline from Mole, almost like a steam locomotive approaching from the distance. Lots of flying fingers from Airey, but it's about a minute and a half before Gary comes in, his power chords levelling the song.

Keyboard takes over again though, and as “All Skin and Bone” seemed written for Hiseman's drumming to shine, “The Scorch” seems geared towards showing what Don Airey can do on the keys. It's a decent melody, but doesn't feature enough of Gary's playing for my liking. This is soon addressed though when the next track, “Lament”, hits, as it's carried almost entirely on Gary's guitar. Surprisingly, with a title like that, it's not a slow ballad-type song, in fact there are church bells in the distance, lending the song an almost victorious or triumphant air.

“Desperado” then is pure jazz fusion, uptempo and boppy, plenty of guitar but driven mostly by organ from Airey and machinegun drumming from Hiseman. “Am I” slows everything down, in an almost Vangelis-like tune, lots of echoey and jingly keyboards, nice low bass, and some nice smooth guitar from Gary completes the melody. Closer “Intergalactic Strut” starts with again a big drum intro, then the keys fly in but this time it's not long before Gary is getting in on the act. Another fast improv jam really to end the album.

I don't know. I liked the first album, and really like Mike Starrs' voice, pity he's gone by the release of this album. An album full of instrumentals, few of them rock? Like I say, I don't know. But then again, these albums are only really being reviewed to fill in blanks, as stepping-stones shown along the path to Gary's career, and you can certainly hear him developing his style here. Good to hear him sing too, if only the once.

TRACK LISTING

1. Put it This Way
2. All Skin and Bone
3. Rivers
4. The Scorch
5. Lament
6. Desperado
7. Am I
8. Intergalactic Strut

Trollheart 04-12-2022 01:18 PM

Run for Cover (1985)
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Certainly one of Gary's most commercial and successful albums, Run for Cover occupies quite a high spot in my Gary Moore collection, although some of the tracks are a lot weaker than the others. It's notable of course for the hit single “Out in the Fields”, on which Phil Lynott sang with him, and the participation of other high-profile guest musicians, like Don Airey, Bob Daisley, Glenn Hughes and Paul Thompson.

It gets going with a real Floydesque keyboard run by Andy Richards, like a swarm of deadly bees getting closer and closer before Gary's familiar guitar chords snap in and he shouts ”Run!” as the song gets going. It's a great rocker, finding Gary as ever in fine voice, with great backup melody from the keys giving this opener and title track a very commercial feel, more in fact than any of his previous work. You could hear this on the radio and not be surprised. And yet it's still heavy as hell, showing that Gary knew the way to straddle the divide between commercial, radio-friendly tunes and uncompromising rock withtout falling over on either side. Great solo from him just makes this the perfect opener, and you're somewhat out of breath by the time it slams to a halt.

And there's no time to catch your breath either, as we plough right into “Reach for the Sky”, a heavier, harder rocker, with blues tones, much more down to Gary's usual style, but with a nice soft keyboard line and some almost soul moments, before the chorus explodes with the admittedly rather banal and a little cringeworthy ”Reach for the sky! / Come out with your hands up!” Good basswork and indeed backing vocals on this from Glenn Hughes, then we're into one of the standouts (already?), which actually appeared as the B-side of the single “Out in the Fields”, and is in some ways as good as the A-side. “Military Man” is a searing indictment of recruitment into the army, with vocals and bass taken by the late Phil Lynott, the song itself being one of his old Grand Slam tunes.

Played with, not surprisingly, a military drum and guitar rhythm, it's a powerful and insightful song, as Lynott sings ”Mamma take a look at your boy/ He's a military man/ Mamma take a look at your boy/ He's crying./ Mamma take a look at your boy/ He's a soldier/ Mamma take a look in his eyes/ They're colder.” The guitar from Moore, allied with Lynott's bass, goes on an all-out angry attack as the song progresses, then there's a lovely little blues intermission during which the military man in question contemplates his life and dreams of being out of the army, out of war. ”I am writing from this war/ Oh mamma, I don't know what I'm fightin' for...” It ramps back up again and ends strongly, with the inescapable conclusion that he never realises this dream. Great song, just great, and Lynott's vocals paired with Gary's squealing, protesting guitar just make it perfect.

I personally could have lived without the inclusion of another version of Gary's timeless ballad, but to be fair it's quite a different version of “Empty Rooms” we get here, and it does breathe new life into the song. Still, I already have Victims of the Future, and this takes up valuable room that could have allowed another, original track to fill. Glossing over that then, we move on to “Out of My System”, a mid-paced rocker on which Neil Carter joins Andy Richards on the keyboards, filling out the sound, then it's another standout, and another appearance by Phil Lynott on that hit single, the bombastic “Out in the Fields”, on which both Gary and Phil sing. Opening with a synthy intro it soon kicks into life and Gary's guitar goes into overdrive, as the two legends swap vocals throughout the song. Guesting on keyboards, Don Airey paints a dramatic backdrop, with growling keys and sweeping synth passages, panic and urgency in his fingers as they dart across the keyboard.

Truly one of Gary's most intense solos features in the track, and then Lynott intones the lyric darkly, a warning, a prophecy as he growls ”They are falling/ One by one/ No flag has ever stopped/ A bullet from a gun!” The song thunders to its conclusion then on shimmering keys and a powerful guitar ending. No wonder it was such a hit. “Nothing to Lose” then is a slower, punchy, rock cruncher with lots of guitar mayhem, Carter this time solo on the keyboards. It's probably one of the few weak tracks on the album, very simple and straightforward, but not a bad track. It's followed by a real classic though, another standout.

“Once in a Lifetime” should have been a huge hit single. It has the catchy melody, tons of hooks, it's possible to dance to even, and it just bounces around inside your head like a tennis ball. It's mostly carried, it has to be said, on the powerful, anthemic keyboard line laid down by Carter, here rejoined by Richards, but of course Gary's everpresent guitar solo is there to add its own marker to the song. This could be the closest I've heard Gary's music approach AOR territory, but I have no problems with that if he could write material of this quality, as he could.

With a guitar riff surely robbed from Rainbow's “All Night Long” when Ritchie wasn't looking, and a hook half-inched from Duane Eddie's “Summertime Blues”, “All Messed Up” is another good hard rocker, with Gary at his gravelly, bluesy best vocally, but I find it a little derivative (see above) and therefore a little hard to take that seriously as a proper Gary Moore song. No such problems with the closer, the surprisingly laidback and cool ballad “Listen to Your Heartbeat”. Where Gary's ballads often tend to be big, lazy blues numbers, this bucks the trend, being again almost AOR, certainly radio-friendly, understated and sung with quiet reflective passion. It finishes the album really nicely, and again would have made a great single.

TRACK LISTING

1. Run for Cover
2. Reach for the Sky
3. Military Man
4. Empty Rooms
5. Out of my system
6. Out in the Fields
7. Nothing to Lose
8. Once in a Lifetime
9. All Messed Up
10. Listen to Your Heartbeat

Rating: 9.5/10

Trollheart 04-27-2022 01:54 PM

After Hours - 1992 (Charisma)
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The second album on which Gary not only covers his heroes' material, but gets to play with some of them too. After the artistic if not commercial success of 1990's Still Got the Blues, with its superstar contributors, After Hours features a guest appearance from blues legend BB King as well as Albert Collins and keyboardist Tommy Eyre, and has, like many of his later albums, a mix of original and blues standards.

It opens with a blast from the Memphis horns as “Cold Day in Hell” gets us underway, a hard-edged blues rocker with nice organ touches from Tommy Eyre, solid bass from Bob Daisley and of course Gary's trademark screaming guitar sound. Good backing vocals from Carol Kenyon (the older among you will remember her from Heaven 17's hit “Temptation”) and Linda Taylor. Upping the tempo is a great cover of Hudson Whittaker's “Don't You Lie to Me (I Get Evil)”, with some fine piano from Eyre and the Memphis Horns again doin' their thing.

Slow blues merges with gospel them for “The Story of the Blues”, with great trumpet from Martin Drover, and a moody blues melody not a million miles removed from “Still Got the Blues”. Some soulful organ from Tommy Eyre helps to build the melancholic atmosphere, with of course a great solo from Gary, his guitar crying like a man who's been dumped by the woman he loves. It's the longest track, coming in at close to seven minutes, and a great turn by the Memphis Horns again paints a flash of colour into the overall blue. A great, powerful, epic guitar passage closes the track, then Gary gets his chance to jam with a real blues legend.

The one and only BB King guests with him on “Since I Met You Baby”, an uptempo, happy rocker, and it's great to hear BB is still in fine form, both on Lucille and singing. It's only a short song, but a real gem, and great to hear the two guitar giants enjoying themselves, playing off each other. A great organ line courtesy of Eyre keeps the track humming, then the Horns and some spacey organ introduce “Separate Ways”, as everything slows right down for a sweet ballad, some nice trumpet from Drover and those great backing vocals from the girls again, giving the song a quasi-soul feeling. “The Only Fool in Town” speeds everything back up for a real blues rocker, and things stay fast with an almost country feel for John Mayall's “Key to Love”, with great organ accompaniment from Tommy Eyre and powerful energetic drumming from Graham Walker. Another cover version is up next, this being a lovely laidback “Jumpin' at Shadows”, carried on Eyre's solid, moody synth, switching to organ as Gary picks at his guitar and sings lazily like a man sitting on the stoop watching his life going by.

Gary turns preacher then as he declares ”The blues is back/ And it's here to stay!” before rocking out on a monster blues track with the late Albert Collins, Milton Campbell's “The Blues is Alright”. The Memphis Horns come back in on this song, joyously lifting the track to the level of gospel celebration. Collins died the following year, so I guess Gary would have counted himself lucky to have secured the services of the guitar legend before he passed away. Great bass from Daisley on this track too.

A blues shuffle then on “The Hurt Inside”, with Carol Kenyon and Linda Taylor back with their fine backing vocals, and powerful organ from Eyre, before we close on “Nothing's the Same”, an atmospheric ballad in the style of “Empty Rooms”, with deep, heavy keyboard and restrained vocal from Gary, nice little touch on the oboe there from Richard Morgan. The obligatory crying guitar solo from Gary just sets the track off nicely, as Eyre's keyboards keep pace in the background. There's also a sense of his big hit “Parisienne Walkways” in the melody here. Nice ending to a very decent album.

TRACK LISTING

1. Cold Day in Hell
2. Don't You Lie to Me (I Get Evil)
3. Story of the Blues
4. Since I Met You Baby
5. Separate Ways
6. Key to Love
7. Only Fool in Town
8. Jumpin' at Shadows
9. The blues is alright
10. The Hurt Inside
11. Nothing's the Same

I wouldn't put After Hours as one of my favourite Gary Moore albums, but what it does show is his innate love of the blues, and his great talent for songwriting, as well as in how high regard he was held by his peers, being able to call on such luminaries as King and Collins for this album. As part of the immense, mesmerising tapestry of blues and rock that Gary Moore wove for us in his fifty years on this earth, it's a vital strand, and needs to be listened to.

Rating: 7.8/10

doxdan 06-27-2022 12:12 PM

Gary Moore, total legend! I saw him live once (obviously before he died). I have never seen anyone as good at combining sheer technical skill with emotional "feel" in his playing, it was an incredible experience. Blues Alive is one of my favourite live albums.


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