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Old 09-30-2021, 02:12 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Trollheart's Album Discography Reviews: Gary Moore



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.
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Old 09-30-2021, 02:32 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Dark Days in Paradise (1997)


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
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Old 09-30-2021, 02:37 PM   #3 (permalink)
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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
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Old 09-30-2021, 07:18 PM   #4 (permalink)
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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.
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Old 10-01-2021, 01:28 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Wild Frontier (1987)


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
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Old 10-01-2021, 03:13 PM   #6 (permalink)
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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.
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Old 10-03-2021, 03:19 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Thanks Dianne. Stay tuned...
Meanwhile



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)


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
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Old 10-06-2021, 06:21 AM   #8 (permalink)
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After the War --- 1989 (Virgin)


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
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Old 10-12-2021, 11:14 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Dirty Fingers (1984)


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)
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Old 11-23-2021, 11:19 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Close As You Get (2007)


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
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