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Old 02-06-2012, 07:23 PM   #831 (permalink)
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It may be predictable, but then there really was ever only one team-up where Gary was concerned. Twice he paired up with his old mucker Phil Lynott to record what turned out to be two big hit singles, both of which we feature below. The combination of Phil's thick Dublin accent and Gary's either screaming or sobbing guitar was just magical, and created two classic songs.

Gary Moore and Phil Lynott --- Parisienne walkways

A song that has forever gone down as Gary's signature tune, it's that more of an achievement for him as he has no hand in the singing, unlike the other collaboration with Lynott. But though Phil sings the vocals, and it's his voice you remember as the one telling the story of the song, it is and ever will be Gary's powerful yet tender and reflective guitar work that makes “Parisienne walkways” what it is. Even moreso live, when he could really stretch out the guitar solo, this became a staple of his live show, the “Free bird” or “Still in love with you” from his repertoire. A bittersweet look back to an affair, possibly a holiday one, that ended, the lyric is sparse though effective, with only two short verses and no chorus, but it's the virtuoso performance by Gary on the guitar that really gives the song its heart, and its soul, and for which we remember it best.

Gary Moore and Phil Lynott --- Out in the fields

The other song on which the two combined their talents is of course “Out in the fields”, taken from the 1985 album “Run for cover”. It's a powerful indictment of war and particularly religion-driven war, with not surprisingly a strong emphasis on the at the time ongoing conflict in Northern Ireland, a subject close to the hearts of both Irishmen. Written by both Gary and Phil, with the vocal shared between the two, it's a fast rocker that gets a little frenetic as it approaches its sudden end, with a really excellent guitar solo from Gary to finish it.
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Old 02-06-2012, 07:30 PM   #832 (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 Martin 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 Martin'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”.

TRACKLISTING

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
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Old 02-07-2012, 03:43 AM   #833 (permalink)
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Well, my first choice for review of a 2012 album went less than swimmingly. Let's hope it's second time lucky for the new year. Joseph Arthur has built himself a strong and dedicated following over fifteen years gigging and a virtual plethora of albums, EPs, Promos, soundtracks and other works too numerous to mention. Talk about prolific! In only a decade and a half he's released nine full albums, of which this is the most recent.

Redemption City --- Joseph Arthur --- 2012 (Self-released)


Discovered by Peter Gabriel in 1997, Arthur signed to the man's RealWorld label, the first ever American artist to do so, but later broke away to work with other, independent labels, finally forming his own, on which he released his last three albums. This one, however, he has released for consumption directly via the internet as soon as he had completed it, so technically it's not on any label, though perhaps it may surface on his own label, Lonely Astronaut, in some form.

Arthur has made his reputation through intensely personal songs and his habit of making all his live shows instantly available after the gig, like those bad bootleg tapes we used to buy (what? Bootleg? What? Tapes? Ah, yer too young, kid!), with the major difference that Arthur's “bootlegs” are first of all legit, as it's his music and he's selling them, and also they are of course of far higher quality than the hissy, squeaky C90s with annoying crowd chatter we used to buy. Look, it was a different time, okay?

This is a double CD, so there's a lot to get through. Disc one opens with “Travel as equals”, which starts almost as a poem with just percussion and a little piano before it kicks up and becomes a mid-paced rock/folk song, Arthur's singing a little odd, almost like a stream of words just one after the other, in some ways like a folk musician attempting a rap. Well, not really, but you'd have to hear it to understand. It's only the verses though, as on the chorus he sings normally. Perhaps there's a hint of early Dylan in there, though I'm not a fan personally. Little touch of David Byrne, maybe.

It's a good opener and certainly doesn't disappoint, and it's followed by “Wasted days”, even more like a rap by a folkster. I could almost compare it to Nick Cave at his more restrained drawling his rap over the music, or maybe Matt Johnson in his less angry moments. The song is another mid-pacer, with a nice keyboard line and some sort of popping percussion. It's hard to know what the instruments are, as they're not credited, but there's a very good, and original reason for that: Joseph Arthur plays every single instrument on this album. He also writes every song and produced and arranged it: small wonder then that it took almost three years to create.

There's something very attractive about Joseph Arthur's music, hard to put your finger on. It's almost like you get a front-row seat at one of his shows, or get inside his head or his heart. It's that personal and intimate. “Mother of exiles” is a little funkier, with talkbox guitar and smooth bass, and does indeed evoke the best of The The in its atmosphere, dark and brooding and just a little dangerous. “Yer only job” is more uptempo and happy, and as you listen to the record you realise that, as Arthur says on his own website, this is not just a recording: it's a city. It's a city with streets and laybys and avenues and cars with cats in them and a night sky and shops and garages, and many, many dark and unexplored places, and it takes a while to walk the city and see all it has to offer.

So this review will be a little longer than usual, not only because the album is a double, but because I would like to do this work justice, and not skip over anything if I can. The guy was good enough to allow people download it for free from his website, so the least I can do is give it a proper review. “I miss the zoo” is a lovely, guitar led ballad with a definite r&b feel, and I can hear so many people in this album --- Mark Knopfler, Matt Johnson, Bruce Springsteen, Paddy McAloon and more. So many styles and yet the one style, so many voices and yet all singing the same song to the same tune. In some ways, Joseph Arthur is showing how a certain type of rap can work with music if it's approached properly. It doesn't all have to be angry and forceful, guys. I'm sure there are some rappers who would really appreciate how Arthur uses what they probably see as their medium in a whole new way.

Some pretty weird, discordant effects accompany “There with me”, though the song is again slow and relaxed, and I'm put in mind of telephones dialling, as on ELO's “Telephone line”, with some spacey synth sounds. This is a short track, but just as I'm thinking it's going to be an instrumental the voice cuts in, but the lyric is kind of sparse and really more an extra instrument than anything else. It goes into “No surrender comes for free”, with a big powerful drum sound and smooth slide guitar, kicking up the tempo in an almost country style, Arthur's vocal double-tracked and time-delayed so that it sounds like he's harmonising with himself. Clever touch.

“Night clothes” opens as a Gabrielesque, jungle-type rhythm with deep, funky bass and synth, swaggering keys in the background, and a sweet little guitar solo near the end, which takes us into the title track, a real folk-style handclapper with a really lovely line in synth and some very effective percussion. An interesting lyric where every line of the verses seems to begin with the words “Redemption City”, but the chorus has no mention of the city, just finding redemption. Nice twist. Some great mandolin really adds an extra layer to the melody as the song begins to wind down. “Barriers” is almost a piece of freeform instrumental electronica, then “You're not the only one” is a heavy, dramatic melody led by a madly screeching guitar, forming a backdrop to a laconic vocal from Arthur, which in part recalls the solo work of the Cars' Ric Ocasek.

The first disc ends on “So far from free”, a laidback, breezy, almost ethereal melody that carries another double vocal. I have to say one of the voices sounds female, though if Arthur really does play every instrument and sing every voice, maybe it's technical trickery that allows his voice to go up several octaves, or maybe it's just an uncredited female singer, though it seems, from what I've learned of Joseph Arthur, he gives credit where it's due, so it's unlikely he would have a backing singer and not mention her. Anyway, it's a nice slow, understated ending to the first part of the album, and I'm impressed so far, that's for sure.

And as disc two opens, we're faced with by far the longest track on the album. Arthur has stated on his website that the two parts of the album can be listened to separately, that those who, for one reason or another, dislike double albums can listen to the first part and not miss anything. He has said that the songs on the first part, the first disc, are ”the deep cuts, which would have otherwise remained on the cutting room floor or else been leaked out over time in various ways, fragmented beings with no brothers or sisters or home. I think both parts serve to strengthen the whole. They are relating to each other and breathing back and forth. They are each other’s shadow and hold hands when no one is watching.” (Verbatim from Joseph Arthur | Redemption City, new album available for FULL FREE DOWNLOAD [HQ])

If that's true, then anyone who decided not to download the second disc is right away poorer for the experience, as the opener, “Surrender to the storm” is a beautiful, lazy and yet powerful ballad with some exceptional guitar, atmospheric keys and runs for over eleven minutes! If nothing else, this track is a showcase for just how multi-talented Joseph Arthur is, able to play all those disparate instruments, and excel at each one, in addition to his other many talents like singing and songwriting, and producing. Talk about an all-round man! If Arthur were charging for the album --- he's not: you can make a donation, but the album can be downloaded for nothing --- then “Surrender to the storm” would be worth the price by itself.

Most of the track seems to be an incredibly intense instrumental, with scattered singing here and there, just where he believes it's needed, and it works beautifully. My only fear is that, with a song as amazing as this to start off the second disc, can this top quality be maintained, or has Arthur poured all his heart and soul into this one track, leaving if not filler, then surely lower standard material to take up the rest of the disc? Well, “Fractures” starts off as another spoken word/rap deal, but then takes off on the back of some very new-wave synthery, punchy percussion and some nice backing vox, lending the thing a kind of semi-gospel air, while deep organ and drum machines take “Free freedom” in, and now I realise who that semi-rap/semi-sung vocal reminds me of: it's the Pet Shop Boys, though with a lot more emotion than Neil Tennant ever showed on their music.

“Touched” is another mid-paced track with a mostly spoken vocal, some jazzy guitar, sort of cushioned percussion and a great little sax break, then “Follow” is much more laidback, an ambient little piece with strange almost falsetto vocal from Joseph, the song itself fading it seems rather suddenly, then we're into a discordant “Kandinsky”, very off-key, very weird and a strange little song that I really don't get, nor like particularly. Still, that's eighteen tracks into an album of twenty-four, and this is the first one I haven't enjoyed. Not a bad ratio, really. It's followed by the atmospheric “Humanity fade”, where Arthur warns of the dangers of being too reliant on the internet and computers: ”We are connected to the mainframe/ With our souls plugged in/ Our spirits are now digital/ We wear electical skin.” There's a brooding sense of danger and rising panic about the song, which basically keeps the same melody all the way through, but the intensity seems to somehow build anyway.

“Sleepless” has a nice little dancy bassline and some whistling keyboards, what sounds I think like some more talkbox guitar, and no real vocal to speak of, then the track with the longest title on the album, “It takes a lot of time to live in the moment”, is another dancy number with a spoken vocal, but a shorter track. Piano leads “Visit us”, a nice easy ballad with a delightfully lazy drumline and some delicate synthwork, again little in the way of vocals, similar to “Sleepless”, while “I am the Mississippi" has a lovely gentle guitar opening against a backdrop of sumptuous synth, a spoken vocal which allows you to effortlessly float down the mighty river in question, watching the scenery as you drift by, then the album ends as it began --- as the whole, two-disc experience began --- with “Travel as equals (reprise)”, a slowed down, gentle and almost acoustic version of the opener which brings everything full circle.

This is the first time I have heard of Joseph Arthur, never mind heard his music, and I am seriously impressed. This would not be the sort of thing I would normally seek out, but once I heard “Travel as equals” I knew it was quite likely that I would enjoy this album. However, I did not for a moment envisage how deeply it would affect me. Having heard “Redemption city”, I'm now eager to hear more of this man's work. How amazing that you can have an experience like this, and not even be asked to pay for it, which I would have, and will if asked.

Truly an artist for the age, it would be rather hard to travel as Joseph Arthur's equal, as I believe he has few if any who come anywhere close to his talent. You really have to hear this album, and hey, it won't even cost you a cent! What have you to lose?

TRACKLISTING

DISC 1

1. Travel as equals
2. Wasted days
3. Mother of exiles
4. Yer only job
5. I miss the zoo
6. There with me
7. No surrender comes for free
8. Night clothes
9. Redemption City
10. Barriers
11. You're not the only one
12. So far from free

DISC 2

1. Surrender to the storm
2. Fractures
3. Free freedom
4. Touched
5. Follow
6. Kadinsky
7. Humanity fade
8. Sleepless
9. It takes a lot of time to live in the moment
10. Visit us
11. I am the Mississippi
12. Travel as equals (reprise)
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Old 02-07-2012, 04:47 AM   #834 (permalink)
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It's always interested (sometimes annoyed) me that different, often wildly different, songs can have the same title. There are of course some titles which are seen as sacrosanct --- no-one in their right mind is going to call a song “Stairway to Heaven”, for instance, or “Free bird”, or even “Bat out of Hell”. These titles are already so famous and forever tied in with the songs they represent that anyone seeing them credited to another artist would just assume they were covers of the original, and no-one wants that if this is a new song we're talking about.

There are also long or obscure titles, titles no-one but the original artist would consider using. “Scenes from an Italian restaurant”. “Over the hills and far away”. “Christmas card from a hooker in Minneapolis.” These are inspired titles, unique titles and no-one else would think of using them. They pretty much fit the song that has been written and would not fit any other. But most other things are game. Words are words, after all, and there is no copyright on a song title, so far as I know.

And so we end up with many songs which have the same title, but are completely different, often by artistes working in totally separate genres. I want to explore one of these here today, in this first edition of this new section. I'm going to be taking a look at a song which has had several incarnations under the one name, two in fact by the same artiste. It's called “Open all night”.

Open all night (Bruce Springsteen) from “Nebraska”


Bruce's version comes from the acoustic album “Nebraska”, and is a fast, rockabilly-style song of a guy out on the road heading home. As do all the tracks on the album, it features only the Boss himself, on guitar with no percussion, keyboards, bass, anything, but somehow he manages to make the guitar sound like a full band. His voice, too, sounds like it's coming from some sort of empty auditorium, with a sound both big and expansive and also intimate.

Open all night (Georgia Satellites) from “Open all night”


Another rockin' track from the Georgia Satellites, this actually surprisingly contains some similar melodies to Springsteen's version, though it's a slower, more bluesy feel to it, kind of southern boogie. From the album of the same name, it's a great rocker.

Open all night (Hall and Oates) from “H20”



Then there's the version from Daryl Hall and John Oates. You couldn't get much further from the rock of Springsteen and the Satellites, this being a laidback, soul ballad featuring the smooth voice of Daryl Hall, from the H2O album, one of their biggest successes.

Open all night (Marc Almond) from “Open all night”


And moving even further away from rock towards --- well, how would you describe Marc Almond of Soft Cell? No, don't be mean! Anyway, he too had an album, seems to have been live, though I'm no fan so I can't be sure, also called “Open all night” and the title track from it is what appears to be a jazzy/soul half-ballad, though to be honest the only version I could get on YT has not got the best sound...

Open all night (Bon Jovi) from “Bounce”



Bon Jovi actually used this song title twice, first in the closing track to their 2002 album “Bounce”, where it's a tender, soft little ballad about two damaged souls meeting in a bar and exchanging stories of the hurts they've experienced.

Open all night (Bon Jovi) from “One hundred million Bon Jovi fans can't be wrong”


Then on the rarities/unreleased box set, “One hundred million Bon Jovi fans can't be wrong”, they used it again but this time as a mid-paced rocker, with a far different message, as two lovers split and Jon tells her don't worry about me I'll be all right.
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Old 02-07-2012, 01:19 PM   #835 (permalink)
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All the world's a stage Part II --- Gary Moore live

Time for the second part of our look at Gary's live performances. Apologies for the sound quality on some of these clips (and the bloody awful video quality on the one from Dublin!) but when you're You-Tubing around sometimes you just can't pick and choose. Hope you enjoy them anyway. More tomorrow.

“Wild frontier” from “Wild frontier” (Saturday Night Live, date unknown but in the 80s)


“Oh pretty woman” from “Still got the blues” (Hammersmith Odeon, date unknown)


“Further on up the road” from “Still got the blues” (2002 reissue) (Live Blues, 1993)


“Victims of the future” from “Victims of the future” (Emerald Aisles, live in Ireland 1984)


“Cold day in Hell” from “After hours” (London, 1992)


“Whisky in the jar” from “Vagabonds of the western world” (Dublin, Self Aid concert, 1986)


“Back on the streets” from “Back on the streets” (Goldiggers, Chippenham, 1984)


“Run for cover” from “Run for cover” (Belgium, 1986)


“Cold hearted” from “Corridors of power” (PinkPop, Holland 1983)


“After the war” from “After the war” (Belfast, 1989)
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Old 02-07-2012, 06:01 PM   #836 (permalink)
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Old 02-07-2012, 06:01 PM   #837 (permalink)
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Yeah, well there was really only going to be one band the worm could feature today, now wasn't there?
You were expecting maybe “Xylophone Maniacs” or something...?

Today's Daily Earworm has been brought to you by the letter (wait for it) X, with XTC, “Senses working overtime”.
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Old 02-07-2012, 06:13 PM   #838 (permalink)
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No tribute to Gary would be complete without a look at his first band, in which also was to be found a young Phil Lynott, and which would bring Gary to the attention of Fleetwood Mac's legendary Peter Green while Skid Row supported them, thus setting the young guitarist on the road to being properly discovered. Although he only stayed with the band for three years, returning briefly for their reunion in 1974, he was present on both their official albums, released in 1970 and 1971. There's no doubting that Skid Row gave Gary his start, and so it's only right and proper that we acknowledge the role of his first band.

Formed in Dublin in 1967 by Brendan “Brush” Shiels, the original incarnation of Skid Row didn't include Gary, who only joined the next year, but it did include a young Phil Lynott, who at the time was a vocalist and didn't know how to play the bass! When Shiels fired him in 1968 he taught him how to play the instrument as compensation, and gave him a bass guitar he had bought, and thus was one legend born. Gary stayed on till 1971, when he left just before the band's third album, which was subsequently not released till two decades later.

During his time with Skid Row, Gary participated in their tour of the USA --- his first time in the country, though it certainly would not be his last --- in support of Fleetwood Mac, where he met and impressed Peter Green. Green brought him to the attention of one of the major labels, and on returning home Gary soon decided to leave Skid Row and strike out on his own, forming his own band with whom he released what is generally accepted as his first solo album, “Grinding stone”, in 1973.

Gary was somewhat awestruck by Green, and the Fleetwood Mac guitarist remained one of his big influences, culminating in his tribute album “Blues for Greeny” in 1995, an album almost completely consisting of songs written by the man.

Skid --- Skid Row --- 1970 (CBS)


At one point, Skid Row seemed to be on the verge of becoming the “next big thing” in Irish rock, but changes to the lineup and internal wrangling seem to have basically done for the band before they could realise their true potential, and as Taste gave birth to a solo star in Rory Gallagher around the same time, Skid Row created two rock legends who would later go on to work together for a time, and remain fast friends up until their deaths. Created by “Brush” Shiels (who was generally known as “The Brush”), the original Skid Row didn't feature Gary Moore but did feature Phil Lynott, as related already above, but by the time of the release of this, their debut album, he had been sacked and The Brush was the main man on vocals. Gary was of course the guitarist, adding some vocals too. The trio was completed by Noel Bridgeman on drums.

The albums starts out on gentle, folky guitar and soft percussion, Shiels' voice putting me in mind of yer man from Dr. Hook (sorry, Brush!), and “Sandie's gone” remains laidback and gentle with a certain CSNY feel to it, very sixties hippy/folk, some really nice piano, which appears to go uncredited, while Gary's first guitar contribution is acoustic for most of the song, then later he switches to electric, while still keeping the tone laidback and relaxed. Nice little solo, presaging the huge talent he was to later become. “The man who never was” is a shorter track, jazz/improvisational with a frantic, almost psychedelic turn to it, much more uptempo, then changing the time signature halfway though, this I guess showing how versatile Gary could be, even in those early days.

“Heading home” is pure bluegrass country, with a very foot-tapping beat and some exquisite work by Gary, a great little solo to end the track, then we're into more jazz/fusion with “Felicity”. (Look, I'll be honest here: I'm a little confused. I've never heard any Skid Row prior to this, and the track listing of the album seems to be different than that shown on Wiki, but it also appears that there were demo tapes recorded in 1970 which weren't released till 1990, possibly the third album spoken of in the intro, and I'm just not 100 percent sure which album I have here. As Gary later sold the rights to the band name to an American outfit, who went on to record many albums, it's hard to track down the original Skid Row recordings, so what I have here will have to suffice. If it's wrong, if I'm reviewing the wrong album, bear with me, as I'm no Skid Row aficionado.) Lots of scat singing on this track, pushing the jazz angle even further, and a tasty bass solo from Brush, the track running on for a good nine minutes, with plenty of jazz-style improv and jamming before we hit “Unco-op showband blues”, which as you might suspect is the first time we get to hear Gary indulge in his first, and what would become his abiding, love, the blues.

Nice slow track with some kind of jarring jazz flourishes which to my mind take away from rather than add to the song, which in fact metamorphoses along the way into a Zep/Purple slow hard rocker with Black Sabbath overtones. It does however provide an opportunity for Gary to again show what he can do on the guitar, carrying much of the song on his sweet soloing. “Morning star avenue” I find quite plodding and boring, that is, until Gary lets loose with one hell of a solo and just kicks the bejaysus out of the song! Noel Bridgeman goes a bit wild on the drums too, but the most appropriate thing perhaps about this track is in the lyric: ”Who wants to know?/ No-one wants to know!” Amen.

A nice bluesy intro to “O I'll tell you later”, which seems to be a proper ballad, though it would appear that with the somewhat fluid and often musically volatile nature of Skid Row you can never take anything for granted, or judge a book by its cover. And so it proves, as the song quickly picks up speed, then slows right back down again, and up again, then “Virgo's daughter” kind of comes and goes in a blur, and we close on the country ballad-like “New faces old places” (which I think was a single), with a very Neil Young sound. Somewhere along the line I think Gary sings, particularly on “O I'll tell you later”, but I can't be sure, this is such an obscure album and information so hard to come by.

TRACKLISTING

1. Sandie's gone
2. The man who never was
3. Heading home again
4. Felicity
5. Unco-op showband blues
6. Morning star avenue
7. O I'll tell you later
8. Virgo's daughter
9. New faces old places

34 hours --- Skid Row --- 1971 (CBS)


So titled, the legend goes, because it was recorded in thirty-four hours, this is a much shorter album, containing only six tracks, and clocking in at around thirty-five minutes total. Interesting: if it totalled thirty-four, then that would work out as one minute of music per hour recorded! Well, anyway, it opens on the longest track, another nine-minuter, “Night of the warm witch”, which starts off pretty weirdly, with odd sounds and then feedback guitar pulls the track in, and it goes into a kind of half-Santana vibe, with plenty of jazz movements, nice guitar from Gary and some pretty good bass from Brush too. It's a little overextended though, I feel.


Much shorter --- and faster --- is “First thing in the morning”, with the band totally rocking out, and it sounds like Gary on vocals, though as I'm unaware what Brush Shiels' voice sounds like I can't say for sure. Less than two minutes of finger-burning fretwork and it's over, and we're into “Mar”, opening with some nice bass from Brush and what definitely sounds like a pedal steel, though again no such instrument is credited. It's a nice ballad, very country-oriented, with a good beat: the bassline is close to hypnotic!

Much heavier and rockier, “Go, I'm never gonna let you” is more in the style that Gary would later adopt on his own albums, with sharp, hard guitar and heavy drumming from Bridgeman. It's another long track, almost as long as the opener, just short of nine minutes. You can hear the influence of Fleetwood Mac's Peter Green on this track; Gary was obviously trying to emulate the great man's style, and in the main succeeding. He rips off a fine solo here which more or less holds the song together. In the absence of any piano or keyboards, or indeed rhythm guitar, it ends up being the guitarist who becomes the focus of the band; while the rhythm section are of course very important, all eyes (and ears) turn to the man on the guitar for the solos, the riffs, the intros and outros that generally bass players or drummers don't that often get involved in. In many ways, in a power trio like this, the guitarist becomes the frontman, especially when the singer is not singing.

Gary fills this role with the comfortable ease of someone who has been playing in a band all his life, even though this is only his second year with Skid Row, they being his first band, and he only seventeen at the time. “Lonesome still” returns to the country themes, with squealing pedal steel, some accordion in there, maybe fiddle too. It's a mid-paced country song, quite infectious in its own way, though the swing from genre to genre is a little hard to get used to: rock to folk to blues to country to jazz and back, this album seems to wander amongst them all.

Closer, “The love story”, runs headlong back into jazz territory, very much a jarring change after the sweet country ballad, the beat quite syncopated and frantic, Gary's guitar chiming out here and there but generally subsumed for most of the song by Shiels' busy bass. Halfway through then it slows down again for some scat singing and bass improvisation by Shiels, then Gary takes over with a nice guitar solo, but if this is what's known as jazz fusion I have to say it's not to my taste. I wouldn't listen to much of this, 1970s or no 1970s.

As a vehicle to launch the careers of both Gary and Phil Lynott, I guess we have to give Skid Row plaudits, but their albums are in the main not my cup of Jack Daniels. I'm not a big jazz fan, and there's a lot of that in here, but even apart from that it comes across as a little rushed and confused. Maybe that's just me. Well, they certainly have gone down in musical history as the springboard for two of Ireland's most famous sons, so I guess that can't be bad.

TRACKLISTING

1. Night of the warm witch
2. First thing in the morning
3. Mar
4. Go, I'm never gonna let you
5. Lonesome still
6. The love story
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Old 02-07-2012, 06:23 PM   #839 (permalink)
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As we've just run a feature on Gary's first band, Skid Row, this would seem like a good place to look at his first solo album, the one that started it all and would lead to great things for the man. Although a short album, and indeed not actually credited to him alone --- and featuring mostly instrumental work into the bargain, it's nevertheless a glimpse into the future of someone who would become one of the most famous, accomplished, loved and respected, and now sadly missed, blues guitarists on this planet.

Grinding stone --- 1973 (Castle)
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Although released as “The Gary Moore Band”, this nevertheless stands as the debut album from Gary Moore. It's quite short, having only six tracks in all, however one of those runs for almost ten minutes, with another clocking in at seventeen, so you certainly don't feel shortchanged. The band Gary used on this album were not signed up for the second album, which was released under his own name, though keyboardist Jan Schelhaas went on to work with both Caravan and later Camel.

The album opens with the title track, which as mentioned runs for almost ten minutes, perhaps an ambitious first step into the world of rock music? Even moreso, as it's an instrumental. How many emerging artistes would you be prepared to listen to almost ten minutes of music from, without vocals? After a somewhat low-key opening, it's quickly into an uptempo boogie groove, which even at this early stage highlights Gary's expertise on, and love of the guitar. This is the first and only time Gary shares guitar duties, with the exception of 1990's “Still got the blues”, where he enlists the great Albert Collins, George Harrison and Albert King, and again in 1992 when both Collins and the legendary BB King guested on “After hours”. Apart from those instances, Gary has always taken care of all guitar work on any and all of his albums.

“Grinding stone”, the track, is really more a jam than an actual song, and despite its nine-plus minutes it goes by fairly quickly, never seeming stretched or overlong. The first time we hear Gary sing then is on “Time to heal”, and his voice, it has to be said, is rough and raw, having something of a time being heard and distinguished above the music, a straightforward rocker with boogie elements, nice piano from Schelhaas, and in fact the twin guitar attack, in tandem with Philip Donnelly, works quite well on this track, lot of elements of Rory Gallagher in the song. All tracks on this, including the two instrumentals, are written by Gary, so even from the off he was keeping a tight control over his material.

“Sail across the mountain” is the first time we get an inkling of just what beautiful ballads this man would write over the ensuing almost forty years. A lovely, lazy, laidback tune that just makes you want to lie back and relax, nice country-style piano and restrained guitar ushering the song along, and indeed even Gary's voice is less raw, more tempered and softer than on the previous track. There are elements of Lynyrd Skynyrd in the song too, very nice. “The energy dance” is exactly not that, a short instrumental mostly based around keyboards, bit odd, then we're into the big one.

Running for over seventeen minutes, perhaps overlong, “Spirit” recalls early Thin Lizzy, and is a big, rocking monster that goes through plenty of changes over the course of its length. Elements of funk, rock, prog rock, jazz fusion all run through the song. Halfway through it slows right down and in fact stops, then slowly comes back up on synth and organ, slows and almost stops again then comes right back with some heavy organ and guitar, then goes into a heavy progressive-rock vibe with some serious synthery and then the expected breakout guitar solo. I guess it served to highlight Gary's talent on the guitar but even so this is not what I would have chosen to announce myself to the world, had I been him. I think two long instrumentals on an album with only half-a-dozen tracks was asking a lot of the public.

The album ends on a straight boogie rocker, called “Boogie my way back home”, with some nice harmonica from someone who's uncredited, and great honky-tonk piano from Schelhaas. In fairness, as a debut this was never going to set the music world alight, but it's a daring first album, certainly exhibiting some of the embryonic talent that would flower into one of the greatest blues guitarists of this century, and lead to a massively successful career.

TRACKLISTING

1. Grinding stone
2. Time to heal
3. Sail across the mountain
4. The energy dance
5. Spirit
6. Boogie my way back home
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Old 02-07-2012, 06:33 PM   #840 (permalink)
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Hereafter --- Magica --- 2007 (AFM)
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Ah yes: melodic power metal from that home of hard and heavy music … Romania? Yep, that's where these guys hail from, and I can confidently state that I have never yet listened to a Romanian band, metal or otherwise. Perhaps after this I'll regret that and wish I had sampled more music from this country whose biggest export is Count Dracula (even though he didn't exist: Vlad Dracul did though...) and revolution, but I'm not exactly inundated with records from that corner of the world, you know?

Anyhow, this is Magica's third album --- to date, they have released five --- so we're kind of coming in at the middle, which can sometimes be fun, unless you're seeing a movie in a cinema. There is, not surprisingly, little information on them, and some of the names of the bandmembers have those weird little characters that most wordprocessors don't understand or that don't translate well to the web, so we'll have to deal with that as we come across them. Right now, let's hear the music, always a good place to start.

Opener, “All waters have the colour of drowning” starts on nice classical piano intro from keysman Viorel Rainenau (at least, I assume he's male --- checking --- yes, seems to be) then the pounding drums of Cristian Barla and chugging guitars from Bogden “Bat” Costea and Emy power in, and finally the vocals of Ana Mladinovici take the song, and inevitably comparisons to the likes of Nightwish, Epica, Edenbridge et al surface, which is unfair: just because it's a power metal band fronted by a female shouldn't make it a clone of any of the above.

She has a powerful voice indeed, that sort of high, almost operatic style that tends to enunciate every word and sound very competent indeed. The song, though, is quite Epica in its style, while “Turn to stone” ramps up the speed and gets going with a real metal scorcher, great guitars from Costea (who I will from now on refer to as Bat) and Emy, thundering drums and another powerful vocal from Ana, all against a keyboard backdrop laid down by Viorel, which is how I shall refer to him. There's an element of Dio's “Don't talk to strangers” in the melody, but only a few riffs, then “Through wine” is even faster, with some great keyboard passages, and “No matter what” starts out just as fast, then slows down to crunch along.

“Entangled” starts off as if it's going to be a soft ballad, very gentle piano intro, but then Cristian's drums kick that notion away, and the song powers up, though it does slow down again almost immediately for a vocal from Ana sung almost entirely against Viorel's synth line, until the others come in and rock the song along. Nice hook in this, very commercial in its way. Probably the first song that has really grabbed me on the album. Hope there's more like this. A blast of very AOR-style keyboards announces “This is who I am”, and though the guitars from Emy and Bat are strong and fierce, it does come across as more pomp rock than power metal. Good though, with a great proggy keyboard solo backed up by some damn fine work on the guitars.

Nice violin and strings opening to “The weight of the world”, which soon takes off as another hard rocker, leaving the AOR influences behind and blasting off back to the world of melodic hard rock, a hint of Maiden in the guitar attack. Great vocal from Ana, with some sort of backing, whether they're her own multi-tracked or someone else I don't know. “Energy for the gods” introduces for the first time male vocals, which switch with Ana on the chorus, but again I have no idea who it is that's singing. Maybe one of the guitarists? Sorry, not enough information available. It's a powerful song though, racing along on Cristian's hellhammer drums, and if the gods need energy, well there's enough here to supply them for some time!

“Shallow grave” keeps up the tempo with some more great keyboard melodies driving the song, but if there's a criticism to be levelled at Magica, it's this: their music fairly much all sounds the same. We're almost at the end of the album now, and apart from the few tracks which resembled more AOR than metal, most of the songs have kind of blended into each other. Of course, this is a problem with many power metal bands: it's hard to be original in such an intrinsically unoriginal genre.

However, they do save it with the closer, a beautiful ballad played on piano and where Ana really gets to shine, utilising the softer side of her voice. The appropriately-titled “Into silence” takes Magica to different realms altogether, Ana's not thick but recognisable Romanian accent serving her well as it adds to the mystique of the song, very delicate and fragile, and an interesting, unexpected and rather satisfying way to end the album.

Well, I'm not about to rack up the rest of their discography and listen to it tonight, but nor am I prepared to consign this band to history. Yes, they're derivative, but then, you could say that about nearly every band that follows this path, with a few notable exceptions. Their proficiency and professionalism can't be faulted, and as there's nothing to say to the contrary, I must assume they --- or at least one of the band members --- wrote the songs, which while not classics are not rubbish either. Ana has a lovely, strong, powerful voice that can whisper as well as shout, as we see from the final track, and the imagery the band use, while again standard for many of these bands, is evocative and interesting.

If this is what Romania has to offer, then perhaps it's time to delve a little further into the music of this much-maligned and stereotyped country.

TRACKLISTING

1. All waters have the colour of drowning
2. Turn to stone
3. Through wine
4. No matter what
5. Entangled
6. This is who I am
7. Weight of the world
8. Energy of the gods
9. Shallow grave
10. I remember a day
11. Into silence
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