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Old 02-08-2012, 05:22 AM   #841 (permalink)
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Close as you get --- 2007 (Eagle)


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.

TRACKLISTING

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
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Old 02-08-2012, 06:41 AM   #842 (permalink)
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All the world's a stage Part III --- Gary Moore live

Sadly, we'll never again have the pleasure or privilege of seeing Gary play live, but there is much footage on YouTube to remind us of what an incredible guitarist he was. Here's part three of our selections.

“Story of the blues” from “After hours” (Live Blues)


Not sure what this song is, but it's live from the Ranelagh Bar in Brighton...


“Hey Joe” (with Roger Daltrey, live at Ronnie Scott's, 2003)


“Jumpin' at shadows” from “After hours” (Live Blues)


“Texas strut” from “Still got the blues” (Montreaux 1990)


“Always there for you” from “Dark days in Paradise” (Mannheim, Germany 1997)


“Wishing well” from “Corridors of power” (Ireland, 1984)



“Stand up” from “Scars” (Monsters of Rock, Sheffield 2003)



“Out in the fields” from “Run for cover” (Monsters of Rock, Sheffield 2003)


“Jailbreak” from “Jailbreak” (One Night In Dublin, tribute to Phil Lynott, 2005)
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Old 02-08-2012, 12:51 PM   #843 (permalink)
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It's true: sometimes they really do. Nothing shows quite how good a musician is than instrumental tracks, and though few and far between, Gary had his share of instrumental work on his albums over the years, most of which were his own original compositions. Here are the ones I could track down. Some have been featured before, whether in album reviews or as part of our series “The softer side of...”, but this is the first time I've gathered them all together in the one spot.

From his debut, “Grinding stone”, there are two, the title track

and “The energy dance”.


“Back on the streets”, his second solo album, released five years after his debut, also has three instrumentals, in “The flight of the snow moose”


the somewhat jazzy “Hurricane”

and the much shorter “What would you rather bee or a wasp”


There are also three versions of "Spanish guitar" on the album as extra tracks, one of which is an instrumental version.


It's another six years before we come across “Dirty fingers”, title track to the album released in 1984, and also the only instrumental on the album.


Also in 1984 we had "Victims of the future", the remastered edition of which contains "Blinder".


It's not then till “Wild frontier”, 1987's powerful effort, that Gary again tackles an instrumental, but man has it been worth waiting for! This is “The loner”.


Then there's 1989's amazing cover of “The messiah will come again”, from “After the war”. This, to my knowledge, is the first time Gary commited to vinyl/acetate an instrumental cover.


Also on that album were two instrumentals called “Dunluce”, parts 1 and 2.



The compilation, "Ballads and blues", released in 1994, features this great instrumental, "Blues for Narada".


The next one appears on “Back to the blues”, 2001, and it's “The prophet”.


His last album to feature an instrumental then was 2006's “Old new ballads blues”, on which we find “Cut it out”.
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Old 02-08-2012, 05:41 PM   #844 (permalink)
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Old 02-08-2012, 05:42 PM   #845 (permalink)
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One day! Just one day left! Thank the Great Worm! You would not believe how hard it has been getting bands for some of the letters in the alphabet! Y has already been setup though...

Daily Earworm has been brought to you today by the letter Y, with Yello, and “Oh yeah”.
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Old 02-08-2012, 07:07 PM   #846 (permalink)
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Still got the blues --- 1990 (Virgin)


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.

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 AC 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 delta 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 hoves into view. Six minutes plus of pure laidback, angst-ridden, gut-wrenching blues ballad, 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' round.”

Like I say, maybe it's because I had expected to hear original Gary Moore songs that I originally didn't 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.

TRACKLISTING

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
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Old 02-08-2012, 07:15 PM   #847 (permalink)
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Back on the streets --- 1978 (Grand Slamm)


Some artistes 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”, which sounds more like something you'd encounter on a Rush album than here, 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 classic 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.

TRACKLISTING

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
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Old 02-08-2012, 07:39 PM   #848 (permalink)
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Head Starts and Happy Endings

So what Gary Moore albums open with great tracks? Well, surprisingly not that many. Throughout his catalogue, I've found it's often not till the album has got a few tracks in that it really starts to get good. Of course, that's strictly personal taste, but even one my favourites of his, “Corridors of power”, though it starts on a decent track, has far better songs waiting once you get past that.

So in the end I can only really find four, starting with the title track to his second (or, depending on your view, first) album, "Back on the streets"


then the title (and opening) track to 1985's “Run for cover”


and then the next album up, 1987's “Wild frontier”, which opens with the brilliant “Over the hills and far away”.


and finishing with the opener, and again title track, to 1989's "After the war".




(Note: I would like to make it clear that I don't necessarily think the opening tracks from other albums are terrible, just that they're not the powerful or effective openers I like to hear, tracks that make you think this album is going to be great, that's all.)

We do much better with
Gary's albums generally tend to close on really strong, powerful and often emotional tracks.
We return to “Back on the streets”, his second album (and first released under his own name), which we would have to, of course, as it closes on the classic “Parisienne walkways”, with the late Phil Lynott on vocals.

There's a strong finish too for “Corridors of power”, with the epic “I can't wait until tomorrow”.

And the haunting “Rest in peace” closes “Dirty fingers”. Three for three so far.

“Victims of the future” spoils the progression. “Law of the jungle” is not a terrible song, but I definitely wouldn't consider it a strong closer. Which brings us to “Run for cover” again, which has a really nice little laidback closer, “Listen to your heartbeat”.

Then “Wild frontier”, like its predecessor, opens and closes strongly, with the emotional “Crying in the shadows”.

“After the war” also has a stong closer, in “Blood of emeralds”.

I have to discount “Still got the blues”, as most of the tracks, including the closer, are covers, and I just don't find “Stop messin' around” a particularly good closing track, however the next album, “After hours”, leaves us with the melancholic “Nothing's the same”.

I would like to include “Dark days in Paradise”, but although technically the closer, there's only seconds between “Business as usual” and the disappointing, “hidden” title track, so I have to see that as being the closer, and it's very weak. “Back to the blues” though has a good closer in “Drowning in tears”

and “Power of the blues” has the powerful “Torn inside” to finish it,

while “Old new ballads blues” has the great “I'll play the blues for you”. This in fairness is not Gary's own song, but he does a great job with it and it's a fitting closer.

“Close as you get” ends on the dobro-played “Sundown”, which though it's also a cover is really a great song

and of course the last ever studio song played by Gary, the closer to his final album, “Bad for you baby”, we had to include “Trouble ain't far behind.”
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Old 02-09-2012, 05:18 AM   #849 (permalink)
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Bang goes the knighthood --- The Divine Comedy --- 2010 (Divine Comedy Records)


We touched on this very briefly during our “Beginner's Guide to the Divine Comedy” back there just before Christmas, but now I want to take a deeper look into the latest (so far) album by Neil Hannon. The album is the first to be released on his own label, breaking a nine-year association with Parlophone, who have released the last three of his albums, going back to 2001's “reinvention” on the album “Regeneration”.

It opens on slow organ and piano, with a lazy, laidback vocal from Neil on “Down in the street below”, then all of a sudden the tempo kicks right up, sort of in the vein of “Tonight we fly”, Neil's vocal stronger and more upbeat, the orchestra cutting in and some very boppy percussion carrying the track along. It's quite a surprise --- not that you should ever try to anticipate anything when listening to the Divine Comedy! --- the song changing so suddenly and sharply. And then it goes back to the lounge style of the opening, with just the piano, some woodwind and light percussion, and then the orchestra comes in strongly again, taking the song to an emotional climax, Neil singing almost like Barry Manilow as he steers for home, and the track ends on a recurring piano melody to fade.

Piano then carries in “The complete banker”, fast, sharp, staccato, the orchestra joining in as the song runs along at a decent pace. Not surprisingly it's a song about those responsible for the worlwide financial meltdown as he sings ”I loved it, making a profit from somebody's loss/ I never knew exactly whose money it was/ And I did not care as long as there was lots for me!” Very topical, sharply satirical, just what you'd expect from Neil. Great guitar solo too, oddly reminiscent of the one in the Carpenters' “Goodbye to love”...

In the style of some of the songs from “Casanova”, the pace stays fast for “Neapolitan girl”, with some nice jangly guitar and I think violins maybe? Kind of a bossa-nova beat to it. Maybe. I'm not one hundred percent sure what bossa-nova sounds like, but I think it sounds like this. The title track is carried on finger-walking piano and accordion, giving the song, inevitably, a French feeling, also a flavour of Tom Waits (whisky flavour probably!), then urgent, dramatic organ changes the tone of the song for a moment before it slips back into its piano groove, almost film-score in its style. Funny little song which seems to be concerned with dodgy things the aristocracy get up to: ”Crack goes the whip/ And if anyone should tell/ Bang goes the knighthood as well!”

There's more of a pop flavour to “At the indie disco”, going back to the style used on his earlier albums in places, particularly songs like “Your daddy's car”, “Europop” and “The pop star's fear of the pollen count”. With guitar and violin it almost manages at times to evoke ELO, the Electric Light Orchestra, and in places Tom Petty too. “Have you ever been in love” is classic Divine Comedy, brings to mind the likes of “The frog princess” and “A woman of the world”, with some nice orchestration and a feel of forties movie music, then it's almost tango rhythm for “Assume the perpendicular”, run on piano again, bright and breezy, with finger-clicking (or castanets, not sure which) and good backing vocals.

There's a great little piece of pure rock and roll then in “The lost art of conversation”, piano again leading the way --- I'm assuming Neil is sitting behind it --- and the overall feel of the album is of a great sense of fun, which is often the case with Divine Comedy albums, though not always: parts of “Casanova” were very dark, and “Fin de siecle” had more than one serious tracks. Which is not to say there are no serious subjects tackled on this album --- financial irresponsibility is no laughing matter --- but Neil handles just about every subject with the same joie de vivre and witty satirical comments that characterises most of his work.

A lovely little “Tubular Bells” intro to “Island life”, then Neil duets on the song with --- who? I don't know, the lady is not credited. But it doesn't really matter, as the song is fairly empty: not quite throwaway, but definitely filler, and the weakest track on the album, where it really feels as if Neil isn't trying, for once on this album, and just taking the easy way out to pen a pop song, fairly vacuous, unless there's some comment in there I'm too thick to recognise. “When a man cries”, on the other hand, is a tender, powerful, bitter ballad, taking as its subject the often uncomfortable matter of men breaking down, as we're never supposed to. A woman can cry and elicit sympathy, a friendly arm around the shoulder, a hug or indeed get what she's looking for, but a man crying is generally frowned on, so we keep it in mostly, afraid to let our vulnerability show.

Neil captures this perfectly when he sings ”When a man cries his body shakes/ And his eyeballs ache/ And his mind vibrates/ But he doesn't make a sound/ Don't want to wake the house now.” The tune is beautifully crafted to suit the lyric, and this should indeed go down as one of Neil's best and most competent songs --- and that list is pretty long! I would probably mark it as the standout on the album. Changing the mood totally, “Can you stand upon one leg” sounds to me like Manilow's “Can't smile without you”: boppy, tapalong, harmless, kind of a comedown after the majestic insight of “When a man cries”. Even the note-held-for-an-incredibly-long-time at the very end is just annoying.

Closer “I like” is a decent rocker, not a bad track to end on, simple enough but again a weak track compared to some of the good stuff that has gone before it. You'd have to say the album ends on a weak note, having been generally so strong all the way through.

So “Bang goes the knighthood” is not a classic album in the mould of “Casanova”, “Liberation” or even “A short album about love”, but it is a very good album with some excellent tracks. It's let down by some rather formulaic stuff later on, but the good ones really do more than make up for the bad. There are some great ideas on the album, some fine musicianship and as ever some extremely off-the-wall lyrics. But then, that's how we like the Divine Comedy, how we like Neil, and in the end, though his knighthood may be gone bang, you certainly can't say the same about his talent, artistry or his sense of sharp-minded fun.

I like. Mostly.

TRACKLISTING

1. Down in the street below
2. The complete banker
3. Neapolitan girl
4. Bang goes the knighthood
5. At the indie disco
6. Have you ever been in love
7. Assume the perpendicular
8. The lost art of conversation
9. Island life
10. When a man cries
11. Can you stand upon one leg
12. I like

Recommended further listening: “Casanova”, “Liberation”, “Promenade”, “Fin de siecle”, “A short album about love”, “Victory for the comic muse”, “Regeneration”, “Absent friends”
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Old 02-09-2012, 06:17 AM   #850 (permalink)
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What, you think I'm such a huge Gary Moore fan that there isn't one of his albums I don't rate? Think again. Although he has had pretty much consistenly great and on occasions excellent material over the course of his career, there have been one or two occasions where, for me, he stumbled, wandered off track, got it completely wrong. This particular album I'll be tackling in a moment, but first...

Victims of the future --- 1984 (10 Records)


This, and “Corridors of power” --- already reviewed a long time ago by me --- 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 rerecorded 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', pounding 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 best 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.

TRACKLISTING

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



So that's not my favourite Gary Moore album --- that's between “Corridors of power”, which was already reviewed and so can't be included here, and “Dark days in Paradise” --- but definitely one of the ones I consider among his top five. The rest that I've heard are all pretty good too, with one or two rare exceptions, but mostly they follow the standard and trusted format, and so are unlikely to disappoint.

This one, however, is a whole different kettle of blues...

A different beat --- 1999 (Castle)


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.

TRACKLISTING

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)
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