Mascot Records [Release date 31.01.20]
Before he re-discovered his blues credential in 1990, Gary Moore’s career encapsulated hard rock, fusion, prog, jazz-rock and always somewhere at the core blues.
30 years ago he took a career changing decision to throw his lot in with the blues. It re-ignited his career and brought him new fans and unexpected chart success, while he gained credibility by touring and recording with the likes of Albert Collins and Albert King.
In truth Moore’s concept of the blues is finding a different way in which to channel his aggressive rock-blues playing without clichés, while the old Brit invasion era material feels reborn in the hands of a barn burning guitarist.
He draws on the British Invasion years and John Mayall’s ‘Beano’ album in particular for some familiar fare, while curiously omitting his other big hero Peter Green.
There’s nothing really surprising here, but given the circumstances of his passing, this 10th anniversary live album brings a high quality sense of closure for fans.
The opening ‘Oh Pretty Woman’ almost feels like a limbering up exercise with some fierce rhythm guitar work, before his wailing vibrato meets some fearsome shredding head on as he solos imperiously.
He tears things up on an opening brace from his ‘Bad For You Baby’ album, the title song being a booming stop-time shuffle, before he’s a blur of speed and dexterity on the country tinged ‘Down The Line’. He delivers razor sharp hot picking with real spark on a song that is in truth otherwise forgettable.
Moore never loses his sense of fun on two ‘call and response’ numbers, as he switches to slide on JB Lenoir’s ‘Mojo Boogie’, which searches out a similar intensity to the Johnny Winter’s cover, while ‘Walking By Myself’ is a workday vehicle for his incendiary chops.
Moore’s playing has always been about a big tone and the kind of searing intensity that burns at the heart of all his solos, and it’s a combination serves him well on a well balanced album that is routed in the blues, but still rocks hard.
Ultimately it’s his inventive and blistering solos that give this album its impact. For example, he attacks the slow blues of the John Mayall’s ‘Have You Heard’ (from the ‘Beano’ album) with impeccable timing, tone control and dynamics, and he’s equally good on the album’s litmus test; Al Cooper’s ‘I Love You More Than You Will Ever Know’.
Garry attributes the song to Donny Hathaway who injected the horn-led original with deeply wrought emotion. And just when you think that Moore might be over reaching himself, but he transforms the song to his own end with an aching tone.
He pours all his emotion into his playing over a featherbed organ line, while he works his way to a piercing heavy rock finale that highlights his ability as a peerless rock-blues guitarist and a husky vocalist.
He’s not quite a successful with Otis Rush ‘All Your Lovin’. It’s taken at a slower tempo than his 1990 version and while he rejoices in the song’s signature riff and gives it presence with a warm tone, his brusque rough-edged vocals fail to capture Rush’s original emotional charge. Then again, given that most people buying this album will be guitar fans, he still delivers with plenty to spare.
Johnny Guitar Watson’s ‘Too Tired’ – which he used to play with Albert Collins – is given a guitar and organ led shuffle treatment in a good example of a durable blues song that has long been part of his set.
He saves his best for deep in the album with the anthemic ‘Still Got The Blues’, complete with its stolen melody line from the concluding ‘Parisienne Walkways’.
And when he does finally say goodbye with the latter, he rounds off a burgeoning set with trademark sustain and a beautifully sculpted and warm toned finish in sharp contrast to some of his earlier rip-roaring attack.
His final solo is everything Moore and guitarist fans in general want to hear from an ax-slinger who continued to set standards before his untimely demise.
He bows out with the sweetest sustain on a bridge building solo between rock and blues. There was only one Gary Moore and the final track alone is a great example of how he should be remembered. ****
Review by Pete Feenstra
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