Friday 28 May 2021

Gary Moore - How Blue Can You Get (2021)

Country: UK
Style: Blues
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 30 Apr 2021
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Continuing in the vein of previously unreleased songs finally seeing the light, which encompasses the Cirith Ungol and Serj Tankian EPs that I've reviewed this week, here's a new album from Gary Moore, who died a decade ago. Holy crap, has it been that long? Yes, indeed: he left us on 6th February, 2011 and I remember that announcement, because Moore was one of the best blues rock guitarists of all time and, while I first heard him playing straight forward rock and later metal in the eighties, it still stuns me that so many people haven't yet discovered his talents.

It's happening. He comes up a lot on YouTube nowadays, with many commenters spreading the word of a Montreux Jazz Festival cover of Roy Buchanan's timeless The Messiah Will Come Again as being the single best guitar performance of all time. It may be or it may not be—and, if you haven't see it, you should check it out sharpish—but there's no debate around Moore being able to make a guitar speak, soar and scream like few others in history and the first couple of tracks here follow him doing exactly that. They're both covers, a six minute rendition of Freddie King's I'm Tore Down and a much shorter take on Memphis Slim's Steppin' Out, but that really doesn't matter when it comes to solos and these solos truly blister.

There are eight songs on offer here, each taken from a different era in Moore's career but all firmly focused on the blues. I believe half are originals, including some beautiful slow blues numbers. In My Dreams is quite a departure from the two openers but it's a highlight nonetheless and the vibe of the album isn't lost. Love Can Make a Fool of You is even better and that goes double for the closer, Living with the Blues, which is the longest track on the album, albeit only just, and it puts that timeframe to great use. It's fair to say that, when half the songs on this album were originally by other major artists but the best ones are yours, you're doing something really right.

If you're looking for covers, the best known song is probably How Blue Can You Get, which is obviously a B. B. King number from its opening notes, even if you don't know the original. However, it's my least favourite cover here for precisely that reason. Everything else feels like Gary Moore, even if you have a background in the classic bluesmen that he's covering, but this one can't escape its origins with B. B. The last of the four, just for reference, is Done Somebody Wrong, originally by Elmore James. I'd plump for the two openers as the cover highlights.

There's really only one downside to this album, beyond Moore not being around to promote it, and it's the remaining original, Looking at Your Picture. It's not that it's a bad song, because it isn't. However, it just doesn't work in this company. It's a brooding blues number clad in alt rock clothes and, even if it plays well in isolation, it feels emphatically out of place here, whether we're looking at style, tone or even production. I get that these songs were recorded at different times in Moore's career but seven of them fit well together and this one really doesn't.

What's most annoying is that this album would still run forty minutes with this song excised and that's how it should have been released. I guess we need to excise it ourselves. Buy the album on streaming and ditch track five. You can thank me later.

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