April marks ten years since the tragic passing of the the inimitable Northern Irish musician and singer-songwriter, Gary Moore. I am sure you know the man and his music without introduction from me. The good news is that Provogue Records, with the help of the Moore family, are releasing some previously unheard and unreleased tracks and alternative versions. With Gary Moore commemorated on How Blue Can You Get. As a sucker for completing my collections for selected artists. I have found myself buying some very iffy recordings in the past that are really just ‘cash-ins’…well this one need hold no fear; every track is top notch in recording and production and lets all of us enjoy anew the supreme skills of Gary on guitar. It also means that if, like me, you have all of his previous albums, there is so much to enjoy on this it is immediately a must have.
Take the opening Moore interpretation of the Sonny Thompson composed, Freddie King classic, I’m Tore Down. I already have loads of versions of this by different artists and I never thought the Moody/Marsden version would ever be beaten…it hasn’t, but Gary’s version is certainly its equal and has the same sort of attack as my other, near favourite, by Jeff Healey.
Great bass, keys and drums lay down the essential rhythms for Gary to shine as he punctuates each lyric line with some gorgeous runs or sharp chords…and then the solos: sheer brilliance as he plays with the melodies and makes the guitar sing in such a way that you can almost hear words. This isn’t overblown, histrionic laced widdling or flashiness – just a genius at work.
Steppin’ Out is another classic; written by James Bracken according to the record label which Bracken was owner of…or maybe I’m being cynical, because it was Memphis Slim who made it his in 1959. It too has been covered by many with my (now previous favourite) being the Bluesbreakers version with Clapton…Gary does it with a fluidity and feeling that EC never achieved…controversial, but listen to this live in the studio recording where even the odd error adds to the tension…a brilliant instrumental made brillianter!
In My Dreams is a Parisienne Walkways revisited sort of slow blues with the vocals sensitively “wishing you were here by me”. It is different enough to be essential and the chord work may be simple but it’s good. The solo employs bends and sustain and, in doing so, wrenches so much feeling from each note.
How Blue Can You Get was made famous when BB King brought an energy and the famous stop-time chorus to life. (The song is usually credited to British born, American jazz reviewer Leonard Feather and Jane his wife.) Gary stays faithful to the structure but, again, pours emotion into every note and he’s vocally on top form too and you actually believe “our love is nothing but the blues”. Needless to say every guitar phrase fits precisely and backs up the lyrical sting…especially in the stop-time section. Then, guess what? The solo is stunningly good; you can hear how Peter Green influenced him in the way the spaces between the notes say just as much as the flawless bends.
Looking At Your Picture is a previously unknown recording and is the least refined, but that rawness is so telling for a fan of Gary or a fan of guitar…this shows the early shape of what was, I’m guessing, a demo and has a sharpness and charm that adds to the quality.
The slightly flawed outro is brilliant because of that. Love Can Make A Fool Of You is an alternative version that first appeared on Corridors Of Power as a bonus on its re-release…on there it approached heavy disco pop; now it is a slow, blues drenched piece of beauty, with an inspired, sparse and very clever solo that again uses silence to speak volumes between the notes and ends with some fabulous runs.
Done Somebody Wrong was composed by Elmore James, Morris Levy and Clarence L. Lewis and made wholly his own by the genius that was Elmore James, again covered by many: the Mickey Moody and Paul Williams version being my pick. Here we have Gary using a bottleneck (very rare) and bringing life to every phrase…pity he didn’t use it more often because, he’s damn good at slide too…the solo is shiver inducing brilliance.
The final track, Living With The Blues, is back to show Gary’s love (and aptitude) for the slow blues song with heart aching lyrics and guitar phrasing that burn just as strongly.
Although only eight tracks (that is my only complaint) it is perhaps as well as I have run out of superlatives for this master of the guitar.
I’ll leave the final words to one of Gary’s dearest friends, Bernie Marsden: ”We grew up in the business together, and he eventually became a major solo star. I wasn’t remotely surprised, of course, as his playing was so astonishing, a great showman and performer. But to me, he was first and foremost, my friend, and I still miss him today! Enjoy this rare recording.”
Bluesdoodles rating: 5 Doodle Paws – Gary Moore commemorated on How Blue Can You Get – A Stupendous album marking the tenth anniversary of Gary Moore’s sad death…but now we can remember what a genius of the guitar he was and this collection of songs prove that beyond a doubt.
Gary Moore commemorated on How Blue Can You Get
1. I’m Tore Down
2. Steppin’ Out
3. In My Dreams
4. How Blue Can You Get
5.Looking At Your Picture
6. Love Can Make A Fool Of You
7. Done Somebody Wrong
8. Living With The Blues
Gary Moore – How Blue Can You Get
Release date 30th April 2021 via Provogue
Featuring previously unheard and unreleased material.
(No musician details were available at time of writing but I feel sure that Neil Murray, Don Airey and Ian Paice are there.)
(iTunes followed on with lots more Gary and then the slinky blues of Gatemouth Moore on his Everybody Has Their Turn…piano and guitar make this a gem.)