Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday Might Be On His Mind, But Gary Moore Still Has The Blues

Guitarist Gary Moore experienced a strong run of commercial success in Australia and Britain from the mid 80s to early 90s, but the career of this journeyman blues-rock guitarist extends long before and far beyond that period.

Born in Belfast, Ireland, Gary Moore joined the psychedelic rock outfit Granny’s Intentions during the late 60s, whilst still a teenager. Moore left to form his own band, with Granny’s Intentions’ drummer Noel Bridgeman, and bassist Brendan Shields. The band Skid Row (not to be confused with the U.S. glam-metal outfit from the 80s) recorded two albums ‘Skid’ (1970) and ‘34 Hours’ (1971), their style very much in the vein of progressive blues rock. Skid Row opened for Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, and Green played a key role in helping the young band secure a recording deal.

After Skid Row’s second album Moore split from the group and went on to form the Gary Moore Band during 1972. The line-up also featured Jan Schelhaas (keyboards), John Curtis (bass), Pearce Kelly (drums) and Philip Donnelly (guitar), with Moore handling vocals/guitar. The Gary Moore Band released just one album with 1973’s ‘Grinding Stone’, and were starting to establish a solid fan base, before Gary Moore was invited by Phil Lynott to join his band Thin Lizzy. Lynott was mates with Moore through a short stint in Moore’s first outfit Skid Row. Moore’s first tenure with Thin Lizzy was a brief one, filling in on guitar for a period of three months during 1974, replacing the departed Eric Bell, but Moore would return to the Thin Lizzy family a few years later.

Moore’s ‘have guitar will travel’ approach next saw him recruited to established progressive jazz-rock outfit Colosseum. During his stint with Colosseum the band moved toward a heavier guitar rock sound, providing the guitarist with a great environment to take his playing to a new level of skill. Moore recorded three albums with Colosseum - ‘Strange New Flesh’ (1976), ‘Electric Savage’ (1977) and ‘Wardance’ (1977) - and was afforded the chance to sing lead vocals on quite a few tracks (like Clapton had done before him, Moore was evolving into a more rounded musician). Old mate Phil Lynott put out an S.O.S. for Moore to fill in for injured Thin Lizzy guitarist Brian Robertson on the band’s early ‘78 tour of the U.S. Moore ended up staying on for an extended stretch which included several tours and playing on Thin Lizzy’s 1979 album ‘Black Rose (A Rock Legend)’. During the same period though he recorded with the likes of Rod Argent and curiously enough Andrew Lloyd Webber, and continued to pursue a solo career, enlisting the help of several former/current band mates (including Phil Lynott) on his first official solo album ‘Back On The Streets’ (UK#70), released in early ‘79. The album featured ‘Parisienne Walkways’, a beautifully constructed blues-rock track that announced to the world that here was a rare talent on the guitar. Phil Lynott handled the vocals on ‘Parisienne Walkways’, which strolled all the way to #8 on the U.K. charts in mid ‘79.

Gary Moore farewelled Thin Lizzy in late ‘79 and established a new band of his own called G-Force, featuring Tony Newton (vocals), Willie Dee (keyboards/bass/vocals) and ex-Thin Lizzy drummer Mark Nauseef. G-Force released just one low key self-titled album during 1980. Over the next couple of years Gary Moore oscillated between duties with the Greg Lake Band, and resurrecting his own stalled solo career. Moore’s next album was 1982’s ‘Corridors Of Power’ (UK#30), which benefited from support musicians such as bassist Neil Murray (ex-Whitesnake) and drummer Ian Paice (ex-Deep Purple). Moore then cleared the deck and recruited a new backing band for his next album, 1984’s ‘Victims Of The Future’. The album was well received and peaked at #12 on the British charts, also yielding two minor hit singles ‘Hold On To Love’ (UK#65) and the haunting ballad style ‘Empty Rooms’ (UK#51 - remixed in 1985 - UK#23). A live album ‘We Want Moore!’ (UK#32) was released late in ‘84. There was a regular turnover of muso’s supporting Moore during the mid 80s, with his band roster sometimes reading like a who’s who of rock talent, with the likes of Neil Carter (ex-UFO), Paul Thompson (ex-Roxy Music) and Glenn Hughes (ex-Deep Purple) numbered among them.

1985 proved a banner year for Gary Moore, scoring a UK#5 (OZ#62) hit with the classic ‘Out In The Fields’ (credited to Gary Moore & Phil Lynott), from the album ‘Run For Cover’ (UK#12/OZ#73). Several members of Irish folk legends The Chieftains were in tow by this point, and featured on Moore’s next live album ‘Rockin’ Every Night’ (UK#99/OZ#91). The next phase of Gary Moore’s career would see him elevated from respected blues guitarist/vocalist to a regular presence on the mainstream rock charts. His 1987 album ‘Wild Frontier’ (UK#8/OZ#41) produced the top forty hits ‘Over The Hills And Far Away’ (UK#20/OZ#94) and ‘Wild Frontier’ (UK#35/OZ#85 - one of Moore’s first overtly political songs). The album was dedicated to Moore’s former friend and band-mate Phil Lynott, who had died in 1986. The third single ‘Friday On My Mind’ was a surging rock cover of the former Easybeats’ 1966 Australian #1. Moore’s version featured plenty of screeching guitars with layers of pomp-rock style synth, and peaked at #26 in the U.K. and #25 in Australia. It was arguably Gary Moore’s first crossover hit, owing less to his blues-rock heritage and more to the big hair band’s so prevalent at the time.

Moore hooked up with legendary drummer Cozy Powell for his next album ‘After The War’ (UK#23/OZ#67) in 1989 (the title track reached UK#37), which also featured several tracks that reflected Moore’s views on the political situation in his home country. The album also included the track ‘Blood Of Emeralds’, again in honour of his fallen comrade Phil Lynott. 1990’s album ‘Still Got The Blues’ (UK#13/OZ#5/US#83) propelled Gary Moore into blues/rock superstar territory. The lead out single was a wailing cover of ‘Oh Pretty Woman’ (UK#48/OZ#37) featuring the mercurial Albert Collins (who would also feature on the track ‘Too Tired’ - UK#71). The title track ‘Still Got The Blues (For You)’ was a majestic blues ballad featuring Moore’s searing guitar work throughout. It was his only foray into the U.S. Hot 100 (#97) but performed considerably better in the U.K. (#31) and Australia (#16), and helped prolong the album’s stay inside the Australian charts to a marathon 44 weeks. It’s worth noting that during 1990 Gary Moore made one of his numerous cameo appearances on other artist’s work, when he punched out the guitar solo on the Traveling Wilburys’ single ‘She’s My Baby’, from the supergroup’s ‘Volume 3’ album.

‘After Hours’ (1992) became Moore’s biggest selling album, reaching both the British and Australian top five. By this stage Gary Moore had both feet firmly back on the blues side of the rock music field, reflected in hit singles such as ‘Cold Day In Hell’ (UK#24/OZ#45), ‘Story Of The Blues’ (UK#40) and his duet with blues legend B.B. King on ‘Since I Met You Baby’ (UK#59). Such was Moore’s popularity in Britain during this period that his next live album ‘Blues Alive’ (1993) peaked at #8 on the charts and featured a new version of the classic ‘Parisienne Walkways’ (UK#32), recorded at the Royal Albert Hall during October ‘92.

In June 1994 Gary Moore temporarily followed in the footsteps of one of his guitar heroes Eric Clapton, when he joined ex-Cream members Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker to form BBM. They scored a UK#9 album with ‘Around The Next Dream’. Moore followed this up with the 1995 solo album ‘Blues For Greeney’ (UK#14/US#5 Top Blues), a tribute to another of his guitar heroes Peter Green (of Fleetwood Mac), and featuring acclaimed bass player Guy Pratt (Killing Joke, Icehouse and touring bassist with Pink Floyd). The same year Moore scored his last entry into the UK Top 50 singles chart with ‘Need Your Love So Bad’ (#48), featured in the film ‘Mad Dogs And Englishmen’.

Gary Moore’s next two albums ‘Dark Days In Paradise’ (1997-UK#42) and ‘A Different Beat’ (1999) found the blues devotee exploring other styles, including the use of contemporary electronic rhythm tracks, and Moore then rededicated himself to his first love the blues, exploring the genre with great intimacy and passion across his next few albums; ‘Back To The Blues’ (2001), ‘Power Of The Blues’ (2004), ‘Old New Ballad Blues’ (2006), which were split by the alternative-rock influenced ‘Scars’ (2002). His latest album is 2008’s ‘Bad For You Baby’.

Whilst Gary Moore may not have received the same level of critical accolade or commercial acclaim as some of his predecessors or indeed peers, he warrants unconditional recognition as one of the most gifted blues/rock guitarists of the last forty years.

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