Saturday, February 13, 2010

Gary Moore: A Return to Rock?

Over on facebook, I'm being inundated with the news that guitar great Gary Moore is to play a hard rock set at the Sweden Hard Rock Festival.  This is really some cool news.  In a year that appears to be sizing up as a great one for the world of rock guitar, this is but another indication that rock guitar is far from dead, in fact it appears to be afire.

Gary Moore has focused his career on the blues for the last 20 years, and will most likely continue to do so, but this show that he's playing indicates at least a slight return to rock.  Though it's hard to fathom, there are a great many people who know Moore only as a bluesman, not realizing that he reigned near the top of the hard rock world throughout the 70s and 80s as a solo artist and as a frequent collaborator with the late great Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy.

I first saw Moore playing with the Lizzies back in 1977.  He stood in for an injured Brian Robertson on an American tour.  I was bummed out for about two minutes when the band took the stage without one of my favorite players.  That disappointment didn't last long.  Moore was much more than a stand-in, in fact he stole the show from Lynott, the band, headliners Def Leppard, and everyone else in the arena.  His fiery playing turned the 6,000 strong audience on their ears.  His high water mark with Lizzy was the Irish rock anthem, Black Rose, and it was during this song that my long and subsequent love of Moore's work began.

Moore's career had started with early appearances in Colusseum II, and Skid Row, but it was only when he joined Lynott in Lizzy that he appeared on American radar. He toured with the band off and on, but only recorded the English hit, Still In Love With You, in 1974 with the band.  The only full length album he recorded with the band was 1979's, Black Rose: A Rock Legend. His stays in Lizzy were always brief, as Moore focused instead on establishing his solo career.

1979 marks the true beginning of the ascendancy of Moore to "rock god" status.  The Black Rose album charted #2 on Britain's record charts and sold well in America as well.  Moore's first major solo outing, Back On The Streets, did big business and landed him his first #1 single, the classic, Parisienne Walkways, a duet with his friend and occasional mentor Lynott.  The album features Moore's astounding guitar work, his passionate vocals, and songs.  He's joined by such stalwarts as Lynott, keyboard wizard Don Airey, and super drummer Cozy Powell.  The title cut is one of the finest rockers of the era, featuring Moore and Airey dueting throughout the solo sections.  Don Airey, if you're not aware, is unquestionably the best hard rock keyboardist in history.  In this period alone he contributed mightily to this album by Moore, Rainbow's Down To Earth , and Michael Schenker's first solo record.  Not a bad year for either gentleman or any of these great bands.

Throughout the 80s, Moore recorded and toured incessantly, releasing excellent albums and filling large venues as a headliner, and  was a favorite at festivals throughtout Europe.  This period saw Moore become both a rock guitar legend, and a hugely successful band leader.  America took to the man, but nothing compared to Europe and Japan.  Speaks more of this country's need for glitz than it does about the talent involved.

I've always been equally astounded by Gary Moore's talent.  He's equally blessed  as a remarkable guitarist, a passionate and powerful singer, and a great songwriter, equally at home with screaming rock, tender ballads, or of course, the blues.  The man possesses perhaps the most powerful, authoratative right hand in the annals of guitardom.  His playing brims with confidence, soul, and excitement.  Listen once to his cover of The Yardbirds classic hit, Shapes of Things, from his 1983 release, Victims of the Future, and you'll be a convert for life, if you're not all ready.  The histrionics on display are mindbending, featuring a great array of Moore's finest chops.  Moore was amongst the first guitarists that Ozzy Osbourne called when confronted with the unfortunate death of Randy Rhoads.  Thankfully Moore turned the offer down, as did my old friend Michael Schenker.  Both guitarists have always followed their own muse, and wisely chose the focus of solo careers, which saw both filling arenas on the strength of great guitar playing, a day sadly passed, I fear.

Moore continued playing to huge crowds and recordig excellent hard rock records throughout the 80s.  Run for Cover, released in 1985, saw Moore featuring a great set of tunes and sharing the stage with his old friend Phil Lynott, and also a gave a glimpse at what has to be one of hard rock's greatest missed oppurtunies, Moore teaming up with Glenn Hughes.  The pair duet on several songs, Hughes singing a couple, playing bass on a few and we get a taste of a band that would have been amazing had it grown to fruition.  This is another absolute must listen.  If you've never heard this album, you should remedy that at once.  It is an amazing LP, and amongst my top 20 hard rock albums.  Moore shines when singing and playing beside equals and never more so than here.

Moore rounded out the 80s by becoming increasingly Irish with every release.  He always displayed a political side with many songs concerning world affairs, and as time went on, he reverted back to his Irish roots and put out two records, Wild Frontier, and, After the War, that stand as the best examples of Irish hard rock ever put to tape.  Wild Frontier, especially is a very nationalist album, and another gem, filled with jig-tinged molten rock.  Moore takes to his hoe as a fish to water.  His passion is almost overwhelming.  Check it out.

1990 saw Moore get the blues, and he's been here ever since, and doing it heroically I'll add, but I've missed his rocking side mightily.  He brought hard rock technique and tone to the blues to great success and has hada big influence on many great young bluesers, such as Bonamassa and Davey Knowles. 

I hope that this foray into the realm of rock means that Moore will return at least a portion of his energy to rock.  This year marked John Sykes's retirement from Thin Lizzy.  Perhaps we'll see Gary take up some of that slack.  In a year that is promising to be the best that the rock guitar world has seen in many, the return of Gary Moore to the arena could be yet another high water mark.  Let's  hope.

We've got great projects coming from Black Country (Glenn Hughes and Joe Bonamassa), West, Bruce Jr, and Laing, and more to come.  Yeah, it's gonna be a good year for guitar lovers....

Thanks to everyone who has read, and commented.  If you have anything to suggest please do not hesitate.

Peace, tony conley


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