Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Gary Moore - Blues For Jimi: Long May They Run

Gary Moore fused molten rock to the blues - he roamed from hard rock shredder to full fledged bluesman, but only now do we see the release of a document that shows how completely, how perfectly he embraced and combined both.

Moonshade Photography
Blues For Jimi, recorded on October 25, 2007, sees the Irish wonder covering eleven Hendrix classics and it may be the finest tribute record these ears have ever heard. Throughout the set Moore stays close to the mold, replicating runs, chords, and fills with a panache that almost makes it sound easy, but he also injects enough of his own spirit into the proceedings to keep this exciting, fresh, and new. He nails the solo on the set opening Purple Haze, then finishes with a rapid set of descending pull offs that are classic Moore. Jimi is smiling somewhere in the cosmos. So is Moore. In fact, they're probably having a laugh together.

Manic Depression features drummer Darrin Mooney and bassist Dave Bronze doing their finest Experience impression - especially the furious display of fills from the former Primal Scream sticksman. His free flowing frenzy is anchored by Bronze, who stays steady, keeping the path clear for the red hot histrionics of Moore and Mooney. This group takes possession of these songs - they're not just covering them, they are taking ownership for the evening.

Moore's command of his instrument is astounding as he squeezes the shellac off the back of his faithful Strat's neck for the hallowed feedback that introduces Foxey Lady. The solo sees him adding much of his own style, with drastic string bends, and the otherworldly fury of his right hand makes it a wonderful trip - you can easily imagine that Jimi would have loved the direction that Jim Marshall took his little amplifier company.

Gary Moore was known for his guitar playing, but his singing always carried an equal share of the load - when he slows things down for The Wind Cries Mary, his tone, phrasing, and vibrato are all as captivating coming from his mouth as his hands. Soul seeped through every iota of his being - it's almost hard to imagine how the guy got so much spirit coming from both at the same time. You can hear the soul of the American South via his vocals as his guitar gently reminds us of the influence that the chittlin' circuit had on Hendrix's guitar playing, and no greater tribute could be paid. There's a tremendous amount of love, devotion, and respect being applied to these songs.

I Don't Live Today is the crossroads-cum-the sixties. You can almost smell the napalm on the newsprint and wonder if Hendrix didn't dream this one up as he remembered once wearing paratrooper garb. He starts in the blues and ends up in an acid drenched guitar freak out. Moore does his best to recreate the vibe and largely succeeds.

As soon as the first pulsating chords tumble out of his speakers, you can't wait to hear what the Irish wunderkind does with Angel, and he certainly delivers. Balladry was one of Moore's strong points and he milks this one for all it's worth, then when the band starts modulating up towards the stratosphere you just want them to take it higher and higher, and they do. Mindblowingly beautiful.

Fueling the funkier section of the Hendrix catalog, Fire gives the Moore and his crack band the chance to pick up the pac, and boy do they. This one is like a bottle from a rocket shot free - Mooney pounds this one out in a manner that makes me miss Bonzo on this day of his passing. Great drummers make me smile, and I am smiling. This one ends with Moore doing his best air raid impression, and it's marvelous.

Now it gets special as M.C. Keith Altham introduces Billy Cox and Mitch Mitchell. Moore stokes the fires with the time tested and approved intro that can only announce an arrival at the Red House. Cox and Moore trade vocal verses, and while the vibe is looser, more relaxed, and casual, this has much more of a bluesy vibe as Billy walks hard on his old Fender bass. Mitchell is as loose as ever, and perhaps only Ginger Baker ever came as close to bringing jazz to the rock as well as Mitch. The solo section here is amazing - Moore slows down, and shows that he's much more than fire and brimstone, he's also deep.

Cox takes the vocal for Stone Free, and it's straight back to the psychedelic 60s - what a great trip. Moore plays this one clean and slinky - he's giving Cox and Mitchell the stage and letting them roam free. Then he kicks on the distortion pedal, and sets his sights on the astral planes. This is more authentic than I have ever heard anyone do Hendrix - much looser and sloppy than what has proceeded, but in a great way. It works. It works well.

Hey Joe - how many times have I prayed to never hear this played again? Boy, I'm glad that I didn't get my wish. This is transcendent. Cox and Mitchell move this thing from down Mexico way to the Southside of Chicago, down the Mississippi to the Gulf via New Orleans, and Moore chases them every step of the way. They end up together in a state of rock and roll nirvana. Wow. This one is worth the price of the record.

They wrap it up with Voodoo Child (Slight Return) - Moore playfully attacks his wah pedal and takes this intro uptown with John Shaft. Then Mitchell and Cox join in, and together they ride off into the sunset. Of course, it takes almost eleven minutes - you get to hear the drummer bring the big rock, and Moore puts his
pedal to the metal.

Gary Moore blazed a bright trail - he started off as a Clapton acolyte playing hard rock, moved upwards to become a heavy metal guitar icon before finding out late in his life that he still had the blues. He never gave less than a thousand percent, and he made some amazing moves by filling the shoes of EC, playing with Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker, recreating the music of Cream (as well as an album of their own as BBM) - I'm glad he was also able to show his respect, love, and command of the catalog of Jimi Hendrix. This is a beautiful way to pay tribute to both Moore and Jimi - a wonderful set of Hendrixian blues and rock, all played with love.

Like I said, probably the best tribute record I've ever heard. Get this one, it's scorching. I'm surprised he didn't break and burn his guitar at the end. Instead, he says thank you - repeatedly. No Gary, thank you.

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