Tuesday, 25 February 2014

100 LPs Shortlist #37: Gary Moore - "Still Got The Blues"

It's been a while since I've added to my list of 100 albums that I grew up listening to. But this is one that has dropped off my radar until just recently.

Gary Moore got his start as a rock guitarist after leaving his native Belfast in the late 1960s. He moved to Dublin and then onto England where he based himself for the rest of his career. His rather unusual career trajectory involved him joining Thin Lizzy no less than three times, and performing a rapid switch from rock to heavy metal to blues as the mood strikes.

His guitar style is not dissimilar to many other rock shredders of the day, including Zakk Wylde, Jake E. Lee or Joe Satriani, and on this record, an album of straight blues tracks, his soloing isn't much different to the aforementioned guitarists.

Upon re-listening to this album recently, it struck me, moreso now than it did then, how much Gary's soulful vocals clash with his Les Paul-through-Marshall-stack-turned-up-to-11 guitar sound, and then put that against the tone of the music and you have a rather odd mix that doesn't blend too well.

Probably the best example of this is when Gary duets with Albert King on one of Albert's own tracks "Oh Pretty Woman". Albert's own guitar sound is timid, meek and mild compared to the heavily overdriven slashing style of Gary. I loved it at the time, delighting in the fact that the elder bluesman was almost eaten alive by the Irish shredder. Now I just think it's a bad example of a rather painful culture clash.

Gary Moore tears through these songs, with abrasive sounding guitar in hand, with all the subtlety of a North Queensland sugarcane cutter. His guitar sound rips them to pieces, throwing in lead guitar techniques and flashy tricks that date the record to its era, when it seemed every guitarist who wanted to be taken seriously had to throw in a bit of tow-handed fretting.

At the time this came out, I was a beginning guitarist with high ideals, playing the blues and taking my first steps into lead guitar, looking up to people like Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix for inspiration. This was a staple part of my musical diet of the time, however in retrospect, I just think it has worn well. My tastes have changed to the point where the subtlety and restraint of Moore's mentor Peter Green wouldn't have gone astray on this record. However, the record was a product of its time and reflected the values shared by likeminded musicians and record buyers alike, and so it is what it is.

Moore-y never had another sizeable hit record like this again. He died of heart failure on 6th February 2011.

Check out the album for yourselves below. Enjoy.

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