Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Gary Moore - How Blue Can You Get

How Blue Can You Get is about as good as it gets.  Set aside any fears that this posthumous Gary Moore release might be an incoherent batch of outtakes.  It’s the real McCoy.
This eight-track collection hangs together beautifully, split evenly between covers and originals but with Moore putting his stamp on everything in the breeziest fashion.
The opening take on Freddie King’s ‘I’m Tore Down’ sets the tone, with swinging drums, jogging bass and grooving organ creating a tight but relaxed vibe.  Moore’s vocal feels totally at home,
Gary Moore - bluesy from any angle
Pic by Jesse Wild
and if his first solo is on the money his second outing is even better, with a clear and biting tone as he goes to town without ever overdoing it.  There’s bags of tension and release, and as he raises the stakes towards the end the drums complement his moves to good effect.
The cover of Memphis Slim’s instrumental ‘Steppin’ Out’ that follows is spot on right from its staccato opening.  Moore’s playing around with the theme is fluid, and sets the scene for soloing that’s by turns witty, conversational, and then scorching, over more corking backing even if the organ feels a touch too high in the mix, competing with Moore at times rather than complementing him.
BB King’s 'How Blue Can You Get' is a classic slow blues that floats along beautifully, with patient bass and drums providing the foundation for slow, slow, quick-quick-slow Moore licks on the intro, before he brings the lyric to life with his vocal.  There’s a stop-time bridge, and then Moore embarks on the most tasteful of less-is-more solos, suspense colliding into fluttering quick passages.  Restraint isn't the word I’d most associate with Gary Moore, but his relaxed playing here is a model of it.
Of the four covers, Elmore James’ ‘Done Somebody Wrong’ feels most like a makeweight, but still hits the mark as a slice of straightforward blues in a ‘Who’s Been Talkin’’ vein.  It swings in lightly funky style, and Moore has fun on a squealing, high tension wire solo.
Of the four originals, three are slowish affairs.  ‘In My Dreams’ could be ‘Parisienne Walkways Mark 2’ with Moore’s use of heavy sustain, and a simple arrangement that privileges precision over fireworks, while Moore adds a good, suitably romantic vocal – in spite of his repeated, frankly preposterous, proncunciation of the word “night”.  ‘Love Can Make A Fool Of You’ is a soulful ballad, again kept simple, with vocals, lyric and guitar all working in harmony even as Moore ramps things up with a cracking solo to close.  And the closing ‘Living With The Blues’ is a romantically inclined slowie that nods towards ‘Still Got The Blues – a strong song, well-constructed, with a perfectly pitched vocal and guitar work that’s full of feeling.
Which just leaves ‘Looking At Your Picture’, which is perhaps the most interesting song here – even if it’s not the best – simply because it’s a little bit different.  It combines an unusual, shuffling rhythm with tense, prickly guitar and brooding bass, while Moore’s vocal is low-pitched and hushed.  Superficially a song about heartbreak – “I’m looking at your picture through my tear-filled eyes” – it conveys an unsettling sense that somebody might be about to come to harm, self-inflicted or otherwise.
These songs may have been captured at different times, but there’s a relaxed air about them all that’s warm and engaging.  Leisurely but never lazy, even when Moore is opening up the throttle there’s no sense of strain or going over the top.  How Blue Can You Get is the perfect reminder, ten years after his death, of just how good Gary Moore could be.

How Blue Can You Get is released on 30 April by Provogue Records.

No comments:

Post a Comment