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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Gary Moore

The Gary Moore Band - Grinding Stone

Review by Scott Prinzing

With the recent passing of guitar great Gary Moore (Feb. 6, 2011), I thought it would be fitting to review something from the myriad of works released during his over-40-year recording career.  Gary Moore will be remembered as one of Ireland’s most celebrated musical exports.  Only U2 and Van Morrison might outrank Moore and his three-time band Thin Lizzy in terms of record sales and star power.  While Music Street Journal has reviewed a few of his solo blues albums and a few as a member of a group (Colosseum II and Thin Lizzy), his complete recorded works are vast enough to keep one busy for quite some time.  The second half of his recording career was dominated by the music that first inspired him, the blues (including an album in honor of his teenage inspiration and mentor, Peter Green). In his earlier career he mastered hard rock/heavy metal and jazz/rock fusion; and to a lesser extent, pop.  He only ever charted a few albums and songs, but there is a legion of Gary Moore fans – including many younger rock stars – across the globe.

Throughout his career he was regularly called upon for sessions by artists from many genres (Dr. Strangely Strange, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Greg Lake, the Traveling Wilburys, etc.), and was someone that could call upon an all-star cast of musical friends to lend him support on his own albums and tours (Don Airey, Tommy Aldridge, Jack Bruce, Albert Collins, George Harrison, Glenn Hughes, Albert King, BB King, Ozzy Osbourne, Ian Paice, Simon Phillips, Cozy Powell, and his late, great sparring partner, Phil Lynott).  I can imagine Moore and Lynott rocking the doors off of heaven’s gate with an amazing setlist drawn from their collaborative works: “Black Rose,” “Don’t Believe a Word,” “Jamaican Rum,” “Little Darlin’,” “Military Man,” “Run for Cover,” “Sarah,” “Sitimoia,” “Spanish Guitar,” “Still in Love with You,” “Toughest Street in Town,” and their 1979 top ten hit, “Parisienne Walkways.”  Perhaps with an encore of Moore’s “Rest in Peace.”

While he started his professional playing at age 16 with Skid Row – of which Lynott was also once a member – his first solo work was under the moniker The Gary Moore Band.  He wrote all the songs and provided all the guitars and vocals; laying the groundwork for much of what was to follow.  This album is not very easy to find now, but it has been issued on CD.  It probably ranks among the least satisfying of his two dozen-plus releases, yet is a must for Moore completists.  Moore is a remarkably fast and furious guitarist; rooted in the blues, with a metal edge; but it is his craftsmanship as a songwriter and powerful vocalist that helped raise his stature.  His interpretations of others’ classic songs depend on Moore’s distinct style of playing and singing.  On “Grinding Stone”, his soloing is a bit wild and loose, and his singing and songwriting were only just beginning to get off the ground.  Hence, the emphasis placed on lengthy instrumental passages and soloing.  Nevertheless, it is still an album well worth exploring.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Grinding Stone

The title track is an instrumental jam in search of a song.  In its over nine minutes, it goes from slow blues to a rockin’ boogie blues to Latin jazz and back again.  It would not sound out of place on a Colosseum II album, but might have had a bit more fire to it there.

Time to Heal
A bit of a southern rock boogie number, with a honky tonk piano and a 12-bar arrangement.  Moore’s vocals are rough and ragged, only hinting at the soulful range he would develop in the ’80s and ’90s. 
Sail Across the Mountain
This is a ballad in the style he would later perfect in the ’80s.  His voice has great range, but it still sounds like he was stretching himself beyond his comfort zone.  Like most of these tracks, it could have been tightened up (in half, preferably) for a more memorable track.
The Energy Dance
This two-and-a-half minute Moog/piano duo (played by Jan Schelhaas – later of Caravan and Camel) is the most prog-sounding piece offered here.  It sounds out of place, but makes Moore’s move into Colosseum II seem like a logical next step.
Spirit
This is the high point of the collection, and a song which I wouldn’t be surprised to learn was included in any Colosseum II live set.  It’s the only song from Moore’s solo debut that I can readily conjure up in my mind.  The twin guitar harmonies, his vocal duets, even the Latin rhythm behind the instrumental passage, make this an important work in the broad Gary Moore canon.  The song holds one’s attention all through its 17 minutes.  It is my choice for the inevitable career-spanning box set that I anticipate seeing for sale as soon as his various record labels can come to an understanding.
Boogie My Way Back Home
The gears shift abruptly with two minutes of raw Delta blues complete with bottleneck guitar; before moving into overdrive for a Foghat-style boogie-woogie rocker.  It rocks, but without distinction.  It holds great promise, though it sounds a little bit like an outtake from an Elf album.  As with Elf’s vocalist Ronnie James Dio, you can hear where it began…only to end far too soon.
 
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