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Gary Moore - How Blue Can You Get (Album Review)

Tuesday, 04 May 2021 Written by Simon Ramsay

Famous for scaring the living daylights out of some of the planet’s finest guitarists during his all-too-brief 58 years on earth, the late Gary Moore was quite simply one of the finest to ever make a Les Paul sing, scream and sob. Ten years since his passing, the Northern Irishman’s vault has finally been opened to produce a ‘new’ release that, although containing some fine moments, suggests the depth of unheard material in his archives isn’t exactly bountiful.

As well as being a ferociously talented axe man, Moore was a gifted songwriter who was never restricted by genre. From the jazzy prog-rock of Colosseum II to his time in Thin Lizzy, and a solo career that moved from heavy metal, via a little Celtic rock, to settle in blues, his playing was always fiercely passionate, tonally gorgeous, masterfully articulated and technically flawless.

Focusing exclusively on his time as the godfather of modern blues-rock, a mantle he ascended to after departing an ‘80s rock scene he’d come to perceive as increasingly shallow, ‘How Blue Can You Get’ is a mixed bag that, while clocking in at just shy of 45 minutes, only contains eight tracks worth of unreleased originals, covers and alternate takes.

The record kicks off in blazing fashion, though, with a stunningly, nay typically, high-octane rendition of Freddie King’s I’m Tore Down, swiftly followed by an equally invigorated take on Memphis Slim’s Steppin’ Out. Both find Moore at his dynamic best, wringing every ounce of emotion from his fretboard. It’s somewhat cliched to say a guitarist makes their instrument sing, but these tracks prove his ability to communicate through his fingers was on another level.

This is particularly evident on Love Can Make A Fool Of You. A lighter-waving ballad from the time of 1982’s ‘Corridors of Power’ album, it’s reworked here as a burning weepie that, by gifting the song’s sentiments a more vulnerable, spacious blues backdrop, captures the intrinsic mourning more acutely than the previous version.

Although a big draw for fans, the record’s two unreleased originals don’t set the world alight. In My Dreams sounds like the melancholic, bittersweet love child of Still Got The Blues and Parisienne Walkways, thanks to the same visceral lead lick and pre-chorus chug of the former and heartbroken nostalgia of the latter. Had those two not existed this track would fare better, but in their classic shadows it resembles a poor relation.

The other newbie is Looking At Your Picture. Despite some nice Delta-esque plucking, it goes absolutely nowhere and sounds like an unrefined work in progress. That problem rears its head throughout this album, with some of the vocals feeling more like guide tracks than finished takes. Songs such as Elmore James’ Done Somebody Wrong, notwithstanding its coruscating barrage of slide work, and the blister-raw title track represent decent workouts, rather than essential listening.

Given his time in the business, the amount of musical ground he covered and the fact this is his first archival release, ‘How Blue Can You Get’ is hardly a Springsteen-esque treasure trove of unearthed gems. A curio for die-hards rather than entry point for newcomers, if the material is neither revelatory nor consistently top quality, getting to hear that much-missed fretwork again is undoubtedly the record’s trump card.


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