Robert William Gary Moore was born on April 4, 1952. In February the news arrived that he died of a heart attack on February 6, 2011 in his hotel room while spending his holidays in Estepona (Spain). Very sad since he still had so much plans that will never be realized now. Moore will be remembered best as a blues rock guitarist and singer. Ever since I heard Strange New Flesh, the debut album of Collosseum II in 1976, I was aware of the musical talents of Gary Moore. What this guitar player from Belfast, Northern Ireland achieved on this album is pretty amazing. However, at the time I didn't know that his career had already started in the sixties.
During his teens Moore played with people like Phil Lynott and Brian Downey which led to the membership of the Irish rock band Thin Lizzy on three separate occasions. Moore shared the stage with blues and rock stars like B.B. King, Albert King, Greg Lake and Skid Row - not to be confused with the heavy metal band of the same name - as well as having a successful solo career. He guested on a number of albums recorded by high profile musicians, including a cameo appearance on guitar on She's My Baby from Traveling Wilburys vol. 3. I've followed Gary Moore's musical efforts for a very long time and I know that many devotees of prog rock respect the music he recorded on quite a number of albums. Therefore, a review of his compilation album Ballads & Blues is in place here. It's a reissue of the album released in 1994, but now a bonus-DVD is including.
Most of the fourteen tracks on this CD contain many progressive rock influences, mainly because of the use of tasteful keyboard parts. Also the way Gary Moore plays his guitar will appeal to many prog heads. Respected guitar players like Steve Hackett, Andy Latimer and Dave Gilmour all fancy blues music from the days they started to play guitar. Occasionally they also play ballads thus ballads and blues seem to be a perfect combination. That's why I liked the more blues-orientated tracks on this album as well. Still Got The Blues and Story Of The Blues are superb musical efforts on which Gary's guitar sound is just excellent. The way he plays his guitar shows a lot of emotions, but he's also a good singer with a pleasant voice. Strange when you realize that he hardly dared to sing in the seventies.
However, when the lead singer of Colosseum II left after their debut album, Gary stepped forward and took over the lead vocals. Later on his way of singing got mature and you might say that singing became as natural as playing the guitar. I think Gary Moore had become most famous for the ballads he recorded through the years. After years of being out of sight Moore roused again my interest with the song Empty Rooms. Parisian Walkways, the song he used to sing with the late Phil Lynott is of a very high standard as well. The live version is as beautiful as the original version. On Johnny Boy you can notice how well he performed the more Celtic folk songs. It's just a pity that this album doesn't contain more songs showing his Irish roots.
The three previous unreleased tracks are an excellent addition to this compilation. One Day is a strong ballad probably written during the Still Got The Blues-period. It's the same kind of melodic tune on which the guitar plays a leading role. The accompanying keyboard strings certainly provide for a prog sound. With Love (Remember) contains this backing sound of the keyboards as well, only this time the acoustic guitar is leading. You can hear some Spanish influences in Gary's playing. Blues For Narada is the final previously unreleased piece with the guitar back in front. This instrumental track contains a lot of blues influences, but the string section supporting the guitar sounds very orchestral. The guitar solo is very melodic and that's just how I like him to play.
The bonus-DVD of Blues & Ballads was another reason to write a review about this release. The ten clips are all worth-while watching. The promo videos that came along with the single versions of several songs as Still Got The Blues, Empty Rooms, Separate Ways and Always Gonna Love You are well-filmed. Most of the time they contain stories which have something to say. However, the footage of the live performances of Still Got The Blues, Parisienne Walkways and Midnight Blues had a bigger impact on me. Here you can see the guitar hero in full glory sweating like a pig while playing all those excellent guitar solos or sustaining notes. Also the way he combines singing and playing is just fabulous. Unfortunately we can't enjoy him on a live stage any longer, but we still have these live videos, so I can just pretend to sit in the front row! As a bonus you can watch a twenty-minute interview with Mr. Moore discussing the Ballads & Blues- album in 1994.
It's easy to say this compilation has been released from a commercial point of view after the decease of Gary Moore, but I think that's not the way to regard this nice document. Hopefully this is the first of many documents to come about this fantastic musician. You can never get enough of great music, can't you?
*** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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