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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Album Review: Gary Moore - Live at Montreux 2010

Gary Moore - Live at Montreux 2010
2011 Eagle Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Earlier in the year, we were stung with the loss of former Thin Lizzy and journeyman guitar genius, Gary Moore. Even more of a shock to hear of his passing when you consider Moore was reported by everyone who knew him to be musically invigorated and eager to rip away. Moore was said to be in excellent shape by those close to him and working on a Celtic-flavored rock album. If his unfinished studio work reflected even a miniscule shred of his final performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival last year, man, were we robbed as a listening body.

Gary Moore was no stranger to playing (much less attending) Montreux. One of the revered festival's recurring performers, Moore gave Lake Geneva a blistering display of his capabilities in 2010. Though nobody could've seen it coming, Moore had saved his best for last.

While Gary Moore has spent more than a fair chunk of his career slinging blues and jazz in the studio and particularly onstage at Montreux, it's this 2010 set where Moore lowers the boom and summons the loud. Fair to say Moore's reconnection with keyboardist and collborator Neil Carter unlocked some old rock chests that blows this Montreux concert up in a way some fans might've thought would remain locked. Still in cahoots with Primal Scream drummer Darrin Mooney along with former Jethro Tull bassist Jon Noyce, Moore's band gallavanting through last year's European Summer of Rock jaunt did much to elevate his stature.

A recent Thin Lizzy awareness (and reformation) likewise brought Moore back into the rock limelight as one of its most beloved members behind Phil Lynott. Even though Moore's most recent studio album Bad For You Baby was blues-oriented, it's clear as the thundering decibels in this set Moore was set to rock.

The Celtic rock album Moore was reportedly recording fueled his drive to slam and a few songs from that project are premiered on Live at Montreux 2010: "Days of Heroes," "Oh Wild One" and "Where Are You Now." Ranging from gallant to reverential, these new "previews," if you will, haunt happily of Thin Lizzy ("Days of Heroes") and of the experimental nature of his 1973 album Grinding Stone. The gin and the bangers waft about Moore's entire set, and it's clear his Irish pride has never waned. At age 58, Moore was even more the patriot of his motherland than ever. All he needed was some dulcimer and bodhran, but instead his frets did all the marching in this highly inspired performance.

Joyous for veteran fans, the majority of Moore's set is derived from his eighties' post-Lizzy solo work. "Out in the Fields" and "Military Man" check in from 1985's Run For Cover, as well as "Empty Rooms" from 1983's Victims of the Future in a mash medley alongside "So Far Away." Moore continues his revisit to the eighties with a selection from '89's After the War, "Blood of Emeralds." Though Moore's 1987 release Wild Frontier isn't always heralded by critics, the stout, Murphy's-fueled stomper "Over the Hills and Far Away" along with the whispery "Johnny Boy" make appearances. In fact, "Over the Hills and Far Away" leads the set like a mission statement, hauled out with a devastating guitar solo by Moore. Suffice it to say, his solos on Live at Montreux 2010 are some of the most captivating of his live recordings. The longer he wails, the more he bleeds into your ears.

Fitting, however, that Moore closes this spectacular set on an emotional high with an 11-minute extension of "Parisienne Walkways" from 1979's Back On the Streets, a song originally featuring vocal work and a co-writing credit by Phil Lynott. With six extra minutes largely dedicated to sparkling, piercing and adoring solo work, Moore could never know this would be one of his final moments onstage, but assuredly it ranks amongst his finest. This "Parisienne Walkways" just might've served as the parallel bridge to Lynott on the other side, and we can well assume the latter greeted his comrade with a loving embrace and some outrageous corn whiskey from a bottomless bell jar.

Though Moore's out-of-nowhere death is befuddling, he leaves behind a legacy as a face man and proto axe warrior in Thin Lizzy, BBM, Colosseum II, Skid Row (not the one of the Sabo-Bach variety) and his own diverse body of work. Rocker, metalhead, blues man, jazz master, Gary Moore has always been considered underrated by most music writers and deep fans. If you don't believe it, step up to Live at Montreux 2010 and become converted. You will seldom hear a more wrenching display of six-string finesse. Bless you, Gary.

Rating: ****1/2

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