It’s often said that you don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone. It’s especially true of musicians that hold a place in your heart or just seem to repeatedly hit your musical sweet spot, often without you realising it. It’s also true that a lot of musicians that you followed in your impressionable youth, die a commercial death and fade from view long before their physical body follows suit. In the case of others, they keep going, playing live and putting out occasional new releases, and if you’re a fan, you always look forward to something new from them and somehow expect them to be a constant. Sadly, the Grim Reaper sometimes steps in and snatches your heroes away way too soon. While that puts an end to all the new music they could have recorded, it does often lead to a hunt through the vaults to identify what is there, which can be surprisingly fresh.
The Beatles Anthology series really highlighted how much interest there is in alternate takes and unissued material. Music fans of course are fascinated by the thought of tapes lying forgotten in old studio store rooms and it never fails to amaze how frequently you hear that 20-30 songs were recorded for an album, from which a slender 12 or so were picked. Naturally, the leftovers won’t be first choice material, but like the football substitute that wasn’t on the first team sheet but comes on late to score the winner, lesser regarded things can still be very good. This is a long preamble to a review of a brand-new album of previously unreleased material from the late, great Gary Moore, which is bound to have his fans drooling in anticipation.
How deep did those musical archaeologists have to dive though? Right down to the bottom of the barrel? Not in this case. Apart from one track that sounds like it was a home demo, these are all really fresh and powerful recordings that fans of the guitarist’s Blues playing work can listen to without any fear of disappointment. These are mostly cover versions, perhaps why they were excluded in the first place in favour of originals, starting with an absolutely exhilarating version of Freddie King’s 'I’m Tore Down', that showcases the elements that make the guitarist’s playing so enjoyable, that fat, rich tone, the confident fluidity, the crystal clarity and the fabulous sustain and vibrato of his soloing. Just sensational.
'Steppin’ Out' is one of the most famous Blues instrumentals, with EC’s version on the 'Beano' album the benchmark. Gary just burns it up with a homage to the EC version and adds another classic rendition to the canon. 'In My Dreams', an unreleased Moore original, is similar to 'Parisienne Walkways', with those piercing, sustained notes that ripple straight to your inner musical bones; just gorgeous. The title track is the iron horse of a number that become one of BB King’s core live performance highlights. The opening phrasing and selection of his notes is exceptional and brings to mind Peter Green (in his interpretation of BB King), which is the highest praise you can give. This is another exceptional take on a classic that in other hands could have been a drag. Here it shimmers and shines.
'Looking At Your Picture' is another original number and is more of a Blues rocker. This is the one track that, while enjoyable, has an element of a work in progress. It’s easy to overlook what an effective singer he was, and his vocals are highlighted on the ballad 'Love Can Make a Fool of You', a different version of which appeared on the remastered version of the guitarist’s 'Corridors of Power' album. 'Done Somebody Wrong' is an Elmore James cover and features a searing, snarling guitar tone that is just exquisite. 'Living with the Blues' is another of those superb slow burning Blues, where subdued Hammond chords play the changes and those fat Moore licks and runs explode in the gaps. The solo is achingly melodic and soulful.
This is a brilliant addition to Gary Moore’s Blues recordings which makes you hope that there may yet be some unopened cupboards and unexplored loft spaces for studio tapes made by him. In the meantime, this is essential listening.