Sunday, January 8, 2012

Gary Moore - Blues For Greeny (1995)

Gary Moore, who tragically passed away only just this past year, was a phenomenal blues rock guitarist who had the unique flexibility to be able to wrench both soulful blues leads as well as insane metal shredding from his guitar. He's the type of talented musician who had that curious tendency to fly under the radar, a big fan and performer of the type of blues-based rock that was popular in the '60s and '70s but whose own most notable material is weighted towards releases in the '80s and '90s. Perhaps his most well-known hit was the [excellent] song Still Got The Blues, released in 1990 (on the album of the same name), but he also had a history playing with Thin Lizzy off and on in the '70s, recording the album Black Rose with them in 1979.

But Gary Moore's history goes back even further than that, most notably in my mind, to the days during the '60s when John Mayall's Bluesbreakers recruited Peter Green to replace Eric Clapton on lead guitar - and Gary Moore was in the audience when the Bluesbreakers played in Moore's home country of Ireland. Moore became not just an avid fan of Peter Green, but they developed a working relationship over the years, with Green acting as a sort of mentor and friend to Gary, ultimately leading to Green's decision to sell his coveted Les Paul (the one he performed and recorded with in Fleetwood Mac) to Gary Moore after Peter had reconsidered his dedication to the business of performing as a professional musician.

Then, in 1995, Gary Moore decided to record a tribute to Peter Green - a full album of covers of Green's songs from his days as a Bluesbreaker, and in the band that he had formed, Fleetwood Mac. As a huge Peter Green fan, myself, this is an exciting album, not just because it features Green's music, but because it's performed by a very talented musician that I also admire, and, in an almost mystical or poetically just manner, the music is performed on Peter Green's own old guitar. And the result is amazing.

Some people say that the point of a cover isn't to duplicate what the previous artist has already accomplished, and there is merit to this view. But Moore's album Blues For Greeny isn't so much about the influence and inspiration that Peter Green's music had on him - that's demonstrated in much of Gary Moore's other recordings. This album is a tribute to who Peter Green was, and the beauty of his talent as a songwriter and a performer. And because of this, it is very faithful to Green's original recordings. There have been moments when I've had this album on, and I've forgotten that I'm listening to Gary Moore and not Peter Green, and that's really the highest compliment I could give it (and reminds me of the times when I've been listening to Peter Green, and momentarily forgotten that it wasn't B.B. King I was listening to).

It is in Moore's voice where you can most easily notice the difference between the artists, but Moore's guitar work perfectly evokes Green - and while it would be foolish to discount Moore's own talent and dedication to the musician (and his music), it must be said that his use of Green's own guitar (which possesses a unique tone that is said to have been the result of a flipped pickup) surely facilitates the imitation. However, Gary Moore inherited Peter Green's guitar for good reason, both because of his talent and his connection to the man. This is, then, a very fitting and endearing tribute to the legacy of Peter Green, as well as an impressive demonstration of Gary Moore's own abilities as, even though the music is not original, it is accomplished and warrants listening to even independent of the source material.

And speaking of that material, Gary Moore does an excellent job of selecting songs for his tribute, choosing not just from Green's more notable repertoire with Fleetwood Mac, but also from his influential (though short-lived) days as a Bluesbreaker. This includes, for example, The Supernatural - a sublime instrumental that is well-suited to Gary's penchant for holding out long, sustained notes, which makes one wonder if this is not the sort of song that inspired him to develop that talent in the first place. But from the Fleetwood Mac days, you get excellent, and all but forgotten, tracks like Looking For Somebody and Merry Go Round from the Mac's first album, the slow blues Love That Burns, that is one of my favorite Peter Green songs, as well as the romantic Need Your Love So Bad, the slide guitar showcase Showbiz Blues from the album Then Play On, and the surprise selection Drifting (not an original album cut, from what I know), which is a fantastic guitar workout.

In spite of the great selection of tracks, Moore doesn't try to be comprehensive - as he couldn't possibly be on a single album. He leans more toward the bluesier tracks, and you won't find here every single great song Peter Green ever recorded (like the more rocking Rattlesnake Shake, the popular Black Magic Woman, or Green's tortured metal opus, The Green Manalishi, all absent from this disc), but that shows Moore's dedication to theme. Undoubtedly, there is plenty more to be impressed by that came from Peter Green, and this album is certainly not meant to be a definitive statement on the musician - for that, one would hope that this album encourages you to dig deeper, if you're not already familiar with the genius output of Peter Green. But as a tribute album, Blues For Greeny is a huge success, and an impressive accomplishment - rare, also, for one musician to so wholly dedicate a project to another musician, not unlike, perhaps, the way Peter Green has recently dedicated an album or two to blues legend Robert Johnson (and he's not the only one). I maintain that Peter Green is every bit as worthy as Robert Johnson to have tribute albums dedicated to him, and in that, it appears I have something in common with Gary Moore. Well done, Gary.

No comments:

Post a Comment