Classic Album Selection
Mmm - this five-pack looks very moore-ish indeed. It spans Gary's trajectory as a solo artist from the bombastic strat and whammy years to the return of Les Paul driven celtic rock and blues.
Most importantly, it tracks the years when Gary Moore evolved from being killer axeman for hire (Lizzy, Colosseum II, Greg Lake, Andrew Lloyd Webber...) to a songwriter and vocalist of true quality.
However, it's important to view this fine series of five albums in the wider context of the virtuosity and verve that Gary Moore bought to every project, band or album with which he was involved throughout his 40 year career before his untimely demise three years ago.
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1982s 'Corridors Of Power' takes the metallic intent of 1980s G-Force and melds it with melodic sensibility of the classic 1981 Greg Lake solo release that had Moore all over. In common with the other albums in this series, there's plenty of light and shade, with out-and-out rockers vying for vinyl with brooding ballads.
As expected, the guitar playing is astonishing and elevates some of the sappier songs to new heights. Moore's often maligned vocals are strong throughout, but the reverb-heavy production does him no favours on the slower cuts, like 'Falling In Love With You'. If anything there's a slight excess of bombast on a number of tracks that could have been tempered a little, particular the closing section of 'I Can't Wait Until Tomorrow'.
The rawking cover of 'Wishing Well' is also far from subtle and my least favourite track on the album by far. That being said, the OTTness of 'End Of The World' is out of this world, complemented by a fine guest vocal from Jack Bruce. It also highlights why classic rock albums are still best listened to in their original 'side one, pause, side two'. 'End' is a terrific start to side 2 on vinyl, but on CD, you need to remember to pause after track five to get ready for the fall-out from the nuclear guitar attack on the opening track.
Given the strong reception that 'Corridors' received at the time, it's not surprising that 'Victims Of The Future' steers a very similar course, but suffers slightly by comparison as the less dynamic of the two, the title track being a case in point. 'Murder In The Skies' also tries hard but doesn't quite reach the heights of 'End Of The World'.
Vocally, Gary does a great job particular when he sticks to his natural range. 'Teenage Idol' and 'All I Want' are hardly classics, but they're delivered in real style and help make the album perhaps a more cohesive set of tunes than 'Corridors'. On 'Law Of The Jungle' he sounds like he's channelling Ozzy and he would of course go one better on a later album with 'Led Clones'.
The customary cover song this time around is The Yardbirds' 'Shape Of Things' and works really well in its moore rocked-up guise. And finally, we have to mention that it is this album that spawned his 80s uber ballad 'Empty Rooms', like it or not.
Which brings us to 'Run For Cover', which ironically Gary didn't do, unless you count the great Grand Slam song 'Military Man' as a cover version. All the tracks are originals and of a consistently high standard and benefit from more polished AORish production, which to some will be a little Marmite.
Checking the credits, you'll see no less than four big name producers were employed in the making of 'Run', Mike Stone, Peter Collins, Andy Johns and Beau Hill. Yet, it's not the car-crash you might expect, with each producer playing to their strengths, although the drum-sound is a little weedy.
It may lack the bombast and fiery fretwork of the previous albums but it's a real satisfying listen from beginning to end. Parping 80s keyboards are present and correct but not obnoxiously so and complement songs like 'Once In A Lifetime', the excellent title track and the awesome 'Out In The Fields'.
The choice of vocal wonder Glenn Hughes, to guest on four of the tracks, works really well. His, for once, understated delivery meshes really well with Gary's voice. Repeated mention must be made of the towering contribution of Phil Lynott to 'Military Man' and 'Out In The Fields', that pretty much justify the album as a classic on their own. The guitar-led version of 'Empty Rooms' that appears here is far more fully formed than the version on 'Victim', which in retrospect sounds more like a demo.
As you would expect on any self-respecting box-set, each disc is bulked-out with a few bonus tracks. In this case, there's not much at all that I would consider to be essential to anyone but Moore completists. They're mainly tepid remixes and superfluous live versions of album tracks.
However, there's gold in them there grooves. At the end the 'Run' CD, you'll find the touching remake of 'Still In Love With You' a song that bookends Lynott and Moore's collaboration from the 1974 original version on the 'Nightlife' album to this version, recorded not long before Phil's sad demise in 1986.
So it's time for the main event. For most, Wild frontier represents the high-point of Gary Moore's 80s output and on reacquainting myself with the album, it's hard to argue otherwise. The vibe and drive of the album from start to finish is terrific with every one a winner, not least 'Thunder Rising' and 'Over The Hills'. Even 'Stranger In The Darkness' which starts a little 'meh' is tranformed by a fabulous six string coda.
The customary 60s cover this time is a perfectly judged update of 'Friday On My Mind', that recalls the trippy hippy character of the Easybeats original (sitars set to stun) but gives it a proverbial DM up its bell-bottomed behind. As noted on a number of Gary's albums, the drum sound is again far from expansive. But this time around, it's due to the fact that no drummer was armed during the recording of this album, as much to Bob Daisley's chagrin, percussive duties were down to some guy called Roland.
It's ironic that the instrumental showpiece on the album 'The Loner' should be a track that first appeared on Cozy Powell's classic 'Over The Top' release. Still, Gary's playing is exquisite on this soulful tribute to Jeff Beck (no, he's still very much with us) and the innocuous drum track does little to spoil the mood.
The box is rounded out by 1989's 'After The War' and the real drums are back. Not only that but as if to make up for the lacklustre Mr Roland on 'Frontier', bellicose tub thumping duties are entrusted to the likes of Simon Philips, Charlie Morgan and Cozy 'kin' Powell.
Just as 'Victim' plays second fiddle to 'Corridors', so does 'War' to 'Frontiers'. They're an excellent pair of albums, but the songs on the former are stronger, even if the production and performances on 'War' have the edge.
The title cut is fine, but a little too close in style and execution to the superior 'Over The Hills' on the previous album. So too 'Running From The Storm' is the six fingered cousin of 'Thunder Rising'. The Powell-propelled songs, like 'This Thing Called Love' and 'Living On Dreams' have a particular swagger that just puts a smile on your face that no drum machine ever could. Colin we salute you.
Not every track is a triumph. 'Led Clones' is as clunky a pastiche as the title suggests, although Ozzy imbues it with certain charm. Closing track 'Blood Of Emeralds' recalls the celtic fugue of Lizzy's 'Black Rose' and closes this particular chapter of Gary's career in euphoric style. Best of all is a track not included on the original vinyl release but subsequently added once those new fangled little silvery discs became available.
'The Messiah Will Come Again' is a real moore de force and foretells the next chapter in Gary's amazing journey which saw the rekindling of his love for power of the blues.
Overall, this five album box set is a no-frills, budget-priced package of some of the best work that Gary left behind and is a must-buy for any fan of the man. It's particularly good value, if like me you only have one or two of the fine five on CD and prefer to have the complete albums rather one of the many multiple CD compilations that always seem to miss the best tracks.
But don't stop there, if your tastes are more eclectic, do check-out the reissue of the previously hard to find 'Back On The Streets' album and continue your journey, if you dare, to the mighty jazz fusion of Colosseum II. The guitar messiah may have come and gone now, but he lives on in the music he left behind. Just take your pick, give it a spin, you'll be glad you did.
Value for money