Gary Moore's unreleased blues find a home on How Blue Can You Get

Gary Moore's How Blue Can You Get is patchy proof that blue is still very much the colour

Gary Moore: How Blue Can You Get
(Image: © Provogue Records)

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Despite buying Peter Green’s legendary Les Paul as a precocious teenager in Skid Row in the late 60s, it took Gary Moore another 20 years to ‘come out’ as a blues guitarist. 

During that time he built up a formidable reputation as a rock/metal axeman, much of it within his rumbustious relationship (to put it mildly) with Phil Lynott. But it left him dissatisfied – “like a dog chasing his tail”, as he put it. 

He finally made the career change with 1990’s well-received Still Got The Blues and never looked back, although his commercial minders managed to eek a few more hard rock throwbacks out of him. 

Moore released a dozen or so fine blues albums before his premature death in 2011, and left behind a pile of unreleased tracks, from which How Blue Can You Get was collated.

There’s no information about when or where these eight tracks were recorded, or the other musicians involved, which is a shame. And some of the tracks could have done with a remix. 

Half the tracks are covers, starting with a hard-hitting, well-greased version of Freddie King’s I’m Tore Down, with Moore’s mean, gritty voice sliding all over the place and his vicious guitar phrases doing much the same. That’s followed by the instrumental Steppin’ Out, originally by pianist Memphis Slim before Eric Clapton adopted it. Moore follows Clapton’s template for one verse before heading off in his own direction, never losing sight of the opening riff. 

Moore’s own In My Dreams is a slow blues from the book of Parisienne Walkways, with a drifting ambience and ‘Greeny’ guitar that is broken by a ridiculously loud time-keeping rim shot. There are also balance problems on BB King’s How Blue Can You Get, on which the vocals get submerged beneath the guitar.

Looking At Your Picture rolls and tumbles, with Moore’s vocals providing a remorseful edge, but the guitar solo never takes off and eventually breaks down in frustration. He then transforms Love Can Make A Fool Of You (from his 1982 album Corridors Of Power) with a blues feeling that culminates in this album’s most sublime solo. 

That just leaves a meaty cover of Elmore James’s Done Somebody Wrong and Moore’s own slow, emotive Living With The Blues. Moore’s legion of fans won’t mind the imperfections, but whether the grumpy British blues purists – already suspicious of Moore’s habit of throwing in the occasional hard rock guitar trick – will be equally forgiving is another matter.

Hugh Fielder

Hugh Fielder has been writing about music for 47 years. Actually 58 if you include the essay he wrote about the Rolling Stones in exchange for taking time off school to see them at the Ipswich Gaumont in 1964. He was news editor of Sounds magazine from 1975 to 1992 and editor of Tower Records Top magazine from 1992 to 2001. Since then he has been freelance. He has interviewed the great, the good and the not so good and written books about some of them. His favourite possession is a piece of columnar basalt he brought back from Iceland.