Judge Bill Gibron thinks that Moore of Gary is a good thing.
Long past those dark days in paradise.
Gary Moore is the very definition of an industry stalwart. He has been around so long that he seems like a seminal part of the multilayered music business. Over the years, he's played with Skid Row (the '60s/'70s UK version), Colosseum II, and former ELP frontman Greg Lake. Perhaps his greatest success came while working with Phil Lynott and the amazing Thin Lizzy and via his own long-running solo career. Beloved in his native Ireland as well as around the world, Moore has been a staple of the Montreux Jazz Festival for decades. For this latest DVD compilation, Eagle Rock Entertainment has brought together five of his appearances (1990, 1995, 1997, 1999, and 2001), as well as a live CD, to showcase the man's amazing guitar prowess. While modern audiences used to prepackaged music might not appreciate his instrumental skills, this is joyful jam rock at its gritty, gratifying best.
There are a couple of caveats overall, however. The 1990 appearance is lacking several collaborations with special guest Albert Collins from a previous release. Similarly, in what looks to be an attempt to avoid repetition, the shows are segmented, offering incomplete set lists with tunes that eventually get picked up in later performances. It can be a bit bewildering. Still, these are some significant barnburners here, as Moore is capable of creating memorable solos and improvisational stretches from the simplest of songs. Instead of going through the entire 39 song presentation, it's perhaps best to hit the highlights, offering glimpses of how Moore and his muse changed over the course of more than a decade. While he definitely ages, his playing and polish remain timeless.
Take the song "Moving On" from the 1990 show. Moore makes the most of the track, taking the opportunity to play to the crowd and feed off their obvious appreciation. Similarly, during the 1995 show, songs like "Merry-Go-Round," "All You Love," and "The Sky is Crying" leave a memorable impression. 1997 finds "One Fine Day" and the amazing "Out in the Fields" stealing the spotlight, while "Tore Down" and the classic "Parisienne Walkways" take the 1999 version of Moore's talent to whole other levels. Even in 2001, when Moore was starting to wind down a bit, he could take material like "Cold Black Monday" and "Walking By Myself" and turn it into something terrific. While it would have been nice to see him cover more Thin Lizzy tunes, the mix here is excellent, from the chestnut "Oh, Pretty Woman" (not the Roy Orbison song) to his own "Still Got the Blues."
Perhaps the best aspect of this release is the past unavailability of most of this material. As stated before, the 1990 concert has been released, but the other entries find their home on this two disc set for the first time. While it would have been nice to have the full shows for each year, this hulking highlight reel will have to do. Throughout, Moore's back-up band delivers the blues-driven goods and the viability and texture of musicians actually playing their instruments cannot be beat. Granted, Moore is not a hit maker, pouring the traditional pop or rock music flavor into his 16 bar breakdowns—and yet, his work definitely draws parallels to many of the medium's best. He is a brilliant player, a man who manipulates those finicky six strings with a vitality that shredders half his age can't manage. Couple that with a purist's belief in the old school stomp and you've got a throwback so capable he carves out his own unique niche.
From a technical standpoint, the two disc set here is all over the map. Most consistent is the new Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround mix. The separation between the band and the immersive live concert feeling are excellent. While the Stereo 2.0 presentation is also good, stick with the multi-channel choice. It's the best way to experience Moore and his many facets. On the troubling side, however, is the video. Some shows are presented in standard full frame, while others get the 1.78:1 anamorphic treatment. Overall, the image is good, but there are signs of analog issues (scan lines, flaring), as well as less than successful direction. More than one of the individuals guiding the camera must suffer from ADD. The MTV quick-cut style of editing is also present, especially in the mid-'90s selections. And since the CD is considered part of the package, there are no bonus features to speak of, aside from a booklet of liner notes.
While it can't match 2006's One Night in Dublin: A Tribute to Phil Lynott (probably his greatest live showcase ever), this Definitive Montreux Collection comes close. Though he might not be a universal household name, Gary Moore remains a vital element of blues-based music. The 39 performances here more than prove that.
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