Born: April 4, 1952 in Belfast, Northern Ireland
Died: February 6, 2011 in Andalusia, Spain
Much like his fellow countryman Rory Gallagher, blues-rock guitarist Gary Moore is a respected and commercially-successful artist in Europe while remaining virtually unknown in the United States. A talented guitarist capable of performing fluid jazz licks and screaming blues riffs alike, Moore's career has seen him perform in a diverse range of styles with bands as varied as Thin Lizzy and Colosseum II. It is Moore's blues-rock work that has earned him a growing stateside audience, however, his popularity growing as he continues to plumb the depths of the blues.
Skid Row & the British Blues-Rock Explosion
Born Robert William Gary Moore in Belfast, Ireland, Moore would become known as a musical prodigy, first picking up the guitar when he was eight years old. Moore became interested in rock & roll as a kid after hearing Elvis Presley and, later, the Beatles, and during the mid-1960s as a teenager, he witnessed performers like the Jimi Hendrix Experience and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, which got the young guitarist interested in the blues. Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac would prove to be one of Moore's biggest influences, with Green later mentoring the young guitarist.
Moving to the larger city of Dublin later in the decade, Moore's first band of note was Skid Row, a blues-rock trio that originally featured Phil Lynott on vocals. Moore and Lynott would become fast friends, and the guitarist would later join Lynott's band Thin Lizzy. Thanks to Fleetwood Mac's Green, Skid Row scored a record deal, releasing three albums between 1970 and '73, none of which left much of a mark beyond introducing Moore as a growing six-string talent. The band did have the opportunity to tour the U.S., opening for bands like Mountain and the Allman Brothers.
An Unpredictable Solo Career
With the split-up of Skid Row, Moore formed the Gary Moore Band, releasing the album Grinding Stone in 1973. Moore's solo career would be sidetracked, however, when his friend Lynott asked him to join Thin Lizzy as guitarist Eric Bell's replacement. Moore's tenure in the band would be brief, albeit recurring, as he would fill in for departing guitarists on tour in both 1977 and '78. During this period Moore also became an in-demand session player, lending his talents to recordings by artists like Andrew Lloyd Weber, Rod Argent, and Greg Lake, among others.
In 1975, Moore accepted an invitation to join the prog-oriented jazz-fusion outfit Colosseum II, appearing on three of the band's recordings in 1976 and '77 before resuming his solo career. Moore recorded his sophomore solo album, Back On The Streets, in 1978, scoring an unexpected U.K. Top Ten hit with the song "Parisienne Walkways," on which Lynott shared vocals with Moore. The guitarist would go on to record Black Rose with Thin Lizzy, adding his fiery licks to the classic album, leaving the band for the last time after a falling out with Lynott.
Heavy Metal Thunder
During the 1980s, Moore pursued his solo career in earnest, turning his six-string skills to a harder, heavy metal-styled sound, beginning with the concert recording Live At The Marquee (1981) and continuing through albums like Corridors Of Power (1982) and Victims Of The Future (1983). Moore reunited with Lynott in 1985 for the Run For Cover album, Lynott contributing vocals to two songs, including the U.K. hit "Out In The Fields," which peaked in the Top Five.
After the death of his friend Phil Lynott in early 1986, Moore dedicated his 1987 album Wild Frontier to Lynott. Inspired, in part, by a trip back to Ireland Moore began to expand his musical palette, and there is a definite Celtic flavor to several of the songs. The album would become Moore's biggest U.K. hit to date, spawning an influential hit in "Over the Hills and Far Away," which would later be covered by various metal bands like Finland's Nightwish and Sweden's Thyrfing.
Back To The Blues
Feeling the pressure to produce hit singles and tiring of the restraints of the metal genre, the hard-rocking After The War would be Moore's last metal-oriented release for a decade. Moore would reach back to his roots for 1990's blues-rock masterpiece Still Got The Blues, which featured guest appearances by bluesmen like Albert King and Albert Collins. Enjoying the creative freedom afforded his guitar playing by the blues, Moore would continue in the blues-rock vein with 1992's After Hours, with special guest B.B. King, and 1993's Blues Alive, a collection of live performances.
In 1995, Moore would repay his former mentor's kindness by recording Blues For Greeny, an album of Peter Green covers performed in tribute. After he had left Fleetwood Mac, Green had sold his 1959 Gibson SG guitar to his young protégé, and Moore used the guitar on the tribute album. In 2001, Moore cemented his legacy as a blues-rock legend with Back To The Blues, following with Power of the Blues in 2004, and the critically-acclaimed Bad For You Baby in 2008. In 2009, Eagle Rock Entertainment released the five-disc live Essential Montreux, documenting the guitarist's frequent appearances at the annual festival.
Recommended Albums: Blues-rock fans should look towards Moore's Still Got The Blues and Back To The Blues for evidence of the guitarist's return to the form, while Bad For You Baby showcases an artist still in his prime.
Gary Moore - Select Blues Discography
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- Still Got The Blues (Virgin Records, 1990)
- After Hours (Virgin Records, 1992)
- Blues Alive (Virgin Records, 1993)
- Blues For Greeny (Virgin Records, 1995)
- Back To The Blues (Sanctuary Records, 2001)
- Power Of The Blues (Sanctuary Records, 2004)
- Old New Ballads Blues (Eagle Rock, 2006)
- Close As You Get (Eagle Rock, 2007)
- Bad For You Baby (Eagle Rock, 2008)
- Essential Montreux (Eagle Rock, 2009)
- Blues For Jimi (Eagle Rock, 2012)