There was a brief while, during the 1980s, where it seemed that Gary Moore would be lost to the world of heavy metal. Although the young Irish guitarist was initially influenced by the first wave of British blues-rock guitarists like Eric Clapton and Peter Green, he turned away from the music when his band Skid Row failed to find a modicum of success with its guitar-driven blues-rock sound.
Moore's Heavy Metal Years
Moore drifted towards the "New Wave of British Heavy Metal" during the late-1970s, playing sporadically with his old friend and early Skid Row bandmate Phil Lynott in Thin Lizzy before forming his own hard rocking band, G-Force. Moore later struck out on his own, releasing such molten efforts as 1982's Corridors of Power and 1983's Victims of the Future. Although these albums and Moore's shred-heavy guitar style sold records (in the U.K. anyway), he soon tired of label expectations and the pressure to write hit songs.
As a result, Moore turned back to the music that he loves, launching a second career in the blues with 1990's excellent Still Got The Blues. He has seldom strayed far from a blues sound in the nearly-two decades since, the only variance being the levels of rock-n-roll the guitarist mixes in with his grungy blues. Bad For You Baby is roughly Moore's 12th blues-rock oriented album since 1990, and although it doesn't deliver many changes, the album's predictability is more than balanced by its incendiary energy and high-octane, houserockin' blues.
Gary Moore's Bad For You Baby
The album's title track cuts deep to the bone, Moore's axe sounding like Stevie Ray on steroids, ragged riffs and precise hard-note-by-note solos nearly overwhelming the singer's rough-hewn vocals. Revealing glimpses of his sordid heavy metal past, "Down The Line" is an uptempo barn-burner, Moore shooting holes in the driving rhythm with rapidfire guitar-shred and raw, Texas-blues style vox.
The deliberate dino-stomp pacing of "Umbrella Man" reminds of early Led Zeppelin, or maybe a fusion of Jimmy Page and John Nitzinger, with a funky, swaggering Southern rock rhythm and a vocal drawl that is pure roadhouse patois.
The slower-tempo, nearly ballad-like "Holding On" evinces blue-eyed soul, Moore presenting his most potent Muscle Shoals vocals. Moore is capably assisted by a beautiful melody and the timely backing harmonies of Otis Taylor's daughter Cassie. The song benefits further from a subdued and quite charming guitar solo.
Covering The Master, Muddy Waters
Moore reverently covers a pair of the master's songs, tackling the great Muddy Waters with a red-hot, Chicago-styled rave-up on "Walkin' Thru The Park" that sounds nothing like the original, but displays a similar reckless energy nevertheless. A blistering take on Waters' "Someday Baby" is more spot-on, Moore's swinging vocals matched by great guitar tone and form and a solid, swaying soundtrack.
Otis and Cassie Taylor both pitch in on the Delta-dirty "Preacher Man Blues," Otis with his ever present banjo and both Taylors adding haunting backing vocals. A slow-burning swamp-blues number with ricocheting fretwork and Moore's best Son House vocals, the song also features Moore's lone harp performance, the guitarist conducting himself quite well with the instrument, adding both energy and ambience to the song's gospel fervor.
Revisiting Al Kooper's Blood, Sweat & Tears
Moore also takes on Al Kooper's brilliant "I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know," the centerpiece of the first Blood, Sweat & Tears album, Child Is Father To The Man. The song was always a sort of dark blues with heartbroke soul, but Moore slows the dirge down even further, his wailing guitar plunging Kooper's best composition into the abyss of the heart, his vocals trembling with fear and frustration.
Moore stretches the song out to a ten-and-a-half-minute showcase for his stellar guitarwork, wringing every last ounce of emotion from the listener and delivering a textbook lesson on the blues.
A houserockin' reading of J.B. Lenoir's "Mojo Boogie" brightens the mood after the aforementioned Kooper cover, lifting the roof with swinging rhythms and white-lightnin'-fueled six-string jags that jump from speaker-to-speaker with jump-n-jive abandon.
Bad For You Baby closes with another Moore original, the velvet-clad, steel-fisted "Trouble Ain't Far Behind" mixing weeping stringwork and saddened vocals that offer glimpses of the fiery passion behind the romantic heartache. It's Moore at his most natural, perhaps, crooning the blues to anybody within earshot.
The Reverend's Bottom Line
Bad For You Baby offers few surprises for long-time Gary Moore fans, which is to say that the guitarist delivers another strong set of blues-rock with just enough innovative flourishes to keep the songs fresh and the performances inspired. Moore is a vastly underrated blues guitarist, and it's a damn shame that more stateside listeners haven't picked up on his own distinctive take on the blues.
Moore seldom disappoints, and when he's at his best - as he is on Bad For You Baby - his performances easily transcend the recent efforts of most of his peers. (Eagle Records, released September 22, 2008)