While it’s certainly true you can’t judge a book by its cover (or an album by its sleeve), that which housed Gary Moore’s 2001 record Back To The Blues gave a good indication of what was in store. On the front, Gary plays guitar on a lonely platform, whilst on the rear he is sharply attired in a Clapton-esque Yardbirds-era suit. After the experimental nature of 1999’s A Different Beat this was all very reassuring, and as a statement of intent it was clear that the king was back to claim his crown.
While CD’s are great for convenience, some music was made to be experienced on vinyl, and no more so than with Back To The Blues. The deep, warm production that producer Chris Tsangarides gave the album is enhanced by the format and opening track ‘Enough Of The Blues’ gives off the kind of glow that only comes from warm amplifiers. If there was any doubt to that the prodigal son was returning to his spiritual home then they’re dispelled by the opening refrain where Gary sings: “I had enough of the blues, but the blues ain’t had enough of me”. From jazz to heavy metal via techno, his career had always been characterised by experimentation, yet the blues held a magnetic pull which ensured no matter how far he strayed from the path, he’d always come full circle. Proving that the opener was no fluke, ‘You Upset Me Baby’ comes awash Hammond organ and a guitar tone that only comes about when the strings have been soaked in honey.
The sequencing of Back To The Blues alternates upbeat cuts with emotionally charged slower numbers and ensures the album flows exceptionally well, yet it is the latter where the record really shines. Like the very best blues, ‘Picture Of The Moon’ is very evocative and should conjure images of smoky, late night bars and strolls through rain-soaked, neon-lit streets. Likewise, ‘The Prophet’ is an instrumental of immense beauty which illustrates the genius of Gary Moore. As with all the best musicians he understood that sometimes it is not what you play, but what you don’t; it’s leaving sonic space, or bringing other instruments to the fore, and here it places sole focus on the musicians, and when they’re playing this tightly that’s exactly where your attention should be. However, it’s the epic, nine-and-a-half minute closer ‘Drowning In Tears’ where this album hits the bullseye and Gary unleashes the kind of solo you wish would continue into perpetuity and as if fades into the ether it leaves a feeling of sadness, as if at the departure of an old friend.
Adding three contemporary bonus tracks, and now released on vinyl for the very first time, there’s never been a better time to get Back To The Blues.
- Back To The Blues is released via BMG on 13th October 2023.
- Enough Of The Blues
- You Upset Me Baby
- Cold Black Night
- Stormy Monday
- Ain’t Got You
- Picture Of The Moon
- Looking Back
- The Prophet
- How Many Lies
- Drowning In Tears
- Picture Of The Moon (Single Edit) *
- Cold Black Night (Live At VH1) *
- Stormy Monday (Live At VH1) *
* Bonus Tracks