Gary Moore – The Sanctuary Years: 1999-2004 (4xCD/1xBlu-Ray)


When the door of Virgin Records closed on Gary Moore, another one opened to indie label Sanctuary, and it heralded a new era of creativity for the legendary guitarist. Pushing the boundaries of blues beyond delineated borders, he produced four distinctly different albums that each showcased another facet to his playing. Those four albums are now collected as The Sanctuary Years: 1999-2004 along with a Blu-Ray 5.1 mix of the album Back To The Blues. Each album comes with a detailed booklets written by Moore aficionado Dave Everley, along with poster, stickers and other assorted goodies to make this the most definitive document of Gary’s most creative time.

Disc One: A Different Beat (1999)

Just like an old blues guitarist from whom he drew so much inspiration, Gary Moore was a journeyman and followed wherever his guitar would lead. From his early forays into blues and hard rock to jazz fusion with Colosseum II via a flirtation with punk in the short-lived The Greedies and the metallic leanings of his early solo career, Gary Moore has exhibited a chameleon-like desire to change. However, despite these sonic shifts, his 1999 album A Different Beat still threw much of his fanbase into a hex. Just like its predecessor (1997’s Dark Days In Paradise) this release found Gary delving deep into the world of electronica and experimenting with keyboards, loops, and the drum ‘n’ bass genre. While the guitarist would later disown this album, the result is not as bad as you’d fear and it works primarily because of Gary’s ear for music and, of course, his guitar work which, often subdued, is still ever present.

Nowadays, the blending of musical styles is common place, but not so much at the turn of the Millennium, so it is hard to imagine just how revolutionary the fusion of blues and dance music was (drum ‘n’ blues, if you will). What’s even more remarkable is how listenable this record is, Gary’s reinvented the blues for the dance crowd, and dance for blues purists, and the aptly-titled A Different Beat sits somewhere in between. Of course, there were many in both camps who thought such an admixture an abomination, but for those with open minds, and open ears, this album makes for an intriguing listen. When this album works, it really works; check out the slide guitar over a boisterous beat on ‘Go On Home’, an excitable version of Hendrix’s ‘Fire’, and the late-night, nocturnal ‘Surrender’. Yet, it does fall short sometimes, primarily when it leaves the middle ground and veers too far in one direction, such as on the heart attack inducing ‘Can’t Help Myself’, and the Fatboy Slim inspired ‘Fatboy’.

A Different Beat is Gary Moore’s most maligned and misunderstood album, and that’s precisely what makes it his most interesting.

Disc Two: Back To The Blues (2001)

After two experimental albums that were about as commercially successful as New Pepsi, you feel that Gary Moore was floundering for direction, and like all those who are a little lost, he returned to his spiritual home and that’s where his next album, Back To The Blues comes in. When Gary dispensed with electronica, he did it wholesale, not only the music, but also the countless hours spent programming various bits of technology. Going back to basics, he assembled a new band, recorded the whole album within a month (with legendary producer Chris Tsangarides at the helm), and from inside the band’s rehearsal room. Containing six originals and four covers, Back To The Blues did exactly what the title suggests, and the fans who kept the faith through Gary’s musical wanderings were rewarded with his strongest album in several years.

The first thing that jumps out from opening track ‘Enough Of The Blues’ is just how comfortable Gary sounds; this is a creature in his natural habitat, and he’s staking out his territory with consummate confidence. When he sings “I had enough of the blues, but the blues ain’t had enough of me of me”, you feel he’s pre-empting any claims that his return home was a cynical, commercial move, and if there was any doubt about his sincerity, then they’re blown away by the accompanying chainsaw riff which cuts the air with remarkable force. There’s also a joyfulness on display here that was largely missing from A Different Beat, if you walked into a bar and ‘You Upset Me Baby’ was blasting out, then you’d know you were in for a great evening. Aided by Tsangarides’ production, Back To The Blues has a lovely warm sound, it’s luxurious and you can almost feel the amplifiers humming and radiating heat. It’s perfect for Gary, who sounds as if he’s dipped his strings in honey, and no more so than on contemplative closer ‘Drowning In Tears’. It is nine-and-a-half minutes of blues bliss, which made it perfectly clear that Gary Moore was back to claim the crown.

Unlike A Different Beat, Back To The Blues didn’t set out to reinvent the wheel, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Disc Three: Scars (2002)

In another stylistic shift, Gary Moore returned to his hard rock roots with 2002’s Scars. While this shift wasn’t as radical as that found on A Different Beat, it is, nevertheless, a departure from Back To The Blues. Recruiting ex-Skunk Anansie bassist Cass Lewis, and bringing along drummer Darrin Mooney, this collective formed a power trio very much in the vein of of Cream and The Jimi Hendrix Experience, and played classic rock, but with a modern twist. It was a brave move after the success of the previous record, and Gary could have been forgiven for riding that particular train, but indicative of his whole career, he made the album he wanted, at the exact moment he wanted.

There’s something about a three-piece band that’s so very precise, and when the musicians lock in correctly, makes a sound far bigger than their constituent parts, and that’s exactly what you get with Scars. This is a bold and brash album, and one that pushes all the needles firmly into the red. Wearing their influences proudly on their collective sleeve, ‘When The Sun Goes Down’ is punctuated with a funky, Hendrix style riff, yet the track morphs into a grungy rocker with Gary unleashing a solo unheard since his ‘80s metal phase. Similarly, ‘Wasn’t Born In Chicago’ melds rock and funk much like the Band Of Gypsys album, and there’s a definite Herbie Hancock Head Hunters funky beat bubbling beneath. However, fans of Gary’s bluesy work won’t be disappointed with this album, and there’s plenty here that’ll keep the faithful engaged, such as the smoky, smouldering ‘Just Can’t Let You Go’ and the uptempo ‘My Baby (She’s So Good To Me)’.

Scars is another pit stop along Gary Moore’s journey, it would have been interesting to see how this band of brothers would have developed on further release, but true to Gary’s creed, he stubbornly refused to stay stagnant.

Disc Four: Power Of The Blues (2004)

After revisiting to his hard rock roots on Scars, Gary Moore once more returned to the blues on 2004’s Power Of The Blues. The genre seems to have had a magnetic pull on him, and whenever he started straying too far from the path, it would pull him back in. It makes perfect sense because his blues output is his most successful, and his most consistent. However, as his typical of his discography, Power Of The Blues has its own unique character, and while it shares similarities with the likes of Back To The Blues, it’s definitely its own album. Drummer Darrin Mooney has been retained from Scars, whilst Bob Daisley (Ozzy Osbourne/Widowmaker) arrives on bass, and Daisley has brought his bombastic bass to bear here, and he’s certainly put the Power into the Power Of The Blues.

What this album shares with Scars is its volume. The amps are cranked up to 11, and subsequently Power Of The Blues swaggers with an assured confidence that recalls the likes of Budgie and Led Zeppelin at their most muscular. This album is unashamedly blues, only the darker, heavier end (hence the moniker) and that becomes immediately obvious on the opening (and title) track. It’s a speaker-smoker that stomps all over the shop like a 900lb gorilla, and says all it has to in two-and-a-half succinct minutes. Even when the trio take their foot off the gas, such as on the following ‘There’s A Hole’, they remain crushingly heavy. A cover of Willie Dixon’s ‘I Can’t Quit You Baby’ is surely the definitive, as is Dixon’s ‘Evil’, both of which cast a voodoo-like spell over the listener. Even the sparse, less-is-more approach of ‘That’s Why I Play The Blues’ has a strength which other guitarists could only hope to obtain.

Disc Five: Blu-Ray: Back To The Blues 5.1 Mix (Edited Version) + Select Interviews

Of the four albums in this set, Back To The Blues probably has the best production. There was obviously some magic in the air when the band convened at Waterloo Sunset rehearsal room, Bermondsey, South London, and the sound that producer Chris Tsangarides captured placed the listener right in the room with the band, and while you won’t find the music acting in new and mysterious ways, the 5.1 Mix heightens this sensation. The new mix adds extra depth to the original album, which makes this the go to version. Two interviews with Gary explore the much maligned A Different Beat album and also Back To The Blues and both prove to be entertaining and informative.

Gary Moore proved himself both a historian and a pioneer. He was very aware of the blues’ rich past yet, as these discs testify, he wanted to move the genre into new territory. Four very different albums, each with their own personality, makes The Sanctuary Years 1999-2004 a document of an artist at their creative peak.

Track List:

Disc One: A Different Beat (1999)

  1. Go On Home
  2. Lost In Your Love
  3. Worry No More
  4. Fire
  5. Surrender
  6. House Full Of Blues
  7. Bring My Baby back
  8. Can’t Help Myself
  9. Fatboy
  10. We Want Love
  11. Can’t Help Myself (E-Z Rollers Remix)

Disc Two: Back To The Blues (2001)

  1. Enough Of The Blues
  2. You Upset Me Baby
  3. Cold Black Night
  4. Stormy Monday
  5. Ain’t Got You
  6. Picture Of The Moon
  7. Looking Back
  8. The Prophet
  9. How Many Lies
  10. Drowning In Tears

Bonus Tracks:

  1. Picture Of The Moon (Single Edit)
  2. Cold Black Night (Live At VH1)
  3. Stormy Monday (Live At VH1)

Disc Three: Scars (2002)

  1. When The Sun Goes Down
  2. Rectify
  3. Wasn’t Born In Chicago
  4. Stand Up
  5. Just Can’t Let You Go
  6. My Baby (She’s So Good To Me)
  7. World Of confusion
  8. Ball And Chain
  9. World Keeps Turning Round
  10. Who Knows (What Tomorrow May Bring)?

Disc Four: Power Of The Blues (2004)

  1. Power Of The Blues
  2. There’s A Hole
  3. Tell Me Woman
  4. I Can’t Quit You Baby
  5. That’s Why I Play The Blues
  6. Evil
  7. Getaway Blues
  8. Memory pain
  9. Can’t Find My Baby
  10. Torn Inside

Disc Five: Blu-Ray: Back To The Blues 5.1 Mix (Edited Version) + Selected Interviews

  1. As Disc Two, tracks 1 through 10.
  2. Gary Moore Interview A Different Beat
  3. Gary Moore Interview Back To The Blues