Review by Paul H Birch
When first released in 1978, Back on the Streets mined the musical landscape of its time: the title track’s buzz-saw charged guitar riff and down-on-your-luck lyrics caught the punk rock zeitgeist. The machismo guitar chording echoed Thin Lizzy’s chart-rocking sound and the time changes came from the more accessible end of Colosseum II’s jazz rocking, bands Moore was affiliated to and whose members guest throughout the album. Listening to the opening track after so many years it still sounds vital today.
As a nipper I had older friends who were acquaintances of the guitarist, playing me his earlier Gary Moore Band and Colosseum II records. Dutifully impressed, when Back on the Streets was released I got hold of it on vinyl (another that ended up at some girlfriend or others) and played it to death. When Jeff Beck released Blow by Blow and Wired, Moore appropriated much of this into his sound with ‘Hurricane’ and other instrumentals, little more than pale facsimiles. Listening now, it’s even more apparent but I can’t help still enjoying John Mole’s jazz funk bass on ‘What Would You Rather Bee or a Wasp’. Albeit technically gifted, it felt Moore changed the genre of music he played to plug a market gap and be the latest guitar hero in that style.
Everyone knows surprise hit single ‘Parisienne Walkways’. Live, it tended to become tiresomely overblown; on record, Moore’s sustained guitar notes remain subtle and infused with key phrases interacting with one of Phil Lynott’s most memorable vocal deliveries. Lynott was also at the mic for a slow restrained but passionate cover of his own ‘Don’t Believe a Word’, a blueprint for the blues direction Moore would ultimately head. ‘Song for Donna’ was always my favourite track – Moore singing with conviction and featuring one of Don Airey’s many timeless – but whereas ‘Fanatical Fascists’ once came across as some disposable punk type schtick, it now bursts gloriously out of the speakers sounding like The Jam mixing it up with The Heavy Metal Kids. Single b-side ‘Spanish Guitar’ was probably considered too much a poor man’s ‘Parisienne Walkways’ to be collected on the original album, but should’ve been, albeit three versions on this edition is a bit much. Back on the Streets is still worth a listen.
7 out of 10
- Back on the Streets
- Don’t Believe a Word (with Phil Lynott vocal)
- Fanatical Fascists
- Flight of the Snow Moose
- Song for Donna
- What Would You Rather Bee or a Wasp
- Parisienne Walkways (with Phil Lynott vocal)
- Track Nine (taken from Back On The Streets’ 7″ Single B-Side)
- Spanish Guitar – (Phil Lynott vocal 7″ Single)
- Spanish Guitar – (Gary Moore vocal 7″ Single)
- Spanish Guitar – Instrumental 7″ Single B-Side