Still Got The Blues

Gary Moore

Charisma Records, 1990

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Sometimes I seriously worry for the blues. What has always been a raw, emotional form of music has lost so many greats in recent years - just this weekend, I learned of the death of Johnny Copeland. There are so few left who can move this reviewer to tears with the power of their performances.

Gary Moore isn't one of these people. His 1990 release Still Got The Blues may have brought him quite a bit of industry attention (and rejuvenated his solo career), but to me, it just proves that rich white boys aren't meant to play the blues.

Give him credit for trying - he brings in two masters of their respective instruments, Albert Collins (and the Fender Telecaster) and Albert King (and his Gibson Flying "V"). But these blues purists are sorely underused, and the album is more of a showoff piece for Moore's flashy guitar work. Nice idea - wrong genre.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

He even dips into the catalogs of Johnny "Guitar" Watson (another one we recently lost) and Otis Rush - and these turn out to be some of the best tracks on the album. But when he tries to write his own blues songs, they end up more like pumped-up rockabilly at times (not that there's anything wrong with rockabilly),and they don't quite fit the mold of what I expect my blues to be. This is a little - oh, hell, way too crunchy - for my tastes.

Even when he comes close to capturing the emotion that the blues is supposed to evoke, Moore promptly fucks it up by adding strings - strings!?! - to the arrangement. Somewhere, John Mayall is cringing. Next time this guy tours the states, will someone shove an album by Hound Dog Taylor in his hands?

It's not that I don't appreciate Moore's guitar work or his songwriting. The title track is a nice ballad, and he does a passable job on "That Kind Of Woman." But Moore has way too much rock and roll in his blood, and you can hear that in his playing and singing. He sounds quite uncomfortable on "Oh Pretty Woman," his duet with King, as if he were a fish out of water. And he does try to pay tribute to people who have kept the blues alive on "Texas Strut" - namely Billy Gibbons, who, with the rest of ZZ Top, have spent a good portion of their career reminding people of the blues' past.

But, Gary, face facts: the blues isn't about how fluid your chops are or how fast you can play (tell that to Alvin Lee - who came a helluva lot closer to playin' the blues than you did). I'll take a bluesman who can move me with one trembling, off-key note than someone who can run up and down the entire length of the fretboard. You're a rock and roll guitarist - you proved that while you were with Thin Lizzy - and you can't turn your back on that. You want the blues? Here are some names to remember: Robert Johnson, B.B. King, Muddy Waters... Jesus, even Eric freaking Clapton has a clue on what the blues really is. Either that, or the grit of his vocal growls fooled me.

I guess I'd give Gary Moore a "B" for effort, but an "F" for performance. Still Got The Blues may pass as an album of that genre to someone who doesn't know 12-bar from the corner bar. For the rest of us, pass on this dud and go check out something from the Chess Records vaults.

Rating: D+

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© 1997 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Charisma Records, and is used for informational purposes only.