Gary Moore

Close as You Get

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Irish hard rocker turned respected blues man Gary Moore may not be breaking new ground 15 years into his musical transformation, but he continues to churn out solid, energized albums that play to his considerable strengths. It may be his raw Peter Green-inspired guitar that draws fans in, but Moore's soulful vocals and stronger-than-necessary songwriting keeps them there. These 11 humdingers feature five originals interspersed between sharp, tough covers of Sonny Boy Williamson (two tracks), Chuck Berry, John Mayall, and even a closing, seven-minute acoustic version of Son House's "Sundown," a rare glimpse of Moore's unplugged abilities. It should be no surprise that the composer of the lovely "Parisienne Walkways" also has a knack for quieter material, but Moore's subtlety and restraint on the old Jimmy Witherspoon chestnut "Evenin' Blues" (here shortened to "Evenin'"), and his own ballad "I Had a Dream" show that he's as powerful and intense when the amps are down to two as when they are pegging at 11. The way he builds tension on the latter through a slowly rising solo that hits a crescendo over the song's seven minutes proves why he's such an effective bluesman. Originals like "Nowhere Fast" aren't just by-the-numbers blues rewrites, but fully fleshed out songs that could stand on their own in a variety of arrangements. Like the finest musicians, including his mentor Peter Green, Moore understands the significance of dynamics, a lesson many others who work similar blues rock territory haven't learned. When he tears it up on the fire breathing Chicago shuffle of Williamson's "Checkin' Up on My Baby" and Berry's chugging "Thirty Days," there's no doubt of his six-string prowess. Yet it's the authority, not the volume, behind his string bending that's so riveting and makes this one Moore's finest, most varied blues or rock releases.

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