Depending on age and/or musical preferences, it’s likely that we will think of the late, great guitar hero Gary Moore either as a hard rocker or as a blues maestro. Sure, he was both things in his time, but it’s worth remembering the other paths he trod – as a jazz-fusion guitar legend in John Hiseman’s Colosseum II; a prog hero on Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s Variations. He even dabbled in the pop world in the band G-Force, which saw him and his cronies doing a pretty creditable Echo And The Bunnymen impression on the front cover of their 1980 eponymous album. However, occasionally Moore has taken side-roads when recording under his own name too, and A Different Beat, which was released on CD in 1999, was one of them. Now re-released in a deluxe CD package, and on vinyl for the first time, in transparent orange in a gatefold sleeve, it’s back on the streets…
The New Wave Of Heavy Metal in the late ‘70s saw Moore releasing fire-fingered metal on his solo albums and folk-tinged rock aboard Thin Lizzy, while his on-off partnership with Phil Lynott produced the melodic masterpiece Parisienne Walkways and the metal juggernaut Out In The Fields. But then in 1990 he took a deep dive into the blues world with his album Still Got The Blues, featuring guest spots from blues legends Albert King and Albert Collins, as well as the stunning title track, which wasn’t really a blues at all in the traditional sense, so much as a re-working of the Parisienne Walkways chord progression. The experiment was a massive commercial success, and he stayed in the blues for a while, with his next album, After Hours, featuring contributions from Albert Collins again and BB King, and then Blues For Greeny, a tribute to Fleetwood Mac legend Peter Green, recorded using Green’s own guitar.
By this time, Moore was such a respected guitar god that he could do whatever he wanted pretty much, and he took another left-turn in 1997 with Dark Days In Paradise, a lush, layered, melodic offering that undoubtedly presents some of his most thoughtful work. However, it contains very little of his screaming, rocking guitar, which after all, is why most people buy his albums in the first place, so the fans were already looking at each other in puzzlement before he brought out A Different Beat two years later, which must have had them gasping in disbelief. Sure, the rocking guitar was back, but the atmospheric, bluesy backings were jettisoned and replaced with acid backbeats taken directly from House and Electronic Dance. Some of the songs had (dare I say it?) programmed drums, and Moore’s voice was sampled, cut and pasted into unfamiliar configurations.
The set powers on with Go On Home, which sees Moore singing a straight-ahead rock song over an acid guitar riff and driving dance beat. Interspersed with beat drops and some sweet slide breaks, it’s a great song, it’s just that the treatment is a little unfamiliar. Lost In Your Love starts along similar lines, but Moore opts for a creamy, overdriven guitar sound with layered effects, that’s a dead ringer for The Isley Brothers – in fact, the melodic vocal line and up-tempo backing bolster that comparison. This one runs to nearly six minutes, and the beautiful, fluid, extended guitar solo at the end is one of Moore’s finest moments in any genre.
The template for Worry No More is based squarely on John Lee Hooker’s own crossover hit with Carlos Santana, The Healer – Moore sings in a JLH style, with percussive stabs at lead guitar between the lines, and this is interspersed with crunching guitar in the choruses. A nice cover of Hendrix’ Fire follows next, the shortest song on the album, and a pretty faithful cover, other than being played over a manic drumbeat that wouldn’t be out of place in Squarepusher’s catalogue, although played on a traditional kit. We then have the ambient, bluesy ballad Surrender, which he clearly didn’t want to end – it runs to 9½ minutes, half of which is one of the most tastefully restrained solos of his career; an album highlight for sure. For those with a foot in the Thin Lizzy camp, you could be forgiven for thinking this was Snowy White rather than Gary Moore.
House Full Of Blues is again played over a frenetic beat, but other than that, it’s the pure classic rocking blues we’re all familiar with. He veers further into the traditional sector with Bring My Baby Back, which is down-home front porch blues. There are some electronic squeaks and squawks in the background, but they don’t detract; rather add a layer of interest to an aged format, which I imagine was the avowed intention.
For those opting for the vinyl format, thus ends the first LP; the second is more of an EP really, two tracks a side, with a combined total length just shy of half an hour – and this is where he really starts to subvert expectations. That frantic Squarepusher rhythm is back for Can’t Help Myself, and this time consciously and deliberately synthetic. Moore whispers conspiratorially into the mike over a sustained feedback guitar note, while extra unfamiliar percussion appears out of the left channel. It starts to sound a little more familiar when the crashing guitar comes in, but the team are deliberately playing with the sounds, and the distorted, percussive bass is a glorious touch. The climax of the album comes with the out-and-out dance mix of Fatboy, an unashamed tribute to sample and remix supremo Norman Cook, aka Fatboy Slim. It’s Moore’s voice and guitar all right, but chopped, mixed and hammered into unfamiliar configurations. Love it or hate it, you genuinely won’t have suspected anything like it could exist from the Moore stable.
The final side contains an even more subversive track, an eight-minute remix of the aforementioned Can’t Help Myself, courtesy of Suffolk drum’n’bass outfit E-Z Rollers. Basically, they supply a 2½ minute intro with chopped up samples, which is then glued seamlessly to the beginning of the other version. It’s excellently done, and to me, these two songs are the could-have-been. Up to now, there is a dance element for sure, but Moore’s rock stylings are definitely the boss. But these two songs are a living showcase of what Moore’s style married to electronic dance could produce in a 50-50 partnership. There is a hidden track at the end by the way, but it’s simply a shortened version of Surrender, faded out before that stupendous guitar solo, and therefore a pretty pointless exercise.
So did it work? Well, yes and no; even Moore considered it just too Gary Moorey for the dancefloor, but not Gary Moorey enough for Gary Moore fans. A noble experiment, worthy of attention, and if it had been given a project name rather than coming out under the Gary Moore banner, I think it would have been another feather in Moore’s well-plumed hat – if anyone out there was crying out for an Ibiza-blues-metal crossover, they may have found themselves in music heaven. As it is though, he decided it was a cul-de-sac and reversed back out – after this, Moore’s albums were aggressively blues-named lest there should be any doubt; Back To The Blues in 2001, Power Of The Blues in 2004, Old New Ballad Blues in 2006. But this one stands on its own; with a little more development in this direction, Gary Moore might have influenced a whole new genre.