It's been a few days now since the news broke that guitarist Gary Moore had died while on holiday in Spain. It goes to show how much he was respected by fellow musicians that tributes from so many greats in rock and in the blues scene have been pouring in. Almost consistently overlooked by critics and those who compile '100 Great Guitar Player' lists, his musical contribution both as a solo artist and band member is nonetheless immense.Hailing from Belfast, Moore learned to play in his teens before moving to Dublin at the tender age of 16. There he met up with Phil Lynott for the first time, joining a band by the name of Skid Row (no relation to the later US band) and the paths of the two would cross many times from then on. In late 1973 Moore replaced Eric Bell in Thin Lizzy in order to complete that band's tour, but did not stick around. He did, however play lead guitar on the original studio version of 'Still In Love With You' which appears on Thin Lizzy's 'Nightlife' album, as well as appearing on two more tracks. He released an album under his own name in 1973 but his solo career really started five years later with the hit 'Parisienne Walkways'. A slow bluesy number showcasing Moore's superb guitar tone, and featuring Lynott on vocal, the song was a hit single in the UK and the album 'Back On The Streets' soon followed. The album also included a slower and vastly different arrangement of the Lizzy song 'Don't Believe A Word' featuring the Lizzy main man. With this collaboration, Moore rejoined Thin Lizzy in 1978 and this time actually stayed with the group long enough to record a full album with them, 1979's 'Black Rose'. However the alliance once again splintered on the road, musical and personal differences between Moore and Lynott saw the former walk out mid-tour, forcing Lynott to hastily recruit Midge Ure on guitar to complete the tour.
Moore went on to form the short-lived G-Force, releasing one album, before resuming his solo career. During this period he would work with the likes of Ian Paice and Neil Murray (both ex-Whitesnake), Don Airey (Rainbow/Ozzy/Deep Purple) and he started to taste success under his own name, in the UK at least. Unsure of his own abilites on lead vocal at first, he recruited John Sloman for the road before electing to step up to the microphone himself full-time. His material during this period was straight-up hard rock with emphasis on his virtuoso lead guitar; many songs had political overtones influenced by the events of the Cold War. Such songs as 'Murder In The Skies' (concerning an incident in which a civilian airliner was shot down by the Soviet air force), 'Nuclear Attack' and 'Victims Of the Future' demonstrated his willingness to go beyond mere boy-meets-girl lyrics. He was unable to maintain a stable backing band however, it seemed that there was a game of musical chairs going on with players drifting between Gary Moore, Ozzy, Whitesnake and Deep Purple and so he would tour with a new line-up in 1984, featuring Elf/Rainbow bassist Craig Gruber and keyboard player Neil Carter, the latter doubling up on rhythm guitar. Moore and his band appeared that year at the Donington Monsters of Rock festival on a strong bill headlined by AC/DC, but his major successes still lay ahead.In early 1985 he announced he would collaborate with one-time Purple bassist Glenn Hughes, but within weeks this was dissolved amid claims and counter-claims. The outspoken Moore left people in no doubt of Hughes' continuing substance issues (which Hughes denied, but ultimately he would clean up once and for all some years later). He did however use the sessions the two did complete for his next album, 'Run For Cover'. A mixed bag of an album, it featured many different musicians and singers, including once again, Phil Lynott who had by this time dissolved Thin Lizzy. The lead-off single 'Out In The Fields', another politically-charged number dealing with the 'Troubles' in Moore's native Ulster, was a UK hit and put Lynott back in the spotlight, performing live with Moore's band on television. Moore would go on to have another hit, with 'Empty Rooms' - a song he had re-recorded for this album after it had originally appeared on the previous record.
Lynott was meanwhile suffering badly with his own substance problems, and despite appearing on stage with Moore and his band at the Manchester Apollo in late 1985 he lost his battle in early 1986, something that affected Moore deeply. That marred what was a very successful year for Moore, his success with the album and tour led to his winning the 'Best Guitarist' award in Kerrang's readers' poll at the end of 1985. Taking most of 1986 out, he reappeared with the 'Wild Frontier' album in 1987. The record displayed heavy Irish influence and produced another hit with 'Over The Hills and Far Away' (covered many years later by the Finnish band Nightwish). Moore was showing his willingness to try different things at this point; the record used a drum machine rather than a human drummer although for the subsequent tour, Eric Singer joined Moore's live band.By the end of the 1980s Moore was enjoying great success; he was booked into Wembley Arena for the tour in support of his next album, 'After The War'. This would be his last hard rock album for many years; he was starting to feel constrained by hard rock and began to take more interest in the blues. In 1990 he released the 'Still Got The Blues' album; the title track was reminiscent of 'Parisienne Walkways' but the sudden change in musical direction surprised many of his fans. He threw himself into this new style completely, while gaining many new followers who were impressed by 'this new guy' his old fans felt shut out as he almost totally turned his back on the hard rock material of his previous albums. Moore was however always influenced by the 'blues boom' of the late 1960s; his prized Les Paul guitar was once owned by Peter Green and he went on to make an album dedicated to the Fleetwood Mac founder: 'Blues For Greeny'. The blues direction continued for several years but Moore was never one to shy away from trying something different. 'Dark Days In Paradise' was another complete change of direction, aiming for a more contemporary 1990s sound. He ended the millennium with 'A Different Beat', where he strove to mix rock guitar with dance beats. During this time he was probably turning away his fans by following his muse; rock fans and indeed blues aficionados are notoriously conservative and regard anything that strays from the accepted template with suspicion. Perhaps with this in mind, he returned to his blues style for 'Back To The Blues' and, a brief flirtation with his old hard rock past apart, would stay largely with that direction for the rest of his career. Moore was planning a new album and tour for 2011 when he died; he leaves a diverse and immense body of work behind him and remains a huge influence on many guitar players that followed in his footsteps. He leaves a massive gap; with a guitar sound many other players would have sold their grandmothers for and with a willingness to embrace many musical styles regardless of whether it made commercial sense or not, he was a genuinely creative talent.