Sound: Ireland's very own master blues/rock guitarist Gary Moore is no stranger to the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. While he has released a variety of recordings over the past few decades taking place at the annual event, Moore's latest 5-CD box set is the most comprehensive thus far. With over 6 hours of music, Essential Montreux delves heavily into the musician's bluesier side, which the former Thin Lizzy guitarist has pretty much perfected at this point in his career. With performances from 1990, 1995, 1997, 1999, and 2001, some songs are repeated, but Moore usually finds unique ways to keep the music fresh.
Although the bulk of the material is blues-oriented, the genre feels the most authentic on the first disk thanks to one particular guest musician. This particular disk includes an appearance from the legendary Albert Collins, who offers his own twist on the songs Cold Cold Feeling, Further On Up The Road, Too Tired, and The Blues Is Alright. While Moore and Collins have extremely distinct styles, the men are at their best when they trade off licks and solos. Other key moments on disk one include the highly entertaining Texas Strut (during which Moore gives a nod to such guitarist as Billy Gibbons and Stevie Ray Vaughan) and the slide-driven Moving On.
While three of the other disks do cover the blues primarily with the tracks All Your Love, Oh Pretty Woman (not the Roy Orbison version), and Too Tired visited several times the third disk concentrates on Moore's music from the late 1990s. Tracks such as One Good Reason, One Fine Day, and Cold Wind Blows are all taken from the Dark Days in Paradise album, which veered more toward the adult contemporary direction. This change makes for a nice midway point in the box set, but it's usually not as engaging as the blues portion.
In terms of technical prowess, Moore shines in pretty much every track. Between his experimental solo in Stop Messing Around, the solid undertaking of Jimi Hendrix's Fire and Elmore James' The Sky Is Crying (which certainly has a touch of Stevie Ray Vaughan's version in it), and the always-necessary soulful vocal deliver on pretty much everything, Moore proves over and over again that he excels at a live show. // 10
Lyrics: A good deal of the material on Essential Montreux was written by bluesmen throughout the ages, so Moore can't really be put under the microscope as far as this area is concerned. If you're a blues fan, you'll be in heaven as Moore does cover a wide variety of songs penned by such individuals as Elmore James and Otis Rush. A good deal of the box set is dedicated to classic songs of love gone wrong (Further On Up The Road, Cold Cold Feeling), but every once in awhile you'll have an uplifting number (i.e., Moore's own nod to blues legends in Texas Strut) that keep things moving along. // 9
Overall Impression: For blues fans and guitar enthusiasts, Essential Montreux is a must-have. Granted, there are more than a few songs that will be repeated along the way because five separate live dates are included, but Moore keeps his solos creative and engaging. The guitar skills of Moore usually upstage his vocal ability, but even with this in mind, the musician still never lacks in his emotional delivery. If you haven't had an opportunity to check out Moore in a live venue, listening to Essential Montreux will ensure that you keep your eyes open for Moore's upcoming tour dates. // 9