After the breakup of Irish power trio Skid Row (not to be confused with the popular US band) in the early 70s, Gary Moore embarked on a solo career. This, the first release with Gary as band leader is credited to The Gary Moore Band. The Gary Moore Band released one album together – 1973’s ‘Grinding Stone’.
The album possesses a fair amount of power, but not always much focus. ‘Time To Heal’, with a driving, almost southern boogie approach is one of the album’s better tracks, even if it’s more Allman Brothers than Gary Moore. The only down side is that Gary chooses to deliver his vocal in his rock style voice, which seems an odd choice given the nature of the material. It’s not like he’s not found his blues voice yet, either, as he uses that to great effect elsewhere on the album. The title cut is an instrumental (just shy of ten minutes) which fuses bluesy shuffles and faint hints of jazz rock, creating something which Carlos Santana would’ve been proud to have grace one of his mid seventies albums. Gary’s fuzzy guitar playing has a sometimes bluesy edge, but no real soul. It’s aggressive, sharp and fairly unrelenting. Jan Schellhaus (later of Caravan and Camel) helps create some softer counterbalance here; his piano and electric keyboard work is decent enough given what he has to work with. As something which sounds like it was born from a blues-rock jam, it’s pleasing enough, but you’ve heard this done so much better. ’The Energy Dance’ is a short keyboard instrumental leading into ‘Spirit’. All I’ll say about this is that Jan Schellhaas spoils decent piano work by overlaying what could be the most disgusting synth noise I’ve ever heard.
The seventeen minute tour-de-force ‘Spirit’ could’ve the high point for musicianship, although by the halfway point there’s a feeling that it could’ve been truncated. There’s a fine line between tasteful showmanship and self-indulgence…and this track wobbles across that line regularly. Starting with a tight workout (which again has an Allman Brothers Band feel) it certainly starts promisingly enough. Then, during a rhythmically pleasing section which sounds like another Santana cast-off (featuring solid interplay between Moore, Schellhaas and drummer Pearse Kelly), there’s a decent groove. However, the track falls apart at the seven minute mark as it descends into spacey keyboard and guitar noodling. At this point, it ultimately becomes something which feels like unnecessary filler. Even when the drums come back and the band fall into something which carries the spirit (no pun intended) of a threatening 70s film soundtrack, the momentum never really returns, despite a half decent guitar solo.
‘Boogie My Way Back Home’ is a standard blues workout, pre-empting Gary’s main musical focus by some years. It’s a track which features a simple, but direct use of slide guitar and Gary is in fairly strong voice. The vocal high point of the album, though, comes during the ballad ‘Sail Across The Mountain’. One of Gary’s greatest early achievements, his voice ranges from soulful to pained and passionate, again hinting at his future musical direction. In many ways, if ‘Grinding Stone’ makes any long lasting impression as an album at all, it’s one which leaves the listener asking why there couldn’t have been more of this?
Not long after the release of ‘Grinding Stone’, Gary’s solo career was put on hold, as he would be drafted in to replace Thin Lizzy’s departed guitarist Eric Bell. This tenure with Lizzy would be short, with Gary finishing their 1973 tour and contributing guitar parts to three songs from their 1974 album ‘Night Life’, before joining jazz rock outfit Colosseum II. He would later return to Thin Lizzy in 1979, as a full time member, appearing on their classic LP ‘Black Rose: A Rock Legend’.
As has been well documented, Gary would go on to achieve great things. His solo career – spanning several decades from 1979 onward – going from hard rock to blues and occasionally back again – has moments of sheer brilliance… ‘Grinding Stone’, meanwhile, is still no more than a curio which shows glimpses of greatness.