Gary Moore – After Hours Audio Cassette (1992)

I thought I’d do something a bit different with the illustration for this post. The eventual composition wasn’t really so much an idea as an inevitability. What with the late Gary Moore being so well known for using ‘flametop’ Gibson Les Paul guitars, I opted to use the front face of my own Les Paul ‘flametop’ as a makeshift ‘table’ for the tape, then open up the cassette cover for use as a backdrop. It’s made for quite a colourful and eyecatching image.

Gary Moore After Hours cassette with Gibson Les Paul

Anyway, rather scarily, this album is now two decades old, hailing as it does from 1992. It’s called After Hours, and it’s an impactive blues/rock creation by the technically spectacular but musically emotive Irish guitarist/singer Gary Moore.

For a long period running up to the end of the 1980s, Moore was predominantly involved in hard rock music, and would often be cited among the favourites of heavy metal fans. But an abrupt change in direction at the turn of the decade saw him releasing an album of pure blues tracks: Still Got The Blues. Yes, the sound was rocked up, but the essence was very traditional, and indeed, collaborative appearances by original American blues artists such as Albert Collins and Albert King affirmed the obvious quest for an authentic blues feel. And further emphasising Moore’s departure from the heavy metal genre was the fact that George Harrison also played and sang on the Still Got The Blues album. Diverse musicians, and much fuller arrangements with piano, a horn section etc, dramatically changed the backdrop to Gary Moore’s music… This had nothing to do with heavy metal – full stop.

After Hours was the follow-up to Still Got The Blues, and it’s actually my favourite one of Gary Moore’s albums. Again there’s collaboration from old-time blues legends – in this case Albert Collins and BB King. But there’s a more soulful aura to After Hours than Still Got The Blues I feel. The band lineup is further expanded, with the addition of backing vocalists Carol Kenyon and Linda Taylor making a very positive difference. There’s a string section too. The album’s opener Cold Day In Hell – one of Moore’s own creations – is a number I can’t really imagine anyone disliking. For me, it epitomises this exciting phase in Gary Moore’s career, combining all the defining elements. And the rest of the album continues without a hint of an anticlimax. It’s varied, it’s powerful, and listening to it once is not enough.

Right through his time in the rock/metal genre, Gary Moore must have spent a vast proportion of his life listening to and playing traditional blues. The feel of Moore’s early ‘90s blues albums in no way suggests someone who decided to chop and change on a whim. The blues was clearly ingrained into Gary Moore, and surely, he must have been burning to record this material for many years. That’s how it comes across. I’m absolutely convinced that these albums were not a ‘career move’ – made for the money. They were made for the love of blues. The passion, the vitality and the sheer knowledge evident in the recordings makes that pretty obvious. As it happened, Gary Moore’s early ‘90s blues albums were a commercial success, but the success was natural – not contrived.

Technically, the After Hours cassette sounds great, with impressive clarity and transparency across the frequency range. The tape has a chrome formulation, and when I listen back through some of these old pre-recorded chrome tapes I’m often amazed at how well they compete with digital media for fidelity. But the tapes saturate differently from digital media of course, and that’s one of the reasons there remains such enthusiasm for them. Great audio tape has a warmth and an empathy with the music, that sweetens the overall sound. That suits this album perfectly. It’s a listening experience to behold.