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Absent friends

Paicey reminisces about some guitar players he’d been working with and who are no longer with us — Randy California, Tommy Bolin, and Gary Moore.

And just to save you some googling, here is the aforementioned Mechanical World by Spirit:

Thanks to Drumtribe for the video.

12 Comments to “Absent friends”:

  1. 1
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Little Ian’s obituaries are the nicest no doubt.

    And he didn’t say anything about Gary singing well, so he didn’t even lie either.

    I saw Moore in his 80ies heydays two or three times (once with Little Ian). It was never a band (though Neil Carter made it sound so much better), but always just Gary Moore and his one special guest (Little Ian) plus his assorted sidemen (everyone else). Even Rainbow had more of a band feel to it.

    And if I may speak freely, Moore’s style of playing each and every note with maximum intensity as if his life depended on it was an acquired taste for me. HE PLAYED ALL HIS SOLOS IN CAPITAL LETTERS ALL THE TIME. Well, John Sykes obviously LIKED it!

    As regards dynamics (one of Ritchie’s real strengths), he could have learned something from our old badger. But who knows how he would play today, had he lived. He was never hesitant to try something else – to his credit.

    Now, liebe Gary Moore fans, you may proceed to stone me!

  2. 2
    mike whiteley says:

    It’s nice to hear Ian speak so warmheartedly about his fallen cohorts.He obviously saw both the best and the worst of Gary & Tommy. I hope Paicey pens his memoirs some day.

  3. 3
    DeeperPurps says:

    Uwe @ 1. I agree with your perspective. Gary Moore was a very fine guitarist, but to my tastes, Blackmore is much more well-rounded. Interestingly, I have seen an interview of Don Airey wherein he compares Blackmore to Moore, and said something to the effect that Moore was technically a superior guitarist to Blackmore. Airey did say he liked Blackmore’s warm unique tone though. Would be interested in your thoughts on the foregoing.

  4. 4
    Aireight says:

    I’ve been waiting for Ian’s talk of Tommy and Gary. It makes sense of what he said about Gary’s ability, even though I thought Gary said players aren’t born with talent. Ian was the only one in the band to see Tommy when he left and Gary really missed him when he had to reunite with DP.

  5. 5
    stoffer says:

    These are so interesting always leaves me always wanting more! And yes Spirit has some innovative tunes to say the least…prog rock before there was prog rock LOL 👍

  6. 6
    rock voorne says:

    @ 3

    I read Don in recent years still said Down to Earth was his most proud moment or something like that….

    Quotes and their use…..

  7. 7
    Uwe Hornung says:

    My son, himself a guitarist (and a blues afficionado), once said something about Blackmore that struck me as very apt: “There are lots of guitarists that have a more emotional outpour in their playing, more mojo, more guts. But what sets him apart is how “raffiniert” (a German term, somewhere between the English “refined/sophisticated” and “cunning/clever”) his solos are.”

    That echoes what Don Airey once said about Blackmore in comparison to Randy Rhoads/Gary Moore/Michael Schenker: “Ritchie’s problem is that he thinks too much about his playing – he’s not an as naturally gifted and as instinctive a player as those other three.”

    Cue in Bob Edmands who once wrote for the NME in a Rainbow Rising review something like: “Blackmore is never going to be another Hendrix, he’s not into that type of frenzied inspiration. His deserved reputation is built on artful control and clever use of dynamics.”

    That is not to put Ritchie down at all: That slightly cerebral playfulness in his playing is exactly what I like. And even in his most inspired moments, he never loses control. There is always a meta-level in his playing that is never switched off.

    I guess that appeals to my German side. And I’m not alone either, there must be a reason why Deutschland remained one of DP’s mainstay happy hunting grounds through the decades! ; – )

  8. 8
    DeeperPurps says:

    Thanks Uwe @7 – very well stated. You have seen the same Airey interview I saw. I also recall an interview with Jon Lord way back in the day wherein he said that Blackmore was technically better than Tommy Bolin, but that Tommy was a more natural player, especially in the more blues-based work.

    Rhoads, Schenker, Moore, Bolin – all very fine guitarists. But to my ears, Blackmore is the man, the one whose melodicism, technique, tone, and presence all coalesce into something very special.

    As you state, Blackmore is much more appreciated in Europe. May I add Japan – he is an absolute god there.

  9. 9
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Tommy had a wonderful groove, an exciting one-of-a-kind sound, but his note choice was mostly the blues pentatonic scale – at a time when Blackmore had long transcended that and established his own sound via eastern-tinged und neo-classical scales.

    Bolin – for all his openness to other forms of music – remained essentially the blues player from Zephyr days. And he wasn’t really interested in other scales. That is also why his solos failed to convince DP fans when he was doing Mark II and III material: He couldn’t recreate that elegiac moodiness Ritchie had perfected. I remember an interview he gave on his work on Cobham’s Spectrum and when the interviewer raised that Jan Hammer’s synth solos on that album sounded to him very much like John McLaughlin’s guitar solos, Tommy quipped: “That is because at Mahavishnu they all played the same type of fusion scales!”

    Fact: When DC recommended Tommy to Purple after listening to Spectrum over and over, he did that on the basis of erroneously believing that those lightning-fast Jan Hammer synth runs pervading the record were actually Tommy playing a heavily processed guitar.

    He made the same mistake decades later when he chose Steve Vai for WS believing that Steve was a great blues player after having seen him in that terrible movie where Vai played that satanic guitar slinger competing with that kid guitarist – Coverdale was oblivious to the fact that Steve’s slide parts in the movie were not from him at all, but dubbed in by Ry Cooder!

  10. 10
    DeeperPurps says:

    Tommy was a wonderful guitarist and as you say, he remained locked quite firmly into pentatonic and blues scales. But I do hear the occasional foray into jazz fusion sounding scales though.

    I agree, Blackmore took the guitar further than Tommy, and most other guitarists for that matter. I remember it being a very bitter pill to swallow back in 1976 when CTTB came out, I really could not get my head around Tommy’s playing in Purple. After a couple of decades I gained a greater appreciation for his guitar work, but back in the 70’s I thought he was the wrong choice to replace Blackmore.

    Uwe, have you heard someone by the name of Luther Grosvenor? He was with Spooky Tooth, then joined Mott the Hoople in 1973/74 under the alias Ariel Bender, and then joined forces with Bob Daisley of Rainbow fame in the group Widowmaker in 1977. He had a quite distinctive soloing style, not simply blues / pentatonic, he also seemed to be peppering it with different types of scales. His early work is said to have been an influence on Tony Iommi’s sound and playing style. Here is a song called “Evil Woman” from the 1969 Spooky Too album. I don’t think many others, except Blackmore, were playing this way back in that year……I would be interested in your thoughts on Grosvenor’s guitar solo on this one:


  11. 11
    uwe hornung says:

    Sure, I’ve heard from Luther/Ariel – seen him with Widowmaker (opening for Ted Nugent in 1977) and he’s of course on Mott The Hoople’s iconic live album. He’s a bit too flashy/noise merchant-y for my taste, even a cocky young Blackmore had more taste and restraint, let’s not even talk about someone like Mick Ronson who followed him in Mott the Hoople. Luther/Ariel looks great on stage, it’s the substance that is sometimes lacking. Ian Hunter once said that Luther/Ariel was an asset live, but in the studio he missed Mick Ralphs. (And I would imagine that Ronson’s short stint with Mott the Hoople – before they finally disbanded – was an attempt by Ian Hunter to regain someone with a proven studio work ability.)

    I remember an early NME review of a Widowmaker gig where the journalist quipped: “Ariel Bender pretty much acts on stage like he thinks he’s the star, but doesn’t want to get beaten up backstage for overdoing it!”. : – ) Huw-Lloyd Langton (he of Hawkwind fame) was much more introvert on stage. And at the gig I saw, big mouth Ted Nugent even mocked his opening act during his set by asking “And did you like that British band whatever they are called?” and then proceeding to ape some of Ariel’s trademark riffs. The atmosphere between the two bands must have been strained.

  12. 12
    DeeperPurps says:

    Uwe @ 11, thanks for your insights. I understand your thoughts about Grosvenor’s style – to my ears it is much more raw and jagged than Blackmore’s who is more fluid, more technically proficient and melodic. Nevertheless I think Grosvenor had a distinctive style to his soloing that outshined most of his contemporaries circa 1969 to 1974.

    As you note, in the songwriting department, it was not one of Grosvenor’s strengths – he is somewhat akin to Jeff Beck who is an absolute master of the guitar, yet the gift of songwriting eludes him (versus Page and Blackmore’s talents in that regard).

    As for Terrible Ted, his juvenile behaviour knows no bounds – good guitarist but a buffoon. Shame on him for mocking Grosvenor.

    Speaking of Blackmore – I have seen an old Melody Maker clipping from 1971 wherein he discussed Spooky Tooth’s singer Mike Harrison. In fact Deep Purple asked Harrison to be their vocalist at their very outset, however he declined. Imagine how things might have turned out had he said yes!

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