I recall being rightly impressed by guitarist Gary Moore and his finger flights of fancy, emulating Keith Emerson on "Fanfare For The Common Man," when I caught a Greg Lake show back in my New Jersey burb in 1981. It was his first solo outing since Emerson, Lake & Palmer broke up in 1979. Now comes Lake's London '81 CD, an 11-song live set recorded at London's Hammersmith Odeon. It was the last date of the same tour I saw, and it brings back lots of memories.
There is a snippet of "Karn Evil 9, First Impression, Part 2" after "Fanfare For The Common Man." Then we are into the heavy "Nuclear Attack," from Lake's self-titled solo debut, with Moore pulling and trilling across the whole thing. "Retribution Drive" features Moore's more subtle pulls and single note bends; he basically 'talks' his way all through the verses around Lake's strong vocal. The singer sounds especially in fine form on the song's MOR-sounding bridge. As you'd expect, "Lucky Man" makes an appearance. It's a light version with a lot of swing, some trickling guitar with a doubled-up rhythm from Lake and a full range of backing vocals.
Moore's romantic signature ballad "Parisienne Walkways" from his 1979 Back On The Streets album (originally sung by Thin Lizzy mainman Phil Lynott) comes at the mid-point. It truly is the best track here, even though this is a Greg Lake live album. If one ever needed proof of what a singular talent Gary Moore was, all you have to do is listen to his bends here, the control he manages of the high end, and the concluding rundown of trills that give you chills.
The backing vocals are especially on point on Smokey Robinson's "You Really Got A Hold On Me," but with so many original songs to choose from, why Lake covers other's tunes is beyond me. "Love You Too Much," a song Lake co-wrote with Bob Dylan, is a rockin' little ditty, with organ blares throughout and Moore taking his moments.
From his years with King Crimson, Lake delivers a driving "21st Century Schizoid Man" with stellar drums and guitar battling, followed by the set ender, "In The Court Of The Crimson King." As a bonus track, "C'est La Vie" is obviously from another show and the recording isn't up to snuff with the rest of the record. You can hardly hear Lake's vocal and the guitar is set way back in the mix. As a whole, London '81 is a decent document of a time and place when the lead singer, producer and guitarist of ELP stepped out to take control of his own destiny. And it reminds one of how great of a guitarist Gary Moore was.
~ Ralph Greco, Jr.