The bad tributes

23:34, Oct 14 2012

I watched the Gary Moore: Blues for Jimi DVD last week. Now I was never really a big fan of Gary Moore, though for a while there he was fairly formative and influential for me when I was a younger listener of blues-rock guitar music; just getting turned on to the sound - and various sounds from there. As I said here, last year, after his passing, the Still Got the Blues album turned me on to a lot of other great blues playing. And I appreciate his efforts to promote the work of Peter Green, assisting in Green's comeback to a degree. His work with Scars and BBM was all but ignored - and at the time I rather liked it. I doubt I could even make it all the way through Still Got the Blues now.

But the new DVD arrived and I decided to do the work, to take it on. I didn't hold a lot of hope for Gary Moore playing the music of Jimi Hendrix - but there are (probably) worse things you can do with a Friday morning away from the office.

It was pretty poor.

Moore's voice was all wrong for this material - obviously. His guitar tone - something that plagued him across any of his attempts at blues music, really - is horrible here. It's plastic and processed and has none of the raw, otherworldly beauty that Hendrix's finest work still suggests. Moore's music dated so badly, so quickly. Hendrix's finest performances still have the power to drop jaws.

So this was a perfunctory set of blues-hack bar-room jamming - churched up as a tribute and now available on DVD because Moore has passed. It was recorded in 2007 - as part of a set of Hendrix celebrations. Now the cash-in arrives, there might finally be a market for it: mainstream Hendrix fans, particularly baby-boomers - and the crossover of some pining Gary Moore enthusiasts.

I like a nostalgia rush with music - it's a big part of what has kept me writing about music in this forum. And I appreciate certain sentiments, a moment, a brief speech - even a look that a musician on stage might offer, something that conveys some of the emotion of the event. And I did watch this DVD all the way through because I wanted to hear the tunes that featured Billy Cox and Mitch Mitchell; the last surviving Hendrix sidemen at the time (Mitchell has since joined the jam in the sky).


And hearing Mitch Mitchell thank Hendrix in a brief chat to the audience before stepping behind the kit was moving. He said that as a 22-year-old he couldn't believe his luck; his mind was blown. Here he was, 40 years on, shaking his head in disbelief still. It's a lovely moment. But it doesn't warrant the purchasing - and watching - of a DVD now, does it?

If I want to pay tribute to Jimi Hendrix, to hear some magic, I'll listen (still) to Jimi Hendrix. Or even just think about Hendrix. That intro to Voodoo Chile (Slight Return). My mind was blown when I was 13. I would listen to the Smash Hits compilation over and over. It didn't leave the Walkman for weeks. It was music I wanted to crawl inside, get behind, fall into.

And I still feel that on occasions when I'm prompted to listen to Hendrix.

The only positive thing I can say about Gary Moore's Jimi tribute is that it made me want to listen to Hendrix.

And so I thought, too, about these well-meaning but ultimately flatlining attempts to pay tribute to an artist who has passed. These dud concerts that might have seemed special for one night but feel close to ridiculous when captured on DVD or CD, presented to a hopeful audience by hopeful marketers. Or the studio albums of lame covers...

I couldn't ever tell you that this DVD was worth watching. But if you want to seek it out - or if you've seen it already and have a different opinion of it - that's fine. That will happen. Someone asked me if this DVD was much chop at all. And I told them, flat out, no. I said - as I've said here - that Gary's tone is awful and his voice is all wrong. And the playing is pedestrian for the most part. And at times not even that good. And this person's reply was that they would still look to get this piece of product because they were a huge Gary Moore fan.

I understand that urge.

But what I don't understand is these tributes to someone's playing - a desperate attempt to claim an influence.

If I want to hear a tribute to Hendrix I can hear it in some of the ideas that Carlos Santana offered in the 1970s; an extrapolation...or I can consider the approach of Neil Young - that idea of taming, momentarily, some wildness, lassoing it then letting it go...

They both channelled the spirit of Hendrix for me. They went about it in their own ways - approaching it differently. Creating something that was different. And isn't that really the point when being influenced by something?

I've never understood the interest in a concert or album that claims to pay tribute to an artist but ends up only offering watered-down treatments. It seems the correct way to pay tribute would be to steer well clear of botching the material.

And so this will be just one more misguided - but still, ultimately, well-intentioned - tribute to Jimi Hendrix. I'm not sure there are any great tributes to Hendrix.

What do you think? Have you ever heard a decent Jimi Hendrix tribute? And what do you think of tribute albums and concerts in general? The concerts surely lose something as soon as they're captured in attempts to preserve for posterity. Don't you think?


Is there a single worst tribute album/concert you can think of? Something that missed the mark monumentally?

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