Jack Bruce + Gary Moore, Ginger Baker, others – Rockpalast: The 50th Birthday Concerts (2014)

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Rockpalast: The 50th Birthday Concerts, released this month via MIG Music, is more than an emotional send off for the late and sadly lamented Jack Bruce. It shows just how fertile his collaboration was with a certain fire-kissed UK guitarist really was.

No, not Eric Clapton — with whom Bruce famously co-founded Cream. Instead, it’s Gary Moore, the Northern Ireland-born former member of Thin Lizzy, whose flinty symbiosis with Bruce during these November 1993 concerts at the E-Werk in Cologne, Germany, ultimately sparked a separate free-standing collaboration.

Moore and Bruce work in terrific concert, then in fiery contrast, throughout Rockpalast: The 50th Birthday Concerts, rendering the times when Clem Clempson steps in at guitar seem rather pedestrian. The presence of Jack Bruce’s former Cream mate Ginger Baker adds new muscle, too. Much of this is gathered at the end of the set’s second disc, as Bruce returns to moments associated with Cream like “Politician,” “Spoonful,” “N.S.U.” and “White Room,” as well as “Life on Earth” (from a 1981 collaboration with Robin Trower) and the blues standard “Sitting on Top of the World.”

Moore turns the latter, composed by members of the Mississippi Sheiks in the 1930s, into a molten excursion, so full of soul and sweat that Clempson’s earlier pass seems moot. Same with “Politician,” which breezily unfolded with Clempson; Gary Moore’s sparky version is all edge. Then there’s the titanic closing take on “White Room,” a Moore-fueled finale that shakes everything that came before loose of its moorings.

Clearly inspired by these shows, Baker, Bruce and Moore later formed the BBM power trio, releasing Around the Next Dream the following year. Their studio update of “Sitting on Top of the World” from that UK Top 10 hit remains a highlight.

Elsewhere, Rockpalast: The 50th Birthday Concerts (available in CD and DVD formats) also features Gary Husband and Bernie Worrell on keyboards, drummer Simon Phillips, and a tough horn section featuring saxist Dick Heckstall-Smith that nicely girds Jack Bruce throughout.

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