YNGWIE MALMSTEEN - Blue Lightning (Album)
YNGWIE MALMSTEEN has been knocking around for almost four decades, and produced some twenty albums in various collaborations and congregations. Normally associating with recognised vocalists such as Graham Bonnet, Joe Lynn Turner and Doogie White, Yngwie has gone back to his roots, and early musical influences from the great blues anthems of the last fifty years, and stuck with his own voice to give them a unique twist.
The album ‘Blue Lightning’, due out on March 29th, consists mainly of Malmsteens interpretation of some very well-known hits, with a couple of originals mixed in, but it may take the listener a few moments to actual recognise some of the covers, as they have been totally re-interpreted, souped up and turbo driven by Malmsteens electric fingered 90mph, fret busting, guitar playing.
With an attitude of why play one note, when I could play ten, the album blasts straight into the title track that Malmsteen wrote to set the tone for the other songs he wanted to include. This isn’t your laid back, break-my-heart blues, this is in your face, breakneck blues with Malmsteens trademark speed guitar all through it.
One of Malmsteens early influences was Hendrix, so ‘Foxy Lady’ was an obvious choice for a cover and a make-over. Not an easy track to try and improve on, but he certainly manages to stamp his own distinctive sound on the solos. The end result comes out as a much cleaner, sharper version than the original, and as a consequence, loses some of the sleazy, chilled out vibe. A similar job is done later in the album for ‘Purple Haze’, removing all fuzz and feedback that made it so unique back in its day.
Which is why ‘Demons eye’ is surprising in that it actually keeps to the groove that Deep Purple produced almost fifty years ago. In fact Malmsteen manages to reproduce that 70’s feeling, while still filling the track, not only with his own guitar, but with far more bass and rhythm than the original, bringing it bang up to date.
Starting ‘1911 Strut’ with a guitar scream that could cut glass, it then gallops up to full pace, and into a short tribute to the famous hand gun that is part of Malmsteens’ collection. This is more of a sprint than a strut as you’d expect from the maestro of mayhem.
Malmsteen finally slows down, (slightly) to cover the 1975 ZZ Top hit ‘Blue Jeans Blues’, and the backing band actually manages to keep that laid back feel the Texans do so well, but Malmsteen can’t help filling the solo with more notes than ZZ Top had on the whole ‘Fandango’ album.
There have been so many great versions of the next track, ‘While my Guitar Gently Weeps’, that this is actually a disappointment to me. If you have ever heard Peter Frampton or Jeff Healey play this, it is an emotional rollercoaster of top drawer blues. The way Malmsteen shreds his way through this must have George Harrison weeping.
Another of his own tracks ‘Sun’s Up, Top Down’ shows that Malmsteen is quite capable of writing and performing some fantastic blues of his own. The backing band are superb in pounding out that classic thumping bass and beat, while Malmsteen just keeps it simple running up and down the scales. And he follows it with the equally superb instrumental ‘Peace Please’. Blues is meant to be simple and meaningful, and sometimes less is more.
Back to the covers again, and The Stones get a metallic make over for ‘Paint it Black’, which, again, Malmsteen manages to hold himself back until about midway through, and does a reasonable updated, if a bit heavier, tribute to the original. Then he hits the throttle and tears his way through the second half like Keith Richards on steroids.
A similar work over is given to ‘Smoke on the Water’, which is immediately recognisable by that deep, heavy opening riff, and as previous, it is a good cover for the first half, then becomes almost unrecognisable apart from the bassline in the background as Malmsteen lets fly once more.
The final, and most recent song taken as a cover, is Eric Clapton’s 1985 hit ‘Forever Man’. If Clapton is ‘Slow hand’, Malmsteen is ‘Speedy Fingers’, as he melts his strings ripping through the albums finale.
Malmsteen is a capable writer and performer, as he has shown with the original tracks incorporated on ‘Blue Lightning’, but his cover versions of the blues doesn’t always hit the mark for me, I feel he has transformed them slightly too much from the way they were originally composed and meant to be heard. But for fans of a heavier faster guitar sound, these covers will probably hit many notes.
1. Blue Lightning
2. Foxy Lady
3. Demons Eye
4. 1911 Strut
5. Blue Jeans Blues
6. Purple Haze
7. While My Guitar Gently Sleeps
8. Sun’s Up, Top Down
9. Peace Please
10. Paint it Black
11. Smoke on the Water
12. Forever Man