Brian May & Friends

REVIEW: Brian May & Friends – Star Fleet Project (1983)

IMG_00000735BRIAN MAY & FRIENDS – Star Fleet Project (1983 Capitol Records)

This near-legendary mini-album is probably infamous for the wrong reasons.  Ask a friend if they’ve heard this record.  If they haven’t, they may respond, “But that’s the one with Eddie Van Halen, right?  And they did that song for Clapton, and he hated it, right?”  That’s how the story goes anyway.

The fact is that Star Fleet Project is actually really good, and so is “Blues Breaker (Dedicated to E.C.)”.  And yes, this is one of Eddie Van Halen’s rare cameos outside his eponymous band.  I am a fan of both Queen and Van Halen, but my love of Van Halen trumps my love of Queen.  As a Van Halen fan, it is really exciting to hear Eddie playing outside his band’s box.  On a technical level, I don’t know exactly how Eddie is torturing his guitar strings, but I sure love the sounds that come out of it.  I’m hearing Eddie at what many people consider to be his creative peak.  This is the era of 1984, “Jump”, and “Beat It”, considered by many to be the greatest guitar solo of the decade.  It’s sheer nirvana to hear Eddie tapping over Brian May’s trademark guitar sound.  It’s two things you never pictured together.  Once you hear them together, it’s like Reece’s peanut butter cups!

Eddie throws every trick he has into the bag.  Tapping, squeals and eruptions, it’s all here.  As for Brian, he does double duty on lead vocals as well, on two tracks:  “Star Fleet” and “Let Me Out”.  “Star Fleet” (8 minutes in its album incarnation) is a theme song that Brian covered, from a Japanese show that his son was a fan of.  It’s the most commercial of the songs, but I have to say I love it.  The chorus isn’t the best, but the guitar playing blows my mind every single time.

Queen fans may enjoy the piano blues “Let Me Out” best, as it sounds like it would have fit right in on News of the World.  I can imagine Freddie putting his spin on it quite easily.  Brian takes the first solo, but next time he says “Help me, Edward!” and it’s Van Halen playing the blues.  You don’t get this on Van Halen albums.  Brian and Ed alternate, and then Eddie blazes the fretboard shredder style.  To hear these two guys going back and forth over a blues progression is such a monumental moment.

The final track (and all of side 2) is the infamous “Blues Breaker”.  I’m not sure what E.C. didn’t like about it (I’ll just assume he was too humble to accept such flattery).  You don’t get to hear Eddie Van Halen nor Brian May jamming very often.  This is the second such jam, and this one well over the 12 minute mark!  You’ll wonder where the time went.  As an admirer of both guitarists, I’m constantly in a state of anticipation for what they will play next. The backing band are not slouches either: Alan Gratzer – drums, Phil Chen – bass guitar, Fred Mandel – keyboards.  They captured this stuff mostly live off the floor, and that’s the way the record sounds.

Finally, a word about the current status of this mini-album.  Used vinyl is probably your best course of action.  While this is easy to find on counterfeit bootlegs, official CD releases were scarce and confined to rare CD singles and Japanese imports, vinyl is much cheaper than any of those.  I first encountered this record in the collection of a creepy dude, as recounted in Record Store Tales Part 229:  Silent Knight.  That was 1994, and I still have never seen any of the CD releases of Star Fleet Project in person.  Besides, that big robot on the cover just looks better on an LP sleeve doesn’t it?

4/5 stars

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Part 229: Silent Knight

RECORD STORE TALES Part 229:  Silent Knight

In a previous chapter, I talked about my early online presence in 1994.  Before creating our original online ads, I got an early start to writing reviews.  The early reviews weren’t very good, but I definitely tried.  Unfortunately back then, there wasn’t much of an online audience for reading reviews of rare Motley Crue EPs!

I did make contact with a few other music fans and collectors in the area.  One guy went by the online handle of “Silent Knight”, named after the classic 1980 Saga album.  He seemed like a nice enough guy, although I soon learned that looks can be deceiving!  He had a party at his house that I went to, and it was cool.  I overlooked the fact that he was in his 30’s living in his parents’ house.  I also overlooked his absolutely massive collection of porno videos, adorning one whole wall of their living room.

IMG_00000590I was more interested in his record collection.  He had a great collection including some that I wanted.  He invited me over for a recording session, where he taped me the classic Brian May & Friends EP, Star Fleet Project.  (Unfortunately the blank tape that I chose was shite and the recording unlistenable.)  I also recorded from him some Glass Tiger B-sides for my sister, Black Sabbath’s Seventh Star, and the immortal “Rodeo Song” by Showdown.

Silent Knight and I had a falling out after that.  He made some intolerant and inexcusable comments about various types of people.  I decided to cut him loose, as I didn’t need that kind of negative personality in my circle of friends.

Months and months later, some time in ’95, I started getting emails from somebody else new to the online world, but having learned my lesson I kept my distance.  Later he asked me an odd question.  “Hey, I heard you totally called the cops on somebody else that posts on these boards!  That’s cool man!  Who was it?”

I told him that he must have me confused with somebody else.  Then he revealed himself to be none other than Silent Knight under another handle!  Apparently, someone had called the cops on him regarding his Wall O’ Porn.  I don’t know any details about what he had in the Wall O’ Porn (I really was not interested in checking out somebody’s porn collection) so I have no idea for what reason the cops would have been called, or by whom.  He said I was his only “enemy” who had seen his collection, therefore I was his number one suspect for ratting him out to the cops.  He was trying to get me to confess!

After I got over his baffling behaviour, my fury set in.  I told him to leave me alone or someone would definitely be calling the cops.  I blocked him on every email I had and never heard from him again.

And just a few weeks ago, I finally got a proper listenable copy of Star Fleet Project on vinyl.  Suck on it, Silent Knight!

 

Look for a review of Brian May & Friends’ Star Fleet Project coming soon.