Yngwie Malmsteen

“Heaven Tonight” by Yngwie Malmsteen on the Sunday Song Spotlight

One of Yngwie’s most commercially successful records was 1988’s collaboration with Joe Lynn Turner called Odyssey.  Several of the songs felt like they were aimed at radio, most notably “Heaven Tonight”.  With prominent keyboards and an undeniable melody, it seemed Yngwie sought to emulate late 80s Rainbow.

With music by Malmsteen and lyrics by Turner, “Heaven Tonight” really checked all the boxes for an 80s rock hit.  Solid verses that serve to set up the release on the chorus.  Thick, memorable chorus.  Wicked guitar, though not overcooked as Yngwie has been guilty of in the past.  As a result, the album went Top 40 in the US.  Top 10 in Yngwie’s native Sweden.

The Turner/Malmsteen collaboration only lasted for one record, though a live album was also released (Live in Leningrad).  Turner returned to sing two Deep Purple tunes on Yngwie’s covers album Inspiration, but this here is the peak.  “Heaven Tonight” indeed because it never got better than this.

This feels like Paradise
We’ll be in Heaven tonight

Lost in a dream in the arms of the night
Two lonely prisoners of our own device
Don’t let me go, hold on together

You wanna know if love can be real
I wanna take everything I can steal
Love on the line, it’s now or never
Why can’t the night last forever?

This could be Paradise
Holding you here by my side
If we just close our eyes
We’ll be in Heaven tonight

Run through the night down streets of desire
Burning my soul, my heart’s on fire
Give up the fight, it’s sweet surrender

With trembling hands we reach for it all
Two desperate hearts waiting to fall
I need you now, now more than ever
Why can’t the night last forever?

This could be Paradise
Holding you here by my side
If we just close our eyes
We’ll be in Heaven tonight

REVIEW: Yngwie Malmsteen – I Can’t Wait (1994 Japanese EP)

YNGWIE MALMSTEEN – I Can’t Wait (1994 Pony Canyon Japanese EP)

Immediately following the Seventh Sign album, new Yngwie Malmsteen material surfaced in Japan.  Three songs and two live tracks served as a nice dessert after a pretty good studio album.  Mike Vescera remained on lead vocals.  The lineup is largely the same as The Seventh Sign, but with Barry Sparks added on bass (probably just for the live songs; it sounds like Yngwie on the studio cuts).

Title track “I Can’t Wait” is one of Yngwie’s strongest ballads.  Though it starts with uncharacteristic acoustic strumming, the song transforms into the kind of epic ballad that you expect from the guitar god.  Vescera’s range and power are on display.  Great song.  And you don’t always say that about Yngwie tunes.

“Aftermath” is a pounder.  Slower, determined, great drums.  Lots of shredding come solo time.

The two live songs are “Rising Force” and “Far Beyond the Sun”, hits from the days of yore.  Recorded live at the Budokan earlier in the year, it must have felt something like home for Mike after his stint in Loudness!  “Rising Force” is an ass-kicker, pedal to the metal, and the whole band rising to the occasion.  That’s it for vocal tracks though.  “Far Beyond the Sun” is one of Yngwie’s best known guitar compositions, familiar and beloved for its exquisite neo-classical stylings.  As for this version?  Flawless and inspired.

The final track is a studio instrumental called “Power and Glory (Takada’s Theme)”.  This was done as a theme for a Japanese pro wrestler and few will be familiar with it.  Slow, plodding, with the repeated chant of “Ta ka da!”, it is hard to really like.  Yngwie’s acoustic work is always brilliant, but difficult to digest here.

Good EP overall.  Hard to find.  Snag if you find for a good price.

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Yngwie Malmsteen – The Seventh Sign (1994 Japanese import)

YNGWIE MALMSTEEN – The Seventh Sign (1994 Pony Canyon Japan)

Former Loudness singer Mike Vescera can be forgiven for moving on with Yngwie J. Malmsteen.  The Swedish guitar wizard was on his 6th lead singer, and despite lacklustre sales, the gig was one that came with a certain amount of prestige.  Fortunately it was a winning combination.  Their first album together, The Seventh Sign, boasted a dozen tracks with most of them pretty good.

Opening “Never Die” recalls the fire of “I’ll See the Light Tonight”.  If you’re familiar with Yngwie, you know what to expect.  Blazingly fast neoclassic guitar licks, speedy riffs and aggressive vocals.

“Like the sky, I’m perpetual, I never die!”

It’s a good opener, in the fast-paced Dio vein of rock.  Fortunately Yngwie slows it down for the wah-wah inflected bluesy rock of “I Don’t Know”.  The main riff here is catchy enough and Yngwie adorns it with plenty of licks.  Vescera has a powerful set of lungs, an absolute requirement when singing with Yngwie.  He gets to show off his abilities a bit on the decent power ballad “Meant to Be”.  “Forever One” makes it two ballads in a row, though the second is less “power”, and employs some acoustic portions.

For heavy, don’t miss out on “Hairtrigger”.  Vescera is in top form here, and the sputtering speed rocker satisfies to the end.

An instrumental slow blues called “Brothers” follows, and you might think “this album sounds overloaded with ballads”.  But yet that isn’t the impression you get listening.  These are not wimpy songs.  They have power and loads of guitar.  The actual effect you get is that of a heavy album.

The awesome title track gets it cranked on side two right from the start.  There’s some intricate classical guitar but then, wham — the mighty riff.  It’s a blur but it smokes.  “The Seventh Sign” is one of Yngwie’s best tracks of ’em all, if you like ’em heavy.  Vescera rises to the challenge.  As for the playing, even when we’re focused on that heavy riff, Yngwie still has time for some whammy bar nuttiness.

“Bad Blood” is a heavy blues, maybe going for a heavy Purple vibe (check that organ), but without a memorable melody behind it.  Vescera is the star here; the guy can sing anything.  It really gets stinky on “Prisoner of Your Eyes”, the worst of the ballads.  Amberdawn Malmsteen is responsible for the fetid lyrics.  This is rotting limburger cheese topped with surströmming as a garnish.  Would you like a side of industrial vinegar?  One word:  “cringe”.

Back to quality, the sitar introduces “Pyramid of Cheops”.  Insofar as Egyptology in metal goes, this is not a top track.  It does crush, but up against classic Maiden, Dio or Blue Murder, it’s no competition for the champs.  One has to admire Yngwie’s restraint for the most part, as he just grinds at the riff.

Another album highlight, “Crash and Burn”, really goes for the neoclassic vibe.  The faux-harpsichord is a delightfully baroque touch, but then the song takes off for the skies.  Great Yngwie riff, a fine example of neoclassical gone right.  Vescera keeps it heavy.  Then it’s the final instrumental, “Sorrow” which sounds like it should.  Sparse classical guitars pick out a mournful melody.  It’s a comedown from “Crash and Burn” and works brilliantly in that regard.

The Japanese, of course, got a bonus track.  Called “Angel in Heat”, this unremarkable song features Yngwie on vocals.  He’s going for a Hendrix vibe again, but the song is pretty atrocious.  Without Vescera to save the song, it’s for collectors only.

Like any Yngwie record, you could objectively state that most of the songs on The Seventh Sign would be better with less playing.  But then it wouldn’t be Yngwie, would it?  He’s often been criticised for not coming up with enough memorable material, but most of the songs on The Seventh Sign are above average.  Having a great singer didn’t hurt either.  It’s one of the guitar madman’s better records.

3.75/5 stars

REVIEW: Yngwie J. Malmsteen – Trilogy (1986)

YNGWIE_0001YNGWIE J. MALMSTEEN – Trilogy (1986 Polygram)

Trilogy: not only my first Yngwie Malmsteen album (cassette), but also the first Yngwie Malmsteen review here at mikeladano.com.

Trilogy was, appropriately, Yngwie’s third album.  It was also his first with new singer Mark Boals after the departure of the uber-talented Jeff Scott Soto.  I received this album (cassette) for Christmas of ’86 and it was all but instant dislike.  I knew a couple Yngwie songs, but none of the new ones, and I didn’t care for the new singer.  I saw this listed in an A&A Records and Tapes flier so I asked for it for Christmas.  All I really knew was that Yngwie was heavy metal and that he was a blazing fast player.  That did not prepare me for the distinctly European flavour and neo-classical leanings of Trilogy.

As it was, Polygram used to put out the shittiest quality cassettes.  My copy of Trilogy was unlistenable in a matter of months, so until I got it again a decade later on CD, I didn’t have a chance to let it grow on me.  In 1996 a used CD came into the store, and I was mocked for buying it by staff member the Boy Who Killed Pink Floyd.  Here’s a weird thing about our old store receipts.  They would imprint, permanently, whatever was on them onto the jewel case of a CD.  My jewel case for Trilogy still has a faint accidental imprint of the receipt, so I know that I bought it October 11 1996, at precisely 4:29 pm!  Apparently I paid by debit card.

Trilogy has grown on me over the years and now it’s a favourite Yngwie album.  I still get what I didn’t like about it as a kid.  The drums don’t sound very good (the album is self produced) and Mark Boals can be a bit over the top at times.  There’s no denying the guy has range and power, but it was all flat-out back then.  And of course Yngwie’s songs aren’t always the catchiest.  You need to give them time, and I have.

The one song that I did like as a kid was the mid-tempo opener “You Don’t Remember, I’ll Never Forget”.  I’ve always thought the melody and hooks were strong, and I still think it’s the strongest track on the album.  “Liar” is also excellent, from the fast part of the spectrum.  It sounds at times like Yngwie really wanted to be Ritchie Blackmore, but that’s OK.  There are very few that can come even close to Ritchie Blackmore.  “Queen in Love” is another mid-tempo track, similar to “You Don’t Remember” and almost as strong.  As a kid, I found this one too slow.  As an adult, I’m playing air bass along to it.  (Yngwie played all bass on the album.)

YNGWIE_0002One of things that I was most excited about hearing on an Yngwie album were instrumentals.  “Crying” is the first, which features both classical and electric guitars.  I’m noticing Yngwie has a nice vibrato when playing classical.  This fine instrumental track is only hampered by the production values.  Too much bass and poor drum and cymbal sounds distract the attention.  The album side is redeemed by “Fury” which is another blazingly fast Yngwie electric medieval dance, and good enough for me.

“Fire” commences with some incendiary guitar, but the song itself is a plain old hard rocker with Jens Johansson providing keyboard hooks for the verses.  Then from some sorcerer’s bag of tricks is “Magic Mirror”, but it is indeed just smoke and mirrors.  Killer chorus aside, the song doesn’t catch, except when Yngwie is unleashing his own electric magic.  “Dark Ages” sets the scene; some dark cloudly and cold landscape about a thousand years ago.  This is a slow Dio-esque prowl, with Boals screaming his balls off.  It’s a bit much with the screaming, but the song does not suck.

I was expecting more instrumentals than this, but Yngwie saved a seven minute epic instrumental for last.  “Trilogy Suite Op:5” is as bombastic as you’d guess it is.  Running the gamut in tempos and tones, Yngwie composed a track here that is highly enjoyable.  Jens and Yngwie get to duel with each other, but it’s definitely a guitar showcase.  Electric and classical, Malmsteen pulls out all the stops on his opus.  I mean, hey: it’s Yngwie J. fucking Malmsteen!

I am glad to say that I enjoy Trilogy a lot more today than I did in 1986.  Bonus points are added for the cover art.  Dio, after all, only had a single-headed dragon!

3.5/5 stars
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