CLEARWATER — World-renowned guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen will perform Saturday, July 24, 8 p.m., at Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 McMullen Booth Road, Clearwater.
Tickets start at $32.75. Visit www.RuthEckerdHall.com.
While Malmsteen first came to everybody’s notice in Los Angeles with Steeler’s self-titled album in 1983, followed by Alcatrazz’s “No Parole from Rock ’N’ Roll” the same year and “Live Sentence” in 1984, it’s been what he’s done since in a distinguished and far-ranging career as a solo performer and band leader that has momentously shown Malmsteen as one of the elite guitarists on the planet.
“Rising Force,” Malmsteen’s first solo album, is now considered the bible for neoclassical rock. Released in 1984, it made it to No. 60 on the Billboard charts — an impressive feat for a mostly instrumental guitar album with no commercial airplay. The album also gained Malmsteen a Grammy nomination for best rock instrumental performance. He was voted Best New Talent in several readers’ polls, Best Rock Guitarist the year after and “Rising Force” became Album of the Year. “Rising Force” blazed a trail on the concert circuit that established Malmsteen as one of rock guitar’s brightest new stars and added a new genre to the music lexicon: neoclassical rock.
In 1997, Malmsteen proved that he was much more than a rock phenomenon. After months of intensive work, he produced his first completely classical work, “Concerto Suite for Electric Guitar and Orchestra in E Flat Minor Op.1.”
More recently, Malmsteen released “Blue Lightning” on Mascot Records. The 2019 album highlights not only his enduring dexterity and diversity, but also pays homage to those from the blues world who have fueled his artistic spirit for so long.
“I have always played around with old songs, both live and also in the studio,” Malmsteen said in a press release from Mascot Label Group. “I did a similar album called ‘Inspiration’ a while ago, and it was Mascot who came to me and suggested I do a blues record.”
Malmsteen explained that because he grew up in a classically trained family, people know him for playing in what is called a neoclassical style.
“But when I got a guitar for my 5th birthday, what I would try to emulate were John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers,” he said. “I would jam along to what they did on record with Eric Clapton. That’s something people don’t realize about me: I do have a strong interest in the blues. So, when Mascot came to me with the suggestion of doing an album of songs in this style, it didn’t faze me at all. In fact, it seemed so natural.”
On July 23, Malmsteen will release “Parabellum,” a new studio album, through Music Theories Recordings and Mascot Label Group.
“I always try to push myself on every album I do, and attempt things which are more extreme than previously,” Malmsteen said. “But what has helped this time is that I wasn't able to go on the road because of the pandemic. It meant I could take much longer in the studio, both to write and record. Because I am usually always on tour, which is great, I haven't had the luxury of spending a lot of time working on new music for more than 20 years. But I suddenly had no pressure at all on that front. And I feel the album has benefited enormously as a result.”
There are instances when musicians can have so much time available to them for the purposes of recording and writing that what comes out of the process is a little stilted and overthought. That is not the case with “Parabellum.”
“I am the sort of person who doesn't like to do take after take after take of any track,” Malmsteen said. “If something isn't to my satisfaction, I'll move on. But there were occasions with this album when I dismissed something because I thought it was a stinker. I went back a couple of days later, listened to it and wondered why I thought it stank in the first place! That's the beauty of having everything available you've done through Pro Tools. Nothing is lost. Things were changing all the time. Song titles, tempos. Everything was fluid. I would listen to a part I had done for one specific song, and realize it worked better if I transposed it into another track.”
Four of the songs on the new album feature vocals. Once more, this wasn't mapped out in advance.
“I love to listen back to what I've done in the car,” Malmsteen said. “Sometimes I find myself singing along to what was supposed to be an instrumental. That's when I realize this song does need vocals. The opposite happens as well.”
Malmsteen’s career has spanned over 40 years with over 20 albums to his name. Drawing influence from classical composers such as Bach, Paganini and Vivaldi, he shows no sign of slowing down. The bottom line for Malmsteen is that that the passion he feels for the music he makes has to be obvious to the listener.
“I am the sort of person who lives in the moment,” he explained. “I wanted this album to have a joyous, spontaneous atmosphere. This must never sound as if it's been rehearsed so much that it becomes routine. I hope people will put on this record at the start and listen right through to the end, from start to finish. I recorded this as a singular piece of art. Not as a collection of 10 tracks you can hear in any order you want. I was asked by Mascot what song would be the lead track. The one for which I'd do a video. You know what? I'd like to do videos for everything here. I view this album as having a natural flow from start to finish. It's not to be cut up into little pieces. I want fans to experience the delight I had in making it.”