Yngwie Malmsteen - Blue Lightning

Yngwie Malmsteen Blue Lightning cover
Yngwie Malmsteen
Blue Lightning
Mascot Records / Mascot Label Group
2019
6.5
Ahh… Yngwie Malmsteen, the ego driven virtuosic Swede, that could probably have been the greatest guitarist ever, but has managed very much on his own to throw a spanner in that plan and nowadays is reduced to working on his own, singing on his own albums, which suffer as a result and overall, selling himself short of the great player he actually is.
 
While Malmsteen has nothing to really prove, it seems that he’s looking for more legitimacy and the praise of his peers, so doing a cover heavy album where he mixes blues and blues inspire hard rock with his usual fare seems to be either what he thought might be a good idea, or what some record company executive thought he could sell and successfully pitched to him. No matter how this album came to be, it’s now out and it is what it is.
 
“Blue Lightning” is the eponymous tune that opens the album and it’s got some tasty bluesy licks, that Yngwie quickly trades to go on some extended soloing, which is as always impressive and harkens back to when actually he was relevant. Production wise, as he seems to be handing that department all by himself, things are boomy and a little cluttered, but that’s a marked improvement, from his dump, muddy previous efforts… it’s a busy mix that doesn’t allow the songs to particularly breathe, which becomes quite evident on the better known covers that people would be really familiar with.
 
Case and point Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady” that Yngwie attempts but probably feels like he can improve on with daisy chained soloing that doesn’t really have much to do with the original.
 
On a positive note, due to the songs style and probably the experience he’s gained, he seems to be handling the vocals better now. He’s by no means a proper singer and should better get anybody else to provide them vocals, but on the other hand, he is at this point tolerable and doesn’t want you want to hit skip or stop.
 
“Demon’s Eye” is the Deep Purple classic and since Yngwie’s overall sound owes a ton to what Blackmore did way back when this was recorded, things go rather smoothly… with the sole exception of an overtly loud guitar in the mix, which seems to bury the rest of the instruments, as if there was ever a question about the man’s playing credentials.
 
“1911 Strut” is a blistering original (an instrumental) that seems slightly inspired by Eddie Van Halen, but obviously through the eyes of the Swede, with his patented licks clearly audible in the solo sections…
 
It’s quite merciful that Y didn’t decide to cover ZZ Top’s “Blue Jean Blues” at triple the speed or something, but he definitely decides to take its cool ambiance and electrify it to the point it’s barely recognizable. I suppose it’s the bluesiest sort of tune on the album, as he doesn’t go completely apeshit all over it.
 
Going for a second Hendrix cover, Yngwie quickly launches into “Purple Haze” that he proceeds to totally “Yngwie-fy”. I think he quite misses the point of the original and the whole blues concept, which is more about ambiance and feel and slightly less about technique and speed…
 
The issue is that since most of the songs are covers – what makes them originally work is here stripped away and replaced by something that’s totally Malmsteen, but in the context of the originals doesn’t quite work...
 
The Beatles classic “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is not completely maimed, not even when the solo comes around, which was a bit surprising in all honesty. You know how it is, Yngwie is gonna Yng. Deal with it.
 
“Sun’s Up Top’s Down” is another original… a pretty drunk and all over the place blues jam – with Yngwie licks and leads all over it. Not terrible, I gotta admit and that’s quite true for the last of the originals on this album an instrumental called “Peace, Please” that after some bumbley arpeggios reveals a nice melody that turns into probably the longest solo of the song… and no I didn’t count measures, but it certainly felt like it.
 
Covering The Stones’ “Paint It Black” is probably underwhelming with the wailing intro sounding a little annoying and the vocals mostly missing the mark.
 
His take on another Purple classic, probably the most covered song ever and the bane of most guitar shop workers globally “Smoke on the Water”, doesn’t improve the original and his attempts to improve and differentiate on the original, fall mostly flat other than an interesting portion of a solo that he obviously just overextends, just because it’s him.
 
Eric Clapton’s “Forever Man”, a rather simple, swinging pop ditto, gets the full Malmsteen treatment and is turned into something completely different, although I suppose it could have turned out far worse than it actually does.
 
Deluxe and foreign version seem to include some extra tunes in the shape of Hendrix’s “Little Miss Lover” that does get Yngwified in a semi-dignified way and another Stones tune “Jumping Jack Flash” that other than his over the top histrionics, gets treated also with due diligence.  
 
While the hardcore fans might have liked some new original material better, these Yngwiefied classics might appease them. Fans of the originals are unlikely to get the updates that Malmsteen has applied on them; I suppose what he does, might not be everyone’s cup. This is an album I feel he was talked into producing in an effort to try and regain the audience he’s mostly managed to estrange and disappoint, but I am not entirely sure that this is what most might have expected from him. The fact that it seems a little more focused than his recent efforts in terms of execution is somewhat solacing, although the cover heavy tracklist does little to reveal what might be in the great Swede’s future. Time will tell…