Double Live

Yngwie J. Malmsteen

Spitfire Records, 2000

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/18/2001

The fact that Yngwie J. Malmsteen is one of the most innovative guitarists alive is not in doubt; just check his body of work spanning two decades (including his work with Alcatrazz and Steeler). The question is: how does one translate that greatness to the live recording?

Malmsteen indeed is a guitarist whose work is best experienced in person; I can vouch for this, having seen Malmsteen open for AC/DC way back in 1985. But each time Malmsteen has tried to convey this onto a live CD, something seems to be lost. Double Live, his 1998 effort, continues in that vein.

I wish that hadn't been the case; I wanted this disc to absolutely crackle with energy from the opening notes to the final fadeout. And there are some fine examples of Malmsteen's work (as well as his band's) on this set. But it seems to paint an incomplete picture of the experience which is seeing Malmsteen perform for your own eyes.

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Part of me wanted to pin the blame on the reliance on newer material - albums that American crowds might not be as familiar with. (Indeed, this disc is part of the massive re-release of Malmsteen's work from the '90s.) But that would be a cop-out, despite the fact that the more familiar material like "Black Star," "Trilogy Suite" (featuring over 15 minutes of guitar pyrotechnics) and "I'll See The Light" feel the most comfortable. The fact is, renditions of songs like "Gates Of Babylon," "Facing The Animal" and "Brave Heart" have the same kind of power. Even if you don't know the words to the songs, you'll be mentally pumping your fist in the air in celebration of these tracks.

Part of the overall problem is that Malmsteen's guitar seems to be muddied a bit in the mix. There are times on some solos where the overall sound of the guitar could be so much clearer. Listen to part of the solo on "Trilogy Suite" and compare it to either the studio effort or the live version on Trial By Fire: Live In Leningrad. It's just not as crisp this time around. This isn't to say that Malmsteen's playing is any less spectacular. But I do wish some of the playing came through better. Whether this really is a mixing problem or a limitation of the venue, I don't know. (The show was recorded in Brazil - meaning I'm about to get some angry e-mails from Brazilian readers who will think I insinuated that they're technologically backwards. Four words: I didn't say that .)

Maybe part of the problem is that people like me were expecting to hear songs like "Heaven Tonight," "You Don't Remember, I'll Never Forget" or "Making Love", and genuinely miss the attention that used to be placed on Malmsteen's earlier work. I understand why Malmsteen would want to focus on the newer material, but especially seeing that the second disc clocks in at about 35 minutes, one wonders why they couldn't have included possible recordings of these songs from other shows on the tour (assuming, of course, the songs were played).

Perhaps the real problem is that such guitar pyrotechnics that Malmsteen can do just can't be perfectly captured on a live recording. Double Live is an admirable attempt to do so, but it isn't able to deliver the payload like Malmsteen probably wanted. Still, for the diehard fans, this will be a wonderful addition to their collections. For the newcomers, it's not a bad introduction to a retrospective of Malmsteen's work, especially focusing on post-1990.

Rating: C+

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© 2001 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Spitfire Records, and is used for informational purposes only.