Star Fleet Project
EP by
Brian May + Friends
Released31 October 1983
Recorded21–22 April 1983
StudioRecord Plant Studios, Los Angeles
GenreHard rock, rock, blues rock
Length28:11
LabelCapitol Records
Brian May + Friends chronology
Star Fleet Project
(1983)
Back to the Light
(1992)
Singles from Star Fleet Project
  1. "Star Fleet"
    Released: 1983

Star Fleet Project is a project of Brian May, Queen's guitarist, which resulted in an mini-album of the same name. Released as the work of Brian May + Friends, the album consisted of May, guitarist Eddie Van Halen, drummer Alan Gratzer (of REO Speedwagon), Phil Chen (session bassist who played with Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart), and Fred Mandel (keyboard player for Alice Cooper and additional keyboard player on Queen's Hot Space Tour and The Works). "[T]he result is high-octane rockist [sic] instrumentals, instantly Queenish, and not unlike Flash with added fretboard pyrotechnics".[1] The tapes were not intended to be released and received minimal mixing. "Star Fleet Project was called a 'mini-album' by Brian because he thought it was too short to be a proper album, but too long to be even an EP single".[2]

Production

The idea for the album came from May's son Jimmy, a fan of Star Fleet, the English title of Japanese sci-fi puppet TV show X-Bomber.[3] "[M]y little boy had been watching this science fiction series and I always thought that the theme tune for it would be a great vehicle for all-out guitar playing".[4] "We were all in a little bit of downtime in our own projects. Queen was in a bit of a hiatus, and I think Van Halen weren't doing too much and my neighbour [in Los Angeles] Alan Gratzer from R.E.O. [Speedwagon] wasn't doing much and we got together".[5] Recorded on 21 and 22 April 1983 at the Record Plant Studios, Los Angeles, California,[3] the mini-album was released in October that same year. The record consists of three songs: "Star Fleet", "Let Me Out", and "Blues Breaker".

"Star Fleet" is May's hard-rock arrangement of the Star Fleet theme tune, which features heavy emphasis on his and Van Halen's guitar work. "Van Halen's and May's guitar solos bounce off one another like playful lions".[6] This "[bouncing] off one another" is intended, as May explained: "I wanted to play in a sympathetic way to him, to supply the great rhythms that he could play to. I wanted to be the perfect rhythm guitarist, and I grew up as a rhythm guitarist, so that's natural to me. But when we were trading solos ... we were feeding off each other .... We'd never played together before, and yet the chemistry is there. It was as spontaneous as anything could be".[7] "Edward played the solo on 'Star Fleet' three times. Each time it was incredible. Each time it was different".[8] Prior to beginning work on the project, May "attempted to get in touch with the song's writer, British keyboardist Phil Bliss, but was unsuccessful until after the Star Fleet Project was completed".[9] Of this attempted contact, May said, "I tried to get in touch with the guy who had written the song, Paul Bliss, and couldn't at the time. So I pressed on and did some arrangement around a couple of verses and wrote extra middle bit for it. Later I got in touch with him, and he said it was a pity that I couldn't find him in the early days because he's got some more verse in the middle – which I'm dying to hear – but it was too late for the project. My song does follow his musical theme, and I used the verse he wrote".[10] Apparently "Brian sent a signed copy of the finished [mini-album] to ... Bliss, with a message thanking him for his composition".[11]

"Let Me Out" is "an old song of [May's] which found new life".[3] During this song, "Edward tortures his top string to its audible death and winds up quite naturally on the remaining five".[3] "The song received its first live performance on 7 December 1990 at the Astoria Theatre, when Brian guest-starred on guitar for the last four minutes of The Cross' Fan Club gig .... [T]he song received one additional airing on 7 July 2001 at [the Auditorium Stravinksi] as part of the Montreux Jazz Festival), with Brian on guitars and vocals, Jon Clearly on piano, Chris Spedding on guitar, John Hatton on bass, Bernie Dresel on drums, and Emily [May], [Jim May], and Anita [Dobson] providing backing vocals".[12][13]

"Blues Breaker" is a "long blues jam (edited together from several recorded that day), with no lyrics or vocals .... The liner notes dedicate this piece to E. C. (Eric Clapton), and that's where the name comes from".[14] "[W]hen we started ... the Blues Breaker track, I think we kind of had Eric Clapton in our minds and the people that Clapton would revere like [B.B.] King, Muddy Waters; it was the power of the blues which made us gel. I remember [Edward] saying, 'You know, you got me to play today in a way that I haven't played for years.' Just simple and from the heart and with that kind of feeling".[5] Heavy metal magazine Kerrang! said of the song, "It has something epic, as if every one of the players touched deep into [the] collective music lexicon, and promptly replied to his previous speaker".[15] This song and "Let Me Out" were more spontaneous than "Star Fleet", with May showing off his signature sound and Van Halen using his tapping technique to great effect. "May sent ... 'Blues Breaker' to Eric Clapton, who reportedly found the song to not be terribly bluesy. [Edward Van Halen] was greatly disappointed".[16]

On the mini-album as a whole, Van Halen said:

That was just a get-together jam. He invited me down to ... Record Plant and we played .... After we played, he called me up about four months later and asked what I thought about putting the stuff out. And I said, "Send me the tape, let me hear it first," because I didn't remember how it went. He did and said, "Sure, what the hell." It reeks of fun.[17]

Releases

The project was originally released on 31 October 1983, and was re-released in November of that year.[18]

"Star Fleet" is now available on CD in two forms. It was first re-issued on CD as part of May's "Back to the Light" single. There were two CDs: the first featured "Star Fleet" and "Let Me Out", the second "Blues Breaker".

In 1993, the songs were re-issued as tracks 6-8 of the Japanese mini-album Resurrection.

Reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic2/5 stars link

Although the album did not do well initially,[18] individuals took a liking to the mini-LP—so much so that by 1984, it was reported that the album was "already a cult guitar favorite. Where solo efforts often tend to be politely applauded and then forgotten as an artist's 'indulgence', the raw power of this album has given it instant, unanticipated acceptance .... [May admitted:] 'I must contest I still enjoy it—I still put it on the record player and like what I hear'".[19] "[T]he expert musicianship shows through in such a way that makes [the album] worth purchasing".[6] Star Fleet Project was voted Best Spontaneous Recording by Hope College in 1984.[20]

Track listing

No.TitleWriter(s)Length
1."Star Fleet"Paul Bliss/arr. Brian May8:04
2."Let Me Out"May7:13
3."Blues Breaker"May/Edward Van Halen/Alan Gratzer/Phil Chen/Fred Mandel12:48

Personnel

References

  1. ^ Bentley, Mark (2015). "Living On Their Own: The Solo Work of Freddie Mercury, Brian May, John Deacon, and Roger Taylor—and Larry Lurex!". Uncut. p. 118.
  2. ^ Lemieux, Patrick; Unger, Adam (2018). The Queen Chronology: The Recording and Release History Of The Band (2nd ed.). Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Across The Board Books. pp. 60–61. ISBN 978-1-926462-10-3.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Star Fleet Project". Queen Vault. Retrieved 2 November 2021.
  4. ^ Bird, Chris (18 December 2020). "Brian May pays tribute to his friend Eddie Van Halen: 'I miss his presence in the world'". Guitar World. Retrieved 2 November 2021.
  5. ^ a b Bird, Chris (9 July 2020). "Brian May: "I will never claim to be a great guitarist in the sense of a virtuoso. I just try to play from my heart"". Guitar World. Retrieved 2 November 2021.
  6. ^ a b Collins, Arian (1 March 1984). "Brian May Mini-LP Is More, Not Less". Vista. 22 (18). p. 9. Retrieved 2 November 2021.
  7. ^ Kietly, Martin (21 December 2020). "Brian May's 'Moment of Great Joy' in Studio With Eddie Van Halen". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 6 November 2021.
  8. ^ Wardlaw, Matt (6 August 2021). "Brian May Shares Memories About GNR And Eddie Van Halen: Interview". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 2 November 2021.
  9. ^ Starks, Brad (Fall 1996). "The Making of Star Fleet Project". The Inside Magazine (6). p. 25. Retrieved 2 November 2021.
  10. ^ Jas, Obrecht (1983). "Playback: The Making of an Album, Brian May's 'Star Fleet Project' with Eddie Van Halen". Guitar Player. Retrieved 6 November 2021.
  11. ^ a b Chapman, Phil (2017). The Dead Straight Guide to Queen. This Day in Music Books.
  12. ^ Purvis, Georg (2011). Queen: Complete Works (2nd ed.). London: Titan Books. p. 214. ISBN 9780857685513.
  13. ^ Brian May Montreux Jazz Festival, Switzerland Saturday 07/07/2001, retrieved 2021-11-07
  14. ^ Lemieux, Patrick; Unger, Adam (2018). The Queen Chronology: The Recording and Release History Of The Band. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Across The Board Books. p. 61. ISBN 978-1-926462-10-3.
  15. ^ "Albums: Star Fleet". Queen Music Hall. Retrieved 7 November 2021.
  16. ^ Dodds, Kevin (2011). Edward Van Halen: A Definitive Biography. Bloomington, Indiana: iUniverse. p. 104. ISBN 978-1-4620-5481-7.
  17. ^ Guitar World Presents Van Halen. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Backbeat Books. 2010. p. 114. ISBN 978-0-87930-969-5.
  18. ^ a b "Queen Diary". Metal Attack. 1992. Retrieved 2 November 2021.
  19. ^ "Brian May: Back To Where He Once Belonged". Faces. 1984. Retrieved 6 November 2021.
  20. ^ Kirk, Kraetzer; Todd, VerBeek (5 December 1984). "Recommended Records". The Anchor. 97 (11). Holland, Michigan. p. 7. Retrieved 7 November 2021.