Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog) (last update 5/23/2017)

September 2, 2011

Yngwie Malmsteen w/ the New Japan Philharmonic ~ Concerto Suite For Electric Guitar And Orchestra In E Flat Minor Live

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Style: power metal, progressive, symphonic metal, instrumental
Label: Pony Canyon Records
Year: 2002
Home: n/a/Japan

Members: Yngwie Malmsteen ~ guitar
Taizo Takemoto ~ conductor
Nabomi Mizuno ~ harp
Yasuhito Sugiyama ~ tuba
Yasushi Watanabe, Kenji Wada, Hiroshi Arakawa ~ flute
Junta Yagi, Ryuta Suzuki ~ harpsichord/organ
Hisato Yamaguchi, Nobuko Miyashita, Yasumitsu Eto, Ryota Fujii ~ trombone
Toshihiko Mitsunobu, Takaya Hattori, Kazuhiko Ichikawa ~ trumpet
Toru Yamada, Rika Yabiku, Tatsuya Kawase, Hikaru Kojima, Takaaki Kondo ~ drums/percussion
Takaaki Tsuboi, Junji Sekikawa, Akiko Mori, Hidemi Mikai, Akira Ishikawa, Akira Ueda, Takako Ueda, Shiro Ide, Shozo Aida, Nobuyoshi Asama, Daisaku Sakuma ~ horns
Koichi Morizono, Hitoshi Makita, Tsunefumi Ishida, Yoshihito Hiroshima, Otsuo Shibata, Tatsuya Anpo, Nobuaki Nakata ~ upright bass
Izumi Yamazaki, Sayaka Miyazawa, Megumi Koike, Shozo Kaibara, Hatsumi Ishida, Ai Ishida, Momoko Inagaki, Hiroko Ichiju, Keiko Kimura, Toru Kawakami, Noriko Karaki, Maki Horiuchi, Chizuru Koyama, Toru Hirota, Kaoru Hanazaki, Masamichi Hara, Takaaki Hara, Yoko Mase, Kenji Magaki, Mari Kuwata, Makiko Matsumiya, Eiji Nakaya, Fumiko Nakagawa, Mariko Nagata, Yasushi Morisawa, Hikaru Moriyama, Yoshie Sunahata, Yuji Soda, Eiji Shinohara, Noriko Nishimoto, Reo Tada, Kumi Tanaka, Asami Tamura, Masato Takahashi, Mio Unosawa, Hiroko Yamada, Sachiko Yamaguchi, Noriko Yamamoto, Yoichi Yoshitsuru, Akiko Yano, Keiko Yamazaki, Tomoko Yoshimura, Hayato Takenaka ~ strings
Ritsuyukai Choir ~ choir

Responding to critics that said his 1998 release Concerto Suite for Electric Guitar & Orchestra in E Flat Minor Op. 1 had overdubbed guitar parts YM set out to prove them wrong by re-recording the Suite live in full view of an audience with the New Japan Philharmonic behind him on stage. There was no question after, & there never should have been before, that YM is truly the super technically advanced player he claims to be & has proven over numerous recordings. The two recordings don't differ much except for some length changes in a few songs for the stage while the concert doesn't have the cold studio sheen, or to put it another way you can feel the air hanging between the players which is lost when parts are recorded individually & pieced together later. There's also less tonal variation by YM on stage where he's not switching guitars ... which leads to what is wrong with this recording & many of YM's albums - the lack of some much needed variety in his playing. YM has a particular well-honed style featuring notes flying from his fingers at amazing speeds, but after an hour of this all done in the same tone & maybe even the same key the result is less spectacular than it should be. But, YM is the king of anti-climactic showing off. He's never understood that lightening fast playing is great but there's also a time for slower more subtle playing & what was impressive thirty years ago eventually becomes less impressive. You can't show off forever though YM has tried his hardest to do just that, seemingly oblivious that a couple generations of inspired players have come after him with maybe not the same technique but with lots more variety. Plus, these players have found emotional pockets in their music which is nearly absent from YM's playing many a time. It's very difficult to have lightening fast technique that is still emotive. Very few players, regardless of the musical genre, have managed to walk that line successfully & usually it works because they balance the fire with the water. YM just keeps feeding the flames & wondering why everyone is walking away because they're feeling too hot. YM's albums, & this one is no exception if not actually a perfect example, tend to feel like one long solo that go nowhere & have nothing to say, versus intricately crafted songs. There are a few albums, particularly the early Rising Force days, that are stellar but YM has always had this need to constantly impress instead of just relaxing. Writing for a orchestra ... might that not be just another way to impress? It might also be a way to expand his music beyond what a rock band can offer. The problem is that he doesn't use the orchestra to its full potential or to accentuate his playing nor even to seemingly challenge him. Many rock musicians have recorded with an orchestra & most use only part of what such an ensemble offers not digging into its rhythmic & tonal abilities, not using it to make music on its own versus just accentuating what the band is doing. When YM plays it's all about YM. There is no other instrument of importance on stage. He could have done this Suite with multiple keyboardist to similiar, though weaker, effect. YM solos for an hour while the orchestra just plays some weak ditties in the background. There's very little interplay or letting the orchestra ever step up to bat or being more than a gimmic. Rock musicians should take a page from Yanni's Live At The Acropolis where he doesn't even play piano or do much at all on many of his own songs as he's all about letting an orchestra reinterpret his past compositions, not showing off his particular keyboard skills. YM's "Cavallino Rampante" comes close to some intertwining lines, & so does "Fugue", though the later at times sounds like the guitar is trying to work against the harmony of the two by constantly adding flourishes when the two are supposed to be playing the same thing in sync. It's shooting sparks out of the fire when it should be flowing like water. But, Suite is not all bad. There are a few good moments if one is paying attention & can get beyond the monotony. "Brothers" is about as close as we get to an emotional piece but YM is still attempting to fill the air with as many notes as possible crowding out anything else including letting the emotion have a moment to itself. "Icarus Dream Fanfare" & "Adagio" include some good guitar lines, too. The seventh song in "Prelude To April" is the one piece which pushes the limit with a change of tone, choir & even some soft nearly acoustic playing & allows the orchestra to shine for the first time. More of this, please. Though the rapid fire solo kills the piece just as it begins to take off. Change of mind. No more of that. Thankfully "Sarabande" follows & picks up the pieces, but one shouldn't have to rescue a song with another one in a similiar vein. As for this album being of interest to classical fans. Probably not. Too much guitar. & there's not much particularly Romero-esque about the guitar playing. Don't introduce your classical geek cousin to rock with this particular bridge. You'll never get a second chance. Theoretically, YM could have crafted an album that bridged both classical & rock fans. Billy Joel did this with his final studio album while many classical musicians have stepped across the bridge. But, it takes more than technical playing to woo a classical audience brought up on rushing musical landscapes & operatic posing. As for the "Suite" itself ... none of the songs really rise to any great height or are profoundly interesting & are just backdrops for solos. A solo isn't a song. It might be a little two or three minute bit on an album, yes, but it's not the entire album. If YM had some solo singing or a few guests that would have moved this concert miles forward ... but when YM performs there's only room for him. It's really ashame as for someone of YM's skill he could create magic that no other guitarist could touch. Instead he's been playing the same furious lines too much in love with his skills to realize the flash has lost its flash & most people want music with more depth. Joining the "Suite" there's also the added tracks of the orchestra only "Black Star Overture", plus "Brothers", "Trilogy Suite Op. 5: The First Movement" & "Blitzkrieg" as an encore which make this the more worthwhile of the two versions of the Suite to listen to.


  1. Thank for the review. You really said all there is to say about YM and this particular album.

    1. I write what I feel! Though this year I did find a YM album I liked! I suffered through a lot. I did a review of that one