Released: 2014, King Records
What more can we possible say about Yngwie J. Malmsteen, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest guitarists of all time, that hasn't already been said? We can say…'We want more!'... and the maestro has delivered. It is about time that he dropped a good live album on us. It has been 12 years since his last live album, CONCERTO SUITE FOR ELECTRIC GUITAR AND ORCHESTRA IN E FLAT MINOR WITH THE NEW JAPAN PHILHARMONIC. If you don’t really count that as a part of Yngwie’s ‘Metal’ canon then it has been 16 years since his last Double Live album simply entitled, LIVE!! He has released eight studio albums since then so he has a lot of ground to cover.
Overall, SPELLBOUND-LIVE IN TAMPA is Yngwie’s fourth live album. He has recorded live albums in Russia, Brazil, Japan and finally now in his homeland of America. The show was recorded live on the last night of the American leg of his 2013 Spellbound Tour, in Tampa, Florida on May 26th, 2013. The packaging is OK, but not great; not much information, no lyrics, and not many pictures or info about who was on stage that night. My version is the Japanese import so the info is probably there in the Japanese booklet. The CD cover is great, a live shot of Yngwie on stage striking an iconic pose.
The track-listing is very well done, he plays songs from 13 of his 19 albums and does not neglect his new albums, playing songs from five of the last six studio albums, skipping only the acoustic one. The amount of song duplication is also kept to a minimum. In fact, there are only nine out the 30 songs that have appeared on his three previous live albums.
What I really liked about this is that Yngwie sings on many of the songs. It is very interesting to hear his deeper, rougher vocals on some of those classic songs that had vocalists who had higher, clearer voices. Yngwie is technically not as good a singer as the people he has hired in the past, which is an alumni list that reads like a whose who of the elite Power Metal singers of all time. However, he does a good job. Another standout point is the drumming of Patrick Johansson (ex- Stormwind). Patrick has been behind Yngwie’s kit for 12+ years now and he is probably the most technically proficient (best?) drummer that Yngwie has ever had. In the live concert he adds some real fire to many of the songs adding fills, rolls and cymbal work that were not on the original versions.
Yngwie’s playing has never been better. This album will silence all the critics who say he cannot replicate his studio playing in a concert. The album opens with a one-two-three triple high-speed attack of ‘Rising Force’, ‘Spellbound’ and ‘Demon Driver’ His version of ‘Far Beyond The Sun’ with the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ integrated at the end sent shivers done my spine. Then he busted out his acoustic guitar for some amazing solo work and that blends seamlessly into one of his big 80’s ballads, ‘Dreaming’ which in a nice twist drops, ever so briefly, into a reggae beat! The pacing and sequencing is marvelous. The sound is also very clear and the crowd noise at a nice level, giving it a live feel but not overwhelming loud.
This could be the best Yngwie live album in terms of overall quality. By that I mean, his first live album was very ‘song-heavy’ in his early days. His second live album was also very focused on songs (only 16 of them!) and the band at the time. His third live album was with the Japanese orchestra, which essentially was one piece of live music and while amazing was not really ‘Metal’ at all. Unlike the other two previous ‘Metal’ live albums, Yngwie incorporates much more of his neoclassical style and more instrumentals, into the set-list giving it a more diverse feel and tone. I feel that in terms of metallic quality, song selection, solos, incorporating the hits, and just the sheer amount of material covered from his career, SPELLBOUND-LIVE IN TAMPA is his best live album.