Studio trickery, cranked-up amps and sheer enthusiasm deserve to hide countless musical sins. However the genuine test? If the music stands up to a stripped-down performance.

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By Ken Sharp

It's a long way from imitation to innovation. Let’s face it, together a guitar player it’s much easier to copy someone’s licks or solos; that’s all about possessing the appropriate technique.


but the genuine trick is arising your very own voice ~ above the instrument the sets you except the wannabes and copycats. Queen guitarist Brian May is just one of those rarely six-string practitioners who sounds favor no one else. As shown by his spectacular power with Queen and also as a solo artist, he has actually rightfully deserve the title of guitar hero. With six pence british coin in hand serving as a plectrum, May’s etc of an option was his trademark red electrical guitar, “The Red Special,” which was lovingly created by the guitarist and also his father over a two-year period, using just hand tools. May occurred a tasteful, fluid, sweeping orchestral format of play that married classical and also rock influences. The expansive sound he occurred was akin come a violin and also guitar melded together. Hear to the compact, intricately crafted solo ~ above “Killer Queen.” Or the meticulously precise and soaring lead etc lines on “Bicycle Race.” Or the nasty power-chord crunch that “Tie Your mom Down.” and also even those three varied examples barely scratch the surface ar of his work.


And when he’s absolutely known because that his occupational with Queen, May has actually explored other musical territory, too. “The Candlelight Concert: Live at Montreux 2013” DVD + CD collection (Eagle rock Entertainment) bag the gifted guitarist with Broadway vocalist Kerry Ellis.


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videotaped in July 2013 in ~ the Stravinski Auditorium, the stripped-down performance functions the duo (and occasional keyboardist accompanist) tackling choice material. There are covers (Kansas’ “Dust in the Wind” and also The Beatles’ “Something”); requirements (“The means We Were” and “Born Free”); a smattering of Queen jewels, consisting of the famous songs “Somebody to Love,” “We will Rock You,” “Love of mine Life,” “’39,” “Crazy tiny Thing called Love;” depth Queen cuts, “Life is Real” and “No One however You (Only the an excellent Die Young).” May also delivers v “Last Horizon,” a dazzling solo electrical guitar ingredient culled native his 1992 solo album, “Back to the Light.”


provided that so countless of the featured song are component of the Queen canon that was when ruled by Freddie Mercury’s incomparable voice, it’s same to wonder even if it is Ellis can do lock justice. But she is in well voice, loan a crystalline intimacy to the material. May additionally contributes confident command vocals on number of tracks. And judging through the uproarious audience reception, the fans concurred.

GOLDMINE: how did this job come about?BRIAN MAY: Well, this project progressed over quite a long period. Kerry and also I have been working with each other for 12 year off and also on. We’d done occupational together as soon as we’ve had spare moments, and also we walk a big tour to begin with, strangely enough, through a large band add to an orchestra in ~ the royal Albert Hall. And then we got involved with an ext recording. We uncovered we appreciated stripping down things to their essence and also just doing voice and also acoustic guitar, and by doing lock in the fashion, really simply, in which method the songs appeared to gain bigger. We likewise had the suffer of going out to Africa and also playing in the jungle spontaneously, and also we delighted in that. For this reason the idea came: “Why don’t we shot going the end as simply the two of us in one intimate and informal style and put top top a concert?” us took candles with us for this reason it had an intimate atmosphere, and also it worked.


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The just pyrotechnics or light show you have to expect to see at a Brian May and Kerry Ellis performance is every little thing is coming from the candles onstage.


GM: Kerry, what’s that been favor for girlfriend to analyze this human body of work, much of which was sung through a masculine vocalist, even if it is it’s Freddie Mercury, George Harrison or Steve Walsh of Kansas?KERRY ELLIS: It’s been rather fun. A many our song choices come native the an easy fact that we just enjoy performing the songs. It’s not an extremely calculated; it’s not deeper 보다 that. They’re just great songs, and also we enjoy performing them. Because that me personally, obtaining the chance to sing several of those real classics has been such a joy. Girlfriend don’t get to execute songs favor these often, therefore it’s been great fun. To sing “Dust in the Wind” through Kansas is just one of my favourite moments the the show, since it’s together a basic song. As a singer, you’re usually propelled to your limits to belt it the end as hard or together high as you can, or to carry out something as passionate together you can. To be able to sing this really simple songs is a real pleasure, because it doesn’t often happen.

GM: by presenting the song in such a stripped-down fashion, the shines the spotlight on how an excellent all that the songs space in their most skeletal form.KERRY ELLIS: Yeah, we talk around that in the show. We talk around how a an excellent song have the right to be play in plenty of different ways and also still be a good song. Great songs have the right to be done v an orchestra or excellent with simply a guitar and a voice and also still work. It still has actually the same impact and power, but it’s performed.

GM: when a live present is an overwhelming success, there’s a communion in between artist and also audience. Speak about that connection. BRIAN MAY: The factor I wrote “We will certainly Rock You” and Freddie (Mercury) wrote “We space the Champions” is we enjoyed having that two-way communication with one audience, and that was quite brand-new in those days. These days, it’s the share for civilization to do that and involve the crowd. But earlier in the ’70s, if you look in ~ the context, most rock teams would go out and play really according to to an audience who would listen however not really react that much. Castle wouldn’t yes, really give earlier that much. I guess we were lucky the Queen had actually a an extremely interactive audience. And with songs prefer “We will Rock You” and also “We room the Champions,” we encouraged their participation and also that to be a joy. Once you achieve that connection with your audience during a performance, the concert becomes an extremely much a two-way thing, fairly than a one-way thing.


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Brian May’s lovely Red one-of-a-kind guitar is no the star the his reflects with Broadway singer Kerry Ellis. The pair current stripped-down versions of songs where they rely largely on acoustic guitar. But May’s no stranger come acoustic guitar. He supplied one to create the Queen rocker “Tie Your mother Down,” after ~ all.


So v Kerry and me, it’s practically like we’re acquisition it a step further. Kerry speaks about how a tune benefits without having too much going on. In fact, if you look at a song, it’s words and also it’s a tune and also it’s a chord structure behind it, which gives it context and sort of gets your emotions going. You have the right to do the with simply a voice and also six strings on a guitar, and also it’s a great difficulty to execute it. That way, you’re maybe to capture the essence of a song. There’s no clutter, and also there’s nothing acquiring in the way, and also there’s no needless ornamentation.

one of the things that i love about Kerry is she does not perform ornamentation for its own sake. She sings from her heart. She speaks about singing the song as it to be written, and that’s what I try to do as well. We love it, and the audiences attach with it, no doubt. They have the right to hear the voice crystal clear, and they can hear my guitar crystal clear. I likewise have a theory: people can’t listen to two things at when (laughs). They deserve to only listen to one point at a time. We’re all paranoid around keeping points that simple, and also I’ve been with that with Queen being just a four-piece. Over time, we thought we necessary to flesh out our sound v keyboards. And then as soon as I went out on my own I thought, “I must have actually a rhythm guitar,” since if I avoid playing rhythm, the bottom will fall out the the sound. But it’s actually no true.


GM: together a guitar player, you space a true original. No one plays choose you or has actually a sound prefer yours. Comment on the inspiration and also influence behind the path in which you strategy guitar, especially the way in which girlfriend orchestrate parts and also solos.BRIAN MAY: I choose my etc to be a voice and also sing. Human being say my play sounds like an orchestra, yet it’s that old thing — it’s the degree to which I can bluff (laughs). World say, “How perform you carry out all that multi-tracking?” and I don’t, really. I do have the delay thing, i beg your pardon I occupational with. It’s yes, really all around being connected with one channel. Kerry has actually her larynx, and also I have actually just my couple of millimeters of fingers on the string, and also that’s her voice. Ns was influenced in the early on days by world like Hank Marvin, and, the course, Jimi Hendrix. To me, they’re guitar players who have actually an prompt voice, and also you understand that voice. As soon as they’re playing, you feel it, and also they have something to say. I always wanted to perform the very same thing through my etc playing.

GM: So many guitar football player sound choose a knockoff of someone else. When did you establish you had discovered your own voice top top the instrument?BRIAN MAY: I constantly hoped I had actually a voice top top guitar; i dreamed of having actually a distinctive voice ~ above guitar. Walking a long way back, in regards to my playing, i hit a point where i remember reasoning that probably this is a brand-new direction because that me. Occasionally you just have to keep doing things to gain noticed. Very same thing goes because that Kerry and me; human being are start to establish what we can do. They have actually to provide themselves permission to choose something and also get into it. You just need to save doing what friend love and also hope the will acquire noticed and embraced.


GM: for both that you, when did you concerned realize that music can be a permanent career and no day job would ever be necessary?KERRY ELLIS: for me, i don’t recognize if you’re ever comfortable come sit back and go, “Yes, this is it; I’ve made it” or “I’m comfortable best now.” together a performer and artist, you’re always striving because that the following thing. Ns love what Brian and also I are doing, and I’m constantly thinking, “OK, what’s next? when are us gonna perform this again?” Or I’m thinking, “What’s the following level come this? Where do we take it this?” What makes you a great artist is to save trying come improve and also keep getting far better and moving on. BRIAN MAY: Queen toured with Mott the Hoople as a support act in England and then in the States. Ian Hunter was a sage old person, also in those days as soon as he was young. We sat with each other one day and he asked, “Brian, how are you doing? Is this tourism sitting well with you?” and also I said, “I’m law OK, yet I’m finding it quite difficult to be away from my house stock.” It to be the an initial time I’d to be away from house for a lengthy time, and it was a long time. That looked in ~ me and also sort of placed his chin in his hands and said “Brian, if you’re missing your house stock, you’re not cut out because that this.” i thought, “Well, OK, probably he’s right.” however inside me, ns felt the was every worth that to it is in doing what i was doing v Queen since it was simply magic. And also it’s constantly been that way for me, so say thanks to you, Ian. (Laughs.) That’s when I realized we were on our way and didn’t require to acquire a task like every one of my other friends. Ns loved my residence life, yet I had actually to monitor my dream. It was such one amazing opportunity to do something extraordinary, and also that to be the minute where the crystallized it for me.


GM: Kerry’s civilization of Broadway and also the human being of Queen are not much apart.BRIAN MAY: Yes, our formats mesh very well together, and that’s why this works so well. Incidentally, we have actually a couple of new songs in the collection now. Again, we’re doing straightforward songs that are beautiful. We added the song “So Sad” by The Everly Brothers come our set. That’s an iconic song for me, and also it’s a big part of mine childhood, and also Kerry loves it, too. It gives us a opportunity to song together, which is fun. There’s nothing to that song; it’s very simple. It’s just verse, chorus, verse, chorus, a tiny middle-eight, and also then you’re done. But it’s simply beautiful. It speaks from the heart, and it go over really well. Us have one more one we perform in the set, which is also not ~ above the DVD. It’s the tune “If ns Loved You” from “Carousel.” Now, that’s no the human being of rock and roll, yet my God, it just works favor a dream for us. A beautiful song is constantly a beautiful song.


GM: “Born Free” surprisingly functions for a absent audience.BRIAN MAY: Exactly. Ns feel really proud the that. Ns think most world would not have actually imagined the a song prefer “Born Free” would job-related for a absent audience. It was a song tape-recorded by Matt Monro, and also the attitude and atmosphere to be all full of smiles. The method we do it, it’s full of anguish, since wildlife is currently in a troubling state all roughly the world. “Born Free” no longer means, “Yippee! Isn’t every little thing great?” There to be a hints of the in the original, however now because of the arrangement, the feels different. At my request, i actually got Don Black, who wrote the initial words, to include a couple of lines, simply to take it it a small bit further. So ns feel an extremely happy about our version of that song.


GM: Kerry, what’s the tune you look forward many to to sing in the set?KERRY ELLIS: five dear. The depends, really. Ns don’t think there’s noþeles on our collection list that i don’t gain performing or singing. They’re all slightly different. “If i Loved You” is very passionate and also quite sparse; i love law that. However then i love to sing “Dust in the Wind” since it’s just so basic and laid back for me, and Brian has a solo in the middle of it, i m sorry he could not uncover as be safe (laughs). However I favor the circulation of the collection and just how I get to carry out all different kinds of sides of myself. So there are different extremes in ~ the set. It’s tough to pick one the I choose doing the most, because I quite like them all (laughs).


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Kerry Ellis states she looks forward to performing Kansas’ ‘Dust In The Wind’ as soon as she’s top top tour with Brian May due to the fact that of the song’s slim simplicity.


GM: What have actually been the greatest obstacles that have presented us to you working on this project? was there any kind of worry how it would be obtained by a rock audience?BRIAN MAY: No, not at all. I was never worried around how it would go over v an audience. Honestly, there to be no fears on mine part; we had no expectations, really. World had seen Kerry carry out all the huge musicals because that a lengthy time, and they’ve viewed me in Queen do all the huge shows. In the start when we began doing reflects together, I’m certain the audience was thinking, “I wonder what they’re gonna do?” We simply thought if we reap ourselves, and also if we feel we can connect in this songs, climate the human being will as well. And it just worked; the much more we gain ourselves, the an ext the audience enjoys themselves.


GM: being so acquainted with Queen’s stoming rendition of “Tie Your mom Down,” the acoustic variation on the DVD/CD is fairly startling and also different. Was the song originally written ~ above acoustic guitar?BRIAN MAY: “Tie Your mother Down” was composed on acoustic guitar. I remained in Tenerife, and I had actually a little guitar that I’d just bought in town. In those days, over there weren’t mobile phones, so i was very much on mine own and also miles far from the nearest town. I was playing the guitar and came up through this riff and also didn’t know what to execute with it. Ns think that riff was motivated by Rory Gallagher, and I was play my acoustic as if it to be an electric.

The version I carry out with Kerry, we call “Country and also Western,” yet Country and Western human being would probably be insulted (laughs). But it had actually that kind of peaceful feel. For me, it’s nice when it kicks into that intensity when I strap on an electric guitar halfway through and play the remainder of it. We reap playing “Tie Your mommy Down.” all the songs we do, we execute differently, and also that’s among the joys of functioning together. We’re under no border to execute anything the way it’s ever before been excellent before. It’s really nice and loosened and happy.

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GM: Songs have the miraculous capacity to lift friend up and also deliver friend through tough emotional times. What songs have helped gain you v a poor period?KERRY ELLIS: To do “Tie Your mother Down” at the end of the present is really uplifting for me personally, due to the fact that it summarizes the present at the moment. It’s great fun. It’s a different twist on how the tune is commonly played, and that’s yes, really uplifting because that me personally. BRIAN MAY: i do require music to aid me through. Ns love the song “Back On my Feet Again” by The Babys. It claims I’m no beaten yet. I’m right here standing; i will proceed into the future, and also I will not autumn down. The various other one the lifts me up from being depressed is the Foreigner song, “I desire to recognize What Love Is.” That’s another great song. Lou Gramm was among the an excellent singers of our generation. GM