Studio trickery, cranked-up amps and also sheer enthusiasm can hide many musical sins. However the real test? If the music stands up to a stripped-down performance.

You are watching: What does it mean when a song is stripped


By Ken Sharp

It's a long way from imitation to innovation. Let’s face it, as a etc player it’s much easier to copy someone’s licks or solos; that’s all around possessing the ideal technique.

but the actual trick is occurring your very own voice ~ above the instrument that sets you apart from the wannabes and copycats. Queen guitarist Brian May is among those rare six-string practitioners who sounds prefer no one else. As shown by his spectacular power with Queen and as a solo artist, he has actually rightfully earned the location of etc hero. With 6 pence british coin in hand serving together a plectrum, May’s guitar of choice was his trademark red electric guitar, “The Red Special,” which to be lovingly built by the guitarist and his father end a two-year period, using just hand tools. May occurred a tasteful, fluid, scan orchestral format of play that married classical and also rock influences. The expansive sound he emerged was akin to a violin and guitar melded together. Listen to the compact, intricately make solo top top “Killer Queen.” Or the meticulously an accurate and soaring lead guitar lines top top “Bicycle Race.” Or the nasty power-chord crunch the “Tie Your mom Down.” and even those three diverse examples barely scrape the surface of his work.


And when he’s definitely known for his job-related with Queen, May has actually explored other musical territory, too. “The Candlelight Concert: Live at Montreux 2013” DVD + CD set (Eagle absent Entertainment) bag the gifted guitarist v Broadway vocalist Kerry Ellis.


*

tape-recorded in July 2013 at the Stravinski Auditorium, the stripped-down performance attributes the duo (and occasional keyboardist accompanist) tackling an option material. There are covers (Kansas’ “Dust in the Wind” and also The Beatles’ “Something”); standards (“The way We Were” and also “Born Free”); a smattering the Queen jewels, including the famous songs “Somebody come Love,” “We will certainly Rock You,” “Love of mine Life,” “’39,” “Crazy tiny Thing called Love;” depths Queen cuts, “Life is Real” and “No One however You (Only the an excellent Die Young).” May likewise delivers with “Last Horizon,” a dazzling solo electric guitar composition culled from his 1992 solo album, “Back to the Light.”


offered that so countless of the featured songs are part of the Queen canon that was once ruled through Freddie Mercury’s incomparable voice, it’s same to wonder even if it is Ellis have the right to do castle justice. But she is in good voice, lending a crystalline intimacy to the material. May also contributes confident command vocals on number of tracks. And also judging by the uproarious audience reception, the pan concurred.

GOLDMINE: just how did this project come about?BRIAN MAY: Well, this project advanced over fairly a lengthy period. Kerry and I have actually been working together for 12 years off and also on. We’d done work together when we’ve had spare moments, and we did a big tour to start with, weird enough, through a big band add to an orchestra at the imperial Albert Hall. And also then us got connected with more recording. We found we delighted in stripping down things to their essence and also just doing voice and acoustic guitar, and by doing them in the fashion, an extremely simply, somehow the songs appeared to obtain bigger. We also had the endure of going out to Africa and playing in the tropical spontaneously, and also we enjoyed that. For this reason the idea came: “Why don’t we shot going out as simply the 2 of united state in an intimate and also informal style and put on a concert?” we took candles through us for this reason it had an intimate atmosphere, and also it worked.


*

The just pyrotechnics or light show you need to expect to check out at a Brian May and Kerry Ellis performance is whatever is comes from the candle onstage.


GM: Kerry, what’s it been favor for friend to translate this human body of work, lot of which to be 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 options come from the basic fact the we just enjoy performing the songs. It’s not very calculated; it’s no deeper 보다 that. They’re just great songs, and also we enjoy performing them. For me personally, gaining the chance to sing several of those real standards has to be such a joy. Girlfriend don’t gain to do songs favor these often, therefore it’s been an excellent fun. To sing “Dust in the Wind” through Kansas is just one of my favorite moments that the show, since it’s together a simple song. As a singer, you’re usually pushed to your borders to belt it the end as hard or together high as you can, or to execute something as passionate as you can. To be able to sing these really simple songs is a actual pleasure, due to the fact that it doesn’t often happen.

GM: by presenting the song in together a stripped-down fashion, that shines the spotlight ~ above how good all the the songs are in their most skeletal form.KERRY ELLIS: Yeah, us talk about that in the show. We talk around how a good song deserve to be played in numerous different ways and still it is in a good song. Great songs can be done through an orchestra or done with just a guitar and also a voice and also still work. The still has actually the same impact and power, however it’s performed.


GM: as soon as a live display is one overwhelming success, there’s a communion between artist and also audience. Speak around that connection. BRIAN MAY: The reason I created “We will certainly Rock You” and Freddie (Mercury) created “We space the Champions” is we delighted in having that two-way communication with an audience, and also that to be quite new in those days. This days, it’s the share for people to execute that and also involve the crowd. But ago in the ’70s, if girlfriend look at the context, many rock groups would walk out and play really loud to an audience that would listen yet not really react that much. They wouldn’t really give back that much. I guess we were lucky the Queen had a an extremely interactive audience. And also with songs prefer “We will Rock You” and “We space the Champions,” we motivated their participation and also that to be a joy. When you attain that connection with your audience during a performance, the concert becomes an extremely much a two-way thing, quite than a one-way thing.


*

Brian May’s beloved Red one-of-a-kind guitar is not the star the his shows with Broadway singer Kerry Ellis. The pair existing stripped-down version of songs whereby they rely greatly on acoustic guitar. Yet May’s no stranger come acoustic guitar. He provided one to create the Queen rocker “Tie Your mother Down,” after ~ all.


So with Kerry and me, it’s virtually like we’re taking it a action further. Kerry speaks around how a track benefits without having actually too much going on. In fact, if you look at a song, it’s words and it’s a tune and also it’s a chord framework behind it, which gives it context and also sort the gets your emotions going. You can do the with just a voice and also six strings on a guitar, and also it’s a great challenge to do it. That way, you’re able to record the essence of a song. There’s no clutter, and there’s nothing gaining in the way, and there’s no needless ornamentation.


among the things that i love about Kerry is she go not do ornamentation for its own sake. She sings from her heart. She speaks about singing the song as it was written, and that’s what I try to do as well. Us love it, and the audiences affix with it, no doubt. They can hear the voice decision clear, and also they deserve to hear my etc crystal clear. I likewise have a theory: human being can’t listen to two points at when (laughs). They deserve to only hear to one point at a time. We’re all paranoid around keeping things that simple, and also I’ve been with that through Queen being simply a four-piece. Over time, we thought we essential to flesh the end our sound through keyboards. And also then as soon as I went out on my very own I thought, “I must have a rhythm guitar,” due to the fact that if I protect against playing rhythm, the bottom will loss out the the sound. However it’s actually not true.


GM: as a guitar player, you space a true original. Nobody plays favor you or has actually a sound choose yours. Talk about the inspiration and influence behind the path in which you approach guitar, especially the path in which you orchestrate parts and also solos.BRIAN MAY: I prefer my guitar to it is in a voice and also sing. Civilization say my playing sounds prefer an orchestra, however it’s that old thing — it’s the level to i beg your pardon I have the right to bluff (laughs). People say, “How do you perform all that multi-tracking?” and also I don’t, really. I do have actually the delay thing, i beg your pardon I work with. It’s really all around being associated with one channel. Kerry has her larynx, and I have just my few millimeters of fingers on the string, and also that’s her voice. Ns was inspired in the early days by human being like Hank Marvin, and, of course, Jimi Hendrix. Come me, they’re guitar players who have an prompt voice, and you recognize that voice. When they’re playing, you feel it, and also they have actually something come say. I constantly wanted to do the same thing v my guitar playing.


GM: So plenty of guitar football player sound like a knockoff of who else. Once did you realize you had found your very 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 top top guitar. Walk a long method back, in terms of my playing, i hit a suggest where i remember thinking that probably this is a brand-new direction for me. Occasionally you just have to keep doing points to obtain noticed. Exact same thing goes for Kerry and me; world are beginning to establish what we have the right to do. They have to give themselves permission to like something and also get into it. You just need to save doing what girlfriend love and also hope the will acquire noticed and also embraced.

GM: because that both of you, as soon as did you come to realize that music might be a full-time career and also no day project would ever before be necessary?KERRY ELLIS: because that me, ns don’t understand if you’re ever before comfortable come sit ago and go, “Yes, this is it; I’ve do it” or “I’m comfortable ideal now.” as a performer and artist, you’re always striving because that the next thing. I love what Brian and also I space doing, and I’m continually thinking, “OK, what’s next? when are we gonna execute this again?” Or I’m thinking, “What’s the following level to this? Where execute we take this?” What provides you a good artist is to store trying to improve and keep getting far better and relocating on. BRIAN MAY: Queen toured through Mott the Hoople as a support act in England and also then in the States. Ian Hunter to be a sage old person, also in those days once he was young. We sat together one day and also he asked, “Brian, just how are friend doing? Is this tour sitting well with you?” and also I said, “I’m law OK, but I’m finding that quite hard to be far from my residence stock.” It to be the first time I’d been away from residence for a lengthy time, and also it to be a long time. That looked in ~ me and also sort of put his chin in his hands and also said “Brian, if you’re missing your residence stock, you’re not cut out because that this.” i thought, “Well, OK, probably he’s right.” yet inside me, ns felt it was all worth that to it is in doing what i was doing v Queen because it was simply magic. And it’s always been that way for me, so give thanks to you, Ian. (Laughs.) That’s once I realized we were on our means and didn’t need to gain a job like all of my other friends. Ns loved my residence life, yet I had to monitor my dream. It was such one amazing chance to execute something extraordinary, and that was the moment where the crystallized it for me.


GM: Kerry’s world of Broadway and also the world of Queen room not far apart.BRIAN MAY: Yes, our formats mesh very well together, and also that’s why this functions so well. Incidentally, we have a couple of brand-new songs in the collection now. Again, we’re doing an easy songs that room beautiful. We included the song “So Sad” by The Everly Brothers to our set. That’s an iconic track for me, and it’s a huge part of my childhood, and Kerry loves it, too. It offers us a opportunity to sing together, i beg your pardon is fun. There’s nothing to the song; it’s very simple. It’s just verse, chorus, verse, chorus, a small middle-eight, and then you’re done. Yet it’s just beautiful. It speaks from the heart, and it goes over yes, really well. Us have an additional one we carry out in the set, i m sorry is also not ~ above the DVD. It’s the song “If ns Loved You” from “Carousel.” Now, that’s no the human being of rock and roll, however my God, it just works like a dream because that us. A beautiful track is always a beautiful song.


GM: “Born Free” surprisingly works for a absent audience.BRIAN MAY: Exactly. Ns feel really proud of that. Ns think most civilization would not have imagined the a song favor “Born Free” would work-related for a absent audience. It to be a song tape-recorded by Matt Monro, and also the attitude and also atmosphere was all complete of smiles. The method we do it, it’s complete of anguish, since wildlife is currently in a troubling state all approximately the world. “Born Free” no much longer means, “Yippee! Isn’t every little thing great?” There to be a hint of the in the original, but now due to the fact that of the arrangement, that feels different. In ~ my request, ns actually obtained Don Black, who wrote the initial words, to include a couple of lines, simply to take it a tiny bit further. So i feel an extremely happy about our variation of that song.


GM: Kerry, what’s the song you look forward many to singing in the set?KERRY ELLIS: oh dear. That depends, really. Ns don’t think there’s anything on our collection list that ns don’t reap performing or singing. They’re all slightly different. “If i Loved You” is very passionate and quite sparse; ns love doing that. However then i love singing “Dust in the Wind” due to the fact that it’s simply so basic and laid back for me, and Brian has a solo in the center of it, which he could not discover as relaxing (laughs). However I choose the flow of the set and exactly how I gain to perform all various kinds of political parties of myself. So there are various extremes within the set. It’s hard to pick one the I choose doing the most, because I quite choose them all (laughs).


*

Kerry Ellis claims she looks forward to performing Kansas’ ‘Dust In The Wind’ when she’s on tour v Brian May since of the song’s slim simplicity.


GM: What have actually been the greatest challenges that have actually presented us to you functioning on this project? to be there any worry how it would be received by a rock audience?BRIAN MAY: No, not at all. Ns was never worried about how it would go over v an audience. Honestly, there to be no fears on my part; we had actually no expectations, really. Civilization had checked out Kerry perform all the big musicals for a long time, and they’ve checked out me in Queen execute all the big shows. In the start when we began doing reflects together, I’m sure the audience to be thinking, “I wonder what they’re gonna do?” We just thought if we enjoy ourselves, and also if we feel us can communicate in this songs, climate the civilization will together well. And also it just worked; the an ext we reap ourselves, the an ext the audience enjoys themselves.


GM: being so acquainted with Queen’s stomping rendition the “Tie Your mom Down,” the acoustic variation on the DVD/CD is fairly startling and different. Was that song originally written top top acoustic guitar?BRIAN MAY: “Tie Your mother Down” was created on acoustic guitar. I was in Tenerife, and I had a little guitar that I’d simply bought in town. In those days, over there weren’t mobile phones, so ns was really much on my own and miles away from the nearest town. Ns was play the guitar and came up through this riff and also didn’t know what to execute with it. I think the riff was influenced by Rory Gallagher, and I was play my acoustic together if it were an electric.

The variation I carry out with Kerry, we call “Country and Western,” but Country and also Western world would most likely be insulted (laughs). Yet it had that sort of serene feel. Because that me, it’s nice as soon as it kicks right into that intensity once I strap ~ above an electrical guitar halfway through and play the remainder of it. We reap playing “Tie Your mommy Down.” every the songs we do, we perform differently, and also that’s among the joys of functioning together. We’re under no border to do anything the way it’s ever before been excellent before. It’s yes, really nice and loose and happy.

See more: How Many Paragraphs Is 1000 Words ? How Do I Make My Paragraphs Longer

GM: Songs have actually the miraculous ability to lift friend up and also deliver friend through difficult emotional times. What songs have actually helped gain you v a poor period?KERRY ELLIS: To do “Tie Your mother Down” at the end of the show is an extremely uplifting because that me personally, since it summarizes the present at the moment. It’s good fun. It’s a various twist on just how the song is typically played, and that’s really uplifting for me personally. BRIAN MAY: i do require music to aid me through. Ns love the song “Back On mine Feet Again” by The Babys. It says I’m no beaten yet. I’m below standing; i will proceed into the future, and also I will not fall down. The other one the lifts me increase from gift depressed is the Foreigner song, “I want to know What Love Is.” That’s another great song. Lou Gramm was one of the good singers of our generation. GM