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Wrong on many levels
on October 25, 2013
"Relentless: the Memoir" by Yngwie J. Malmsteen is a 273-page book, published in 2013 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, NJ.
It opens with an introduction and then proceeds with 15 chapters. The first thing one sees on opening the book, however, is a section entitled "Relentless: the Blurbs." Book blurbs are short reviews, usually positive, by peers and/or mentors that are supposed to convince potential buyers that the book is worth their money and attention. The Malmsteen memoir blurbs, however, say nothing about the memoir itself, but rather praise Malmsteen himself.
The introduction is actually a short etymological entry on the name "Yngwie," which, though an interesting read, presents the author as conceited and condescending. In that respect, the introduction does prepare you for what's to come in the book. For example, after he has made it clear what a unique and powerful name he has, that was hardly ever used at the time of his birth, but is now spread worldwide thanks to his enormous influence, he writes,
"By now, there are a lot of little boys walking around with the name Yngwie, or maybe spelled Yngve, without a clue where that name really comes from. My son also has Yngwie as one of his names, and he knows what it means.
It means he's a Viking, a Swedish king, like his father." (p. 3)
If you think that's arrogant, wait, it gets worse, way worse.
Chapters 1-3 tell the story of his childhood. I found that an interesting read about socialist Sweden of the 60s and 70s (there's even a misquoted statement from Margaret Thatcher on the subject of socialism) even though it was mainly about the prodigy Yngwie who had mastered various instruments before he turned 7 when he saw the news about Jimi Hendrix's death on TV and a short video of him burning his guitar. That's when he decided to play the electric guitar.
Chapter 4 is about his moving to the States, the Mike Varney era, and his brief engagement with Steeler. It's interesting for its perspective of a European's first coming to the New World and all the misunderstandings that come from living in two different worlds.
Chapter 5 is about Alcatrazz and Graham Bonnet. It offers Malmsteen opinion on why things didn't work out with Alcatrazz and the curious parting onstage.
Chapter 6 is about the first two albums of Yngwie Malmsteen's Rising Force - "Rising Force" and "Marching out" - and the tour with Ted Nudgent that followed.
Chapter 7 is about his problems with the press in the beginning of his career and how he had to learn not to say whatever's on his mind.
Chapter 8 is about the brothers Jens and Anders Johansson and their hobby of destroying stuff; it's about the "Trilogy" album and the tour afterwards.
Chapter 9 is about the signs Malmsteen got in order to reconsider his destructive lifestyle: a car crash that threw him in a week-long comma and a scary earthquake that made him move to Florida. He discovers that his manager Andy Truman has been taking most of the money he's been making. Significantly, Malmsteen has chosen to start telling the story behind his least favorite album "Odyssey" in this same chapter.
Chapter 10 is about the success that follows the release of "Odyssey" and how he finally can see that he's making millions thanks to his new manager Nigel Thomas.There's also an interesting story about how he got to play in the Soviet Union during the Cold War and how he got big in Japan. There's also detailed info on his Ferraris. Nigel's sudden death in 1993 left Malmsteen in the hands of the money-stealing Jim Lewis.
Malmsteen speaks of "Eclipse" before he shares his philosophy on women. He briefly focuses on some of the women in his life, including his wives. He never mentions the names of his first two wives, Erika Norberg and Amber Dawn Landin respectively, but doesn't fail to label them both as "his groupies." He then goes into a detailed description of the many virtues of his third wife April, for whom he wrote the ballad "Like an Angel." The chapter goes on with just mentioning the albums "Fire & Ice," "The Seventh Sign," "Magnum Opus," "Facing the Animal," and "Inspiration." He writes the 90s off as "the Dark Ages" and finishes with a somewhat longer commentary on "Alchemy."
Chapter 11 is about his beloved "Concerto Suite for Electric Guitar and Orchestra" and its live recording with the New Japan Philharmonic. A chapter in which among interesting facts you'll learn that Malmsteen thinks he's not just a disciple of Vivaldi, Mozart, Bach, and Tchaikovsky but he's actually better than all of them, "I accessed an array of different periods of classical music, which was not done by Bach, Vivaldi, or even Pyotr Tchaikovsky, for example."
Chapter 12 offers an overview of his career in terms of media-driven success and staying true to oneself. He gives a good explanation on how the music industry in the 80s worked and how the game is completely different today. He gives some advice on integrity and style for those who want to become musicians or rock stars, "Do you want celebrity or do you want respect?" (p. 204)
Chapter 13 is about his wife's positive influence on his life and career, his son and about alcohol: how he started drinking, the evil alcohol is and how much better off everyone would feel if they gave it up.
Chapter 14 is about the equipment he's used and how he changed his preference for pickups from DiMarzio to Seymour Duncan. It's about his style of playing and the path he makes in the music industry.
Chapter 15 sums up his peculiarities regarding his band and relationships with other musicians. He once again lets the readers know he's no worse than Mozart and he's a be-all end-all, "[W]hen an album is being made, I am the composer, the orchestrator, the arranger, and the conductor - period." (p. 246) He finishes his memoir with how he succumbed to new technologies and got into ProTools and a praise for his last two albums "Relentless" and "Spellbound." Some more self praise, and the book ends with a cliché sentence how he's thankful "to those fans who have been loyal to me and to new fans who have just discovered me." (p. 263)
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