Brian May & Friends "Star Fleet Project" (1983 mini-LP)

Brian May & Friends were a one-off supergroup which paired the Queen guitarist with the late Edward Van Halen. The other “friends” in the band were drummer Alan Gratzer of REO Speedwagon, bassist Phil Chen (who had played with Rod Stewart and Jeff Beck), and session keyboardist Fred Mandel (who had recently worked with Queen and Alice Cooper). The group’s 1983 album Star Fleet Project was a spontaneous work completed in about two days, inspired by the music score for a science fiction television series. The three-song mini-album has long been out of print, but has attracted new attention since the death of Eddie Van Halen, and Brian May has discussed the possibility of an eventual reissue.

Star Fleet was the British title of the early-‘80’s animated marionette sci-fi series which originated in Japan as X Bomber. The end-credits theme music for the show’s U.K. version was composed by British keyboardist Paul Bliss, who played with later incarnations of the Moody Blues and the Hollies. May and company expanded on Bliss' song for the eight-minute “Star Fleet” title track, giving it a hard-rock spin. The track basically comes across like a long opening salvo for a prog-rock sci-fi concept album. Considering how quickly and casually it was put together, “Star Fleet” showcases May’s and Van Halen’s bombastic guitar playing and friendly chemistry quite well, and is an enjoyable listen for fans of those musicians. May sang the lead vocals on the track, and his Queen-mate Roger Taylor contributed backing vocals. The second track, “Let Me Out”, is a May composition which has a looser live-in-the-studio feel. The first half of the song makes you wish for a more polished version with Freddie Mercury singing instead of May, but the second half turns into an apparently improvised jam session, and it becomes fun once again to hear musical interaction between the two star guitarists. The best track on the mini-LP is the one on the second side. “Blues Breaker” is a 12-minute-plus blues-rock instrumental improv, described as a dedication to Eric Clapton; it could pass for an extended jam from one of Clapton’s ‘60’s bands. As casual as these sessions may have been, the Star Fleet Project mini-LP is a good find for fans of any or all of its participants.

Star Fleet Project was also the title of the 7-inch single which featured an edited version of the title track. This four-minute version of “Star Fleet” is both tightened and polished, and sounds rather radio-friendly. The song sounds very Queen-like in this form, and we hear less of Eddie Van Halen – although one great EVH solo still plays a big part. The single’s B-side was an instrumental variation of the song titled “Son Of Star Fleet”, which again seems to feature more of May’s guitar work and less of Eddie Van Halen’s. The single would mainly appeal to lovers of Queen.

A decade later, when May’s first proper solo album Back To The Light was released in 1992, two European CD-singles of that album’s title track featured tracks from Star Fleet Project as B-sides: “Star Fleet” and “Let Me Out” both appeared on Parlophone 7243 8 80381 2 6, while “Blues Breaker” appeared on Parlophone 7243 8 80380 2 7. So far, those were the only official appearances those tracks have made on CD. All other CD's featuring songs from Star Fleet Project, at least as of this writing, have been unauthorized.

Brian May + Friends - Starfleet Project

Brian May + Friends “Star Fleet Project” (EMI 1078061) 1983

Track Listing:

1. Star Fleet (7:57)
2. Let Me Out (8:03)
3. Blues Breaker (Dedicated to E.C.) (12:44)

Brian May + Friends - Star Fleet / Son of Star Fleet

Brian May + Friends “Star Fleet Project” (single) (EMI 5436) 1983

Track Listing:

1. Star Fleet (edited single version) (4:12)
2. Son Of Star Fleet (4:32)