Star Fleet Project, the near-mythical, long-out-of-print mini-album recorded by electric guitar gods Brian May and Eddie Van Halen, will finally be released on streaming platforms this summer.
Recorded in 1983 with an all-star band that included session bass guitar ace Phil Chen, keyboardist Fred Mandel and then-REO Speedwagon drummer Alan Gratzer, the set has been fully remastered by May, and will be reissued in full July 14 with a multitude of previously unreleased jams and outtakes.
You can hear the reissue's lead single – a remastered, radio-length version of the album's title track – below.
In a 2020 Guitar World interview, May revealed that Eddie Van Halen's death – in October of that year – compelled him to revisit their collaboration in earnest.
“A couple of days after I heard the news about Eddie, I went back to Star Fleet,” he said. “I started revisiting all the feelings I had when we were in the studio doing that, and it sort of healed my soul a bit. I thought, ‘Yeah, this is what I should be doing at this time.’”
Indeed, the full, double-album Brian May + Friends: Star Fleet Project reissue – the title track of which was inspired by Star Fleet, a children's science fiction TV series enjoyed by May's son – is as comprehensive as it gets, with a second disc that covers the entirety of the two-day session that produced the mini-album.
“Every note we played on those two days is right here, on show for the first time,” May explains of the set in a press release. That means around half-a-dozen or so takes of the mini-album's second track, Let Me Out, studio banter, previously unreleased jams, and, of course, a remastered version of Blues Breaker, the mini-album's closing, 13-minute, Clapton-inspired jam.
Most notable in the box set, though, might be the dozen takes or so of Star Fleet, which chart the development of an electrifying EVH solo that May cites as “one of the greatest things he did.”
Though much of Star Fleet Project was laid down live – as you'll be able to hear in the reissue – Star Fleet's triumphant solo was an overdub that Van Halen attempted a number of times, never “treading the same path twice,” according to May.
“The stuff you hear Ed doing [on Star Fleet] – the big solo which had been set up – that’s an overdub, because I wanted Ed to have a number of goes at it,” May explained to Guitar World in 2020.
“He’d done the Beat It solo and I wanted him to have that kind of feeling about it. I think he did three different ones, all of which were utterly brilliant. Our jaws all dropped. And I remember, at the very end of the soloing section there’s a little harmony run-up, so we overdubbed that together live, but as an overdub.
“That was one of the great moments of my life, I’ve got to say – because we did it once and we got it right. I mean, I’m not big on chromatic runs or whatever, I’m not a great technician, but we just did it – one, two, three, go! That’s a tiny little moment but a moment of great joy, playing with this guy. I was awestruck by his playing. He’s much younger than me, but I couldn’t believe what his fingers could do.“
The 40th Anniversary Edition of Brian May + Friends: Star Fleet Project will be available in multiple formats: a 2CD/1LP (featuring the original three-track EP)/vinyl single (featuring Star Fleet and Son Of Star Fleet) box set, and a 7” double A side single featuring the songs Star Fleet and Let Me Out (also available on CD).
“We all sat around with big smiles on our faces, going, ‘Yay, this is fun!’," May told Guitar World in regards to the Star Fleet sessions. “I think we’d all got to the point where we’d worked hard in the studio with our respective bands and it had almost become a job, you know?
“Of course we all loved music, but there are moments when you feel pressure in the studio, the album has to be made, deadlines and whatever, and sometimes it gets tense. But this was different – we’re all friends, and whatever happens here is a bonus. So it was full of joy.“
To preorder the 40th Anniversary Star Fleet set, visit May's website.