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4 stars Steve Vai Real Illusions: Reflestions is a good album, but we all know what Steve can do, I think Steve could have done a better job. The best tracks are Building The Church, it has some amazing sound effects, and Freak Show Excess. RI:R is not a bad album but I was expecting more virtuosity and complexity
Report this review (#44368)
Posted Friday, August 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Real Illusion: Reflection

This album is Steve Vai's 12th solo album, recorded and released in 2005. Also, believe it or not, this is his first album since his last new recorded materials in 1999, the album The Ultra Zone.

Another thing to notice, this is the first part of Vai's future concept album, the story is about a town visited by Pamposh and he constructed a church, which most of the story is included in the last song, Under It All. Also, there are many songs that has vocal sound, Steve Vai's vocal. I think he became more confident of his vocal after sang Jimi Hendrix songs so many times, Little Wing, since the G3 2003 : ).

Well I think this is quite important so you can figure out the album is about. The cast in this first part is Captain Drake Mason, Pamposh, Dirty Ed, Jarv, Un, PH, Wedge, Loaner, Cha Cha, Eve Peterson, The Midway Creatures, Lucas Mason (K'm-Pee-Du- Wee), Seraphim, Yai Yai, The Whirling Devilish, Joey Brider, Sister Ruby Theresa, Maria Hendrix, Guzzo Sockler, Michael Nemus, President Ausi Oak and Bin Lenny.

So let's take a look at each song. Now I don't have to mention Vai's tremendous amazing technical ability, because you'll get bored... : )

Building The Church - A very cool opening song, where Vai used his new guitar, Ibanez Breed or JEM77BRMR and also a sustainer. Notice that in some parts of the song, the sustain of the guitar is very long, don't try to copy that without a sustainer. The song begins with sick arpeggio tapping, for those of you who have seen G3 2005, you can see how Vai played that song. The story is about the Pamposh walked down to a town, where later he will make a church.

Dying For Your Love - This is the first song in the album where Vai actually really sings. Well his vocal style is not too bad, he can sing nicely. The story is about Pamposh who found that humans are mostly selfish and don't have love. So he tried to find the purest part of humans, Dying For Your (humans) Love. The song itself contains more vocal sound than the guitar sound, very unusual for Vai's songs.

Glorious - Cool intro, with heavy guitar and drum riffs. Again, Vai used strange sound effect, more like wah - wah pedah effects but its more, ahh, I don't know, if you know what he is playing, he is not Steve Vai. Its about all the citizen of the town has consider that Pamposh is in town and they are gathered (glorious).

K'm-Pee-Du-Wee - Notice that the title of the song is similar with one of the cast, K'm- Pee-Du-Wee. Calm deep guitar sound for the intro, very nice, real fat and nice tone. After that, followed by crazy arpeggio, really fast but beautiful. The song is actually a lullaby from one of the cast, K'm-Pee-Du-Wee's mother, Eve to her child. The song slows down at the second minute, and the sound effect of the guitar getting unique, combined with his great techniques.

Firewall - This is the most unique song, started with Vai's extremely unique vocal. "Boom Shika Boom Shika ba-ka-tu-ka", or something like that, more like traditional culture song : ). In this song, there are trumpets, saxes, trombones and other percussion played. In some way I feel it is like Santana's song. Overall, this song is great, especially when the part "Boom Shika Boom Shika ba-ka-tu-ka" sang once more, but this time with rhythm section, very cool!!!

Freak Show Excess - Quite unique intro, with sort of like a mandolin sound, with percussion. Then followed with very nice arpeggio, simply amazing. The story is about the appearance of The Whirling Devilish. At 4:42 minute, the mandolin-like sound played again, with nice rhythm section. The song is ended with Vai's crazy sweeping arpeggio, the notes increased in every section, truly a virtuoso.

Lotus Feet - I bet you will like this song, very beautiful!! In fact, I can say this is the most beautiful instrumental rock song I have ever listened to. Moreover, this song was nominated for a Grammy for "Best Instrumental Rock Performance." The song was recorded live in Holland in 2004 during Vai's "The Aching Hunger Tour." Another thing that makes this song really beautiful is this song was recorded full orchestra, it means the conductor, violin and things like that. The first half of the song is very peaceful and calm, then at the third minute, the energy increased, amazing how he can create such an amazing song, WHOA!! The best part of this song is the sweeping arpeggio at 4:30 minute, fast but still beautiful. After that, the song cools down and the notes are quite simple but still have deep feeling. Again, I think this is the best song in the album and the most beautiful instrumental rock song for me.

Yai-Yai - Very unique song. Somehow he can create such an amazing guitar effect, that the guitar sounded like "yai-yai", just like human. Steve Vai is truly a virtuoso. Unfortunately, the whole song is just the "yai-yai" sound, no solo or such thing like that. The title is also the name of one of the cast.

Midway Creatures - Heavy and metal intro with cool guitar effect. This song is not my favorite because Vai was likely to prioritize the sound effect, not the feeling of the song. But if you are looking for an extremely great technique, this is the song.

I'm Your Secrets - Once again, Steve Vai sang in this song. The song is quite slow and calm, with Vai's heavy and deep vocal style. The only background is the acoustic rhythm section with percussions. "Take my hand, look in to my eyes, tell me what you see, because the eyes never lie", very nice lyric.

Under It All - This song is more like the conclusion of the album, which explains everything about the story. Moreover, in the last part of the lyric, there are many conversation lines, or the dialogues from the casts. In this song, Vai sings with the same vocal style, low and deep vocal. Vai's wife, Pia, played harp in this song. One of the vocal for the dialogue lines was Fire Vai. The story of the song is about when Pamposh asked "the master", "But Master, if everything is an illusion, then why does anything matter?" Then The Master replied, "It may all be an illusion, but it's a very REAL ILLUSION.

So there you go, the first concept album from Steve Vai. Well, actually this is just the first part of the story. I give four stars for this album, but in the end, you decide.

Timur Imam Nugroho - Indonesia

Report this review (#79068)
Posted Tuesday, May 23, 2006 | Review Permalink
Queen By-Tor
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Glorious.

Ah Steve Vai... The wizard of the frets, the master of the shreds. After leaving Whitesnake (of all things) Vai managed to make himself a very successful solo career, and also profited very well off of high schoolers who would fight each other to the death over who was superior, Joe Satriani or Steve Vai. Always a Satch fan over a Vai fan any day, this reviewer always more or less had it out for the Vai. Never denying the fact that the man could shred something fierce; there was always something that Satch had that Vai just... didn't. Now, while it's common knowledge that Satch was Vai's guitar teacher way back in the day, the two have a very very different style of playing, even if they play a similar style of music. Really, comparing them is like comparing Jackie Chan to Jet Li, one is simply a young, evil version of the other. Where is this all going, you might ask? Well, really, what I'm getting around to is that this is the album where it all comes together for me. Everything that Vai does well really clicks, and this album gets just as much play as many of my Satch albums.


Blistering, melodic instrumentals paired with emotional ''songs'' make this album something truly unique in the Vai catalog. ''But By-Tor!!'' You may protest, ''That's what Vai has always done!''. Well, yes, but this is the first time that it all actually seems to work. This is the album where everything feels... real... honest... sincere. Sharp contrasts between fast, fun songs and dark, brooding songs make an excellent listen on this album. While this is one of those albums that really won't benefit from my going into it track by track, I can still point out a few standouts. Building The Church opens the album with a keyboard blast followed by some dark guitar while Dying For Your Love proves that Vai is still really good at writing brooding rock songs. Likely the best of it's type since 'Genocide' from his Fire Garden album. Firewall is the kind of song hat is pure fun to sing along to, especially that opening bit (don't ask me how many times I've embarrassed myself doing that... my friends and I could all do it in sync on cue back in high school). Lotus Feet is a beautiful song that really shows Vai as a great composer along with the excellent Under It All... the mini-epic that ends the album.

There's some filler here, and a little bit of weirdness, case in point - Yai Yai... my advice... sing along to it?

Along with the tracks already mentioned, the rest of the songs on the album are all very very well composed and played, and each one a construct of it's own grandeur with all their own atmospheres and charms.

Such good things to say about it, why not 5 stars? Well, while it may be Vai's masterpiece (IMO), its not a progressive masterpiece. Almost pure prog in many parts, this is an album that really deserves the (very literal) title of prog related. Definitely and album for prog heads to invest some time in, and really the only Steve Vai album worth your time if you're not a fan of his. Great for anyone who loves guitar or anyone who just wants a solid album. 4 stars, very excellent addition to any music collection.

Report this review (#164187)
Posted Tuesday, March 18, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is not the shred-solo album one would probably expect from the name Steve Vai. It is an instrumental concept album, part one of three. The concept is difficult to follow because, while Steve has explained the part of the narrative that each song corresponds to in the liner notes, the songs are intentionally out of order. However, what we know so far is that Captain Drake Morgan experiences a spiritual epihpany and an angel named Pamposh builds a giant church named Under It All. Doesn't make much sense to me either. But I'm expecting that it will eventually.

There are a couple technical displays on this album, mainly in Building the Church and in Freak Show Excess. But that isn't the point of this album. Instead, he focuses on evoking atmospheres and emotions with his playing. I've always considered Steve Vai to be one of the more tasteful shredders, and it shows on this album. There's enough wankery to impress and remind you who you're dealing with, but it's made more effective by the way he holds back most of the time. He also does quite a bit of singing on this album, as Dying for your Love, Firewall, I'm Your Secrets, and Under It All are all based around lyrics. I personally think Steve has a great voice, perfectly on key and knowing to stay within his limits (no doubt this is due to his having perfect pitch.)

All in all, I think this is a great album. There are many who say it's the worst thing he's ever done. The key is to approach with an open mind. This is not necessarily a guitar hero album, despite the large quantity of instrumental tracks and amazing guitar playing. The flashy solos take a back seat to the songwriting, and if you're willing to accept that, hopefully you can enjoy this album as much as I do. (Just as a warning though, my idol as a guitarist is Steve Vai, so there may be some bias playing in here.)

Report this review (#189561)
Posted Sunday, November 16, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars I feel that this could be Vai's best work yet. If nothing else, some of his absolute finest guitar work can be found here. Although the concept is fairly weak (mainly because it is so hard to follow), the music more than makes up for this. Very diverse in style, Vai strikes an excellent balance between heavy and soft music. Building the Church, the albums opener, ranks among Vai's absolute best, while Lotus Feet is perhaps the most emotional song he has made so far. Recorded live with a symphony orchestra, Lotus Feet is a remarkable composition which shows that Vai is much more than just a great guitar player, but is also a great composer. Though the album is very vocally driven, Vai leaves plenty of room for guitar heroics. Plus, Vai's voice holds up very well, especially on the rocker Firewall. One reason why this album is an improvement for Vai is its lack of humor. While to some this may be a drawback, to me his attempts at humor got in the way of the music more then they inhanced it. That isn't to say it's too serious, though. Tracks such as Yai Yai prove that Vai will never take himself too seriously, something that seperates him from most instrumental acts. His backing band, featuring bass wiz Billy Sheehan, is at the top of their game. Vai give them plenty of room to flex their chops, making it more than just a 'guitar player's' album.

Though not a masterpiece, Real Illusions is a very enjoyable listen and though not perfect, holds up as one of Vai's finest works.

Report this review (#202200)
Posted Monday, February 9, 2009 | Review Permalink

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