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Steve Vai Fire Garden album cover
3.86 | 107 ratings | 11 reviews | 23% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1996

Songs / Tracks Listing

- Phase I :
1. There's a Fire in the House (5:26)
2. The Crying Machine (4:50)
3. Dyin' Day (4:29)
4. Whookam (0:36)
5. Blowfish (4:03)
6. The Mysterious Murder of Christian Teria's Lover (1:02)
7. Hand on Heart (5:25)
8. Bangkok (2:46)
9. Fire Garden Suite: Bull Whip / Pusa Road / Angel Food / Taurus Bulba (9:56)
- Phase II :
10. Deepness (0:47)
11. Little Alligator (6:12)
12. All About Eve (4:37)
13. Aching Hunger (4:45)
14. Brother (5:04)
15. Damn You (4:31)
16. When I Was a Little Boy (1:18)
17. Genocide (4:11)
18. Warm Regards (4:06)

Total Time 74:04

Line-up / Musicians

- Steve Vai / performer, arranger & producer

- Devin Townsend / vocals (4)
- Will Riley / keyboards (14)
- John Avila / bass (2)
- Stuart Hamm / bass (3)
- Fabrizio Gossi / bass (14)
- Chris Frazier / drums (1)
- Greg Bissonette / drums (2)
- Deen Castronovo / drums (3,5,7,11,12,15)
- Mike Mangini / drums (8,9)
- Robin Dimaggio / drums (14)
- C.C. White, Tracee Lewis, Miroslava Mendoza Escriba, Kimberly Evans, John Sombrotto, Mark McCrite, Jim Altman / backing vocals (12,17)

Releases information

Artwork: Rob Clayton

CD Epic ‎- EK 67776 (1996, US)

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STEVE VAI Fire Garden ratings distribution

(107 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of rock music(23%)
Excellent addition to any rock music collection(42%)
Good, but non-essential (25%)
Collectors/fans only (6%)
Poor. Only for completionists (4%)

STEVE VAI Fire Garden reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Queen By-Tor
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Will this soothe my aching hunger?

Steve Vai: guitar wizard, fret master, all around virtuoso composer and player. Here he is in 1996 on this effort, originally meant to be a double album, but thanks to the wonderful invention of CDs, just an album split into two parts. On this album you'll find everything that you'd expect from Mr. Vai: blinding guitar work, catchy hooks and melodies, and a little bit of evil. As stated before, the CD is split up into two halves - the first being entirely instrumental, and the second being all ''songs'' (with vocals). Really, buying this disc is like buying two completely different albums.

The instrumental half of the album opens bombastically with an explosion, an air raid siren and a couple of chunky riffs before it explodes into full motion. There's A Fire In The House indeed as Steve races to get out of there on his guitar. Frantic and quick, the opening track is one of the best on the album. The rest of the disc is mostly like this as well, screaming riffs allow for a good amount of humming and headbanging. The biggest standout of this half, however, has got to be the second track The Crying Machine which is likely the most subdued of the songs (and starting to sound a bit like mentor Joe Satriani) but with a killer bass riff that drives the melancholically fast guitar to it's highest peaks. This must be one of Vai's best songs in his discography.

Of course, what are prog-heads going to like about this half? Well, the instrumentals are structured in a way to keep things rolling so that the momentum never slows, even with quick into/outro tracks, but the most appealing thing about this half of the disc is likely going to be the last song. Fire Garden Suite paired with it's intro Bangkok offers up a very progressive track as it goes through multiple speed and mood changes without becoming scattered. A heavy eastern influence also makes this one a very unique track.

Coming into the second side we're onto the vocal tracks. It's mostly about rock and roll here with a number of good songs that are all quite enjoyable. Aching Hunger has a nice riff split between vocal pieces that makes it noteworthy and All About Eve is a nice slow track wrought with emotion, but they're not the best tracks on the album. While the intro When I Was A Little Boy is very. interesting and quirky the song it leads into is the one that has interest to it. Genocide is the best vocal song on the album. Slow and mechanical in beat with a very well done chanting chorus in the background, this is a surprisingly amazing song that is a welcome surprise coming to the end of the album.

Those who love Steve are going to love this album. Those who love shredding guitar are going to love this album. Prog heads will likely enjoy the first half over the second, but it's still good all around. 3 stars for a good album with a couple of serious gems.

Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Steve Vai is excellent guitarist working on the border with progressive rock for a years. This album is great work, and one more evidence how nice guitar music outside of progressive world could be.

Album is eclectic mix of songs and instrumentals, but in this case "eclectic" means different and interesting, not chaotic. Steve has his own playing manner, and you will easily find it here. But all diversity of music is so wide, that you will never be bored. Some melodic guitar rock songs make a basis of this album, but you will find many influences there. From oriental melodies in "Bangkok" to some electronic sounds, complex drumming and excellent guitar soloing. Vocals is a bit vintage, but very competent, there Devin Townsend is participated as guest singer as well.

Even if album has some pop-scent and only traces of progressive sound, this is pleasant and interesting work. Good work for real guitar rock music lovers.

Review by Chicapah
4 stars I've been playing all kinds of guitars for almost half a century. In that time I've gotten to where I'm competent due more to trial-and-error experience than natural, God-given ability but, as Dirty Harry once said, "A man's gotta know his limitations" and I do. One of the first things I had to come to grips with in the beginning was that there were a ton of players locally much better than I'd ever be and that there were a select few in the world that were able to do things on the instrument that defied my comprehension. Back in the 60s it was the likes of Hendrix and Beck that cultivated my awe. After that era each new generation of axe men would produce a handful of prodigies that did things with their calloused fingers I could only marvel at with envy. Toward the end of the 20th century I became aware that Steve Vai was one of those elite virtuosos and listening to his art is often an exercise in both intrigue and befuddlement. His 1996 album, "Fire Garden" is no exception. The generous amount of music it contains is highly accessible but his guitar mastery is like something beamed in from another dimension.

Vai starts off with the alarming "There's a Fire in the House" and the heat it generates can keep you toasty all winter long. After a siren-filled intro he and his cohorts settle into a hard-hitting rock groove over which Steve sets the torrid tone for what's to come. The rhythm section of Mike Mangini on drums and Philip Bynoe on bass along with keyboard flavorings tossed in by Mike Keneally gave Vai a virtual dream team of musicians to assist him on this project and their cohesiveness makes this one of his best records. On "The Crying Machine" strong drumming propels this song throughout and, despite its congenial melody, it still possesses a pair of sizeable testicles that keeps it from being pedestrian. I also appreciate Steve's respect for dynamics that cause this tune (and most of the album, for that matter) to have a level of sophistication that I instinctively gravitate towards. "Dyin' Day" is a gutsy mix of acoustic and electric guitars layered over a forceful beat. "Whookam" is an odd vocal-masking deal and a very short vignette that leads to "Blowfish," a heavy-as-Gibraltar ditty containing a buzz-saw guitar effect that cuts a wide swath through your psyche. "The Mysterious Murder of Christian Tiera's Lover" is next, a brief solo spasm of spectacular guitarisms that soar over my head like F-16 fighter jets. "Hand on Heart" follows and it's a pretty number with deep tones of aural colors shifting behind the infectious melody line. In a very progressive way, Vai doesn't play it safe at all, allowing the track to build on its own momentum. "Bangkok" sounds like you're caught in a swarm of flies that finally disperses to reveal a stately theme. It then takes you on powerful detours into realms of Asian grandeur before it all segues into the most impressive instrumental on the album, "Fire Garden." Here Steve further explores Indian-styled melodies and instrumentation as the epic constantly grows more challenging and complex on a multitude of levels. The peaks he ascends to are breathtaking but at one juncture he drops into a metallic segment where he shreds with abandon, bordering on spontaneous combustion. Not only is this suite wholly enthralling, it's one of the finest prog rock instrumentals you'll ever encounter.

The second half of the disc was a real surprise for my ears the first time I listened to it because I had no idea that Vai could sing, too. And he ain't too shabby, neither. "Deepness," a relatively simple vocal/guitar exercise, eases you into this new phase and then he hits you up aside the head with his powerful singing on "Little Alligators," a driving rocker with honorable Hendrix overtones and attitude. His guitar work is phenomenal here. Gee whiz, can this guy play his tushy off or what? "All About Eve" displays even more of his vocal skills as he navigates flawlessly through a very progressive chord pattern like there's nothing to it. I really like the places he takes my mind to in this song. "Aching Hunger" is a great change-of-pace cut that sports a kind of funky reggae feel but not at the expense of its rock roots. Once again I'm caught off-guard by Steve's singing acumen and musically I must reiterate that only a tiny minority of humans can play guitar this brilliantly. "Brother" has a slower, bluesy groove that I find refreshing at this point. Vai vocalizes with just the right mixture of raw passion and consistent pitch control. Who knew? "Damn You" is a vicious pile driver of a song with a stringent vocal aka Paul Stanley leading the charge. In fact, this number is what Kiss could've sounded like in their heyday if they'd been vastly more talented and adventurous. (I know that's weird but I'm just being honest.) Vai obviously knows about the intrinsic value of timing so his humorous sidetrack into silliness with "When I Was a Little Boy" is taken in the fun-loving spirit it's given. "Genocide" is a group-sung chant that reminds me of late 70s Queen but his guitar burns hot as a picnic in Hades and it works because of it. Steve chooses to end with the classy instrumental, "Warm Regards." This interesting, highly-melodic tune is a tour-de-force of his other-worldly imagination at play on the fretboard while showcasing his unbelievable technique. The man has no known boundaries and it's humbling to witness.

"Fire Garden" is an excellent album that any progger would be happy to have in his collection. Yet to say that Vai is the greatest guitarist would be presumptuous because there is no such thing. When you get up to this plateau of players that regal connotation ventures into the sticky territory of personal preference and the result of such an argument is usually vehement discord between opinionated individuals if not bloody fisticuffs. I prefer to place musicians like Steve Vai in a lofty category all their own and let them be whoever they want to be. I may not cotton to everything they produce and there may be times when they overindulge in their bedazzlement schemes but, for the most part, records such as "Fire Garden" satisfy a lot of different hungers growling in this old guitar picker's gut and few things are as gratifying as having a full stomach. 4.2 stars.

Review by Magnum Vaeltaja
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This album is so close to being a 5 star one that it really pains me to give it anything lower, especially considering it's probably one of my 20 favourite albums, but I will make my case.

With a close second of "Passion And Warfare", "Fire Garden" is Steve Vai's best work; at least of those I've heard, anyway. A progressive smorgasbord with eclectic styles, virtuoso performances and unparalleled songwriting in Vai's catalog, this is stellar album, plain and simple. Well, maybe not so plain and simple, as the complexity of the music would suggest.

The first half of the album hits the ground running with the heavy metal "There's A Fire In The House". A thrilling start! Not only is the song a shredding showcase, it also features a blistering drum solo from Chris Frazier and begins to hint at Steve's production talents with its seamless use of effects. "The Crying Machine" and "Dyin' Day" are both two more emotive pieces that follow, the former a Santana-esque world fusion latin rock groove and the latter a stirring ballad co-penned by Ozzy Osbourne.

Following some raw-yet-sophisticated rock numbers, "Hand On Heart" begins, providing what is likely Steve Vai's most emotionally powerful ballad. A slow-building, cathartic spectacle, it is the one song on "Fire Garden" that is not to be missed by anyone. But just as soon as it ends, it is matched in quality by the progressive epic "Bangkok/Fire Garden Suite".

"Bangkok" offers humble but riveting beginnings with its minute-long crescendo of mosquitoes and development of Eastern music themes before seguing into the uptempo hard rock "Bull Whip", which starts off the title track suite. The oriental motifs continue with the Indian- style "Pusa Road" and "Angel Food" continues to build the piece with its playful piano and acoustic guitar trade-offs that eventually build into a spirited united musical force. If Vai ended the song here, I would have been completely satisfied. But instead he chooses to round out the suite with its finest movement, the metal "Taurus Bulba". This is probably the finest piece of music in Steve's catalog, offering his trademark fretboard mastery while following in the 70's symphonic tradition with seamless time and key changes. And it never descends into self-indulgence, either; it is an artfully balanced work on par with "Close To The Edge" and other greats from the classic prog era.

After "Fire Garden Suite" comes to an end, the album's only flaw avails: the fact that it continues. Had Steve chosen to end the album with the instrumental "phase 1" and save "phase 2" for another day, it would have greatly improved the album overall. Phase 2, while not terrible, isn't nearly at the same caliber of musicianship. The album's last 9 tracks are mostly vocal numbers and while Steve is a pretty good singer, most of the songs included here are just typical rock or metal numbers and "When I Was A Little Boy" is the sort of quirky silliness that I wish he had left on "Flex-Able".

There are some exceptions, though; "All About Eve" is another slow, moving ballad with good lyrics, "Warm Regards" is another solid instrumental ballad and "Genocide" is the best vocal track on the album. With a solid, mechanical drum beat and chanting vocals that build to a stunning coda, this is another work not to be missed in Vai's discography.

So while the first 9 tracks of "Fire Garden" are 5 star material, the 2 to 3 star second half drags this down to just a very, very good album. It is one that I would still highly recommend to any prog fan, whether they're a fan of classic or modern prog. This is a gem not to be missed!

Review by Prog Leviathan
4 stars If you're a fan or electric guitar, it's hard to do better than Steve Vai's signature sound of artsy and playful hard-rock. If you're already a fan of Vai, it's hard to do better than Fire Garden. This record is a total package: it's got memorable songs filled with slinky cool jams and savage riffing, guitar virtuosity that's unabashedly complex and weird and energetic, and an overall style that just plain cooks.

Vai opens the album with three fantastic hard-rock songs. The rip-roaring "There's a Fire in the House," solo-heavy "Crying Machine," and many-textured "Dyin' Day." Great stuff, busy and personality-filled, with a crisp production. A few heavy, experimental, and romantic moments follow this completely instrumental first half, culminating in the massive "Fire Garden Suite." It's the album's showcase, and may be the most 'prog' sound that Vai has yet produced. It sprawls across sounds and influences rapidly and with gusto, cramming tons of wonderful moments into its 10-minute running time. One of the best song's that Vai has recorded, which is saying something.

The second half is slightly more "normal," with Vai handling vocal duties, quite well, with the ballads "All about Eve" and "Brother" standing out. Instrumentally this album is pretty much flawless. Vai's supporting band is great, but stick to the background, while the songwriting varies. This is especially apparent in the second-half, which strikes me as being the left-over ideas. However, even the more conventional songs are completely energized by Vai's guitar playing and the band's overall feel.

By the end of Fire Garden you'll be a believer. A great starting place to discover this exceptional musician.

Songwriting: 3 - Instrumental Performances: 4 - Lyrics/Vocals: 3 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 4

Latest members reviews

4 stars The First Half to Fire garden (the instrumental half) is Steve Vai at his very best. It is full of Fantastic Progressive songs nun more than the Title track Fire Garden Suite. If the album had ended here I would give it a well deserved 5 stars. However, this is not the case. Unfortunately Mr V ... (read more)

Report this review (#291713) | Posted by loggerhead | Friday, July 23, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Now when it comes to guitar players, I really think that Steve is the best in the world. Now, some people are tearing their hair out, screaming out names like Hendrix, Clapton, Satriani (who are very over rated in my opinion), but when I see a good guitar player, it is someone who can pour thei ... (read more)

Report this review (#286015) | Posted by arcane-beautiful | Friday, June 11, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This album is half excellent and half very average. The first half of the cd is brilliant. Pretty much instrumental, it contains some of Vai's most progressive moments. The second half, however, could easily be done without, as it is wierd vocal tracks, some of which have an almost grunge feel ... (read more)

Report this review (#94038) | Posted by requiem | Wednesday, October 11, 2006 | Review Permanlink

3 stars VAI is a remarkable guitarist! He has various influences (ZAPPA, SATRIANI, HENDRIX...) but his playing is very unique. As far as technical ability and expressiveness is concerned VAI is the king of all IMO. His singing is also not bad only his songwriting is not always outstanding. His albums are ... (read more)

Report this review (#73827) | Posted by terramystic | Sunday, April 2, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars 5 stars!!! every song steve will blow you a way. the first half is all guitar 2 and a half stars. the second half of the album steve sings and it's truly beauitful the other 2 and a half stars. Fire garden has everything!!! ... (read more)

Report this review (#45504) | Posted by | Sunday, September 4, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars What are we discussing?Vai is an artist that want to create on every album something new and original stuff. This is really a great album.ok many songs' structure are different between Flexable or the original Vai sound and i think that there is a massive evolution to Satriani style.It can be ... (read more)

Report this review (#44851) | Posted by fred84 | Tuesday, August 30, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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