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STEVE VAI

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Steve Vai biography
Steve Siro Vai - Born June 6, 1960 (Long Island, New York)

STEVE VAI is one of the greatest guitar players of all time, studied master classes under JOE SATRIANI, and student of the Berklee School of Music, Vai later was invited to join FRANK ZAPPA's band by ZAPPA himself. He was in ZAPPA's group, playing very complex pieces, sometimes even transcribing out ZAPPA's solos and music just to play them live (something he had done in his final year at university according to room-mate Happy The Man's Stan Whitaker). VAI was given the name "Little Italian Virtuoso" and sometimes "Stunt Guitarist" by ZAPPA, because of VAI's technical skill and sounds produced. VAI surely is an incredible guitarist. In 1984 VAI went out on his own and started creating his own albums. VAI also joined ALCATRAZZ and DAVID LEE ROTH to create hard rock music in the vein of VAN HALEN. VAI in 1993 created his rock unit called VAI featuring DEVIN TOWNSEND, T.M. STEVENS and another ZAPPA alumni TERRY BOZZIO. G3 tours also ensued, featuring VAI and SATRIANI and a new guitarist each year, notably ROBERT FRIPP and JOHN PETRUCCI. Since then other solo albums have been issued and VAI has continued to innovate and impress as a great composer and incredible guitar player.

He has guested on number of albums, e.g. along side AL DI MEOLA (reconstructing Al's "Race With The Devil On Turkish Highway") and on the critically acclaimed Indo jazz fusion album by Surinder Sandhu, 'Surang Orchestra', where Vai plays the closest you find to jazz, (e.g. playing duets with jazz saxophonist Andy Shepherd).

VAI's big albums are "Flex-Able", his first landmark debut album and the incredible "Passion and Warfare".

VAI is highly recommended to any guitar player (if somehow you don't already know him), and any fan of great guitar and rock composition in the vein of ZAPPA.

Why this artist must be listed in www.progarchives.com : Progressive guitar composer and Zappa alumni.

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Modern Primitive / Passion & Warfare (25th Anniversary Edition)Modern Primitive / Passion & Warfare (25th Anniversary Edition)
Sony Legacy 2016
$11.93
$9.33 (used)
Passion And WarfarePassion And Warfare
Legacy 2010
$3.72
$3.71 (used)
Modern PrimitiveModern Primitive
Favored Nations 2017
$10.69
$10.00 (used)
Aerie Faerie Nonsense - 2ndAerie Faerie Nonsense - 2nd
Food For Thought
$32.00 (used)
The 7th Song: Enchanting Guitar Melodies-Archives Vol.1The 7th Song: Enchanting Guitar Melodies-Archives Vol.1
Epic Records 2000
$14.50
$1.53 (used)
Sex & ReligionSex & Religion
Music on CD 2018
$10.09
$10.14 (used)
Ailen Love SecretsAilen Love Secrets
SBME SPECIAL MKTS. 2007
$13.97 (used)
Right Now on Ebay (logo)
Alive in an Ultra World by Steve Vai (CD, Jun-2001, 2 Discs, Epic) USD $2.99 [0 bids]
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Steve Vai Sex & Religion CD Original Pressed Made In USA USD $1.99 [0 bids]
Steve Vai Fire Garden Japan CD 1996 SRCS 8137 + Bonus Track (No OBI) USD $7.99 [0 bids]
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7h 29m
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10h 37m
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JOE SATRIANI ERIC JOHNSON STEVE VAI - G3 LIVE IN CONCERT - CD - 1997 USD $1.27 [0 bids]
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STEVE VAI discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

STEVE VAI top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.64 | 71 ratings
Flex-Able
1984
3.58 | 141 ratings
Passion And Warfare
1990
3.17 | 96 ratings
Vai: Sex & Religion
1993
3.89 | 95 ratings
Fire Garden
1996
3.66 | 81 ratings
The Ultra Zone
1999
3.86 | 83 ratings
Real Illusions: Reflections
2005
4.15 | 67 ratings
The Story Of Light
2012
3.32 | 12 ratings
Modern Primitive
2016

STEVE VAI Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.78 | 46 ratings
Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson, Steve Vai - G3 Live In Concert
1997
4.00 | 29 ratings
Alive in an Ultra World
2001
3.01 | 28 ratings
Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen- G3 Rockin' In The Free World
2004
3.75 | 19 ratings
Live In London
2004
3.32 | 38 ratings
John Petrucci, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani- G3 Live In Tokyo
2005
3.81 | 26 ratings
Sound Theories Vol. I & II
2007
4.71 | 26 ratings
Where The Wild Things Are
2009
3.45 | 12 ratings
Where The Other Wild Things Are
2010
3.19 | 8 ratings
Stillness In Motion: Vai Live in L.A.
2015

STEVE VAI Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.08 | 17 ratings
G3: Live in Concert
2000
3.93 | 28 ratings
Live At The Astoria
2003
4.55 | 23 ratings
Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen- G3 Live In Denver
2004
4.27 | 18 ratings
G3: Live in Tokyo
2005
4.62 | 13 ratings
Visual Sound Theories
2007
4.97 | 22 ratings
Where The Wild Things Are
2009
5.00 | 3 ratings
Stillness In Motion: Vai Live in L.A.
2015

STEVE VAI Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.46 | 21 ratings
The 7th Song: Enchanting Guitar Melodies - Archives Vol. 1
2000
3.37 | 19 ratings
The Elusive Light And Sound Vol. 1
2001
3.50 | 10 ratings
The Infinite Steve Vai - An Antology
2003
3.20 | 5 ratings
Archives, Vol.3: Mystery Tracks
2003
3.77 | 7 ratings
Archives Vol.4: Various Artists
2003

STEVE VAI Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

2.66 | 30 ratings
Flex-Able Leftovers
1984
3.48 | 49 ratings
Alien Love Secrets
1995
2.14 | 3 ratings
Without Me
2010

STEVE VAI Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Modern Primitive by VAI, STEVE album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.32 | 12 ratings

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Modern Primitive
Steve Vai Prog Related

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

3 stars For true STEVE VAI fans who have kept up with his output since the beginning, one of the most amazing transmogrifications in music history occurred between his debut album "Flex-Able" and his second "Passion And Warfare." So much so that for much of the time both albums seem to have been recorded by completely different artists, however that's somewhat of an exaggeration since both albums contain more than enough of the trademark VAI-isms that transcend compositional style as well as exhibiting his Zappa roots however the debut was more experimental whereas the sophomore release showcased a much more developed technical shredding style.

This evolution makes more sense with the release of the 25th Anniversary Edition of Passion And Warfare which hit the market in 2016. While VAI has always been generous in the addition of bonus tracks when he re-releases an older album, this one was the greatest gift of all as it came out as basically a double album called MODERN PRIMITIVE / PASSION AND WARFARE (25TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION). The unreleased album's worth of material covers those mystery years between his first two albums when he scrapped solo albums in order to work with David Lee Roth and Alcatraz.

A double album indeed as the double CD release contains two cardboard sleeves attached and in yin yang fashion with each side acting as an independent album albeit in Siamese twin fashion. This review will only cover the MODERN PRIMITIVE album since PASSION AND WARFARE will be covered in its own review however i will cover the four bonus tracks attached to the end of P&W. While MODERN PRIMITIVE is indeed technically a bonus album for P&W's 25th Anniversary release, it can also be thought of as an album in its own right since had destiny not intervened, this material very well could've been VAI's second album.

The title MODERN PRIMITIVE refers to the fact that these tracks were started but never finished. VAI wrote "Flex-Able" between the ages of 20-23 and PASSION AND WARFARE between the ages of 27-29. The material on MODERN PRIMITIVE was started when he was between 23-26 but were never finished. At the age of 55, STEVE VAI finally found the time and the excuse to finally complete these tracks and release them as bonus material. Some of the tracks were destined for P&W but didn't make the editing cut and thus sat in the vaults for two decades plus.

Many of these tracks emerged under the intent of being released in a period band called The Classified, a vocal jazz rock group that featured Sue Mathis on keyboards and vocals, Tommy Mars also on keyboards and vocals, Stu Hamm on bass and Chris Frazier on drums. This material was played live at many successful gigs but never recorded at all, so these recordings for the most part were written in the 80s and finally recorded in the second decade of the 21st century. While most of the musicians would return, Sue Mathis did not.

Like "Flex-Able," MODERN PRIMITIVE still exhibits a healthy dose of Zappa influences, especially from the "One Size Fits All" era which becomes quite apparent as the schizoid vocal jazz scat opener "Bop" bursts onto the scene. Belying its title, there is nothing one would consider hard bop in the least but rather immediately provides a link between VAI's first two albums as it retains all the quirky whimsical charm of the debut while developing the technical prowess of the second. How much of this resulted from its initial birth pangs and how much is the addition of VAI's modern perspective will probably remain the biggest mystery of his career.

"Dark Matter" shifts completely in a Hendrix type rocker with a lot more wah-wah and shredding techniques added. Not to mention the PASSION & WARFARE production magic. "Mighty Messengers" musters up the funk bass groove but ultimately becomes a rather by-the-books vocal rock track that exhibits some guitar wankery and sound effects. "The Lost Chord" is one of those cheesy ballads that i find underwhelming and this one is no exception although Devin Townsend is the vocalist. It indeed sounds like some mellow track off one of his albums albeit with VAI's sensual guitar antics. It's ok but seems like a waste of Townsend's dynamic vocal range. "Upanishads" is another chilled out progressive slow burner. It never really goes anywhere despite some guitar soloing. OK and that's it.

"Fast Note People" is yet another chilled out rocker with some snazzy instrumental backing. VAI's vocals turn me off but this has lots of backing vocals and turns into a more Zappa inspired fairy tale of sorts. "And We Are One" is once again a slow chilled out ballad with VAI and a female vocalist performing a duet. Yawn. "Never Forever" finally picks up some steam and sounds like one of those spacey P&W tracks with soaring guitar runs but VAI's weak vocals ruin it for me. "Lights Are On" is finally a true rocker with some real good VAI guitar action going on. It reminds me most of P&W and seems like it was destined for that album but got nixed. It would've fit in perfect and better than weak tracks like " I Would Love To." "No Pockets" sounds completely different and is more of a garage rock track which is a Bob Harris track where he is vocalist.

The final three tracks are the "Pink And Blows Over Suite" with the second part hitting over the thirteen minute mark. "Part 1" slowly fades in with pleasant sound effects and then becomes a female vocalist ballad with lots of smooth backing vocals. Obviously part of the vocal jazz group years. Even this short intro to the suite is rich and dynamic with lots of VAI-esque time signature deviations at his most extreme and a rich lush production that offers beautiful counterpoints to the vocalists. "Part II - Mars Attack" continues seamlessly with the music melody from "The Nutcracker" backed by a deep drone in key. It remains ambient with whistles and in jazzified classical mode with electronic overtures. In fact it sounds more like a show tune piece than anything VAI would have released. There are some stellar classical piano runs but no guitar really. The tempo remains slow and the mood darkened. For an attack from Mars i would expect more musical drama! The shorter "Part III" closer finally picks up the steam and turns into a more festive jazz-rock-funk mood with VAI's sizzling guitar soloing. It ends in the same vocal jazz style that began the three part journey. Probably the best part of the album.

PASSION AND WARFARE is included in its entirety. There was really no need for remastering since the album was cutting edge at its time of original release in 1990 and sounds modern even by today's standards however there are four bonus tracks tacked onto the end. "Lovely Elixir" is a slow guitar ballad. It's like many tracks distributed throughout VAI's musical career and rather uninteresting. "And We Are One (Alternate Solo No. 2)" is pretty much just another version of "And We Are One" from the MODERN PRIMITIVE album. This version is just as slow and uneventful as the original. "As Above" is a resurrected demo and has a military march percussive drive with VAI's soaring guitar sound. Sounds like something that may have been nixed from the original P&W lineup because it sounds a little like its opener "Liberty" but pretty decent overall. "So Below" is actually a Niels Bye Nielsen Orchestration and sounds more like a movie soundtrack in a classic John Williams fashion than a STEVE VAI track. Ok but nothing OMG.

It has to be remembered that this album is a combo package. Although i'm reserving my review for PASSION AND WARFARE on its own page, as a rating these two cannot be separated. P&W is a guitar classic but has some obvious flaws but one that i easily give four stars because the strengths far outweighs the weaknesses. The bonus material on this P&W 25TH ANNIVERSARY album is pretty much throwaway material but the MODERN PRIMITIVE does have some decent stuff on it although nothing that i would consider lost treasures therefore this disc really only deserves a two star rating but since this is a combo package i'll give it all a three. If you already have PASSION AND WARFARE, there's really no need to run and get this if you haven't already. But as a true STEVE VAI fan i feel obliged to have all this extra stuff because of the few interesting tidbits and for those who want some historical context then this one does deliver the goods.

 Flex-Able Leftovers by VAI, STEVE album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1984
2.66 | 30 ratings

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Flex-Able Leftovers
Steve Vai Prog Related

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

3 stars STEVE VAI's debut album "Flex-able" was the result of his time between several years as "stunt guitarist" for Frank Zappa and his future as a rock / metal guitar god once he joined David Lee Roth and Whitesnake which helped launch his career as one of rock's greatest solo shredders of all time. The material presented on his debut album which appeared in 1984 was the result of two years of recording (82-84) of which only eleven tracks appeared but STEVE's output was quite prolific. What started out as a project to record goofy nonsensical tracks only intended to be heard by his friends resulted in a debut album with the excess of eight more tracks appearing on the FLEX-ABLE LEFTOVERS EP that was released the same year.

This EP may be a source of confusion since it was released twice in 1984 by two record labels and then again in 1998 as a full length album with an additional six tracks recorded during the same period with all three releases sporting completely different cover art. Yikes! The first release of FLEX-ABLE LEFTOVERS appeared as a vinyl 10" with only 1000 editions appearing on the Urantia label which featured fairy tale cover art that had a yellow impressionist background with a hand tugging on a heart in water. The second pressing of also 1000 editions was released on VAI's newly created Akashic Records and featured a similar cover as the original "Flex-Able" album cover with a jet black background with a pinkish purple logo and in the EP's case a similarly colored VAI playing guitar. Both of these EPs had the exact same track order which was changed up for the 1998 re-release.

IN SIDE (aka Side One)

One "You Didn't Break It" Two "Bledsoe Bluvd" Three "The Beast of Love" Four "Burnin' Down the Mountain"

OUT SIDE (aka Side Two)

One "So Happy" Two "Details at 10" Three "Little Pieces of Seaweed" Four "Chronic Insomnia"

The EP was expanded to a full-length on Sony Records released in 1998 with a completely different track order which included six unreleased tracks that were recorded during the same period of 1982-84. This one was released on CD only and included one major change of recording live drums to replace the original drum machine on "You Didn't Break It." All the tracks received a complete re- editing and mixing. To make it even more confusing four of the tracks appeared as bonus tracks on the CD release of the "Flex-Able" album that appeared in 1988. These four tracks include: "So Happy," "Bledsoe Blvd," "Burnin' Down The Mountain" and "Chronic Insomnia." Whew! The 1998 track list is:

One "F.u.c.k Yourself" (Listed as #[email protected]! Yourself) (Bonus Ed. 1998) Two "So Happy" Three "Bledsoe Bluvd" Four "Natural Born Boy" (Bonus Ed. 1998) Five "Details at 10" Six "Massacre" (Bonus Ed. 1998) Seven "Burnin' Down the Mountain" Eight "Little Pieces of Seaweed" Nine "San Sebastian" (Bonus Ed. 1998) Ten "The Beast of Love" Eleven "You Didn't Break it" (Bonus Ed. 1998) Twelve "The X-Equilibrium Dance" (Bonus Ed. 1998) Thirteen "Chronic Insomnia"

These tracks contained many but not all of the same session musicians as "Flex-Able" with Mike Keneally and Stu Hamm joining in from the Zappa crowds. The instrumentation once again ranged from the standard guitar, bass, keyboards and drums to the more exotic which included coral sitar, violin, piccolo xylophone, bell lyre and vibraphone. Also in the mix were various vocal effects from many guests as well. While "Flex-Able" was a stand alone eclectic moment in the rock universe, FLEX-ABLE LEFTOVERS has even more bizarre concoction which include some of the most foul mouthed profanities that STEVE VAI has ever uttered in his predominantly PG-rated career therefore this is the one album that received the Parental Advisory label most due to the 1998 add on "F.u.c.k Yourself," a shockingly hilarious critique on society and the world in general, guaranteed to either offend you beyond belief or have you rolling on the floor laughing so hard that tears are rolling out of your eyes!

FAVORITE TRACKS include: The opener "F.u.c.k Yourself" and the second track "So Happy." A very bizarre WTF spoken word oddity that shows VAI's uncanny ability to replicate spoken words in perfect pitch and tempo on guitar. "Massacre." A bitchin' guitar workout fretted over a techno beat that performs some of VAI's best guitar antics of this era. "Little Pieces Of Seaweed." OMG. This is just too much! This is INSANE!!! Yes, it's got Zappa written all over it but it is filthy, raunchy, brash and experimental as hell. VAI unleashes all the production techniques including backmasking, torturous fret abuse and freaky compositional liberties. Aspects of VAI's entire career can be heard in this one. The ultimate summary in one track. "The X-Equilibirum Dance" is a funky chunky bunch of proggy weirdness! The funk bass finds a guitar slinking in and out of sync with it and while the guitar goes to la-la land, so do the drums and bass join in offering a weird in-and-out-of focus strangeness. "Chronic Insomnia" is pure experimental guitar that would sound more at home in a no wave band like DNA. It's actually quite frightening as a bunch of guitar sounds emulate an exorcist or something. It's two minutes of pure mind f.u.c.k.e.r.y.

OK TRACKS include: "Details At 10." Despite a quite cool track. This is too much straight outa the Frank Zappa playbook. Perhaps a rejected track from the "You Are What You Is" album. Nice but it's not outstanding either. "Burnin' Down The Mountain" is a slow acoustic guitar track with shakers that offers a pleasant melodic development but never really gains steam. "You Didn't Break It" offers a Van Halen type of guitar riff. It was written by Bob and Suzannah Harris and features Bob on vocals. It's not bad and VAI's guitar adds some sizzle to an otherwise meh sort of rock song.

THROWAWAY TRACKS include: "Natural Born Boy." One of those boring rock instrumentals that has no memorable melody and displays a generic lead over rhythmic guitar. "San Sebastian" is another one of those boring melodic tracks that chimes along and never really goes anywhere. "Beast Of Love." One of those ballad type tracks with VAI's awful vocal style. I can handle his voice when the track is interesting but this one is rather bland.

Overall, a great bonus for true fans. There is some excellent material on here that i could not possibly live without however this one falls short of the essential tag. As expected the term LEFTOVERS implies material that didn't make the original cut for a reason. In many cases, it was because the material was obviously too weird and that's the material i love the best, but some as stated are rather meh while some are just ok. However, the cream of the crop on here means this is well worth checking out if you love the most weird Zappa influences of VAI's early work as well as his impeccable production and guitar playing skills.

3.5 but rounded down

 Flex-Able by VAI, STEVE album cover Studio Album, 1984
3.64 | 71 ratings

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Flex-Able
Steve Vai Prog Related

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars STEVE VAI hardly needs an introduction after having played with Frank Zappa, Alcatraz, David Lee Roth and Whitesnake not to mention achieving a stellar success in his own right but while he would become the rock world's undeniably most unique and proficient guitar shredder, his early years displayed a much deeper and experimental young VAI whose ties to progressive rock were at the forefront more than any pretensions of rock god status that would take place in a few short years as he would become one of the most technically adept shredders of the 80s.

Fresh out of several years as Zappa's premiere "stunt guitarist" having played on albums like "You Are What You Is," "The Man From Utopia" and "Jazz From Hell" as well as a string of successful live recordings from the "You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore" series, VAI managed to scrape enough money together to buy a small house in the LA suburb of Sylmar and with a mere 5000$ put together his first home studio where he would record a slew of goofy and off the wall music that initially was made for friends but was destined to become STEVE's first album FLEX-ABLE along with the supplemental companion EP titled "Flex-Able Leftovers."

Much of this was due to the fact of his fear of becoming famous and opted to simply make music that he wanted to instead of pursuing any commercial endeavors. Having stated he was simply living in the moment, he created new music to distribute amongst close friends with no preconceived notions of any sort. Released in 1984, FLEX-ABLE may come as a shock to anyone who encountered this zany album after growing to love STEVE's more technical instrumental albums such as "Passion And Warfare." This album in many ways sounds like a completely different artist with few clues as to the direction Mr. VAI would detour but it was this first album that made STEVE VAI a star in the rock and metal world for its unorthodox and hyper creative guitar playing.

VAI was inventive from the very start and FLEX-ABLE displayed a plethora of disparate ideas ranging from creative uses of the whammy bar, advanced hammer on abuse, alien sounding musical scales, compositional mastery as well as a healthy love of extraterrestrial life and all things spiritual, esoteric and eclectic. Add to that, VAI showed a mastery of the business aspects of music as well. FLEX-ABLE was innovative in becoming one of the first truly independent albums (another Zappa trait). While the album was deemed too personal for public consumption, VAI was convinced to release it but found that record companies not only wanted to usurp his publishing rights but would only pay mere pennies on the dollar in royalties. VAI opted to self-release and off this one album alone that has sold around 300,000 copies to date, STEVE has made millions.

As is commonly known, STEVE VAI was the ultimate nerd guitarist having studied at the Berklee School of Music and played with the late great Frank Zappa. FLEX-ABLE displays even more Zappa connections with fellow band members drummer Chad Wackerman, trumpeter Bob Harris and bassist Stu Hamm as well as a large extended guest list that make FLEX-ABLE the ultimate musician's party album. Like any given Zappa album, the instrumentation was wide and varied and included not only guitar, bass, drums and keyboards but also more exotic instruments such as bell lyre, vibraphone, piccolo xylophone, clarinet, flute, sax and violin amongst other various chimes and bell-like percussion.

While originally conceived as gag gifts for friends, the idea was to press up a limited run of flexi discs (also known as phono sheets, Sonosheets or Soundsheets, a flexible vinyl sheet with a molded-in spiral stylus groove that played like a normal record). You know those think little bendies that are often attached in the middle of magazines and the like, thus the origin of how FLEX-ABLE got its title. A combo of a changed plan with the spirit of a can-do attitude and thus the ultimate description of one of rock's most innovative guitarists indeed. After turning down the exploitative record labels, VAI created his own Akashic Records, found a distributor in the form of Important Records and received an unheard of amount of 4$10cents for each album sold.

And the album become a hit in the underground guitar world not only for VAI's guitar playing technical prowess but for its sheer audacity to take the listener into VAI's own universe designed by his own warped sense of humor. The album has since become a cult classic. It has been released with two album covers. Firstly with a cover donning a jet black background and a pink/purple hand tugging on an elastic pink/purple heart and then again with a cartoonish caricature of STEVE on an orange stage alongside an alien and rubbery guitar. The latter contained bonus tracks that would find their way onto the "Flex-Able Leftovers." (these tracks include: "So Happy," "Bledsoe Blvd," "Burnin' Down The Mountain," "Chronic Insomnia" and was my intro to the album.

And the music! This album contains some of the wildest tracks ever! While STEVE's virtuosic guitar shredding does debut here, it is limited in small doses with the highlight on the metal rocker "The Attitude Song," which would eventually be included on the Guitar Hero video game series. However the rest of the album is completely different. One of my favorite VAI tracks of all time opens in the form of "Little Green Men," the ultimate Zappa tribute complete with a frenetic off-kilter jazzified parade of whimsical satire and adroit virtuosity runs of vibraphones and time signatures run amok but also conveys a sophisticated yet playful story about how aliens are amongst us and kept from our knowledge through careful control of perception. Perhaps one of the most hilarious tracks of all time :P

"Viv Woman" displays hard rock attitude but also a healthy horn section whereas "Salamanders In The Sun" is another Zappa inspired flirtatious flute driven melodic track that is light and fluffy but also incorporates some stellar guitar playing. "Call It Sleep," one of the most experimental tracks sounds like a sleepy guitarist waking up and having a hard time getting it together but ultimately prevails in a stunning guitar workout. This one has cool guitar slides and what sounds like tuning manipulations. "Junkie" begins like a music box, a vocal driven sorta jazzy track about a drug addict and includes some extraordinary unorthodox guitar weirdness. "Bill's Private Parts" is a tiny snippet of percussive bombast whereas "Next Stop Earth" debuts VAI's unique ability to make the guitar "talk." It is 34 seconds of two guitars having a conversation, a technique fully utilized on future releases.

"There's Something Dead In Here" is an atonal, non-melodic horrific sounding progressive rock on acid type of recording. This is probably the most "out there" track which is only for the most hardcore. The only two tracks that i'm not really found of are the corny combo of "Lover's Are Crazy" and "The Boy/Girl Song." These two tracks are prominent because they appear near the beginning of the album and are the most commercial sounding which for better or for worse debut another aspect of VAI's music, my least favorite, the schmaltzy ballads with stupid lyrics. While i can understand the desire to keep the album from getting too wild, these two tracks just seem out of place.

While my first experience of the album was with the four bonus tracks which are some of my favorites on the whole album and some of the most creative, i'll have to save criticism for them on the "Flex-Able Leftovers" album which is where they made their first appearance. FLEX-ABLE is a nerdy album through and through and will probably fly over the heads of non-musicians. There is nothing "normal" about this album. This was the creation of a highly developed musician making music on his own terms with little regard for public consumption. Luckily, this sort of music had a cult following with yours truly being a part of.

This was definitely a grower but perhaps the most consistent of VAI's many lopsided albums save a couple tracks. While often cited as his low point, if you can get past the fact that this is not shredder's paradise (and i'm a shredding fan for sure), you can experience a fantastically creative album unlike anything else ever made even by VAI himself. Historically speaking, FLEX-ABLE is a brief moment in time between the adventurous Zappa years and VAI's metal god status with David Lee Roth and Whitesnake. It displayed ALL of VAI's musical talents far beyond the lightning speed fret abuse he has become more known for. This is the dawn of not only a talented guitarist, but also a producer and business entrepreneur as well as composer and arranger of talents. A one of a kind album that deserves its cult status.

 Passion And Warfare by VAI, STEVE album cover Studio Album, 1990
3.58 | 141 ratings

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Passion And Warfare
Steve Vai Prog Related

Review by Prog Leviathan
Prog Reviewer

3 stars From rousing arena rocking, to jam-centric shredding, to down-tempo power-balladry, to more shredding mixed with manic guitar effects ... to probably more weird combinations I can't think of right now, Steve Vai kills it with this hard rocking instrumental release. Definitely a product inspired by the late '80's pop-metal scene, Passion and Warfare emphasizes short, punchy, accessible songs which form the framework for guitar virtuosity on display throughout.

Bottom-line: this is an incredibly entertaining and exciting album. Will it razzle-dazzle you? Yes! Will it blow you away? Probably not. Vai is playing for the masses here, with most of the songs being easy to consume (assuming you love guitar shredding). Maybe a little bit of David Lee Roth rubbed off on him during this recording ... actually, that sounds gross, forget that. Maybe Vai was inspired while playing to arenas filled with ten thousand people, and found a way to balance his quirky creativity with a more commercially Vaiable (see what I did there?) Vaibe (two puns in a row!!!). If the result is an easily enjoyable bit of hard-rockin' guitar fluff: I'll take it.

Recommended, but maybe not as your first Vai release. Enjoy!

Songwriting: 2 - Instrumental Performances: 4 - Lyrics/Vocals: NA - Style/Emotion/Replay: 4

 Alien Love Secrets by VAI, STEVE album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1995
3.48 | 49 ratings

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Alien Love Secrets
Steve Vai Prog Related

Review by TCat
Prog Reviewer

3 stars There is no doubt that Steve Vai is a huge influence for rock guitarists everywhere. There is no doubt that he is one of the greats. He has quite a history including being a part of Frank Zappa's band from 1980 - 1983. He was known by Zappa as the Stunt Guitar man because of his technique and playing of the nearly impossible passages written by Zappa. As a matter of fact, Vai transcribed "The Black Page" before Zappa even knew who he was. Vai sent Zappa a copy of the transcription and Zappa was so impressed he hired him to transcribe most of his music.

Other than this, Vai is mostly known for his solo work even though he has worked with many other bands and artists. Usually, as a rule, I tend to stay away from solo albums that feature guitar players, because they usually end up sounding all the same. Sure they are great to listen to a song at a time, but when they are played together in an album format, they tend to wear out their welcome. I already know you can play that guitar, how about showing us a little variety now and let's see how talented you really are.

This EP is just about the right size as far as I'm concerned for this type of music. Vai gets to show off, which is fine, he has every right to do so. But, with just barely over 30 minutes, this EP does not wear out it's welcome. And Vai even dares to add a little variety while he's at it, so I actually enjoy this album. Guitar greats that do this like Vai, Alan Holdsworth, Eric Clapton, and so on are the ones that dabble in other styles and are not afraid to try out new things. I can listen to these artists because they prove how diverse they are and don't have to rely on one style of music.

The EP starts off with "Bad Horsie" which is a good way to start things, no holds barred Hard Rock. Forget the fact that he can make his guitar sound like a horse, The Osmonds did the same thing back in the 70s. It's much more than that, it's a hard driving heavy metal song that lets out all the stops. The next 2 tracks are pretty much formulaic though and don't have anything unique about them. After this however, we are treated to "The Boy from Seattle", Vai's homage to Hendrix. This is an excellent track, with a completely different style, more bluesy along the lines of Hendrix without trying to be him with a little Stevie Ray thrown in for good measure. "Ya Yo Gakk" is a very innovative and playful number done with Vai's young son. I love this. His son sings and Vai answers back imitating his son with his guitar. "Kill the Guy with the Ball/The God Eaters" starts out fairly straightforward but eventually wanders into a bit of progressive territory but then around the 4:30 mark, things get really interesting for a little while, then the suite moves into more mellow territory when the percussion disappears. Not bad. The last track is a nice jazz-blues number called "Tender Surrender". This is very reminiscent of some of Santana's slower numbers, just with some different tricks. You can also tell that you haven't mistakenly put on a Santana song because it still has Vai's wild signature sound as it moves on.

The EP is nice to listen to on occasion and because there is some variety present, it also makes it more pleasing and not so traditional when it comes to guitar solo albums. There isn't much in the way of progressive rock here, but his technique can be so unique that you almost think you are listening to something progressive. No doubt that Vai is a guitar hero and that he can do more than grind an axe. He is also a master.

 The Infinite Steve Vai - An Antology by VAI, STEVE album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2003
3.50 | 10 ratings

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The Infinite Steve Vai - An Antology
Steve Vai Prog Related

Review by Magnum Vaeltaja
Special Collaborator Eclectic Prog Team

3 stars It always seems a little redundant writing reviews for compilations, but what the heck. They serve a purpose, after all. A good compilation should serve as a broad overview of an artist's output, with all their most popular hits, while also acting as a bit of teaser, enticing you to explore their back catalogue a little deeper. And this anthology does each of these quite well.

With two full discs of music, there's plenty of material for newfound Vai fans to sink their teeth into here. The tracks included were compiled from the bulk of Vai's career, with songs included from each of his studio albums from 1984 to 2003. That isn't all, of course, with a few live cuts ("Giant Balls of Gold", "Whispering A Prayer") thrown in for good measure, as well as the hair metal rocker "Kittens Got Claws" by Whitesnake, and "Lighter Shade of Green", a solo instrumental Vai recorded during his stint with Alcatrazz.

As far as Vai's solo career, I'm generally satisfied with the inclusions. All of his most famous material, like "For The Love of God", is included. There's also quite an exhaustive representation of the many different sides to his career. There are hard rock shredder tracks, succulent prog material like "Liberty", "The Riddle" and "Fire Garden Suite", a handful of ballads, and even the vaguely Zappa-like "Salamanders In The Sun". There are some questionable exclusions, of course, such as the shred-tastic, humorously autobiographical "The Audience Is Listening", as well as other less famous but still notable tracks, such as "Juice", "Hand On Heart", or "Erotic Nightmares".

For potential buyers, it's worth noting that in 2011 Sony BMG re- released this two-disc set, with the same track listing, as "The Essential Steve Vai". In all, this is a solid release as far as compilations go. I'd recommend this as a good introduction to Vai's music. And even then, it's not just "Vai 101"; this anthology includes some bonus-y material that established fans may not have been able to get their hands from the studio releases.

 Fire Garden by VAI, STEVE album cover Studio Album, 1996
3.89 | 95 ratings

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Fire Garden
Steve Vai Prog Related

Review by Prog Leviathan
Prog Reviewer

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

 The Ultra Zone by VAI, STEVE album cover Studio Album, 1999
3.66 | 81 ratings

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The Ultra Zone
Steve Vai Prog Related

Review by Prog Leviathan
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Guitar-virtuoso Steve Vai sends us another collection of excellent, personality-filled, artful hard rock jamming with Ultra Zone, his 5th release. More so than his other works that I've heard, this one is all about Steve's fingers doing crazy things to his guitar. Half of the songs on this album are instrumental set pieces, each with a distinct vibe and varying shred-factor. Vai is a killer player, and if you're into guitar and rock, it's hard to be disappointed. Each of these instrumentals (which take up the entire first side of the album), are crisp, modern, and filled with personality. While none of it is especially daring or experimental from a songwriting perspective, Steve's playing makes them a lot of fun; great for some rocking background grooves, but also creative enough to reward careful listening. Some make more of an impact than others, but all are solid. Vai handles vocals for the remaining songs, which are also great. There's an inherent likability when it comes to Vai's playing that makes this work easy to enjoy.

For many listeners, Ultra Zone will be a fun rock album with crazy guitar effects; for musicians aficionados, it could be an academic experience. I sit somewhere in the middle. I had a lot of fun with Ultra Zone, but was left wanting more in terms of scope or composition. That seems crazy to say, given Vai's pedigree, but I didn't feel a sense of build or drama with this release; each song could be taken on its own, and while a great experience when taken in isolation, the album as a whole doesn't drive home a musical message beyond a sense of playfulness. This isn't a bad thing, just something that makes Ultra Zone a good but not great release for me. Lots of fun when the mood strikes.

Songwriting: 3 - Instrumental Performances: 5 - Lyrics/Vocals: 3 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 3

 The Story Of Light by VAI, STEVE album cover Studio Album, 2012
4.15 | 67 ratings

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The Story Of Light
Steve Vai Prog Related

Review by Prog Leviathan
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Under rated guitar virtuoso and solo artist Steve Vai offers us an exceptional listening experience with the diverse, thoughtful, and exciting Story of Light. It's ambitious without feeling bloated, artistic without pretense, and enthusiastic without instrumental excess. While Vai is perhaps best known to readers here at the Archives as a supporting player during Zappa's final era, he's earned is place as a solo artist to our attention thanks to a collection of consistently fine - to outstanding - solo releases, and this one may be his best to date.

Story of Light opens in grand, dramatic fashion with the highly layered and impeccably produced title track. While I can't find a translation to the Russian narration that drifts in and out of the foreground, we can assume that they're dealing with the album's concept of enlightenment and truth (per interviews with Vai). What's more interesting to me is the stellar guitar and synth playing. Vai's soloing is complex, crisp, snappy, and highly polished. For many, this kind of playing is the reason for listening, and Vai doesn't disappoint.

We get more balls to the wall guitar showcases during the heavy chugging and thoughtful tempo breaks in "Velorum," and in the heavy, sassy, "Gravity Storm." Vai will crush you with walls of sound that are complex and engaging and thoughtful all at once. Some of the best playing on the album and pure guitar bad-assery.

The boogie-woogie-metal-rock-gospel combination of "John the Revelator" and "Book of the Seven Seals" is an unexpected surprise, and is just plain a blast to listen to. It's an eclectic diversion that is just perfect; it makes you say, "what the heck is this... holy cow, what's happening... holy cow this is amazing!" It lasts just long enough to leave you wanting more, which, when combined with a handful of lush, down-tempo jams that round out the album, is exactly how I feel about Vai's music in general.

Story of Light is a ton of fun and shouldn't be missed by any guitar fan interested in some artistic razzle-dazzle the spice up their hard rock!

Songwriting: 4 - Instrumental Performances: 5 - Lyrics/Vocals: 3 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 4

 Fire Garden by VAI, STEVE album cover Studio Album, 1996
3.89 | 95 ratings

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Fire Garden
Steve Vai Prog Related

Review by Magnum Vaeltaja
Special Collaborator Eclectic Prog Team

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!

Thanks to dick heath for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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