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STEVE VAI

Prog Related • United States


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Steve Vai biography
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 DiMeola (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.



Discography:
Flex-Able (1984)
Passion and Warfare (1990)
Sex & Religion (1993)
Alien Love Secrets (1995)
Fire Garden (1996)
Alien Love Secrets [Video] (1997)
Flex-Able Leftovers (1998)
The 7th Song (2000)
Alive in an Ultra World (2001)
Real Illusions: Reflections (2005)
The Elusive Light and Sound, Vol. 1 (2002)
Mystery Tracks Archives, Vol. 3 (2003)
The Infinite Steve Vai: An Anthology (2003)
Live at the Astoria (2003)

Steve Vai official website

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Passion & WarfarePassion & Warfare
SBME SPECIAL MKTS. 1997
Audio CD$2.85
$2.84 (used)
Story of LightStory of Light
Favored Nations 2012
Audio CD$4.94
$2.87 (used)
Playlist: The Very Best of Steve VaiPlaylist: The Very Best of Steve Vai
Remastered
Sony Legacy 2010
Audio CD$2.60
$2.95 (used)
The 7th SongThe 7th Song
SonyBMG Special Markets 2007
Audio CD$2.82
$0.98 (used)
Fire GardenFire Garden
Sbme Special Mkts. 2008
Audio CD$4.57
$3.55 (used)
Alien Love SecretsAlien Love Secrets
EP
Sony 1997
Audio CD$7.97
$1.02 (used)
Steve Vai - Live at the Astoria LondonSteve Vai - Live at the Astoria London
Multiple Formats
Favored Nations 2003
DVD$8.99
$0.01 (used)
The Ultra ZoneThe Ultra Zone
Epic Records 1999
Audio CD$4.89
$0.01 (used)
Sex & ReligionSex & Religion
Epic 2009
Audio CD$9.98
$0.90 (used)
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STEVE VAI shows & tickets


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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)

3.52 | 52 ratings
Flex-Able
1984
3.58 | 109 ratings
Passion And Warfare
1990
3.10 | 75 ratings
Sex & Religion (as Vai)
1993
3.86 | 70 ratings
Fire Garden
1996
3.78 | 63 ratings
The Ultra Zone
1999
3.94 | 60 ratings
Real Illusions: Reflections
2005
4.29 | 44 ratings
The Story Of Light
2012

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

3.77 | 34 ratings
Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson, Steve Vai - G3 Live In Concert
1997
4.05 | 20 ratings
Alive in an Ultra World
2001
2.93 | 20 ratings
Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen- G3 Rockin' In The Free World
2004
3.52 | 12 ratings
Live In London
2004
3.28 | 31 ratings
John Petrucci, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani- G3 Live In Tokyo
2005
3.82 | 21 ratings
Sound Theories Vol. I & II
2007
4.77 | 20 ratings
Where The Wild Things Are
2009
3.35 | 7 ratings
Where The Other Wild Things Are
2010

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

4.03 | 13 ratings
G3: Live in Concert
2000
3.89 | 21 ratings
Live At The Astoria
2003
4.55 | 19 ratings
Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen- G3 Live In Denver
2004
4.19 | 13 ratings
G3: Live in Tokyo
2005
4.50 | 10 ratings
Visual Sound Theories
2007
4.96 | 19 ratings
Where The Wild Things Are
2009

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

3.48 | 18 ratings
The 7th Song: Enchanting Guitar Melodies - Archives Vol. 1
2000
3.26 | 12 ratings
The Elusive Light And Sound Vol. 1
2001
3.86 | 9 ratings
The Infinite Steve Vai - An Antology
2003
3.67 | 3 ratings
Archives, Vol.3: Mystery Tracks
2003
3.91 | 4 ratings
Archives Vol.4: Various Artists
2003

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

2.71 | 21 ratings
Flex-Able Leftovers
1984
3.46 | 38 ratings
Alien Love Secrets
1995
2.14 | 2 ratings
Without Me
2010

STEVE VAI Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Ultra Zone by VAI, STEVE album cover Studio Album, 1999
3.78 | 63 ratings

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The Ultra Zone
Steve Vai Prog Related

Review by Chicapah
Prog Reviewer

4 stars This is the third of Steve's albums that I've had the pleasure to know. My other reviews of his records will inform you of the immense respect I have for him and musicians of his caliber who are able to transcend the label of being merely "pretty damn good" and soar into the realm of "holy crap incredible." To say that Vai is that kinda guy is to venture into the area known as the blatantly obvious. His mastery over the guitar frequently causes my stubbly jaw to drop. And he ain't just doing slight-of-hand studio tricks. I caught one of his concerts not long ago on the boob tube and I sat in amazement at the sounds he was coaxing out of his instrument in a live setting. Having said that, it's one thing to be proficient and another to be creative. A typical first chair violinist can play a difficult concerto by Mozart with his eyes closed yet not be able to conjure up an original musical idea on the order of "Wild Thing" even if his life depended on it. So, in order to be a complete package of skill and imagination, one must be gifted in both camps. Steve Vai is and his impressive "Ultra Zone" stands as proof positive.

He opens with the Indian-tinged "The Blood Tears," a curious blend of female spoken and sung segments weaving over, under and around a basic rock beat. The intriguing platform this song stands on promises that surprising things are in store for the listener. Steve's playing is clean and somewhat reserved throughout the tune, as if he were warming up in the bullpen. "The Ultra Zone" is next whereupon metallic, percussive thuds precede the number's launch into an up-tempo pace. Here Vai is adventurously dabbling into world rhythms and I commend him for it but it's his stunning guitar virtuosity that rivets my attention over all else. "Oooo" follows and it's a killer cut. Growling guitars are always a plus in my book but the witty and highly enjoyable Zappa-esque interludes push the song into the territory of the sublime. It has a strange arrangement (in a good way) while it wisely retains its melodic charms from beginning to end. Speaking of the late, great bearded wonder, Steve honors FZ with the heartfelt "Frank." His playing in this heavy ballad is quite beautiful without ever becoming wearily saccharine. The regal subtleties in Vai's performance add a touch of grace and class rarely found in Progland, making this tune the highlight of the record.

Steve pays tribute to Stevie (another icon taken from us too soon) on "Jibboon" by building the number upon a simple blues progression and then proceeding to blast a hole in the studio wall with a stream of spectacular six-string salvos. Even a novice guitarist can appreciate that this is a mad genius at work who has few peers. It sizzles. "Voodoo Acid" is next and its expected weird vibe suggested by the title doesn't disappoint. Thank heavens Vai's rhythmic narration stops short of falling into a rap trap. It's more along the lines of poetic story-telling than that. All in all it comes off as a fun experiment that turned out to be comprehensible and, since it never tries to become "scary," it's a loopy trip into surrealism. "Windows to the Soul" is a bright gem. Its semi-mellow groove in 6/4 time supports Steve's stratospheric guitar manipulations perfectly. This song efficiently displays the profound emotions that can be expressed through even the simplest of instruments when wielded by a maximally talented artist. "The Silent Within" follows and it succeeds in capitalizing on the momentum generated by its predecessor. It's another Indian-influenced piece but Vai adds an engaging vocal track that sets it apart from the album's curtain-raiser. The tune's clever harmony schemes and smartly orchestrated spurts of aural color add undiluted excitement.

"I'll Be Around" doesn't fare as well. It's a love song and, understandably, is inherently conservative and predictable. It's akin to what Dream Theater sounds like when they chill out but it pales in comparison to the other tracks. "Lucky Charms" is next and it does a superb job of allowing the record to quickly regain its traction. Possessing an incurably uplifting melody line delightfully augmented by sharp brass, it really spotlights Steve's versatility and willingness to shift gears at a moment's notice. After a thrilling start it morphs into a syncopated funk segment and then evolves into a movement involving stirring symphonic passages that'll keep you wondering where he's going next. This number is a truly impressive example of ingenuous prog rock done right. "Fever Dreams" is another of my favorites. Its smooth but zippy pace sustains the abrupt changes in mood that arise over and over. With Vai the tones he produces are so extraordinary that sometimes I forget it's a guitar he's playing and this is one of those instances as his innovative forays flourish and thrive. "Here I Am" is little more than an old-fashioned rawker with a decent lead vocal supplied by Mister Vai (who's no slouch in that department). Unfortunately, the song lacks the strong hook required to make it memorable. The vocal-heavy "Asian Sky" is the caboose on this train, a hard-hitting tune with a big, Styx-styled chorus that falls far short of inducing the intended goose bumps. Luckily for us Steve tosses in a spirited head-cutting sequence wherein he duels with himself to blazing results but I'm glad that he put this one last.

Face it, Steve Vai is a freak of nature who received a lion's share of the guitar-playing genes in his DNA design. I and 99.999% of the axe men in the world have no earthly idea how he does what he does so well but we can't deny the fact that what we hear him do so consistently is the real McCoy. He can play like an angel or a demon depending on what's required and he makes music that appeals to both aficionados of the genre and the most naÔve of its adherents at the same time. No easy feat, that. "The Ultra Zone" is a stellar work created by a remarkable savant. 4.2 stars.

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 The Story Of Light by VAI, STEVE album cover Studio Album, 2012
4.29 | 44 ratings

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The Story Of Light
Steve Vai Prog Related

Review by BORA

3 stars "I went down to the crossroads, fell down on my knees."

Well, Vai may have made a pact with the Devil that in turn gave him exceptional skills on the guitar, but he got seriously shortchanged - as it may happen when you deal with an entity of the kind. He forgot to bargain for skills for composing tunes that would befit his virtuostic abilities on his chosen instrument. I find it somewhat bizarre that he named this album "The Story Of Light".

Now, I have long given up on Vai's solo releases after his first few albums. Some good solos encased in poor and sometimes even immature tracks. There are moment when he gets it right - as if by mistake - only to ruin a potentially great piece half-way through. Yes I am referring to "For The Love Of God" from the album "Passion And Warfare" as an example here.

Reading some encouraging comment on this album, I decided to proceed with another - and perhaps final - try before my remaining Vai albums are permanently retired via EBay. At first listen "The Story Of Light" appears only marginally - if at all - better than earlier works. It's the same old approach to some nice licks on the guitar "supported" by rather ordinary compositions that are closer to average Hard Rock/Metal than thoughtful and well designed tunes.

As usual, there is the odd glimpse towards something that could have been developed into a pleasing number. That however is not sufficient to captivate my attention. Boredom sets in with me early in the piece and honestly, I could hardly wait for the closing note on the album. I very much doubt that it would grow on me in future, so it's another album that won't gather much dust at my place.

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 The Story Of Light by VAI, STEVE album cover Studio Album, 2012
4.29 | 44 ratings

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The Story Of Light
Steve Vai Prog Related

Review by Phoenix87x

5 stars Finally, a Steve Vai album I can love

For the longest time I have tried to "force" myself to like Steve Vai's albums, until one day I just said screw it and pretty much just abandoned the prospect of ever really enjoying vai. So much of what he does is very "out there" and I have never really been able to get into him fully besides a few songs here and there. Well, I am happy to say that the day has come where he has created an album just for me in the Story of Light.

This album feels so inspired and accessible. A perfect combination. Each song is diversified and engaging to the point where I pretty much enjoy the entire album from beginning to end. To anyone who has ever struggled to get into Vai's music, I would recommend starting here.

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 Sex & Religion (as Vai) by VAI, STEVE album cover Studio Album, 1993
3.10 | 75 ratings

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Sex & Religion (as Vai)
Steve Vai Prog Related

Review by Earendil

3 stars Sex & Religion is technically an album by a band called Vai, distinct from Steve's solo work. The album features Devin Townsend on vocals, which is what initially made me excited to listen to this album. However, the actual music, while played by talented musicians and a talented vocalist, remains at the lower end of Steve Vai's output. I think the main problem that prevents this album from moving beyond "passable" is how over-indulgent it is. In many songs, Townsend nails a vocal section and then goes all over the place, mindlessly doing vocal runs, screaming too much, or simply over-selling it. The song-writing is average, with no real inspiration but an abundance of screeching solos that are often musically unrelated to the rest of the song.

Sex & Religion is an overly ambitious album by talented musicians with one foot in the 80's and the other sliding all over the place. If my review sounds more like a 2 star than a 3 star review, it's because despite these flaws that I mentioned, the album still intrigues me. The fact that two now legendary musicians like Vai and Townsend played together makes this worth checking out. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that for someone who is more than a casual fan of both of them, this album is essential. In any case, it's interesting to see the immature but undeniable attempt at greatness on the album, and at some points, the band Vai pulls it off.

Rating: 6/10

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 Where The Wild Things Are by VAI, STEVE album cover DVD/Video, 2009
4.96 | 19 ratings

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Where The Wild Things Are
Steve Vai Prog Related

Review by Earendil

5 stars Where The Wild Things Are is the most technically dazzling audio/visual assault on the senses that I've encountered on DVD. Gone is the Vai of straight-forward shredding. There are two violins onstage and a sitar-esque electric instrument which drive forward the storm of progressive metal and sonic bending lead by Vai's astonishing abilities. All of the performers, as would be expected for a Vai concert, are virtuosos.

Visually, the DVD is a spectacle; Vai goes all out with his colorful, flamboyant clothes and stage decorations, and he plays some beautiful instruments. He has a great stage presence, and it's truly awe-inspiring to watch him play some of the more complex passages.

The highlight of the DVD in my opinion is the 11 minute version of Freak Show Excess, which must be seen to be appreciated. The climax solo in it is one of the most impressive I've ever heard.

The only flaw is that the performance turns into over-indulgent wankery at some points and loses much of its impact in the process. This keeps it at a 9 instead of a 10. Nonetheless, an essential DVD.

Rating: 9/10

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 The Story Of Light by VAI, STEVE album cover Studio Album, 2012
4.29 | 44 ratings

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The Story Of Light
Steve Vai Prog Related

Review by Earendil

5 stars I have mixed feelings about Steve Vai. Some of his material is the most technically amazing stuff I've ever heard; I consider him to be the greatest guitarist on the electric guitar of all time. That being said, much of his material (like his critically acclaimed Passion and Warfare) left me unsatisfied. Despite the high level of technical proficiency, in the past he has had a tendency to compose some straight-forward and (in my opinion) boring music. That's not to say all of his material before this album falls into this category; each album I've listened to by him has some great and some incredible tracks, but he has not been consistent.

Anyways, I put on The Story of Light and it blew me away. It's a continuation of Vai's previous album Real Illusions: Reflections (and it's the sequel to it as part of a planned trilogy) but musically it perfects what was only sometimes reached on that album. The focus is not on shredding guitars but on moving music. The Story of Light is a beautiful, layered, textural, and eclectic collection of tracks that show Steve at his best compositionally. It's also (perhaps not coincidentally) his most progressive album that I've heard. I highly recommend The Story of Light, and it may just be the most skilled guitarist of all time's best album to date.

Rating: 9/10

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 John Petrucci, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani- G3 Live In Tokyo by VAI, STEVE album cover Live, 2005
3.28 | 31 ratings

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John Petrucci, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani- G3 Live In Tokyo
Steve Vai Prog Related

Review by jampa17
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The G3 is a concept well known by guitar players all around the world. It's one chance to see three of the greatest players of history on the same stage. It's an educational chance. It's an impressive journey. It worth for those who are guitarist or a musician and it's certainly a challenge to the mind. In this particular production, the guitar gods JOE SATRIANI and STEVE VAI are joined by another god, JOHN PETRUCCI.

The album is really what you can expect from those players: complex arrangements, different styles and techniques, and guitar solos, a lot of them, all impressive and makes you wonder if we (them) already reach the top of chances to play the guitar. I think Petrucci's addition, after other guest players in earlier versions (such as Malmsteen and Johnson) is a more technical, less busy but gives a balance that you don't find in the other G3 albums. The two songs of John Petrucci are evidently different, more oriented to the structure and the composition and less interested in flashy solos. DT fans will love it, but I expect that all the haters can see what his style is all about and how great his proposal is. He really brings something different to the table and I enjoy more the composition and the development of a track better than the solos, I'm really pleased.

The other sets, both Vai and Satriani are flawless and top of their form, but I feel it's really the usual for them. Vai really is a showman and definitely knows his business well. The version of Building the Church is impressive and being aside of McAlpine and Sheehan is just too much for the same stage. Now, when the three of them are in the stage, there's when you can see the differences of the players. The jam is really the heaven for shredders, while I'm not that into crazy and unstoppable solos, I really enjoyed this section of the show. You can hear that perfect distortion and strong sound of Petrucci and his impressive speediness, while Vai does his usual "I-can-do-everything-with-the-guitar-and-always- have-fun", just a bit more interesting than Satriani's usual bluesy stuff.

This is a must have for any guitar player or musician aficionado. Maybe the best G3 production to date. A strong 4 star album. A real worth for your money. You, as a prog lover or rock lover, should give it a try. Great album.

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 Where The Other Wild Things Are by VAI, STEVE album cover Live, 2010
3.35 | 7 ratings

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Where The Other Wild Things Are
Steve Vai Prog Related

Review by Evolver
Special Collaborator Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams

3 stars To anyone who has seen the "Where The Wild Things Are" DVD (I've watched it a few times on the HD Palladium channel) and heard the accompanying CD, it is obvious that the CD leaves out quite a bit of material from that great concert. This disk corrects that, and contains most of the tracks left off of that collection.

Well, that's good and bad. The good part is that all of the songs can now be listened to without having to watch the concert. The bad part is that most of the best material was used up on the first disk. There are more than a few tracks of Vai, noodling around on his guitar. Keep in mind that Steve Vai noodling can be more interesting than most other guitarists' best work, but compared to his best playing, it pales a bit.

This isn't to say that the album is worthless. Vai albums, by nature of his and his band's talents, at their worst are still fun romps. I particularly like Apples In Paradise a duel between his violinists, Alex DePue and Ann Marie Calhoun. On the other hand, the tracks showcasing Jeremy Colson, usually a spectacular drummer, are just tedious.

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 The Story Of Light by VAI, STEVE album cover Studio Album, 2012
4.29 | 44 ratings

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The Story Of Light
Steve Vai Prog Related

Review by Evolver
Special Collaborator Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams

5 stars I must admit, after seeing Steve Vai playing in Frank Zappa's band thirty years ago or so, I bacame a huge fan. When I heard "The Attitude Song" when it was releases as a flexi-single in Guitar Player magazine I had to get the "Flex-Able" album, and it's companion leftovers album. But after the next two albums "Passion & Warfare" and "Sex & Religion" showed the great Vai retreating into hard rock and metal cliches, I gave up on him.

Then, a few years ago I saw the video of his "Where The Wild Things Are" concert on TV, and saw that Vai had returned to his inventive roots, and was playing like only he could, that is as the most outstanding guitarist on the planet. Coupled with a mind blowing solo he added to "Zomby Woof" on the first ZPZ album, it gave me a reason to re-investigate Mr. Vai.

And this album does not disappoint. Opening with The Story Of Light, Vai returns to his Zappa beginnings. The song has a feel like the warm up numbers Frank would use to open his concerts (and had spoken Russian lyrics read by Julia Rainy May Vai - must be a relative). The song builds while Vai does his guitar acrobatics. Another Zappa-influenced track is Creamsicle Sunset, which sound like it was influence by Zoot Allures.

Highlights include John The Revelator and Book Of The Seven Seals, a pair of songs that begin as old time blues, and work their way into a prog-metal/blues/gospel frenzy. I can't describe it and better than that. You have to hear it.

Another astounding piece is Gravity Storm where Vai bends his rhythm and lead guitar lines in impossible ways, yet his band manages to stay right with him. And Mullach a' tSi, a duet with harpist Deborah Henson-Conant is delicate and beautiful.

This album is supposedly the second in a trilogy with his previous studio album (which I don't yet own). It doesn't matter, it stands completely on it's own. And it is brilliant from start to finish.

4.5 stars. Very close to perfect.

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 Fire Garden by VAI, STEVE album cover Studio Album, 1996
3.86 | 70 ratings

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Fire Garden
Steve Vai Prog Related

Review by Chicapah
Prog Reviewer

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.

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