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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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STEVE VAI discography


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

3.66 | 79 ratings
Flex-Able
1984
3.57 | 156 ratings
Passion and Warfare
1990
3.17 | 105 ratings
Vai: Sex & Religion
1993
3.50 | 54 ratings
Alien Love Secrets
1995
3.88 | 103 ratings
Fire Garden
1996
3.63 | 86 ratings
The Ultra Zone
1999
3.87 | 88 ratings
Real Illusions: Reflections
2005
4.11 | 73 ratings
The Story of Light
2012
3.30 | 14 ratings
Modern Primitive
2016
4.39 | 15 ratings
Inviolate
2022

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

3.77 | 49 ratings
Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson, Steve Vai - G3 Live In Concert
1997
3.97 | 31 ratings
Alive in an Ultra World
2001
2.99 | 29 ratings
Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen- G3 Rockin' In The Free World
2004
3.68 | 19 ratings
Live in London
2004
3.32 | 41 ratings
John Petrucci, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani- G3 Live In Tokyo
2005
3.80 | 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)

4.11 | 19 ratings
G3: Live in Concert
2000
3.93 | 31 ratings
Live At The Astoria
2003
4.54 | 25 ratings
Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen- G3 Live In Denver
2004
4.28 | 20 ratings
G3: Live in Tokyo
2005
4.85 | 15 ratings
Visual Sound Theories
2007
4.97 | 23 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)

3.48 | 23 ratings
The 7th Song: Enchanting Guitar Melodies - Archives Vol. 1
2000
3.33 | 21 ratings
The Elusive Light And Sound Vol. 1
2001
3.49 | 11 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)

2.63 | 33 ratings
Flex-Able Leftovers
1984
2.14 | 3 ratings
Without Me
2010

STEVE VAI Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Inviolate by VAI, STEVE album cover Studio Album, 2022
4.39 | 15 ratings

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Inviolate
Steve Vai Prog Related

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars Impressive axe play, as always, with top notch support, song by song, from one of the all-time masters of la guitare électrique.

1. "Teeth of the Hydra" (5:13) This one might go to eleven. Definitely a top three song. Just great, powerful guitar notes (& chords!). A purely great song. In fact, this is my favorite song of 2022 (so far). (10/10)

2. "Zeus in Chains" (4:39) Impressive guitar and bass over so-so music. (8.5/10)

3. "Little Pretty" (6:26) a little bluesier. Some nice melody lines and bass drum "fills." Gets better as it goes. Kind of classic J-R fusion á la Al DI, JEAN-LUC, and ALLAN H. (8.75/10)

4. "Candle Power" (3:31) JAN AKKERMAN guitar play taken to another level! Man do I hear the Dutch Master in every note! (8.75/10)

5. "Apollo in Color" (4:19) nice song in which the awesome bass and drums are allowed some shine. You go, Henrik! You awesome, Vinnie! Also love the rhythm guitar (& banjo?) work. (9/10)

6. "Avalancha" (5:10) a heavy one. Jerry Colson and Steve in a race or machine gun fight. And they really send it crashing down! A top three song for me--and I don't even like metal! (9.5/10)

7. "Greenish Blues" (6:07) pure blues. Such amazing guitar sound, smooth touch, and timing. Almost makes Jeff Beck look like he's fumbling and flailing. Cool twang-bar and wah-pedal ministrations. Reminds me a lot of Jeff's "'Cause We've Ended As Lovers." only the 12.0 version. A master showing his mastery. If you ever want to play one guitar song to show the potential of guitar and the possibilities allowed by the blues, please use this one! My final top three song--and I'm not really a fan of the blues! (10/10)

8. "Knappsack" (5:19) just watching the video accompanying this song on YouTube gives you some insight into the magic that the electric guitar offers--as well as the pyrotechnical skill of one of the world's greatest masters of that instrument. I love the feeling in the final minute of blues. Am I watching a tutorial for the future of electric guitar play: "The One-Handed Method"? (8.75/10)

9. "Sandman Cloud Mist" (6:01) Steve's steady music and melody play allow Vinnie Colaiuta and bassist Philip Bynoe to really show their skills. Incredible patch of guitar wizardry from about 4:40 to 5:20! (8.75/10)

Total Time 46:45

This is one awesome collection of songs from a veteran who knows what he wants and has all the skills (and friends) to pull it off. Steve Vai. in all his glory, has enough self-confidence and grace to allow his collaborators to really shine. Mega kudos, Señor Steve! I'd love to see you collaborate with Antoine Fafard!

A-/five stars; a minor masterpiece of guitar wizardry as composed, performed, and produced by one of the all-time masters (if not THE all-time master) of the electric guitar.

 Inviolate by VAI, STEVE album cover Studio Album, 2022
4.39 | 15 ratings

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Inviolate
Steve Vai Prog Related

Review by DangHeck

4 stars Inviolate is Vai's 10th studio album, released six years after his last. With the bit of the interview that he had done with Terry Bozzio (Terry interviewing) that I had seen on Drum Channel, the thing most of note here to me is that this is a now-classic example of a COVID-19-era album. It is marked noticeably by the revolving cast of musicians that Steve had hired from track to track. He suggested that this gave him a bit of freedom (and it was apparently the first time in which he couldn't meddle, so to speak, or I believe he said "ruin" the tracks haha). He was free in his decreased involvement compared to years past. In this though, he would think about the song at hand and could easily think of a drummer for each. In addition to performing alongside other guitar wizards, Jeremy Colson, the drummer most featured here, has played with Vai since at least 2005. Then it was two other Zappa alums, Terry and the (also) exceptionally great Vinnie Colaiuta, who were divvied up [a remaining?] 3 songs. It was clear to Steve that in those cases, he suggests, Terry and Vinnie were his guys. Very cool. Now, onto the album [after avoiding it for a good two weeks on account of a lack of concentration or proper time...]!

"Teeth of the Hydra" is our opener, and it's... all Steve Vai? Sorta spacy Fusion with intricate programmed(?) drums and booming, soaring instrumentation. That is, it soars whenever it's not just hanging in air. There's a sort of ominous energy here. Sort of dark and yet sort of optimistic in tone: like an intense battle with the Hydra? I think there were a lot of good ideas here, but overall, a fairly static track compositionally. Up next is his fourth and currently final single for the album, "Zeus in Chains". A lot more bombastic, a lot more confident than the opener. I guess this is Steve on bass here? It sounds really good: super melodic, intricate and that perfect, slinky sound. The middle section is very much virtuoso Guitar Fusion territory. Really tasteful, swinging playing. It's Stevie, alright! Then it's an unsurprisingly blazing solo. Pretty cool quirk in the main theme, as it cuts out and jumps back in.

Then it's onto "Little Pretty", with a feature of the great bassist Bryan Beller (Aristocrats, Mike Keneally/Beer for Dolphins, Joe Satriani). And this is quite pretty. It has a very familiar sort of tension that we can come to expect from Steve. This has little flairs of what sound like Eastern inflection in addition to Technical Metal. Oooh the solo in this middle section... Very nice. A lotta great whammy play. And up next, I was readied accordingly by his interview with Terry for this one: "Candlepower". This has a ton of quirk and unique flair captured by Vai's and Bozzio's equaled talents. Steve's guitar has a really interesting sort of twang to it. Don't miss this one. And then, we continue on in a similar sort of feeling, but brightened to really beautiful, truly wonderful extremes on the first Vinnie feature, "Apollo In Color".... And Wow, does Vinnie ever shine on this one. Another exemplary match. Made in heaven. Wow, the different textures Steve chose for this one, too, are just marvelous. Frisson country, baby! Don't miss this one! The absolute best thus far. And there's already been a lot of "great". [The highlight, I would like to point out.]

Up next, into our second half, "Avalancha"! Very interesting. This honestly reminds me of the damn 'Adventure Metal' [whatever, Chris...] of modern Prog Metal beloveds Scale The Summit [I've been thinking since, that I should really give their early material another go, in the least]. Big, if not expansive. After the last few, this is honestly kind of boring [then again... I did already make that Scale comparison... Don't hate me haha]. Pretty cool, Morello-esque solo though. Oh! This is Billy Sheehan's feature! I had totally forgotten. I mean, listen, it's not bad. Sorry, Billy? Up next, we have a massive stylistic and tonal shift on "Greenish Blues". Blues indeed. Really lovely at times, but reminiscent (to a fault) of his former boss Zappa's bloated soloing excursions. And this is coming from me, unironically the biggest fan of Zappa I know haha.

Finally in the backend, we have a very fun one in "Knappsack". I mean, this is how you do heavy, in my opinion. It does have a sort of older Metal approach, which I appreciate, but I also acknowledge maybe it's Stevie showing his age. This middle section? Boy, that's fun. Wild stuff. Really exciting, honestly. And finally, our second Vinnie feature, "Sandman Cloud Mist", to finish out our album (and a really good one at that). Now, with this one, we are back in the slower and more feeling side of Steve Vai. Very classic. Now, there's nothing mind-blowing here. But I ain't gon' say no. Again, a great album. Definitely give it a spin. Maybe two (I mean, I won't haha, but I'm also insane and must move on).

 Inviolate by VAI, STEVE album cover Studio Album, 2022
4.39 | 15 ratings

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Inviolate
Steve Vai Prog Related

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

4 stars As one of the true living gods of guitar mastery, a new album by STEVE VAI is something many musicians anticipate with a sense of both awe and possible trepidation. The awe aspects are delivered by VAI's finger breaking guitar playing antics that catapulted him into the highest ranks of rock stardom with his stints with David Lee Roth and Whitesnake as well as his innovative art guitar displays of grandeur on albums like "Passion & Warfare" however the trepidation may result from VAI's inconsistency in his art form by often delivering some hilariously bad material with the guitar god believing his vocals are actually a pleasant thing to experience!

VAI has been quiet in the last decade after the release of 2012's rather dreamy lightweight "The Story Of Light" which featured recycled ideas packaged without flashy guitar solos. The "Modern Primitive" archival material was released in 2017 but all in all VAI hasn't released any new material of substance since 2005's "Real Illusions: Reflections." The guitar master is back in 2022 with his tenth studio album INVIOLATE which immediately upon admiring the album cover clearly showcases that VAI is back to his guitar shredding duties as rock god with his wickedly wild new Hydra guitar. As far as a 62 year old rock god is concerned, INVIOLATE does not feature a what may be perceived as a has been but rather a veritable talent still seemingly in a perpetual prime.

In the modern era, STEVE VAI is mostly revered by nerdy guitar stalwarts who worship him like the sun god in some ancient Egyptian setting. His perfectionist attention to detail that envelops every composition laced with modern production techniques replete with visual glitz and glamor holds his place in the pantheons of rock guitar royalty and with INVIOLATE this maestro retains his lofty perch with grace. While still chock filled with face melting guitar solos and blitzkrieg guitar chops, VAI has refined his extroverted flashiness by drifting into the world of instrumental jazz-fusion therefore INVIOLATE is much more akin to classic albums by Jeff Beck, John McLaughlin or Al Di Meola rather than VAI's back catalogue of raucous metal and art rock rampage.

INVIOLATE is a sensual mastery of jazz-laced rockers that happen to feature VAI taking things to extremes. Unlike most of VAI's back catalogue that became muddied with substandard vocal tracks, this album is blissfully and exclusively instrumental with nary a vocal track to be found which allows a smooth entire album's worthy of heavy guitar edge in the context of progressive rock and jazz-rock fusion. On board are VAI's classic guitar wails and warm tones that are as distinct as his playing style. As a virtuoso producer INVIOLATE matches the quality of many of VAI's best offerings including his masterwork "Passion & Warfare." The album wisely clocks in at a classic album's running time of just shy of 47 minutes with nine beautifully crafted tracks that alternate between dreamy atmospheric escapism and jaw dropping guitar god admiration.

With the virtuosic guitar wankery toned down, INVIOLATE comes off as one of VAI's most balanced albums which maintains a unified vibe for its entire run. Tracks such as "Teeth Of The Hydra" and "Zeus In Chains" showcase VAI's newest mastery of transmogrifying his classic tone-rich stylistic approach into a bonafide jazz-fusion classic. With so much time out of the public's eye, it seems STEVE VAI had something to prove to the world and that was that he could still crank out an album like the best of them and despite all the changes in the world of heavy metal, rock and modern jazz, VAI effortlessly delivers a timeless sounding album's worth of instant classics. While guitar shredders may be disappointed by the lack of youthful energy on display, VAI more than makes up for its absent with beautifully crafted compositions that tug emotional heart strings but all is not lost for there are indeed select moments of guitar gymnastics that clearly signify that VAI remains a force to be reckoned with. Excellent album!

 Flex-Able Leftovers by VAI, STEVE album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1984
2.63 | 33 ratings

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Flex-Able Leftovers
Steve Vai Prog Related

Review by DangHeck

2 stars A decent compilation of early Vai, but... really just for the fans...

I guess I'm dealing with a different song order than what's listed above, as I'm listening to the 25th Anniversary edition.

And of course, being Flex-Able Leftovers, these are (please forgive me) the supposed leftovers from Flex-Able (1984), and we gotst plenty of quirk and ZAPPA-isms herein (see below).

"You Didn't Break It" nearly broke me: just terrible. Then... saved(!) by the beautiful "Bledsoe Bluvd", the first of many Zappa-esque likely-Zappa-homages, perhaps most reminiscent of Vai's own "Salamanders In The Sun" of the aforementioned release. This is followed by "The Beast of Love", a low-energy, silly lounge tune (not unlike some early-80s FZ repertoire--replete with *snork(s)!*). The bizarre hilarity continues on "So Happy", a strange rambling about "never being sad" and eventually featuring Vai-penned guitar-transcription (I can't believe he continued with this insanity after getting out from under "the whip"...).

Continuing on, "Details at 10" is quite the early-Vai tune. I really actually like his voice; sorta forgot how decent he is in this department, ya know... for obvious reasons. It is most apparent on this track that Suzannah "Thana" Harris (wife of Bob) is the main female vocalist on the album; she is most famous as the (I think excellent) vocalist on Zappa's Sleep Dirt's 1991 overdubs for CD (my preferred version). She delivers a very nice fake news report about... some admittedly awful things (this bit sort of reminded me of "Greggery Peccary", not in theme, but in effect).

"Little Pieces of Seaweed" was... okay...

"Chronic Insomnia" was... a lot... Atonality, discordance, noise. Take that as you will... [Not so] Strangely enough, this made the very handsome "Natural Born Boy" all the more satisfying. Great riff, great melody and some of the greatest (straightest) playing that we've been offered on this journey. Welcomed, to say the least...

Regardless of when it was actually recorded (even if it was recorded yesterday--the recording for this ended in 1998, by the way), "Massacre" is insane. Just another proof, if we needed one, of Vai being one of the greats (love him or hate him). And speaking of... taste... "Fuck Yourself" is... uhhh... well performed?... I really disliked it. This moment(?) and this compilation was saved(?) by the very, again, Sleep Dirt-esque "X-Equalibrium Dance". That weird alien guitar tone that shimmers and wavers. Hard to explain if you don't know it.

For my closing thoughts, see my opening thoughts.

True Rate: 2.5/5.0

 Flex-Able by VAI, STEVE album cover Studio Album, 1984
3.66 | 79 ratings

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Flex-Able
Steve Vai Prog Related

Review by The Crow
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The first thing that catches your attention when one faces Flex-Able is that already with Little Green Men, it is clear that we are listening to Steve Vai.

Aside from his undeniable abilities as a guitarist, Vai has a unique personality and compositional ability, apart from an inherent eclecticism that in this debut is even more pronounced than in later works.

In addition, on this album Vai was less focused on shredding, which allows us to enjoy his many facets with the guitar beyond that hyper-speed that characterizes him.

So, if you the 90's and 2000's Steve Vai albums and you still haven't dared with Flex-Able yet, give it a try, because it will surely surprise you.

It still sounds fresh and original, almost forty years after it was published!

Best Tracks: Little Green Men (video game music and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, all mixed together), Viv Woman (groovy, and with absolutely crazy horn arrangements), The Attitude Song (here Vai shows us his incredible skills with the six strings) and Junkie (strange and psychotronic mini-symphony)

My Rating: ****

 Visual Sound Theories by VAI, STEVE album cover DVD/Video, 2007
4.85 | 15 ratings

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Visual Sound Theories
Steve Vai Prog Related

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars I just watched this concert DVD. I am shocked. I never knew. I'd HEARD of Steve Vai, maybe even seen a snippet or two on YouTube (with other bands or collaborators) but I had no idea. I'd grown pretty comfortable with my assignations of "greatest guitar player ever" to the likes of Jeff Beck, Prince, Wes Montgomery, John Mclaughlin, Roy Buchanan, Jan Akkerman, and even Jimi Hendrix, but now, after this concert experience, I'm humbled, beaten, drained, and exhausted into submission: Steve Vai is the greatest guitarist I've ever seen. I love the orchestrated renditions of these songs here. There are times when he uses the orchestra to bounce his guitar ideas off of, or to replicate and carry them forward, but there are also times when Steve sits to watch as the orchestra operates without him. These are some of the moments that are so moving for he seems genuinely humbled by the orchestral performances, looking at times as if he is in genuine disbelief that this orchestra is playing such beautiful music--music that he wrote! "For the Love of God" has got to be one of the most amazing songs ever created--and to think that he can replicate the guitar parts, in concert, time after time (with an orchestra!) Amazing! I love how animated he is with his soloing--every note seems to come from emotions deep within him--which is amazing in and of itself for the fact that his speed and nuances are so laser sharp and mercurial. Having just said that, I must also add that he can do more with a single note than anyone I've ever seen--more than B.B. King, Prince, Roy Buchanan, or even Jeff Beck. I am in awe and disbelief.

You'all might not be seeing me for a while: I have a lot of Steve Vai videos and music to catch up on.

If you haven't seen Steve Vai or this video, do so--RUN to do so. You will not be disappointed!

 Modern Primitive by VAI, STEVE album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.30 | 14 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
2.63 | 33 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
3.66 | 79 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
3.57 | 156 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

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

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