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3 stars This is a hard review for me. Personally, I both hate and love Mr. Steve Vai. He is a f**kin' great guitar player, one of the best in history, and I love his touch, his style, his overall sound and personality. But I DON'T LIKE is his supposedly "so good that you won't easily understand them" compositional skills. I've always found his style a bit uninspired, no matter how much he boasts his albums and his past Zappa scholarship. I remember buying this album and being very excited about it (before listening) thinking that this could be the guitar album that would change my life. Then I listened to it and the big disappointment came. Since the first thing i look for in a musician or band is a certain deepness at composition, I was very disappointed with the songs on this album. Apart from a couple of song, which indeed are very good (see "For the love of God" or "Liberty"), the rest is pretty dull for me. There are no particular hooks or memorable riffs, as you find in Jeff Beck, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Clapton, and so on. There is just flashy and very tasty guitar playing and a stellar production (especially considering that the whole thing was engineered by Vai himself). But I don't think that's enough. Sorry. Anyway, if you're contented with great guitar playing, incredible musicianship (by Vai as well as by his collaborators), and great production, you will be happy with this one. But if you look for deepness in composition, look somewhere else.
Report this review (#41943)
Posted Sunday, August 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars I've always been a big Steve Vai fan, he's a whopping great guitar player who's style seems to have developed through the years as shown with this album, as his playing style seems to be more emotional than his work with David Lee Roth, in my opinion (just listen to For The Love of God). This album blends almost every single guitar style with Vai's trademark orchestration and experimental approach. Standout tracks on this album are For The Love Of God (full of rich emotion and impossible speed), Ballerina 12/24 (experiementations with an Eventide pedal, to make it sound like a one of those ballerina in a box things), Liberty (epic and majestic, like a national anthem) and The Riddle (a complex sounding piece, with the supposed 22 notes a second lick). All in all this is a great album...but only for guitarists. The problem with this album is that it isn't really very accessible. It's great for guitarists, but not for anyone else. I have to admit that not everyone would want to listen to tracks like The Audience is Listening or Blue Powder. As a guitarist, I love this album but if I was someone else I'd probably give this a 3. But as this is my opinion, I'm going to give this a 4. This album is a landmark in guitar history, but not in prog history, but will still be an excellent addition to your CD collection if you like your guitarists.
Report this review (#43180)
Posted Wednesday, August 17, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars Hhmm. Great licks doth not a great record make - well that's my take on this album. A great sidesman for Zappa, and in terms of technique on electric guitar one of the very best, Steve Vai's compositional skills let him down badly. Not only that....there's a lack of energy and commitment about the proceedings, always a danger with solo projects by soloists, where unless you're very disciplined, you need help to channel all that talent into something meaningful. To be your best you need to surround yourself with equals, with people who will challenge and help direct you, criticse you when they think you're going up a blind alley; here Steve seems to have just surrounded himself with session musicians and family members, and it shows.

The best track is "For the Love of God" which combines blues-style with some lightning fast licks (well, most every track has the lightining fast licks...). But overall the tracks are lightweight - meaning that they pall with repeated listenings - and after a while even the super fast soloing wears a little thin. Two stars for "For the Love of God" but otherwise this was so nearly my first one star review....

Report this review (#50345)
Posted Friday, October 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is may favourite album of Mr. Vai. Ok, is not a prog album but some songs are really great. Wandering thru' a lot of different styles, Mr. Vai made a solid album with a superb work on guitars -of course- and interesting arrangements based most of the time on the talented bassist Stuart Hamm and the drums of Chris Frazier. The album stars with an epic metal piece (Liberty) as an intro to "Erotic Nightmares", maybe the best song of the album. "The Animal" is another heavy songs with some drops of blues and a powerful rhytmical base. "Answers" and "The Riddle" are just one melodical and -again- heavy piece with some extraordinary guitar solos.

"For the Love of God" is almost a metal ballad, maybe one of the most beautiful made in the last 15 years. "The Audience is Listening" is another great song that reminds me "Hot for the Teacher" (Van Halen) but much more heavy. From "I Would Love To" to "Love Secrets", Steve plays with improvisations and very weird sounds, ending the album with another of his divine observations.

Well, is not a masterpiece but its a very interesting way to discover the awsome talents of Mr. Vai as guitarist and composer.


Report this review (#74674)
Posted Tuesday, April 11, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Passion And Warfare

For me, Passion And Warfare is Steve Vai's best album so far. Well, sometimes I like and dislike the way he plays at the same time. I mean, his technique and skills also the ability to make a great sound is amazing, also, don't forget bout his stage performance, truly amazing. How come he can play that guitar skillfully with many body movements? : ) . At the same time, I hate his note selections because sometimes he just play and give priority to the technique and sound effects, not the feeling of the song, well, sometimes.

In this album, I take all of my words I've said above, because just like I said before, this album is his best in terms of musical composition and technique of playing his guitar. My favorite song is Liberty and For The Love Of God. Oh yeah, I saw on many websites that this album is probably the most controversial album, because it contains religious and human race's matters.

Liberty is a very short song, straightforward and contains great technique as well as deep feeling, "we may be human, but we still animal", really opens my mind. The next song is Erotic Nightmare, which starts with a rhythm which is really Vai's typical. The song is really heavy with sick guitar skills, followed by The Animal. On the cover, there is a sentence in other language just above The Animal. The next song is Answers, which starts with cool guitar intro, clean and nice. The notes selection are also great, have some feeling in it. After that, The Riddle, which brings up a theme about the United States of America, "I pled allegiances to the flag, of the United States of America, And to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, under God." In the song, there are some parts where the guitar sound really like human's sound, which very Steve Vai. After the next song, Ballerina 12/24, is For The Love Of God, my favorite song from Steve Vai. A real ballad song with great guitar skills and feeling, a video clip was made for this song, where Vai played his guitar on top of a mountain. Now the next song is so cool!! The intro is a real cool guitar effects, which is very similar to human's sound!!! This song was played at the G3 concert. After that, I Would Love To, the guitar sound is very old school, I mean, its nice, but the keyboard sound is very old stuff. When I hear the chorus, the notes are like saying, I Would Love To,, hehehe. but its true!! A video clip was also made for this song, which is very funny to watch. The next song is very beautiful and meaningful, "This is a ballad dat I wrote. It's about all good peace and love and good happiness stuff". Now the next song is what I mean above, lack of meaning, just focused on guitar technique, Greasy Kid's Stuff, its not my favourite. The next song is also cool, where Vai created cool guitar effects, represents alien things, called Alien Water Kiss. Sisters is probably the best song after Liberty and For The Love Of God, just an acoustic guitar song with blues-jazzy sound, real beautiful. I really love this side of Steve Vai. The las song is Love Secret, not my favorite, lacks of meaning and focused on guitar technique.

I give 4 stars to this album, for its greatness of technique and some songs have a very beautiful tone. Also, Im not rate this based on progressive terminology, just based on my opinion about the album itself.

Timur Imam Nugroho - Indonesia

Report this review (#78652)
Posted Thursday, May 18, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars Steve Vai is the kind of shred guitarist that could actually be commercially successful. He mixed fret-scorching licks with actual compositional skills, giving him a broader appeal than strat abusers like Michael Angelo Batio. Passion and Warfare is Vai's most well-known record and it, along with his tours with David Lee Roth, made him nearly a household name in the mid to late 80s. This is Vai's second rockiest album behind the heavily flawed Sex & Religion, and the emphasis is more on skill than music.

The licks on this album are legendary and no guitar player should be without it. Erotic Nightmares, The Audience is Listening, and The Animal display both Vai's incredible technique and his sense of humor. Every song is a fretboard workout, but nothing compares to the epic instrumental ballad For the Love of God. When Steve wrote this, he fasted and meditated for ten days. The song is six minutes of six string heaven, as Vai runs through a slew of techniques I could not even begin to identify. It's emotional, jaw-dropping, and engrossing. The accompanying music video has a ton of images involving man's corruption of religion. It mainly shows images of war as well as the Holocaust and some religious icons thrown in for good measure. To date, it is my favorite guitar song and it's routinely selected as Vai's best composition.

Bottom line, if you own a guitar, you probably have this album, and it's certainly a shred classic. However, the songs don't stick with you as much as Vai's later work, with the exception of the amazing For the Love of God. His latest album, Real Illusions, is far better compositionally. Passion and Warfare is a classic of the guitar Overall, I'd give this a high three stars since it isn't prog and it fails to move me like Real Illusions or The Ultra Zone, but you will be astounded by his prowess nonetheless.

Grade: C+

Report this review (#103068)
Posted Thursday, December 14, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars One of the classic Vai albums.

Vai is one of the most gifted guitarists of all time, and has what I consider the essential lead tone. His playing is almost unmatched, with only a select few who can pull of the maneuvers he does with his instrument.

Songs that come to mind are The Animals and For the Love of God, impressive lead pieces that are wonderfully crafted. His technique is not so impressive in his ability to run all over the fretboard, but in the control he has over the instrument, his intonation, ability to use effects, and his stunning vibrato which is a revolutionary technique.

I will admit there are some downers on the album, and that being a guitar album, it's only likely to appeal to a select few. However, if you are a guitarist, this is a must have in every sense of the phrase. He is the master of his craft, and has done more with the instrument on this album than many could hope to accomplish in their entire career.

Report this review (#110852)
Posted Tuesday, February 6, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars One of the interesting things about Steve Vai is that he started playing when he was young and, even though he didn't believe himself to have a ton of natural talent, he worked hard and became incredibly fast.

Then he toned it down. He realized that there was a lot more to music than speed, and technical fluency is not equivocal to instrumental viruosity. He started to develop skill in alternative techniques and made some truly out of the box songs. He made his playing more about making music rather than showing off.

Music and technicality come together in the astounding album Passion and Warfare, an album I believe to be among the greatest of all time. From the start of Liberty to the end of Love Secrets, songs transition from more traditional instrumental (if instrumental can be called traditional) to become more and more esoteric and, to some, strange. The tension of this tradeoff reaches its peak in the seventh song, For the Love of God, a powerful ballad which shows both Steve's expressive capabilities as well as technical facility. To Steve, playing For the Love of God is a deeply spiritual experience, and is nothing like what any other musician does. Stains from the incredible mental experience for intent listeners are wiped clean with the comic relief of the next song The Audience is Listening, which is truly one of my favorite songs (my first taste of Vai, actually).

The rest of the album does not lack in intensity either, but I'm tired and wanna go to bed.

Report this review (#110908)
Posted Tuesday, February 6, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars One of the interesting things about Steve Vai is that he started playing when he was young and, even though he didn't believe himself to have a ton of natural talent, he worked hard and became incredibly fast.

Then he toned it down. He realized that there was a lot more to music than speed, and technical fluency is not equivocal to instrumental viruosity. He started to develop skill in alternative techniques and made some truly out of the box songs. He made his playing more about making music rather than showing off.

Music and technicality come together in the astounding album Passion and Warfare, an album I believe to be among the greatest of all time. From the start of Liberty to the end of Love Secrets, songs transition from more traditional instrumental (if instrumental can be called traditional) to become more and more esoteric and, to some, strange. The tension of this tradeoff reaches its peak in the seventh song, For the Love of God, a powerful ballad which shows both Steve's expressive capabilities as well as technical facility. To Steve, playing For the Love of God is a deeply spiritual experience, and is nothing like what any other musician does. Stains from the incredible mental experience for intent listeners are wiped clean with the comic relief of the next song The Audience is Listening, which is truly one of my favorite songs (my first taste of Vai, actually).

The rest of the album does not lack in intensity either, but I'm tired and wanna go to bed.

Report this review (#119640)
Posted Tuesday, April 24, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars a guitar album,but with progressive elements..this is one of the best albums of the vai me,this album is the whole experience that vai make to his own learning from zappa and satriani..and indeed creates a good album..this is an intrumental album..from a guy student of berklee school..if you already have listen to vinnie moore,yngwie malmsteen,jason becker and joe will not be disapoinment with this one..the diference of vai to satriani is the musical aspect..while de musi of satriani is more rock/intrumental... The music of vai is more progressive than satriani and learning from zappa make his music more complete.with more keyboards section..and with more jazz/ fusion elements.. steve vai in this album shows his great talent on the electric guitar..he have a lot of feeling,and make the guitar talk and cry...diferent to malmsteen his not allways playing fast..what makes the listener getting bored.if we talk about guitar players.we have to talk of hendrix,page,and blackmore..but the great influence of this guitar player was also eddie van halen..talking in the tap/finger technic..who someone said to me that steve hacket do it before..i dont care..this albums deserve the credits of all the new guitar players around the world..because they are influenced by this album and by this artist..the best song on this album is For the love of god...what a feeling have this one..this one is the expression of how to play the guitar and make it sing...anothers ones is the riddle and blue powder.they also are very great..

good album..i recommend another guitar player called Greg howe..

Keep on the good work..

Report this review (#127603)
Posted Thursday, July 5, 2007 | Review Permalink
1 stars Passion & Warfare is a strange and tedious album. In his second effort (this is my first experience with him), Steve Vai tries to guide his music through a sort of blend between his teacher master Joe Satriani and avant-garde pioneer Zappa, who also invited Vai to join his band in the eighties. So, it could be defined as an avant-metal release or something (Btw, I'm not pretty sure if Steve is suitable enough to this site..... but who am I to disagree?).

In other words, he tries to be as interesting as Frank Zappa and as subtle as Satriani. 'For The Love Of God', supposing to be the definite highlight, is a sad attempt to reflect some Satriani influences; same in songs like 'Liberty', 'The Animal' and the closing track. Sounding as a kind of atmospheric lullaby, 'Ballerina' looks quite pretentious to the purpose it seems to has; it would work perfectly as a fairytale tune, though. 'The Audience Is Listening', another well-known track, doesn't take any direction; musically has nothing to offer but insane distortion. The entire album is lack of inspiration and composition's coherence. Hats off to Steve Vai as a guitar player and whatever you want, but as a composer, IMHO he's not that excellent. The only decent and original track of this CD is the electro-acoustic tune 'Sisters'.

I don't know..... I think it's reccomended for electric guitar lovers (since in this album Vai explores the guitar very deeply), but not for the average proghead. And do remember that this review is just an opinion from a guy who doesn't like metal in almost any of its incarnations. But, for example if you've heard all Satriani's early discography before this (like me), you simply don't need to listen to Passion & Warfare.

As a conclusion, Steve Vai as a composer isn't as good as playing guitar or doing live performances. It could mean that his performances with G3 for example, are much more suitable than his studio discography. Since one star means "for completionist", it would be fine to a prog completionist who's looking for the magnum-opus (according to the critics and ratings) from each contemporary musician, and Steve Vai is arguably the best guitarist of our era. Add a half-star for 'Ballerina' & 'Sisters' ;)

Report this review (#131731)
Posted Saturday, August 4, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Vai. One of the greatest. Unlike many guitar albums this is actually fun to listen to and is probably Vai's best. For the Love of God is one of the most intense displays of virtuosity ever recorded. Some other highlights are Blue Powder, The Audience Is Listening, and Erotic Nighmares. Essential to all guitar fans and recomended to prog fans for it's pure chopsmanship.
Report this review (#151773)
Posted Monday, November 19, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "For The Love of God" was the only chief reason why I purchased this CD couple of years ago. Not just the name that I like but also the music, is really good and catching. It's hard to deny how Steve Vai is a virtuoso guitar player. He was trained at Zappa University so that his music is quite predictable in style as well as textures and ambient. I typically do not like the multi-instrumentalist, but in this case he brought in talented musicians to play this album. The opening track "Liberty" (2:02) has bluesy style plus hard etched guitar solo in high register notes, backed with powerful drums by Chris Frazier. "Erotic Nightmares" (4:13) starts with heavy guitar riffs in rocking style with dynamic bass lines, faster tempo than the opening track. "The Animal" (3:55) produces the groove rock style music with powerful riffs and stunning guitar solo.

"Answers (2:41) has a funky style and this time Vai uses his excellent techniques in providing the guitar rhythm section. "The Riddle" (6:22) brings the music slower with tight bass lines and howling guitar in high register notes. It's really enjoyable playing this CD in loud volume so that you can get the subtleties of the music. Track like "Sisters" demonstrates that Vai is not only virtuoso in high tone, heavy riffs music but also in moderate tempo music. "Love Secrets" is probably the most complex song in this album with heavy influence from Zappa. Keep on proggin' ..!

Report this review (#156900)
Posted Friday, December 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Not as easy to get into after all.

Vai deserves his place in this site, at least with this record. It's not the work of Satriani, Johnson or Malmsteen, which means it could repel you at first with it's obscure song pattern and weird esoteric ambience. The song basic melodies are well hidden behind all that noise and super fast shredding, at first I really didn't like it.

But hey, as repeated listenings are the answers, I did kinda learned to appreciate it. Stevie is knee deep in exotic, erotic and esoteric mambo jambo, so many songs are a joyful blend of all three.

The artwork will show you that it's been made in the early 90's, and it shows (plastic keyboards and Poison attitude); it did not aged as well as Eric Johnson or Satch records, but an amateur of challenging metal/ fusion blitzkrieg prog will surely find something to chew.

Maybe this record is suffering now of what made it's success in the late 80's: trying hard to be hip.

Report this review (#172692)
Posted Saturday, May 31, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Strange, whimsical, mystical, and...beautiful?

I doubt I could use such adjectives on too many instrumental guitar rock albums outside of Vai. I love the way he plays, and if feels so emotional. He is truly an outstanding guitarist, with skillful songwriting sensibilities.

Each song is adventurous in tone, while collecting multiple genres to exploit at his whim. Sometimes calling Van Halen-style rock, or majestic band sounds, in songs like Liberty. The soloing is cut to a minimum when it comes to the genre this album is considered, and when Vai does solo, it is exuberant. The songs betray a quirky sense of fun and humor, amidst the seriousness and maturity. The words snippets that litter the album never detract from the overall songs, and are fun to hear. The opening to the Audience Is Listening, is a prime example of this.

Tracks don't follow a direct song format, and can surprise you quite often. Ballerina is so childlike in its pure sense of dancing wonderment. The naming off of random things in Greasy Kid Stuff, before letting his guitar rip, is all a phenomenal experience. The album balances well a sense of fun and humor, with majesty, and mature beauty.

Then, I must talk of one particular song. this is of course "For The Love Of God". The guitars sing to my soul, and make this one of the prettiest songs I have ever heard. So stoic and unbending in its wordless message. Some may criticize Vai and his ilk for relying to heavily on standard guitar soloing, but by the time the entrancing guitar slowly climbs into all the stages of this tracks beauty, you want him to let loose. this is a very serious excursion, and carries with it a lot of emotional impact. I suppose I would nominate this particular solo as my favorite. As it flows so smoothly, yet explodes everything under its impassioned might.

In all, the progressiveness may be a bit lacking, and this style of instrumental music might turn some people off, especially those who hear "instrumental guitar" and expect a Malmsteen clone, Of which Vai most certainly isn't. A powerful album boasting experimentation, strong writing, and always magnificent playing, with an identity all its own. Five Stars

Report this review (#212049)
Posted Wednesday, April 22, 2009 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
Errors and Omissions Team
3 stars What do we got here ? Answer is simple, most people will buy (and appreciate) this album for Steve's guitar virtuosity. At least I suppose, I can be wrong, but I feel that this is his main "export". I must agree that if I would be here to judge his guitar playing skill, he would get 5/5 instantly. I mean look at him, look at this album at all, it's instrumental, drums play their role - they're here just to make atmosphere, voice is almost not used.

But guitar is part for itself. And no, I will not tell more to guitar topic, it should be clear now, or it will be not. I mean, after listening of course. He plays with it, or when on stage does strange, but interesting looking things, he enjoys this fame and music business at all. He seems maybe little bit "cocky" or tiny little bit "arrogant" to me, but it's his choice. He has skills to behave like that, he has fans, so it doesn't matter.

Oh yeah, the music. It's not bad, from rock point of view. It's well composed album, it has many twists in guitar style (because he can handle them), but there's something which is concerning me. Prog point of view. There is situation worse. 3-4 stars. It's good, it's undoubtable, but how is it progressive ? In fact quite a lot, every guitar virtuos pushes limits little bit further, because of mere playing style. It's something new, what not so many people can do, so it's progressive just from definiton. And I have a good feeling about this album, so I'm gonna give it four. Not five, that would be bad.

Report this review (#230139)
Posted Wednesday, August 5, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars The Biggest Shredder Album Ever

In the last few years, guitar shredding has had a resurgence, but the real peak time for this kind of music was in the late 80's and early 90's. There were numerous speedy gunslingers out at the time, and several were picked up by big bands only to find out they had a monster education in rhythm and musicality ahead of them (that means you Marty Friedman). Steve Vai, however, had already paid his dues at the feet of the most exacting master of them all, Frank Zappa. Between Zappa and Joe Satriani, Vai had perhaps the highest pedigree teaching of all time. The result was the most versatile virtuoso the heavy electric guitar may ever see.

PASSION AND WARFARE came out at the peak of the genre's popularity, was heavily promoted by the label, boasted a higher budget than any other shred album, and delivered the goods both musically and in popularity. Combining the quirkiness of Vai's debut (FLEX- ABLE) and his hard rock / metal shredding with David Lee Roth and Whitesnake, PASSION AND WARFARE more than satisfied the guitar freaks but was more musically interesting than any other album of its kind.

While rockers like "Erotic Nightmares" and "The Animal" grab immediate attention, it is the more complex composition on pieces like "The Riddle" that still resonate with me now, almost 20 years later. Here we see Vai's own eccentricity expanding beyond his two mentors (whose marks were all over the debut album). Taking Jimmy Page's guitar orchestra concept and bringing it forward in technique, technology, and musical complexity, we get a massive song far beyond the possibilities of young guitar slingers in their bedrooms. (Unlike "Surfing with the Alien" which many of us learned top to bottom.) The exception to this is the anthemic "For the Love of God," which seems to be clearly a conceived melody, apart from the instrument, that was subsequently expanded into a full piece with relatively straightforward accompaniment.

While the guitar technique on this album is about as high as it can get, and the harmonic structures are far from standard, the rhythm section is sometimes very straightforward, approaching drum machine sounds at times. The music is certainly progressive, though unlike anything else we call prog. Like many albums I review, this is a masterpiece at accomplishing what it sets out to do. That does not mean it's a masterpiece of prog. In that way, this feels like a 3 to 4 star album with reference to this site. I'll let my personal taste govern that small hair-splitting and bump it to a 4.

Report this review (#248174)
Posted Wednesday, November 4, 2009 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
3 stars Steve Vai's second album came six years after his first, "Flex-Able". And during that time, Vai distanced himself from the Zappa style he imitated, and more toward the hard rock style of Whitesnake and David Lee Roth, both of which he performed with since leaving Zappa's band.

Don't get me wrong. This album is not bad at all. But here Vai appears to be all too often straining to conform to the expectations of the Roth and Whitesnake fans, and this leaves many of the songs overladen with late eighties arena rock cliches.

But Vai, being one of the world's greatest electric guitarists, is too savvy to allow that to completely ruin the album. There is certainly enough shredding and guitar pyrotechnics to keep things interesting. But there are much better Vai albums than this.

Report this review (#560967)
Posted Tuesday, November 1, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars My first exposure to Steve Vai was via the 1986 Ralph Macchio film "Crossroads." As a movie it's entertaining and worthwhile in its own unassuming way as a tongue-planted-firmly-in-cheek fantasy loosely based on legendary blues man Robert Johnson's alleged deal with the devil. In the climactic scene young Ralph seeks to get out of his soul-binding contract by besting the reigning king of the guitar hill, a formidable foe by the name of Jack Butler played by Mr. Vai. When he appears on the screen not only does Jack Butler look like the prototype guitar god, exuding undeniable cool in attitude and wardrobe, but he then proceeds to shred like a demon on meth, instilling shock and awe in both the plot's make-believe audience and those watching the flick. My unfiltered, spontaneous reaction as a guitarist was "WHO THE F*** IS THIS GUY?" It wasn't that I'd never heard anything like it before but in most cases I'd been prepared somewhat for what I was about to experience due to word-of-mouth rumor but this dude came charging right out of left field and I had difficulty in retrieving my jaw off the floor. Steve Vai made an indelible impression on my psyche and that's putting it mildly.

However, my limited budget for acquiring albums in those lean years prevented me from investigating his prowess further and it wasn't until recent times that I finally got to hear some of his music firsthand. As I understand it, he initially got noticed by Frank Zappa (no slouch on guitar himself) and ended up on several of that genius' recordings. Vai got to release a solo project in '84 done in his home studio that did fairly well but it didn't exactly make him a household name, either, so he joined up with David Lee Roth and, later, an incarnation of Whitesnake for several years. The exposure he gained from the aforementioned film and from his association with those high-profile acts made demand for another solo album rise among the general populace and 1990's "Passion and Warfare" was the result. Recording once again in the comfort of his own facility, he was able to take his time and bring in the highest caliber musicians to assist him in making the kind of music he'd been envisioning and hearing inside his brain for six years.

He makes a gallant entrance with "Liberty," a fitting, processional-like piece that's very grandiose. "Erotic Nights" is a killer. A hard-rocking track with a metallic edge and plenty of spectacular fretboard runs, it also includes some fascinating detours into psychedelic territories. For "The Animal" a no-funny-business hard rock beat anchors this guttural growler and Steve's guitar ride is mind-blowing as he shifts seamlessly from melodic phrases to menacing outbursts that'll tear your head off. "Answers" is a cleaner, more fusionistic number that's extremely punchy in places before it segues right into "The Riddle," a much heavier tune where his tactful blend of guitar effects creates a highly imaginative soundscape. The important thing is that Vai performs with genuine fire and emotion, essential ingredients for eliciting the admiration of this aging guitar slinger. "Ballerina" is a short novelty piece that fits in well at this juncture but is anything but fluff. "For the Love of God" is next and it has a slower-paced, bluesy foundation roiling underneath the catchy central melody, setting the stage for Steve to exploit his other-worldly acumen for dazzling the senses. I read that he recorded this during a period of fasting and I don't doubt it because he certainly seems to be floating on another plane of existence here. Did I say the man is a freak of nature?

Vai displays an uplifting, humorous side of his art during the spoken-word portions of "The Audience is Listening," a suitably over-the-top raucous, ball-busting rocker wherein he zips in and out of the track at the speed of light. "I Would Love To" possesses a Van Halen-ish pop rock vibe but with glorious overtones and kickass accents added to make it his own while his guitar soars like a screaming eagle. "Blue Powder" calms the waters slightly but it's still filled with skyrocketing guitar runs that alternately increase in intensity and then draw back into quieter, more subtle movements. Bassist Stuart Hamm gets to shine a bit but not for long and if I have any criticism of Steve it's that he becomes a little too caught up in his quirkiness and it sometimes detracts from the song's momentum. "Greasy Kid's Stuff" follows and it's a rowdy tune that sounds similar to what's transpired earlier yet part of me says if you've got it, flaunt it! It's what he does. "Alien Water Kiss" is pretty much a noise-fest that was probably fun to put together but it doesn't do a lot for me. A highlight of the album comes in the form of "Sisters." I really like the subtler attack he employs on this number. It shows he has a delicate side and the exquisite aura that surrounds this song causes me to think that maybe he should've put more of this in to provide a broader degree of variety. There's absolutely nothing wrong with playing pretty. A trippy intro for "Love Secrets" leads to one very wild ride that veers into the more eclectic and proggy side of jazz/rock fusion, leaving you fully satisfied that he certainly gave it his all and all.

"Passion and Warfare" cracked the top 20 on the album charts so the public was obviously ready to be blown away by Steve Vai and his unbelievable virtuosity. He was no longer just a guy in a good band but a bonafide star in his own right. I do suffer from bouts of sensory overload at times while listening to this record but that might be my age and my unabashed jealousy of his immense talent showing through. I simply can't fathom a lot of what he pulls off. Every musical instrument has a limit to what it can produce in the hands of even the most proficient of artists. Yet there always seems to be a small cadre of practitioners who can conjure notes and sounds out of that same instrument no one else can. (Jeff Beck springs to mind.) Steve Vai is a member of that special, exclusive club and we mortals who presume to consider ourselves above-average guitarists can only gape in mystified wonder when they do their thing. 3.8 stars.

Report this review (#635680)
Posted Saturday, February 18, 2012 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
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

Report this review (#1949623)
Posted Thursday, July 19, 2018 | Review Permalink

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