Review Summary: Good for some, unbearable for few.
The name Steve Vai evokes a sense of isolated grandeur, a man of such amazing talent that he transcends the instrument itself. After creating a die hard fan base, where can a musician go?
Well, Vai went straight to the movies. This album shows Vai as the rock based composer he is. Don’t let the huge track listening fool you, this isn’t a bunch of tunes strung together. The linear notes tell the reader exactly what to expect, “a bunch of fils and vamps designed specifically to match a certain scene.” Vai is telling the truth. Most of the songs on this album are just simple, 30-60 second vamps and melodic meanderings to help further the onscreen action. With the exception of the excellent cover version of Celluloid Heroes and the movie inspired song, Love Blood, Vai has created an album for die hard fans. Guys and girls who will watch the films just to hear his work will be greatly pleased. No more ripping DVD audio files or watching Vai dueling himself in the film Crossroads for the umpteenth tine. So let’s get down to business shall we.
Celluloid Heroes starts off with some light synth before Vai jumps in with his acoustic. Vai’s vocals shine here. Many of us have not actually heard Vai speak, but man can this guy sing. The song itself has a 1950’s tint and is really a beefy cover of a Kinks tune. Vai’s production skills emerge right before you hit the middle of this song. Suddenly, a dozen different layers become apparent without being too discernable. Overall a great cover.
Next comes Vai’s movie inspired song, Love Blood. Comprising of that eccentric riffing and ridiculous tone that we have all come to love, Love Blood excels as an almost heavy metal song but, it's not too great, and not quite as memorable as Celluloid Heroes.
The next four tracks, Fried Chicken through to Eugene’s Trick Bag, are Vai’s amazing work with the cult film, Crossroads. Crossroads is the story of a young boy, played by Ralph Macchio, and his trek to get to the Mississippi Delta to learn a long lost Robert Johnson tune. His mentor, old Willy Brown, has sold his soul to the devil and now Ralphie boy has to attempt to win it back by dueling none other than Steve Vai. Vai play’s the devil’s henchman and does a great job at acting the role. For a sample of this, just type in Crossroads and Steve Vai into a youtube search and witness the incredible “duel.” In truth, the now famous duel was actually Vai dueling himself and slide guitar hero, Ry Cooder. We all know that Ralph can only do the swan kick and balance with the dude from Happy Days. So for this piece of work, Ralph just learned the hand positions of Vai and the film was sped up to match the soundtrack’s true speed. These four tracks are the things that legends are made of.
I became a Vai fan because of the iconic guitar duel in Crossroads. So here, in a high quality audio rip, lays the blazing hot and crunchy tone of Steve Vai’s devil bluesman, and the smooth vibrato of Ralph Macchio’s Steve Vai. The track, Eugene’s Trick Bag, truly stands high above the rest. Vai rearranged Paganinni’s 5Th Caprice in a stunning fashion that wins Macchio’s character the duel.
After some more weird vamps for other movies comes the second big awesomeness. Following the success of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, the filmmakers decided to bring back the hardrocking, heavy metal duo one more time. This time around, Vai entered as a consultant for the film. Eventually, he did the soundtrack and created what would later be revered as the coolest remix of a Kiss song ever. In this case, it’s the song, “God gave rock and roll to you.” Vai added a brand new duel guitar intro and layers the beginning of the song a little more. The interesting thing about this great track is the fact that it was done post production. For those unfamiliar with the term, this means that most of the film’s principle shooting was done. The final song was scrapped in favor of Vai replacing it. Within 48 hours, Vai had reviewed the last scene several dozen times and based the guitar parts off of Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter’s finger positioning which were previously meant to sync up with the inferior work of the past sound man. Vai finished in time for the movie’s premiere.
This CD should have been called, “Steve Vai’s great little mini songs….and his crap from PCU.” I’m not saying that Vai is crap, I’m saying that listening to the vamps from the movie PCU by themselves is about as enjoyable as watching a frozen pizza go into the microwave. Sure, the pizza tastes good in the end, but was it really worth the time and brain cells to stare at it as it radiated in the microwave. Vai’s work here is almost un listenable by itself. In a way, Vai is almost promoting the films he did by giving us half the idea of a scene. Have you ever scanned your computer for sound files and come up with the weirdest crap ever? Well that crap should sound pretty similar to these tracks.
All in all, this CD is excellent for Vai purists and die hard fans looking for the full 30 seconds that he plays at exactly 1:23:50 of PCU. If you are not familiar with Steve Vai’s other work, please listen to those before you even attempt to touch his soundtrack work. Go and actually buy this album. The linear notes for this CD are amazing. Vai goes into detail on how he made the tracks and what it was like working with the film industry.
Overall: love it for the hard to get stuff and hate it for the almost unbearable tracks from the movie PCU. Fin