This is Steve Vai's most progressive work yet. It is his first full length concept album and it does not disapoint. Athough it will be difficult for many of you who classify Steve as a "rock guitarist" to appreciate his musicianship and his continuous strive to take the instrument to a new level, the rest of us can enjoy a CD filled with emotion, catchy riffs, unique rythms, and amazing guitar playing and composition. Unlike other CD's where Steve free-styles solos gratuitously by playing scale fragments and whammy tricks, on this CD each note seems purposeful and well thought out. A lot more introspecitve that his previous works. It has a '70s psychadelic and funk feel to it, which pays tribute to his Zappa inluence, but some cuts are very much straight ahead rock. Check it out. Vai fans will love it, and you kids who want to learn something about playing guitat, have a listen your '90s guitar heroes don't even compare to this.
I think that when you are a genius such as Steve Vai there probably gets to be a point where you feel you can do anything. Will someone please tell him that he should not and can not sing. I'll be honest with you here. Steve Vai cannot sing and should not be singing, his lyrics are decent quality, but he just can't get it going on. Steve is a very talented man and I am going to continue to purchase his albums and tour his shows whether he sings or not, but personally he just isn't very good at it!
Steve Vai has one of best resumes in rock and roll, period. Vai started out as his career as a member of Frank Zappa's ever changing musical freak show and soon found himself working for another well know freak when he became a member of David Lee Roth's solo band. In fact it is fairly safe to say that without Vai Roth's solo work would have been lackluster at best. A true guitar genius, Vai has also worked with Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols and buttdown front man David Coverdale of Whitesnake. Still, despite all his high profile side work, Vai has still managed to maintain a body of solo music that is as diverse as it is strange. Vai's latest release Real Illusions: Reflections is no exception. Vai has always had an affinity for conceptual music and Real Illusions, aside from being a great record, is simply the first of several courses Vai has planned for his fans.
Real Illusions: Reflections is designed to set the stage for a fable that Vai plans to tell over the course of several more albums and eventually a box set. Musically Vai's playing is mind boggling with its soul and precision and the record even features lead vocals from Vai himself. The album also contains a sample of Vai's orchestral work with the track "Lotus Feet." All in all Vai has once again traversed all musical boundaries and has released yet another unique album. Here's a track by track review:
01. Building The Church - starts out with a Ridiculous two-handed tapping intro that must be heard (which ends up a theme for the song). Very metal backing here (also a major thing throughout the album). A lot of this songs sounds like he used the guitar synth, so there are some very cool sounds.
02. Dying For Your Love - bit of a change, this song has vocals (multiple layers, good thing). More guitar synth work here. Parts of this song remind me of circus music, mostly because of the background keys. However, this song definitely does have a dark side to it, as the title suggests.
03. Glorious - back to instrumentals here. Vai said this was partially done on the Triple-Neck Jem, and I think it bears some resemblance to the track on the latest G3 DVD he did with the guitar. Again, this song's main opening theme was done on the guitar synth, but then Evo took over for the bulk of the song. There are some very good guitar/keyboard unisons here (not duels, just unison parts). Very up-tempo song on the whole, very well composed.
04. K'm-Pee-Du-Wee - this is the simplest song on the whole album, nothing but guitar, bass, and drums. As with "Glorious," parts of this song remind me of "I Know You're Here" from G3. You can tell he put a lot into this song, and there are a ton of signature Vai moments (especially things like his ridiculously perfect vibrato).
05. Firewall - another vocal track here. After a few listens, I think the vocals at the beginning represent about 17 different overdubs. But, they are what I'd call "percussive" vocals, not just melodies. This song has it all, handclaps, drums, funky guitar parts, Horn section. Think of this as like, Stevie Wonder on crack. It's plain cool.
06. Freak Show Excess - starts off with a great sitar hook and takes off from there. This is the first big guitar shreddy moment here. There are a few guitar/keyboard parts and several guitar/bass ditties throughout, a sitar guitar (the one Vai takes on the road) solo is included, but mostly guitar (as the name tends to imply). There are a few runs in the solo that are just ridiculous, not that I'm really surprised, after all it is a Steve Vai album. The final guitar solo reminds me of the solo at the very end of the Fire Garden suite (if you have both you'll understand).
07. Lotus Feet - there are no words to describe this song. If "Firewall" was the gimmicky highlight of the album, this might be the overall highlight. This song was recorded live with the Metropole Orchestra in Holland, and has Vai playing some ridiculously beautiful melodies with the orchestra. Seriously, there are some emotional moments equaled only by "For the Love of God" and maybe "Whispering a Prayer" on this track. I can't even imagine what this would have been like live. There really is nothing I can say that would truly do this song justice.
08 Yai Yai - I would assume he used a talk box for this, but it could have been the guitar synth as well. I don't know how I would describe this song to somebody. The whole song is just Vai seemingly piddling around with "Yai Yai" coming out. Funny song. Great listen.
09. Midway Creatures - oh yes, we have metal. You may remember a teaser video he posted on the site a while back of him playing a solo on the Floral Jem synth, well that was from this song. The backing to this track is pretty damn heavy, I'd wager he recorded it on the Bad Horsie Jem, and I would also assume that all the solos were recorded with the Synth guitar. There is a middle guitar duel section between two panned guitars, short but sweet (not shreddy, just cool).
10. I'm Your Secrets - we have another vocal track here. Very nice intro which carries throughout the whole song, reminds me of more off of "Alive in an Ultra World," which is a very good thing. This song is a bit of a mix between the softer parts of "Rescue Me or Bury Me" and (to some extent) "Burnin' Down the Mountain."
11. Under It All - final track, which also happens to be a vocal track. I happen to think this is a great way to wrap up the album. It kicks your butt right from the drum-driven intro, and then moves to a heavy guitar riff and some solos over it. There are a few guitar breaks that are nutty, not so crazy as the ones in Freak Show Excess, but still great. One small melody in the song reminds me of "Brandos Costumes" from Alive in an Ultra World. Near the end of the song, Vai's friends and family play different "parts" and say some lines.
What more can be said when you put this cd on people will know it's Steve Vai. I reccomend purchasing this album!