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The Genius of Steve Vai

June 28, 2016

If you would like the detailed encyclopaedic history of Steve Vai, this article is not for you. I am unashamedly writing a passion piece about my personal relationship with the guitar wizard. And especially the first compact disc I ever owned, his second album, ‘Passion & Warfare’. A record which is celebrating its 25 anniversary with a double CD reissue.

But we’ll start with a little of how he reach that point…
Born in New York, Steve took lessons from fellow guitar warlock, Joe Satriani. But he first made his name of himself by joining the stupendously and greatly missed master oddball, Frank Zappa.

Soon after leaving Zappa’s band he released his debut album in 1984 and then two years later appeared in the film, Crossroads, as the demon guitarist who battled against Ralph Macchino.

Steve actually recorded both parts to this duel. There’s no way that the Karate Kid was going to be better than him on guitar now is there…

Come 1990 it was time to release ‘Passion and Warfare’, his second album. I was about 12 years old. I loved rummaging and steeling CDs, tapes and LPs from my brother to listen too. Then one day my father came home and gave me my first ever CD. I was blown away by the cover.

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I was then blown away by the sheer pomposity of the sounds inside… Wall to wall guitar solos, and boy what solos. Opening track, ‘Liberty’, is relatively slow in pace, but is so grandiose that none other than Brian May performed the track, along with Vai and his old guitar compadre Satriani in Saville, Spain.

Stand out track, and single, ‘For The Love Of God’ showcased Steve’s incredible technique and speed but also his ear for melody. Whilst other “guitar shredders” were just about the speed (looking and yawning at you Michael Angelo Batio), Steve’s priority was it had to sound good. And it did…. tremendously good.

But the album was full of great humour also… take a watch and listen to ‘The Audience Is Listening’ and try and wipe that grin off your face. Thousands of kids have thought these thoughts and dreamt those dreams… Vai lived it.

In the time before Spotify, Youtube, The Internet, music was scarcer than it was now. So this, being my first CD, meant I listened to it continuously. And I loved it.

At the recent London performance, Steve celebrated the 25th anniversary of Passion and Warfare by playing it in its entirety. I cried pure tears of joy. I was back being that 12 year old, air guitaring in my room. Scouring the guitar magazine for Vai tab which I’ve foolishly thought I could learn. I could even hear my parents asking me to turn it down. I never thought I’d miss them saying those words.

You can buy Passion & Warfare’s 25th anniversary, along with the CD Modern Primitive (a collection of records from the same era) now from Amazon.

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