The Infinite Steve Vai - An Anthology by Steve Vai
Steve Vai is well established in that loved/hated (depends who you talk to) Pantheon of Guitar Heroes. Vai is indeed a talented string-bender, one who cut his proverbial teeth with Frank Zappa (the 80s) and went on to play various permutations of fusion and hard rock/heavy metal on his own. Infinite collects a cross-section of Vai sounds from 1984-2002, and while he’s not often what one would call subtle (but he does surprise, to be sure - more on that in a moment), but if fleet-fingered, brain-blitzing guitar runs played with feverish but focused, Nero-like intensity (with plenty of sustain) is your cup o’ tea, then Vai is your guy. Highlights include the Zappa-in-his-mellow/whimsical-moments "Salamanders In The Sun," the mercurial delicate-then-shredding metal/jazz fusion tune "The Riddle" and the pastoral, sublimely lyrical "Brandos Costumes (Gentle Ways)," which in essence recalls the early days of Chick Corea’s Return To Forever. Further, Vai has a great grasp of dynamics - he’ll sear and roar, then follow with passages of contemplative delicacy, and this informs his songwriting/composing as well. Personally, I could do without the heavy-handed "arena rawk" of Whitesnake, who Vai played with in the late 80s, but that’s the downside of anthologies that aspire to completeness (but where's a sample of his work w/ Zappa? or w/ Public Image Ltd?) - you take the bad with good. But the bulk of this set covers Vai in instrumental mode, in which he aims to combine the protean potential of fusion, the flexible lyricism of jazz and the blazing pyrotechnics of rock - and more often than not, he succeeds admirably, with plenty of class and style. For the Guitar-Head in your circle: put this on that Holiday Gift List.
Artist / Group Name:Steve Vai
CD Title:The Infinite Steve Vai - An Anthology
Record Label:Epic / Legacy
Musicians:S.V.: acoustic & electric guitars, various instruments; Mike Keneally: guitars, keyboards; Philip Bynoe: bass; David Coverdale, Glenn Hughes: vocals; Stuart Hamm: bass; Mike Mangini: drums; others.