When it comes to guitarists albums, you have to be of a certain disposition to appreciate them. Generally you have to either a teenage with a love of all things with strings or an over 30 something that remember when music used to be good and was not all DJ's. When I first listened to this album, I was in the former category. I remember seeing the video for a song off this album called "The Audience Is Listening" which a small child (supposed to be Mr Vai) causing all sorts of trouble in his school. It was a very fun video which would not load up at the bottom of the blog for some reason (hence the live version). However, I have always had a soft spot for this album; yet I have not listened to the album for a long while. So, how does the older Eddie feel about this work, does it still bring the same passion or is it a letdown just like the film 'The Goonies ' was for me when I returned to it many years later.
Steve Vai has played with an awful lot of people - Frank Zappa, David Lee Roth, Whitesnake, Alice Cooper to name a few. He had guitar lessons from Joe Satriani and can make the guitar sing like an angel, whilst also making it growl like a devil. When this album came out in 1990 in the UK it made the top ten and for what is basically an album full of guitar solos that is a pretty good achievement. Before his death in 1992, Frank Zappa is alleged to have said that this album was in his top five rock/metal albums ever (and this is something he never said to Steve's face as he was not that type of man). So before it starts, this album already has a lot of praise being fed in its general direction. When Mr Vai was asked to sum up the album he said that it was like Jimi Hendrix meets Jesus Christ at a party that Ben Hur threw for Mel Blanc. So not short of ambition at that point. But when you can play like this guy, it is hardly a surprise.
Musically this is a lot of guitar solos - when I say a lot, I mean from beginning to end this is all about the solo and showcasing what Steve Vai does with a guitar. You do get a few pieces of vocals in the background, but that is more like samples to bridge a track. There is no singing and some parts are just random noise such as "Alien Wet Kiss" or the Jazz from Hell-esque "Love Secrets". Sometimes there is a lovely riff such as on "Sisters" which drives the song to yet another solo, sometimes it is bombastic such as on "The Audience Is Listening" with its OTT sense of timing and work. But as I have mentioned and you might have noticed this word a few times, this is a solo album and depending on how much you like them will define how much of this album you can appreciate/stand/love/hate (delete as applicable).
After listening to this album again I came out with two major thoughts about the album. I love and hate it in equal measure. I hate the fact that at times when the solo becomes more important that the work itself. I remember feeling this when I was younger and it is still there. However, I love the playing on this as well (I know it is a contradiction - not much I can do about it). Whilst I might wish for Mr Vai to let one of the other instruments to take centre stage (and why should he as it is his album), I will never deny that the man is an awesome and terrific guitar player who should go down as one of the all time greats. And here I come to my second point - I cannot escape the feeling that this album is only for us. When I say us, I mean it is for that small section of society and will never be given time by the general public due to the fact that it is one long guitar solo. It is a decent record and for all you guitar fans I recommend it - for everyone else, tread carefully.
6 out of ten - Now I see where you were going, but not quite there
You can purchase one of the versions of this album on Amazon here
You can visit the Steve Vai website here
You can listen to the album on Spotify here
Here is a live version of "The Audience Is Listening"