2 December 2016

Steve Vai - Modern Primitive

"Modern primitives or urban primitives are people in developed nations who engage in body modification rituals and practices while making reference or homage to the rite of passage practices in "primitive cultures"[1] These practices may include body piercingtattooingplay piercingflesh hook suspensioncorset trainingscarificationbranding, and cutting. The motivation for engaging in these varied practices may be personal growth, rite of passage, or spiritual or sexual curiosity. "https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modern_primitive

I admit that I am out of my depth here.
I'd checked about the albums origin -and found that it's the work recorded between the releases 'Flexible' and the hugely successful and globally recognised 'Passion and Warfare'.

I have been a fan of Steve Vai since the early nineties, (courtesy of my uncle and his mixtapes) however I am not knowledgeable enough to review this album with the technical detail that it deserves. This review is a must read:

So, I approached it as I always do with something I don't feel informed enough to comment on-I researched every piece of Information I could find/watch/read/listen to within reason/day job/general life.

I watched YouTube videos on the reasoning behind the MP; Vai's piece for the brotherhood of guitarists; and the 25-year-old recordings of the making of passion and warfare. Only then did I begin to see the approach Vai has perhaps taken.

He had a collection of work which wasn't finished, and which hypothetically could demonstrate the evolution between albums.
Vai stated that he has the ideas which he works towards, but that he also looks for the effect a particular technique and set of equipment can produce. 

So, it is perhaps through this experimentation and combination of instruments, amplifiers, peddles and effects, that different sounds and melodies are achieved. 
Steve mentioned looking for melodies in using a pedal in a certain way, and that the unexpected effects given were what guided the melody.

Vai has stated that he found he needed to work towards what made him tick-what sounded good to him and interested him. Which is a good philosophy.

He had realised that he simply needed to play to his own personal interests, and to try and not be influenced or restricted by the music or opinions or techniques of the time.
And that's how he made the album that was extremely successful and still relevant and contemporary today 25 years on. 

Vai, like all of us, appears to have experienced self-doubt, and a fear of being judged: this with a notably obsessively perfectionist nature, intelligence, and the gene jackpot-he's an unusual combination.

If you're young and from a somewhat sheltered background, with a careful thoughtful methodical personality and approach, a rise to fame of that magnitude, must have been exhilarating but challenging. An evolution.

Vai describes his lack of confidence in being able to reproduce the style of his favourite musicians as the reason that he was not tied down to a particular technique. This worked for him as he produced new sounds and techniques -new approaches and even to the extent of redesigning guitars -using new combinations- and revolutionising methods.

 An organised and almost reverent collection of instruments-down to the guitar he used as a teenager. Up to date tech. Playing techniques which require a combination of elements.
However, I can appreciate and admire and enjoy the results of his work. He’s stated in a piece for the brotherhood that he plays for his interest and for other guitarists. 

And to me this is a lovely supportive and healthy approach, in terms of Vai having evolved into a teacher as he was once taught by others-and using his life experience and intellectual approach to advice others.
How they perceive their reality and how this can inadvertently be shaped by outside influences-the constant bombardment of cultural norms- societal pressures-and that this is to be stepped back from-as are thoughts and their impact on emotions- that by observing these thoughts and outside pressures-they then have less impact-and that you are free to reach your potential. Our own self-doubt is a seductive thought pattern to fall back into-the danger of familiarity of inaccurate core thoughts.

It's pretty deep stuff.

It appears that each track has been re-recorded using the same instrument and style-from research via watching his past performances and listening to his earlier recordings.
He is meticulous and gives full concentration to each task. Full commitment. Because that's who he is. 

But I'm wondering if it may have been worth the originals being released as this album exactly as they were recorded. Yes, you can use the same guitar-and to a certain extent vintage equipment- but technology has absolutely belted along in 25 years-it's almost unrecognisable in terms of recording equipment. Yeah, the instruments will be the same and the room might be the same studio-there might even be the same amp or peddle etc used-but the way it's processed -that's different. 
The man playing the same instruments gas evolved-so is different. 

Perhaps because it's a technical and stylistic revisit rather than the recollection so much of an emotional approach- it can be re-recorded. Maybe the only difference is the sound quality.
Perhaps it's a way of Vai looking at and working through who he is now and it's almost a cathartic venture.

Or maybe it's just that niggling unfinished project-loose ends to tie up-something else to add to his collection of works that he will be leaving behind when he passes. Although I'm hoping that will be a long time yet!!
Maybe it's a lesson or advice to budding guitarists/musicians.  A story in notes.

Maybe it's all of the above.

Search Discogs

Steve Vai ‎– Modern Primitive / Passion And Warfare

Epic ‎– 88985309092
2 × CD, Album 

·         Collection
·         Wantlist
·         10 from £7.26
TracklistHide Credits

Modern Primitive
Bass – Mohini DeyPerformer – Steve*
Dark Matter
Drums – Jeremy ColsonPerformer – Steve*
Mighty Messengers
Backing Vocals – Alvin CheaAntonio SolFletcher SheridanMandy VejarNayanna HolleyBass – Stu Hamm*Drums – Chris FrazierPerformer – Steve*
The Lost Chord
Bass – Stu Hamm*Drums – Chris FrazierPerformer – Steve*Vocals – Devin Townsend
Bass – Stu Hamm*Drums – Chris FrazierPerformer – Greg WurthSteve*
Fast Note People
Backing Vocals – Alvin CheaAntonio SolFletcher SheridanMandy VejarNayanna HolleyBass – Stu Hamm*Drums – Chris FrazierPerformer – Steve*
And We Are One
Backing Vocals – Alvin CheaAntonio SolFletcher SheridanMandy VejarNayanna HolleyBass – Philip BynoeDrums – Jeremy ColsonPerformer – Steve*
Never Forever
Backing Vocals – Alvin CheaAntonio SolFletcher SheridanMandy VejarNayanna HolleyBass – Philip BynoeDrums – Mike ManginiKeyboards – Mike KeneallyPerformer – Steve*Sitar – Dave Weiner
Lights Are On
Bass – Stu Hamm*Drums – Chris FrazierPerformer – Steve*
No Pockets
Backing Vocals – Alvin CheaAntonio SolFletcher SheridanMandy VejarNayanna HolleyBass – Stu Hamm*Drums – Chris FrazierPerformer – Steve*

Pink And Blows Over:
Part I
Backing Vocals – Alvin CheaAntonio SolFletcher SheridanMandy VejarNayanna HolleyBass – Stu Hamm*Drums – Chris FrazierKeyboards – Tommy MarsLead Vocals – Jazz JamesPerformer – Marpran Cassiopeia VaiSteve*
Part II (Mars Attack)
Backing Vocals – Alvin CheaAntonio SolFletcher SheridanMandy VejarNayanna HolleyBass – Stu Hamm*Drums – Chris FrazierKeyboards – Tommy MarsLead Vocals – Jazz JamesPerformer – Marpran Cassiopeia VaiSteve*
Part III
Backing Vocals – Alvin CheaAntonio SolFletcher SheridanMandy VejarNayanna HolleyBass – Stu Hamm*Drums – Chris FrazierKeyboards – Tommy MarsLead Vocals – Jazz JamesPerformer – Marpran Cassiopeia VaiSteve*

Bop: not sure why it had to be 5.40 long.
If only perhaps to show evolution.
It begins with a Zappa esque do wop and jazz timing. Then much later in there's Vai's technical waah sound, a bit dark and a bit sexy.
This continues with...

Dark Matter. Pretty actually. I really do like this one. I like the familiarity if the sound of the guitar, almost as if its talking, the characteristic sounds swirling and looping and gliding seductively, swept up in jazzy time signatures and a disorganised seeming stand-off with normal verse chorus verse.

Mighty Messengers- some vocals on this. An easy listening almost -a Sinatra style deep and casual smooth over a complex guitar and effects background. There's backing singers and for me a more noticeable base line.
Reminds me of an 80's science fiction movie for some reason. Notes sail over a relentless beat-minor notes take the effect to somewhere darker than the singing style would suggest. Vai's playing far surpasses any vocal expression...

No Pockets: okay it's gone a bit ZZ top.
This one's bluesy-it's definitely got a bit of Van Halen in there. 

As this is quite a long review I'm not going to give my opinion on each track. It's really worth listening to this album.

Favourite Track: Dark Matter.
Rating: A crazy basket of kittens with frenetic energy.

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