Steve Vai, “Passion and Warfare”, by Grant Stoner
My album pic for this month is Steve Vai’s Passion and Warfare. 1990 Relativity Records Vinyl. Guitar fans take note, this is one of the greatest guitar albums ever. Frank Zappa called Steve Vai his “little Italian virtuoso”, and credited him on albums with “stunt guitar”. Steve got his start transcribing solos for Frank and then performing in his band.
Although he uses every trick n the book, wang bar theatrics, 2 handed tapping, crazy arpeggios, Steve is also a very soulful player. No wonder he’s one of my biggest guitar influences. Absurd technique, with a deep blues soul, he stands out. Listen to the dirty grind of “Animal” which features a spontaneous sounding solo that is passionate and innovative. A couple songs, “Ballerina 12/24” and “Alien Water Kiss” feature innovative use of the Eventide H3000 Harmonizer in a solo guitar context. “Blue Powder” has an amazingly beautiful lead solo.
The highlight though is definitely “For the Love of God” a guitar ballad. Let me digress for a moment and teach about guitar ballads for those who don’t know. A guitar ballad a primarily an instrumental song with a lead guitar “singing” the melody and improvising on it all the way through. There’s a handful of great ones. Carlos Santana’s “Europa”, Jeff Beck’s “Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers”, Gary Moore’s “Parisienne Walkways”, but “For the Love of God” could be one of the best, it blends such virtuosity with emotion that it never fails to leave me absolutely breathless. It states it’s theme then builds on it to a frenzy. Reportedly, Steve fasted for 10 days while practicing the solo, till his fingers were bleeding. Then he went in the studio and played the recorded solo in one take. Extreme dedication to the craft. Actually the 7th song on all of the albums is a guitar ballad. He even released a compilation album called “The Seventh Song” which features all of the great 7th ones from his albums, highly recommended.
The sound quality is excellent. A great backing band featuring Stu Hamm on bass and a variety of drummers, provides solid backing for Steve’s far reaching excursions. Not long ago I saw Steve perform this album for its 30th Anniversary tour at the Fillmore…….just awesome.