Steve Vai

Steve Vai

The Ultra Zone

Sony/Epic

Holy poop! With this album, Steve Vai seems to be returning to his Berkeley days of esoteric little melodies and screwed up drum machines. Is that a good thing? For those of us who admire his work when he was just a weird kid with a Tascam 8-track… YES! Why? This album almost has a “Flexable Part 2” vibe, especially the track “Lucky Charms,” which sounds very similar to “Little Green Men” in aura. I’ve noticed that Steve’s guitar playing seems to be growing backwards; on recent albums he is showing his sense of humor more and more… All those little screw-ups and pick scrapes add miles of depth and personal touch, something lacking in the majority of major-label albums.

Another interesting development (which shines on this album) is Steve’s singing. “Voodoo Acid,” in my opinion, is the first time that his voice has been as artistically expressive as his guitar playing, and that’s a pretty fucking amazing feat, boys and girls. His compositional talent is no doubt proven to be here to stay, even in the simplicity of the opening track, “Blood & Tears.” And “Silent Within” is wicked, dude. I love how he brings back his “Endless Time” stuff in the lyrics. That’s good to hear. “I’ll Be Around” is about the most straight forward adult contemporary Michael Bolton-sounding thing I’ve ever heard come out of Vai (even more than anything on Sex & Religion ), and yet it’s great! Uh-oh… maybe I’m just getting old. Hmmm.

On with the review: “Fever Dream” is the closest he has gotten to “Passion & Warfare,” I don’t know how he does that harmonic stuff, and I don’t even wanna know. It’s not even music anymore, at this point. I hear it as words. This guy has his own language involving teleportation of the soul to some room with aliens and weird trees. Hey, look at the cover art. Ahem. Amen.

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