Passion And Warfare

Steve Vai

Relativity Records, 1990

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/31/1998

In the world of guitar virtuosos, there is a fine line between genius and overindulgence. If only Steve Vai had discovered not to cross that line.

A pupil of fellow axemaster Joe Satriani who cut his professional teeth with the late Frank Zappa, Vai got the most exposure of his solo career back in 1990 with his album Passion And Warfare. Enlisting the aid of fellow Whitesnake bandmember David Coverdale for spoken word asides, Vai tries to create his own unique world shaped by his guitar-driven music. And while there is no denying that his six-string work is exceptional, if I wanted an autobiography, I would have bought the book at Barnes & Noble.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The problem, believe it or not, isn't that Vai tries to get too showy with his playing. Instead, he takes this whole project and begins to take it - and himself - too goddamn seriously. C'mon, Steve, it's a freaking record album! I don't need to hear such philosophical comments like, "We may be human, but we're still animals"... and I could have lived without the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in "The Riddle".

And the song that's the best known off Passion And Warfare, "The Audience Is Listening," well... was the video written for the song, or was the song written for the video? This tune just has too defined of a script to not be a creation for MTV - and that, frankly, is a dangerous use of the music. I guess it is a cute idea to try and picture Vai as a little kid shredding away in his classroom, but it also reeks of a "dig me" attitude.

Musically, Passion And Warfare is standard fare, with "Erotic Nightmares" being a personal highlight (the work of bass ubermensch Stu Hamm is especially noteworthy.) This track shows both the style that Vai learned from Satriani as well as Vai's own unique voice in the music. If only there were more moments like this on Passion And Warfare, but they're few and far between. ("Greasy Kid's Stuff" is another standout that falls into this category.)

If you're into good guitar work (or even if you've followed Vai's work through stints with Zappa and David Lee Roth), then Passion And Warfare will light up your world from time to time. But, methinks the man regards himself too highly - and he hasn't earned that right yet.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Relativity Records, and is used for informational purposes only.