Saturday, July 2, 2016

Steve Vai - Modern Primitive (2016)

It has been over 25 years since guitar virtuoso Steve Vai released his real breakthrough album "Passion And Warfare", a magnificent record that holds some to the greatest instrumental pieces out there, like "For The Love of God". It is the center piece of Steve Vai's career, so of course, he had to celebrate it, and he does so with a remaster, and a new album. "Modern Primitive" is the first out of two CDs for the 25th anniversary edition of "Passion And Warfare", and consist of of old songs that Vai wrote during the time between his debut "Flex-able" and "Passion And Warfare".

Anyway, "Modern Primitive" has been described as the missing link between Vai's two first album (or as he calls it, Cro-Magnon Vai), and it is something that is pretty noticeable when you glance at the artwork. There he is, showing off his cleavage again, and I just can't stop drooling. Just look at that handsome bastard, pure eye candy.

Enough of the album cover (for now), let us focus on the music. To no surprise at all, this does sound like old school Vai, which of course delights me. While Vai might not be as much in the front as in "Passion And Warfare", he still runs the show with an iron grip, delivering sweeping riffs and mesmerizing solos here and there. The groove in "Dark Matter" and the Dream Theater technicality of "Fast Note People" are some of the tastiest bits from him, but this is not a fully instrumental album, and the songs that have vocals on them breaks things up really nicely, like the catchy "Mighty Messengers". I do think that Steve is at his best when he  lets loose, but this works quite well too.

But somewhere, in the middle of this jungle, I hear a familiar voice, a voice that makes me excited like a giggling school girl. It is the voice of Devin Townsend, whom sings in "The Lost Chord". This is not surprising by any means, since Devin started out his musical career as a vocalist for Steve Vai between 1992 and 1994, giving him an appearance on "Sex & Religion". Devin's addition to this track is just marvelous, his smooth vocals takes me back to one of his albums, more specifically the earthly "Terria". Add some emotional guitars, and you got a killer track. This is a combo I wanna see more of, can't these good friends create a new project of some sort please, that would be sweet.

A interesting thing about the album is that it has such a weird start and finish, for two solely different reasons. The album starts with "Bop!", a really quirky track that is like a mash up of Seinfeld and Monty Python. It will make you go "What the fuck am I listening to?", but it will also make you laugh, so it is a very fun way to start things off. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same to "Pink And Blows Over", the end song(s) of the album. It is split into three parts, and they all are slow and boring. I get that he want to wind the album down in the end, but this is the wrong way to do it. All of the three parts adds to a total of 19 minutes, part 2 alone being 13 minutes long, which is just excruciating. If he would have left this out completely, we still would have had 50+ minutes of music, which would have been fine. Thank god that this is at the very end of the album.

For being an album that is made out of almost 30 year old songs, "Modern Primitive" sounds really fresh and uplifting, an album that seems time less. It is obvious that Steve was on fire during the late 80's, and I am so glad that we got to hear more of the material that eventually led to one of the mightiest fully instrumental albums out there. While it may not be the strongest effort from Mr. Vai, it is still a record that provides a lot of enjoyable moments and several songs of great quality. An excellent work from one of the finest guitar players out there.

Songs worthy of recognition: The Lost Chord, Dark Matters, Mighty Messengers, Lights Are On

Rating: 7,5/10 Bops!

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