Realtime Review: Steve Vai – The Story of Light
I don’t know much about Steve Vai. I found out about him through watching a youtube video of G3 playing way back when I was just discovering the amazingness of guitar solos for the first time but never really followed up on that. Since then I’ve seen a couple of other videos and listened to a couple of other songs but never really listened to a full album… until now.
The Story of Light. First song, slow epic beginning gets right into the song, I feel like I can tell where this album is going to go from here. Hell of a lot of synth and some cool chorusy effects on the guitar giving it a very prog rock feeling. The guitar almost feels like it’s taking a backseat, just focusing on the rhythm rather than anything else. Some weird voice has come in, speaking in some other language, not quite sure of the point of it. And here’s the first guitar solo! This is a pretty awesome guitar solo, quite tasteful and not full of needless shred, there’s some interesting dynamics thrown in here and there changing the tone and feel of it, hitting the dark metal type tones followed by hints of blues and some playful cheerful tones. The voice is back, it gets on my nerves a bit. And the song ends on a nice synth sound.
Velorum. Ooo, funky. This is more like it, a real punchy riff introducing the next song. The guitar has taken a more ballad like sound for the ‘verse’ with some nice classical guitar before hitting the heavy section again. I’m quite enjoying this so far, it’s varied enough to keep me interested without being too all over the place with recognisable riffs recurring to bring you back in and remind you of what’s going on. A nice off beat breakdown with a psychedelic solo breaks it up a bit adding another interesting change of dynamic to the song before returning to another very synth driven section leading back into the punchy ‘chorus’. I feel like I should be watching videos of space or something.
John the Revelator. Old school blues recording introduces the next song, oh wow. I like this, the song bursts in with a gospel choir thing going on and old blues guy singing. It’s really put a smile on my face, just when I was worrying I was about to get bored of the instrumental tracks. The guitar has a sort of RATM vibe going on, and with this really passionate female soul vocals over the top it really fits. The solo has that reverb on it that gets me picturing Vai playing it in some church out in the middle of the desert.
Book of the Seven Seals. Next song is a sort of continuation of the previous one, although it’s kind of rubbed me the wrong way with the sudden juddery change of tone. There’s still the choir element and the soul feel but it’s no longer funky soul and more broadway musical. The coherence I was talking about earlier seems to have disappeared for this song and I can’t really feel the structure and vibe of this song so it’s just washed over me.
Creamsicle Sunset. Another psychedelic one it seems! Very slow start with some nice reverb and hawaian style slide going on. Slow chordal bass lines back up a very whispey guitar which still feels like it’s driving the song onward despite its’ background feel.
Gravity Storm. Woah, almost fell asleep, good thing the next song has woken me up! Slow and heavy blues feel to this with some crazy synth going on. What the hell is that? I can’t even thing of a way to describe it, so I won’t (yay science degree removing my ability to describe things normally!). Drums cut out for Vai to do some crazy detuned stuff before hitting another solo. I’ve read Steve Vai being described as having changed what people thing you can do with a guitar and I can really hear that in these songs, this one in particular. He seems to switch from low heavy metal guitar to blues to psychedelic prog seamlessly and effortlessly so that you hardly even notice. Wah solo! It was only a matter of time. This is making me want to stop listening and just play around on my guitar now, I guess that’s a good thing! I can actually picture Vai making lead guitar faces while playing this song.
Mullach A’tSi. Classical guitar! And harps! And a shit tonne of reverb! There’s a really nice tone on the guitar in this song, very full and rich, although I’m starting to wish Vai would play the notes a bit straighter, less of the crazy bending and whammy bar as some of these potentially awesome and moving notes are losing their gravity to the weirdness of it. Heh, it just started pouring it down with rain outside and it really REALLY fits this song. I feel if the solo had been a bit more normal in that song it could have been amazing, but I guess then it would have been a different song.
The Moon and I. This is a really psychedelic album. This song feels very 80s with its synth and racing bassline. Ahar, another song with vocals, this is even more 80s now that the vocals have landed. The occasional reverby synthy drum fills are just adding to it! I’m starting to find myself enjoying these strange psychedelic solos even more as the album goes on, there’s really no need them ALL to be so crazy and out there. I guess I don’t really have anything more to say about that song, that’s it really.
Weeping China Doll. Pretty awesome intro to this next song. Heavy slow drums and some epic choir synth going on, chimes too, I have no idea where this song’s heading! Aha, a ballad style solo following the main lick’s vibe takes us into some more psychedelic solos! The super heavy riff and slow punchy drums really underscore the solos in this song, however, making them feel a lot more like they belong and giving them a vibe of epic shred rather than needless guitar wankery. Yeah this song has turned me back on to this album with its actual structure and melody. Ok… that’s enough… thank you… the song should have finished by now… stop… ah good, almost ruined it.
Racing the World. Big build up to this next one, a driving drum line leads into a classic guitar solo song. Clean rhythm with a chorus effect while Vai solos over the top, makes me think of old school racing game theme music. Shred! Shred and wah pedal! And that was the big finish.
No More Amsterdam. Vocals and acoustic guitar, still feels psychedelic. I’m just re-noticing the interaction between the guitar and the other instruments now, the bass really follows the guitar lines in some of these songs accentuating them nicely. This reminds me a bit of some King Crimson songs. The vocals are fantastic on this song, some really nice harmonies going on, following the melody of the guitar. Really atmospheric, I felt like I was actually there watching the music.
Sunshine Electric Raindrops. Final song, and I have to say it’s not what I expected from a final song, synth brass section and a really basic rhythm and melody. It’s almost like Vai didn’t expect people to listen this far. The previous song would have made a fantastic finale.
I’ve enjoyed this album a lot more than I expected to, I’d actually been putting off reviewing it as I didn’t think I’d be able to sit through the whole thing. However, each song was different enough and varied enough to keep me entertained throughout, the solos were impressive (mostly) and the addition of vocals here and there really added another dimension. My one complaint is that there’s far too much wankery with the guitar. No-one needs me to say that Vai is an amazing guitarist, but in some of the songs the addition of bends, taps and just… I don’t know… stuff just takes some of the impact away from the solos. All in all, I don’t regret listening to this album, but I don’t think I’ll listen to it again.
[edit 21/08] I actually did go and listen to it again and quite enjoyed it 🙂