Previously Unreleased Vai Tune ‘Rush’ Available on iTunes

Steve Vai has a previously unreleased song on the album The Songs of NASCAR entitled Rush. You can preview and purchase the song using this link. If you are a hard core Vai fan who just has to own every recording he has done, go get it. Otherwise, since the song is only a little over a minute, your $0.99 would be much better spent on one or more of the following:

All of these can be also be found in the Essential Vai iMix on iTunes.


Links to songs require that you install iTunes.

The Guitar Shred Show – Mr. Fastfinger

Browsing around the web this morning, I performed my monthly scan of the news page. Hidden under August 5th is a small section titled “One of the Coolest Sites We’ve Seen” pointing to a site called The Guitar Shred Show, a Flash based site in which your guide, Mr. Fastfinger teaches you to shred on guitar.

The first place you have to go is “The Exploding Guitar – Show Off Solo”. The playing in the show off solo sounds suspiciously like Mr. Vai, and I’m curious as to whether he is actually involved in this project. If he isn’t, whoever is playing has his sound and style down.

Since writing this, I found the credits area of the site, which credits the site and all of the guitar playing to Mika Tyyskä. No Steve Vai on the site, but damn, this guy can play!

The first installment of lessons is called “The Mountain of the Tapping Dwarves”. This lesson allows you to press and hold down keys on the keyboard to hear different phrases, accompanied with the tabulature to play them. The things covered are tapping, fast picking and legato runs to name a few.

At the end of everything, you get to participate in a “head cutting” (a la Crossroads) against the Demon Accordian player. As he plays his accordian, you tie together the different phrases by pressing and holding the keyboard keys. An excellent addition to an excellent site.

This is a hard site to describe. You have to see it to believe it. I do agree with the folks at though — this is probably the coolest site I’ve ever seen.

Essential Vai iMix Available on iTunes

I’ve created an iMix on iTunes with what I think are the Essential Vai songs for people who haven’t been exposed to Vai’s music. Click the link above to download it. The cost winds up being about $12.87 for 13 songs, and gives you pretty much what I think is the essential collection from almost all of his albums to introduce yourself to Steve Vai.

Now I just need to figure out how to sneak all of these into Kelsi’s iPod …

Steve Vai in Guitar Player Magazine

A couple of weeks ago in Borders I found the latest issue of Guitar Player Magazine, which had a great interview with Steve Vai. One quote completely stuck out to me and I’ve been mulling it over in my head since. However, I couldn’t remember what it was specifically in order to put it up here.

Well, I went out and bought the magazine last night so that I had the quote and then found this morning that the whole interview is already online.

The article is essentially Steve being interviewed about how he does what he does. How he became original.

The first quote that was interesting to me was this. Steve was asked “How do you create effective music”, to which he responds:

It’s just the muse. It’s that elusive, creative juice we all have. I would venture to say that if you asked Jimi Hendrix or Beethoven or Trent Reznor why they did what they did, the answers would be, “I don’t know.” I don’t think they did know. They had no choice. They were who they were. Danny Gatton had no choice—you know what I mean? He couldn’t help but be who he was.

I really liked the concept that these great musicians (Steve included) “did what they did because they had no choice”.

The next one is the one that actually stuck in my head. I think it’s pretty self explanatory. Steve is asked a question regarding musicians who can’t visualize their music too much past whatever their favorite artists are playing:

Steve replies:

I watched this documentary on how the brain works, and it stated that when Christopher Columbus approached the new world, the natives couldn’t see his ships. They were right there in front of them, but they couldn’t see them, because their brains couldn’t register what they couldn’t comprehend. Finally, a shaman came along who noticed the water was moving differently, and he stared out into the harbor until the ships became visible to him. I think some very rare guitarists are like that shaman, and we need them. For example, there was a time before Hendrix and Stevie Ray and Satriani when people couldn’t even conceive of the things they ultimately did. But once these pioneers came along and made their voices known, the new musical vocabulary they developed became assimilated into popular culture. We need visionaries and leaders to constantly show us what is possible.

The last few interviews I’ve read with Steve, (and even at the EVO Premium Meet and Greet) he has been talking at much more of a philosphical level than I remember him doing in the past. For some reason I really like this “meta level” talk about what he does much more than the scales and legato run talk that you normally get in the guitar magazines.

Take some time to read the article.

There are also interviews with both Steve and Billy Sheehan in the June 2005 issue of Guitar & Bass magazine.

Meeting Steve Vai – The EVO Experience

Ron with Steve Vai Last night Steve Vai and his band The Breed (Billy Sheehan, Tony MacAlpine, Dave Weiner, and Jeremy Colson) hit Chicago on the Real Illusions: Reflections tour.

This time around Steve put together a special package for his fans in which, for an extra fee, you were able to attend a meet and greet with him, where he would hold a Q&A session with you, and then you would attend the soundcheck before the concert. The package is called the EVO Premium Experience.

It was absolutely amazing.

The total number of people to purchase the package looked to be about 20-30. This made for a very intimate environment in which we could ask Steve questions and just sit and listen to him answer them. The whole discussion was fascinating, especially around one question asked about inspiration and how he comes up with the music he writes. Steve tried to explain the process, in which he visualizes the song in seconds, and in some cases it takes months to realize the original vision. Listening to him describe this process was incredible. You constantly wanted to pinch yourself to make sure you weren’t dreaming.

Steve is a very gracious host and consistently attempts to make eye contact with everyone he is talking to. The Q&A was extremely intimate and worth the extra money in and of itself.

As an added bonus, the people in the room now know the “secret” to the Secret Jewel Box box set we had bought in 2001 and have been collecting as the CD’s come out. I’ll leave that for you to figure out though.

Once the Q&A ended, we were escorted to the main stage where we were allowed to watch and take pictures of the soundcheck as it was happening. This included the whole band and was really cool to watch. I’ve never seen a soundcheck before and I was amazed at a lot of the things that go on during it. What is most amazing is that as Steve was on the stage, he was telling the sound guy the exact adjustments to make to the sound board. I guess that just shows the ear that the guy has.

Autographed Ultra Zone CDWhen the soundcheck concluded, Steve signed autographs on guitars and CD’s. Jonna had bought a special copy of Ultra Zone for him to sign (pictured to the left), as our wedding song was “I’ll Be Around” from this CD. She told him this as he was signing it and he said she was the third person to tell him that they had used that song for their wedding.

Once the EVO portion of the day was over, we took a break, where we had to take the camera back to the car and wait until the concert started. The opening act was Eric Sardinas. I’m not a big fan, so I was rather impatient for the Vai band to get on the stage. Eric played for about 40 minutes and then the stage went dark as we waited for the band to come out.

The concert was incredible. They did a perfect mix of the material off of all of the albums (except Ultra Zone). The highlight of the show for me was finally being able to see “Whispering a Prayer” and “Lotus Feet” live. These beautiful songs are, in my opinion, the essence of Steve Vai as a musician and, after the experience yesterday, as a person as well. Being in the front row just capped off the experience.

I need to also add that the band that Steve has put together is the “Dream Team” of music. You couldn’t dream of a better band than the five guys that were running around that stage.

There are very few times in life when dreams come true. I have idolized Steve Vai since I was a sophmore in high school and had my first exposure to him through a release of “Blue Powder” in a Guitar Player Magazine insert. I have followed him through the David Lee Roth days, through Whitesnake, and through all of his solo albums. The thought of ever meeting him was one of those things that I never thought would have been possible.

Actually meeting him was surreal. Rather than having an image built up of someone and meeting them only to have the image crushed, Steve Vai lives up to the image. He is a very sweet, humble, down to earth guy who is extremely appreciative of his fans and recognizes the importance they hold for him in their lives. The importance of music in his life is also something you cannot walk away from him without seeing.

This experience is something I will never forget. I have now completed another one of those “things to do before I die” items on my list.

Thanks Steve, for the great memory.

Reflections on Real Illusions

Well, I’ve spent almost two weeks listening to Real Illusions: Reflections and its time to sit down and write a review.

I’ve written before that most times that Steve Vai comes out with an album there is a lot to absorb. You usually have to listen to it quite a few time to get the nuances of what is going on. This is especially the case with the last two Vai albums. I spent a lot of time listening to Ultra Zone before I finally decided I liked it. This album was no exception. But the final verdict is its a hell of an album.

So here’s a track by track review of the album for those who are looking for it:

Vocal Tracks
I started out skipping through the vocal tracks, with the thought of listening to them later. This is just normally what I do. Eventually I get around to them and wind up liking them. I’ve listened to all of them quite a few times now.

“Dying for your Love” is one of those songs that I’m sure I’ll like at some point, but right now I’m not “feeling the love” with it. For some reason it feels too “chaotic” for me. I’m not sure how to explain it, but it seems very choppy and disjointed.

“Firewall” initially annoyed me, but I’m really starting to like it. As my daughter would say, it “Rocks Out”. There’s a lot of energy in this one.

“I’m Your Secrets” – I actually like this one a lot, though it reminds me a lot of “Good Times” off of the “Skyscraper” album. There are differences, but the main guitar track sounds almost just like it, at least to me.

“Under It All” – don’t like it. Don’t know why, but just don’t like it. I’m going to have to focus on this one at some point because there are a lot of times that I listen to a song and hate it and it winds up one of my favorites. I just have to pinpoint what I don’t like about it. The interesting thing about this one is in other reviews I’ve read, people really seem to like this one – so it’s pretty obvious I’m missing something.

Instrumental Tracks
There is not one instrumental track on this album that I don’t absolutely love. This is probably some of Vai’s best work, in that the feeling and sometimes just the complexity of them keeps you on your toes. I’m really impressed with all of them.

“Building The Church” is the song that opens the album, and rightly so. This is a rockin’ song perfect for an opening for an album that took so long to create. The rhythm guitars are tuned down to what sound like ‘D’, giving you that deep rhythm that hits you right in the gut. I spent a lot of time rewinding this song and playing it over and over again.

“Glorious” is ok, but I haven’t really gotten into it — yet. Sounds too “synthy” or “whiney” to me. Most likely at some point that will change.

“K’m-Pee-Du-Wee” sounds like Vai from the Flex-Able years. Really sweet sounding. There is something about the sound that Vai had on his earlier albums that just made you feel emotions that you couldn’t explain. This is one of those songs. It’s a sweet, melodic song. This is another one I listened to over and over again. If “Lotus Feet” didn’t exist, I would nominate this one for the seventh track of the album (for the significance of the seventh track, see “Lotus Feet”).

The next instrumental on the album is “Freak Show Excess” and this one is nothing short of amazing. In the April 2005 issue of Guitarworld Magazine Vai has the first of a series of articles showing you how to play this song and how he put it together. If your lucky enough to get a copy of the magazine with the CD, there is a video lesson with him as well. This song is amazing and excessive and shows what an incredible player Vai is from a technical perspective. This is another one I listened to OVER AND OVER again.

“Lotus Feet” is the anticipated “seventh song” on the album. Each time Vai puts out an album, the seventh track is the one he feels is the most “spiritual and uplifting” song on the album. Some of these songs have included “Touching Tongues”, “For the Love of God”, “Windows to the Soul” and the grammy nominated “Whispering a Prayer”. There was one point years ago where I created a CD with the seventh song from each album because I liked them so much. Months later walking through Best Buy and doing my mandatory flip through the Vai albums — “just in case something was released and I didn’t know about it” — I found that Steve had already done all the work for everyone with Seventh Song, a compilation of all of these songs. Lotus Feet is right up there with all of these songs, only this time it was recorded live with a full orchestra for The Aching Hunger radio program. It’s a very uplifting and beautiful song.

“Yai Yai” – A little weird and according to Kelsi, not a song to “rock out” to. However, it’s interesting to listen to none the less.

“Midway Creatures” is the final instrumental track on the album at track 9. This is a really cool song, but out of all of them on the album (aside from maybe Yai Yai) it is my least favorite. A lot of cool guitar stuff in it, but a little too chaotic for me.

Final Words
It’s no secret that I’m a hard core Vai fan. I love almost everything the guy does musically. He is, in my opinion, probably one of the most inspired musicians alive today. Overall, this is a hell of an album, but its a little hard to get into right away. This album is very conceptual in nature – and therefore can be kind of hard to grasp until you let go of the conceptual part and just listen to the music, which is why you are sitting in the car with the CD in the first place.

Bottom line is, Reflections is a lot different than any Vai album you’ve heard. But if we wanted the same thing with every album, we wouldn’t be Vai fans. Steve is out on another plane, and trying to bring us out there with him. Each album has that little something that makes it “Vai” that goes beyond the insanely great guitar playing. I’m not really sure how to explain it, but this album has a certain quality that I haven’t heard on any other of his albums.

Buy it, listen to it a few times, and see if you can see what I mean.

The absolute gems on the album are Building the Church, K’m-Pee-Du-Wee, Freak Show Excess, and Lotus Feet (not necessarily in that order).

Update 4-13-2005
Pictures from the Chicago Real Illusions Evo Experience are available here.

Steve Vai: Real Illusions Review Section Opened on

The folks at have opened a section of the message board dedicated to reviewing the new album, Real Illusions:Reflections.

The album is due out on February 22. Check out the reviews and when your done, click on the Amazon link down to the upper right of the page if you want to order it.

Update: February 20, 2005:
The April 2005 issue of Guitar World Magazine is “The Virtuoso Issue” and has a really good interview with Vai and a lesson on playing “Freak Show Excess” off of the new album. Pick it up if your a Vai fan.

This issue also has a pretty good interview with Zakk Wylde as well.