RECORD CRACK: Steve Vai album gets a deluxe treatment in reissue

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The man known as Frank Zappa’s “stunt guitarist” will have one of his album reissued this year in honor of its 25th anniversary. Passion And Warfare is being released as a double LP and this edition will have four tracks not on the original.

The original album actually came out in 1990 so if we are to get technical, this is the 26th anniversary. However, when the album was released, Relativity Records did press it up on vinyl but it was a 53 minute on a single piece of vinyl, which means the sound quality was a bit compressed in order to fit everything on there. This means the volume on the original vinyl pressing was not as bold or loud as it could have been but the new remaster, being released by the Friday Music label, will fix this. Unlike the original, this new 2LP set will be packaged in a gatefold cover and is being pressed by R.T.I., the plant known for pressing up a number of remasters by people such as Steve Hoffman and Kevin Grey.

The original album will be spread over three sides and Side 4 will be the one with previously unreleased material. Here’s the track listing for Side 4:
1. Lovely Elixir
2. And We Are One (Solo #2)
3. As Above
4. So Below

The 180g audiophile pressing will be out this summer, actual release date to be mentioned very soon.

REVIEW: Steve Vai’s “The Story Of Light”

Photobucket Steve Vai continues to be one of the more interesting and brilliant guitarists of the last 30 years, for he is more than capable of doing anything and everything with his music, and how he delivers “the show” in the form of an album is interesting in itself. The Story Of Light (Favored Nations) consists of material that continues to explore the mind and world of Vai as he experiences and sees it. He has never been afraid to show his spiritual side, and on this album he takes it on with bursts of heavy metal but also gets into down home gospel. The album is a nice mixture of instrumental tracks along with vocal track featuring a number of different singers.

The last paragraph might sound like something straight from the press release, but I didn’t do any copying of any kind. I tend to prefer his earlier works when he seemed a bit more chaotic in nature, but this is someone who has played guitar since he was a kid, so there’s a level of maturity that comes not only in his playing, but everything else that has to do with these songs, from the arrangements and structure to understanding space and control. When he’s ready to explore the universe, he does it very well but isn’t also afraid to come back to Earth and share his martian experiences in the language of the planet we live on.

That Story Of Light that he speaks of in the title is perhaps the story of us, why we exist, why we persist, and why we do what we do. He doesn’t argue nor question, merely explains himself with his guitar work. In fact, it would be a much better world if we could solve all of our political and culture problems with sound. It wouldn’t surprise me if The Story Of Light has spiritual connotations, but that’s for him to explore even further, and the interaction fans have with his music and how they interpret it. Whatever the language, Vai’s music continues to show the mindset of a storyteller that hopefully continues to inspire all musicians.

SOME STUFFS: Steve Vai ready to release album no. 16

For me, it’s hard to believe that The Story Of Light (Favored Nations Entertainment) is Steve Vai‘s 16th solo album, especially since I still remember his first, the awesome Flex-Able. As with his past albums, this one is primarily an all-instrumental affair but you also have vocal spots from Aimee Mann and Beverly McClellan, the latter a finalist in last season’s The Voice on NBC (she had been called by some as “the bald rocker”, and it’s great that Vai is using her talents for his new album).

The Story Of Light can be pre-ordered directly from his website at, as the album will be released on vinyl, MP3, and CD.

OPINION: Mary J. Blige records Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven” for new album

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(photograph by Andrew McLeod)

When I read this article from the Los Angeles Times, I cringed somewhat. A part of me wants to hold to the goofy “sacred cows” of rock’n’roll, but a part of me is also thinking cool, someone is trying something different from their norm, but I have a few mixed feelings about this.

The article by Shirley Halperin states that as Mary J. Blige was in Los Angeles to record the updated version of “We Are The World” to raise relief funds for Haiti, she was recording music for her forthcoming album. In this case it was a recording session that featured guitarists Steve Vai and Orianthi, drummer Travis Barker, and bassist Randy Jackson, all handled by producer Ron Fair. The song is Led Zeppelin‘s “Stairway To Heaven”.


I’m a huge Led Zeppelin fan and I respect the power of that song. I grew up with it, loved it, understand the Wayne’s World joke, and now it’s a classic rock staple, the staple of all staples to where if it’s on the radio, I turn it off. I’ll listen to it every few months, but that’s it. When people talk about Led Zeppelin, it eventually leads to discussion of “Stairway To Heaven”, it is their epic song from one of the biggest selling hard rock albums of all time.

However, as someone who calls herself a longtime rock’n’roll fan, it just seems so cliche to do that song. I can already see it: the hard rock/heavy metal kids will hate it. Some of Mary’s fans will say “oh no, she’s gone off the deep end now”. Blige was criticized years ago for working with Elton John and George Michael, that’s fairly tame compared to what this song will do because there are people who still feel Led Zeppelin are monarchs of hell, with Satan found in their music, artwork, and mysterious demonic symbols on the cover with the band carrying a bundle of sticks. There will no doubt be some minster who will reverse the Blige version and say “now listen, the evil shared by England’s Led Zeppelin has been modernized to talk about gang warfare, crack cocaine, the Talbian, and Lil’ Wayne”. Blige will become the new Satan, and it will be interesting to see what happens.

Personally, it would have been cooler to hear Blige cover something not-so-obvious:

King Crimson‘s “Epitaph”
Whitesnake‘s “Slow And Easy”
Y&T‘s “Eyes Of A Stranger”
Queensryche “I Don’t Believe In Love”
Aerosmith‘s “Nobody’s Fault”
Metallica‘s “The Things That Should Not Be”
Kiss‘ “Do You Love Me”
Black Sabbath‘s “Solitude” or “Children Of The Grave”
Metal Church‘s “Watch The Children Pray”
Mudhoney‘s “This Gift”
Tad‘s “Stumblin’ Man”

Since I’m mentioning Mudhoney and Tad, imagine if you will, a Mary J. Blige cover of Mercyful Fate‘s “Gypsy”:

If “Stairway To Heaven” will turn Blige to Satan for some people, I can’t imagine what would happen if Blige was open enough to cover something sung by the almighty King Diamond.

I don’t know, I would not mind hearing Blige cover more rock and pop, no harm in that. Yet out of all the songs to do, “Stairway To Heaven”? I’m sure some of the people involved are thinking “fuck a sacred cow” but… how about “Thank You”, “The Rain Song”, “That’s The Way”, “In The Light”, or “Since I’ve Been Loving You”? The choice of “Stairway To Heaven” is similar to saying “I love rock, but only what I heard on the radio. What are the big rock hits?”

We’ll have to wait a few more months to see what will happen. If this moves Keri Hilson to cover Black Sabbath‘s “Sign Of The Southern Cross”, I’ll throw up my devil horns. In truth, hard rock and heavy metal has always been a means of debate between those who have seen the music and creators as evil, and fans who know of the music as a means of escape and dealing with the realities of the world. A lot of hard rock and heavy metal have “heavy” subject matter, but we all know countless bands, especially the ugly ones (you know who I’m talking about), have done songs on everything from love, loss, fears, and hopes. Could be a Maxwell or Raphael Saadiq album. Maybe next time, when a soul/R&B vocalist covers a rock song, I hope it’s one that challenges them, the original song, and the fans.