Had Steve Vai been born in another time and place, before the era of the electric guitar or rock 'n'
roll, his reputation as a composer may have taken him to the heights achieved by Igor Stravinsky, Bach, Mahler or Mozart. But, as the saying goes, you can't fool fate and thus, Vai came to this world on June 6, 1960 from parts unknown and eventually strapped on a guitar and set his course for the arena of rock 'n'
But a few years back Vai was invited, by Co de Kloet, to compose music for the Metropole Orkest and to perform many of his most familiar compositions with that ensemble. The favorable results can be heard throughout this two-disc set which stands as a testament to his abilities as a composer and the powers of orchestrators Chris Opperman, Tom Trapp, Bonie Janofsky, David Kole and de Kloet and his fabulous players.
The first set, titled "The Aching Hunger" features Vai and the orchestra tearing through pieces such as "Kill The Guy With The Ball," "Gentle Ways," "Answers" and "For The Love Of God" in a fashion that, as the cliché goes, serves the music. Vai remains one of the most controversial figures in the world of rock guitar and has wrongfully earned a reputation for placing virtuosity ahead of melody, harmony and rhythm.
Because he is a virtuoso he can write and conceive of pieces that few others can, because he can execute his vision with accuracy and clarity he has become the envy of innumerable musicians and composers whose technical abilities fall far below his own. But listening to him and his collaborators work their way through "Salamanders In The Sun," "I'm Becoming" and "The Murder," you forget about the external controversy and instead embrace the unspeakable beauty of the music itself.
In fact, the majority of the pieces selected for the first portion of the program hardly place emphasis on Vai's guitar playing. True, it's hard not to get swept up in his furious fingerings during "Answers" and "The Attitude Song" may be the quintessential guitar song of the latter half of the last century, but when he lets fire fly across the fretboard, he's merely another one of the players in a sea of players who want only to emphasize the superiority of the notes and rhythms before them.
In fact, Vai sits out for the second set (titled "Shadows & Sparks"), allowing the orchestra its own moment in the spotlight. As he has in the world of rock for more than two decades now, Vai proves himself as a true gem in the realm of orchestral composition as well. Never afraid of sentimentality or whimsy, he creates melodies that are uplifting, often childlike, via "Shadows And…" and "Frangelica Pt. I." "Bledsoe Blvd." serves as the truest and most fascinating of the orchestral pieces and closes the collection out on a resilient and forward-thinking note.
The theory goes that many artists don't truly come into their own until their fifth decade and with Vai still several years from that mark, we can only hope that what we're glimpsing here is a sign of a direction he will take in the future and a further sign that his talents as a giant in the realm of composition will be fully recognized.
Volume I: The Aching Hunger
1. Kill The Guy With The Ball
2. The God Eaters
3. The Murder Prologue
4. The Murder
5. Gentle Ways
7. I'm Becoming
8. Salamanders In The Sun
10. The Attitude Song
11. For The Love Of God
Volume Two: Shadows & Sparks
1. Shadows And…
3. Frangelica Pt.1
4. Frangelica Pt. II
5. Helios And Vesta
6. Blesdoe Blvd.