Monday, September 17, 2012

Review: "The Story of Light" by Steve Vai

The Story of Light
I love Steve Vai. My affection for him and his playing is not represented in my album collection as well as it should be, but I'm working on rectifying that. Mr. Vai and I go back a long ways. I still remember seeing him for the first time in the David Lee Roth videos. (This is the second recent album review of a former DLR guitar player. There most be something about Diamond Dave wanting to work with the best.) Do you remember that triple necked ambidextrous heart guitar?

In this day and age, Steve Vai is an elder statesman of instrumental guitar. In my playlists, Mr. Vai's music goes into to spots: metal and instrumental. Neither one of those categories accurately reflects what Steve Vai is. He is a stunning artist on the guitar. When I listen to his music, I simply get lost inside what he has created. In my mind's eye I see complex textures and landscapes when he is playing a melody line. Though he's often simply called a shredder, he's far more than that. Leonardo da Vinci was simply called a painter, but that was only one aspect of what he did as well. I could wax poetic about what Mr. Vai is and isn't for about three thousand words, so I suppose I should move on with this narrative and get to the CD.

This is a rock fable telling the story of Captain Mason Drake. So yes, another concept album, for lack of a better word. If I had a hard time following the story in De Vermiis Mysteris, then for this one, I'd call following the story a sisyphean task. I don't get the story at all. Apparently, this album is part two of the trilogy, the sequel to 2005's "Real Illusions: Reflections." As noted in the liner notes "A rock fable by Steve Vai (no necessarily presented in sequence).

When I read press on this album, I wondered if it was going to be a standard Steve Vai album because it seemed there were some hints or possibilities that there would be significant amounts of singing on this album. I had hoped that some singing would be present in order to help move the story along. Though I would still classify this album as an instrumental album, there is a fair bit of singing, including Steve himself trying again. After leafing through the liner notes, though I still have yet to properly read them, I was left even a little more confused. So, I just put the album in and began to drink it all in.

Because I was focusing too much on the story told, I missed out on the artistry of this album in the first couple of listens. Upon allowing myself to let the music be the music and the story be the story, whether or not I can understand or follow it, this album really opened up to me. It is a bit confusing to take in.

The first track of the album, The Story of Light, opens up with a woman speaking in Russian. I have absolutely no idea what she said in the several lines she sang/spoke. I think it's important, but I cannot tell you for certain. As the album continues, a chorus of voices begins to sing one by one. In my favorite track, John the Revelator, it starts off with the gruff voice of old blues man moving into a gospel chorus singing the lines over Steve's licks and moves into a second part of this tale with another chorus of voices singing together and separately which devolves into a single male voice who sounds like he's singing in his bathroom after he finishes shaving.

This album is equal parts grandiose, heartwarming, beautiful, and confusing and I cannot get enough of this record. Steve Vai and friends have really hit this one out of the park. I can even forgive Steve singing on a couple of the tracks because this album is so good. Once I allowed myself to just be a passive listener instead of actively attempting to decipher everything in it, the world Steve has painted sprang to life and I need to physically remove this CD from my car so I listen to something else for awhile. This is quite possibly the crowing achievement of his career.

Genre: Instrumental Guitar (For lack of a better term.)
Year: 2012


1) The Story of Light
2) Velorum
3) John the Revelator
4) Book of the Seven Seals
5) Creamsicle Sunset
6) Gravity Storm
7) Mullach A'tSi
8) The Moon and I
9) Weeping China Doll
10) Racing the World
11) No More Amsterdam
12) Sunshine Electric Raindrops

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