- Kill the Guy with the Ball
- The God Eaters
- The Murder Prologue
- The Murder
- Gentle Ways
- I'm Becoming
- Salamanders in the Sun
- The Attitude Song
- For the Love of God
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Despite his reputation as a rock guitar virtuoso, Steve Vai has been writing orchestral scores since the age of 14 (that would be circa 1974) by his estimation and "[amassing] hefty heaps" of them ever since, "but with few performances." So he notes in his annotations to the ambitious double-CD live set Sound Theories, Vols. 1-2. Vai's compositional bent finally was given an outlet by Co de Kloet of Dutch Public Radio & Television, which commissioned him to write an hour's worth of music to be performed by the Metropole Orkest. Going through his amassed materials, Vai came up with two hours' worth, which he and the orchestra performed in a series of concerts in May 2004 and July 2005. Then, he took the recordings home and began working on them, resulting, two years later, in this album, the first two volumes of what he hopes to be a continuing series. The pieces date back to 1978 ("Answers"), with many from the 1980s ("Salamanders in the Sun," "Attitude Song," "For the Love of God," and "Liberty" from the first disc and the entire second disc). Several of these earlier works, notably "Salamanders in the Sun" and "Frangelica, Pt. 2," reveal the influence of Vai's former employer Frank Zappa. Zappa was never fortunate enough in his lifetime to work with a sympathetic symphony orchestra like the Metropole, however. (He did work well with some smaller ensembles toward the end of his life.) Like Zappa, Vai is interested in pushing the limits of composition and playing ability, and he has gone even further by manipulating the live recordings with what he acknowledges are thousands of edits and note substitutions. The first disc, subtitled The Aching Hunger, is a guitar-plus-orchestra album with his usual playing pyrotechnics. But he leaves the entire second disc (Shadows & Sparks) to the Metropole, which makes this music sound like the highly dramatic soundtrack for an adventure film that hasn't been made yet. Sound Theories, Vols. 1-2 seems to be the beginning of a post-guitar-hero career for Vai, and it makes a good start in that direction.
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(DISCLOSURE: I started playing guitar at the age of 7 in 1977. I have been listening to and studying Steve's music since 1985.) The first review I read of Steve Vai's SOUND THEORIES VOLS. 1 & 2 left me speechless. It stated that '(paraphrasing) Vai jumped on the bandwagon and had his music orchestrated and there's nothing new here; the orchestration doesn't change the songs or add to their genius at all.' It was painfully obvious to me that this reviewer knew little to nothing about Vai's writing process and the heartache he endured not being able to capture the grandiose vision he had for his music, considering the lack of budget and equipment he had as a younger player (one need only read the liner notes intro to his PASSION AND WARFARE transcription book for written proof of this these statements). Anyone who knows anything about Steve Vai knows that he is a genius at transcription; we know Zappa paid him to transcribe his impossible music when Vai was merely 18 years old. He transcribed Franks's GUITAR BOOK. Steve is and has always been a prolific writer in his own right. Listen to Salamanders in the Sun (FLEX-ABLE) and tell me that this piece of music is not crying out to be orchestrated! SOUND THEORIE'S VOLS. 1 & 2 is Steve's vision of having his music played the way he originally intended it to be played and listened to. Disc 1 is comprised of previously released music, such as FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, ANSWERS, and SALMANDERS IN THE SUN, with full orchestration done by Steve himself, as well as a few collaborated pieces. Steve plays the guitar on all of these pieces. It opens with an epically layered percussion piece that can only be described as having the intensity and fervor matching the crescendo of the Rach 3 (this percussion explosion is the intro to KILL THE GUY WITH THE BALL). There is a poignant new solo guitar piece called "I'M BECOMING". My only criticism of Vol. 1 is the omission of the shining star of the DVD: LOTUS FEET. I could easily trade THE ATTITUDE SONG for LOTUS FEET (on this collection). Disc 2 is a collection of Steve's orchestral pieces. Although there are guitar parts written into these scores, Steve does not play on them. Don't expect Mahler or Vivaldi here folks: Steve's writing contains intricately woven melodies and harmonies. I must admit: it took me more than one listen to truly get drawn in to these pieces. One does hear homage to Frank Zappa, Stravinsky, and yes, even Tom Waits! But this is Vai. Definately. According to interviews with Steve (contained on SOUND THEORIES DVD and in various publications), he has written scores so that musicians in decades to come will know EXACTLY how the guitar is supposed to sound, dynamically speaking; exactly what the percussionist is supposed to shout out during the performance, etc. This isn't greasy kids stuff. Little Stevie Vai is all grown up. And just as the audiences were used to the harpsichord and its non-dynamic keys (you could bang the harpsichord keys, but they wouldn't play any louder, they would most likely just break), it took the world years to become accustomed to Beethoven banging the living day lights out of the piano/piano-forte. They had never heard someone emoting so much energy on the instrument before! It may take a while for audiences world-wide to embrace Steve Vai, the composer, but, lucky me, he's not stopping any time soon! (All of the music on SOUND THEORIES is played by the Metropole Orchestra o
If you are a Steve Vai fan ignore this....If you are an orchestra fan, ignore this...Frank Zappa would roll over in his grave....