You can always count on lil’ Stevie Vai to deliver something completely off the wall…except when he’s trying to play it straight.
Compared to Passion and Warfare and Sex & Religion, Steve plays it remarkably straight on the stripped back mini-album Alien Love Secrets. Remarkably straight for Steve Vai, that is. This is a guy who is known to make his guitar sound like anything except a guitar. There’s plenty of that here (check out “Bad Horsie”, which sounds like some kind of bad horsie at times), but there are also actual grooves and riffs too. Alien Love Secrets is an instrumental mini-album that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Steve’s music has always been an alternative to the mainstream, but grunge and heavy rock play an influence on “Bad Horsie”, one of the heaviest Vai riffs in existence. Former Ozzy/Journey drummer Deen Castronovo is there to help cement the grooves (Deen also played on Ozzy’s Vai-written song “My Little Man”). Alien Love Secrets is the ideal starter for people who don’t think they’re Vai fans. The heavy rock continues on “Kill the Guy With the Ball”, featuring Deen doing some serious steppin’.
It’s wall to wall shred, but if you’re looking for something even more straight-ahead, you’ll dig “Juice” which is just a classic Van Halen shuffle done a-la Steve. What about ballads? From the very beginning, Planet Steve has included ballads. “Die to Live” is a stock Vai ballad, melodic with tricky lead parts. Some of the licks remind of “Hina” from David Lee Roth’s Skyscraper. “The Boy From Seattle” would also be pegged as a ballad, but it’s definitely a bit more challenging. Then there’s the beautiful closing track “Tender Surrender”, which is blues for the intergalactic age.
People who don’t like Steve’s goofy side will loathe “Ya-Yo Gakk”, a duet between infant child and lead guitar. Steve has always experimented with guitar imitating the melody of a human voice, like “So Happy” from Flex-Able. This is more of a song, but still a matter of taste.
Alien Love Secrets will still be incomprehensible to some, but it’s probably Steve’s most accessible release overall. Without the layers upon layers of tracks, you can get in there and just listen. If you want more, there is a cool DVD release, with a video for each track on the album!