Alien Love Secrets

REVIEW: Steve Vai – Alien Love Secrets (1995)

STEVE VAI – Alien Love Secrets (1995 Relativity)

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!

3.25/5 stars

REVIEW: Steve Vai – Naked Tracks (2008 5 CD set)

STEVE VAI – Naked Tracks (2008 Light Without Heat)

I’m not a guitar player so my review of this box set will be limited to non-player knowledge. Steve Vai designed this set for guitar players to improvise over. He removed the lead guitar from selected tracks from the following albums:

  • Passion & Warfare
  • Sex & Religion
  • Alien Love Secrets
  • Fire Garden
  • Alive in an Ultra World
  • The Ultra Zone
  • Real Illusions: Reflections

He encourages the players to improvise rather than learn the original solos, and make loops of songs in order to play away as long as they want.

As I said I’m not a real guitar player, just a wanna-be, but I love Steve’s music and I enjoyed hearing his songs deconstructed. You can hear a lot of keyboards and backing guitars that you can’t hear with the lead guitar mixed in up front. Some songs, as a listener, don’t work at all like this such as “The Audience Is Listening” as there’s not much backing music. Again though, this wasn’t really designed for listeners like me.

I had fun playing a few simple melodies over some of Steve’s slower songs.  Some of these stripped-down tracks will also make good beds for voiceover recordings.

At this price, guitar players are getting a lot of music for their dollar. They might never play or use some of these tracks but you can’t argue with the value (about $20 Canadian).

For players, you’re going to get a lot of use from these CDs especially when you download the sheet music from Vai’s site. Vai writes arrangements that will give you a lot of challenges and fun options to play over. For the average listener such as myself, you will only play this occassionally. It will definitey give you insight to the songwriting and recording talents of Steve Vai, and maybe you can use the tunes to just chill out as background music at home. At this price maybe that is enough reason for non-players to buy it. Only a guitar player will truly get maximum use for this box set, and I think they will use it a lot.

3.5/5 stars

Note:  Steve has available on iTunes two more discs from this series:

  • Where the Wild Things Are/Sound Theories
  • Story of Light