Steve Vai – Passion And Warfare

It’s Gratitude Day!

I was recently thrilled to receive a box of Christmas goodies from the incomparable Mike at (go Follow that blog if you haven’t already! It brings the rawk!). As always, it’s too much…

Here’s a goodie that was in the box…


I don’t know from Steve Vai, except that he’s a guitar guy – and reportedly a damn good one. So, I’m gonna listen to this first, and write it up from the gut. Then I’ll go look it up and see what was what. Let’s find out what’s up with this record!

Liberty has that epic, national anthem feel to it. Erotic Nightmares brings the rock/metal and then spacey electronics, and then sound effects like dogs growling and a man screaming, and… whoa. The Animal has a satisfying funky bluesy metal swagger, Answers rips along with a vaguely 80s soundtrack feel to it (but no less impressive), and The Riddle buzzsaws dripping blues at a walking pace, with sexy talking (in French? and moaning for a bit…).

Ballerina 12/24 might seems like a bunch of high pitched noodling, but that’s the music box, baby! Did we need to listen to him breathe? Haha no. For The Love Of God is beautiful, another bluesier track but bringing quicker David Gilmour passages to mind. The Audience Is Listening is a huge rapid-fire rocker a la Van Halen Hot For Teacher. I wish they’d have left the teacher talking out of it and just let the music be enough. It really wrecked the track for me.

I Would Love To carries on the Van Halen sound, holy mackerel. great rocker tune, just ripping away and tearing the roof off. Blue Powder is a gorgeous ballad, smokin’ along while still shredding completely. Great control, and again with the playful bits of experimentation. Greasy Kid’s Stuff blasts right in your face and never relents. It’s a chunky fast rocker and bluesy as hell.

Alien Water Kiss is 1:11 of weirdo shrill space noises and silliness. Necessary? Not really, but hey. At least it’s short! Sisters is gentler, and damn beautiful – as it should be, with a title like that. It’s jazzy, playful, and clearer. I really dug this track, a higlight for me. Love Secrets is a total freakout, going out with a lightning quick blast. All the instruments just go for broke here, and it’s a corker. 3:38 of controlled mayhem! And then it all just crashes to a close. Whoa.

And over top of them all, Vai’s blistering fretwork and pyrotechnics amazes and impresses. I found the talking bits a little weird and dated, but they’re short, and they must be part of the concept of the album, so it hardly matters.

In Sum: 

Wowzers, what a record! I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything quite like it. Like I said, I knew OF the man, but have never gone out of my way to try it out. As expected, the guitar work here is incredible. He makes it sound easy, I know it sure the hell isn’t. And the rest of the band keeps up with him, no problem. This is technical playing and compositional songwriting at its most impressive. I didn’t know I needed this album until it landed here. THANKS HEAPS MIKE!!!!


And now for what Wiki says about it:

Passion and Warfare is the second studio album by guitarist Steve Vai, released in September 1990 through Relativity and Epic Records. It has been certified Gold by the RIAA. It was written based on a series of dream sequences that Vai had when he was younger, and in the guitar music book of the album, Vai sums it up as “Jimi Hendrix meets Jesus Christ at a party that Ben Hur threw for Mel Blanc”. It was all recorded in The Mothership studio at his home in the Hollywood Hills, a 1,600-square-foot (150 m2) building in which his guitar parts for Whitesnake’s 1989 album Slip of the Tongue were also recorded. As such, Whitesnake frontman David Coverdale has small spoken parts on Passion and Warfare.

Vai states that planning the album started as early as 1982, but was shelved after joining the David Lee Roth band and not picked up again until parting ways with Roth in 1989. Vai utilized many unusual recording techniques on the album. For what would come to be one of his most popular songs to date, “For the Love of God”, he fasted for ten days and recorded the song on the fourth day of the fast. “Blue Powder” was originally recorded in 1986 as a showcase track for Carvin, using their X-100B amplifier, and given away with Guitar Player magazine in flexi disc format. Vai was introduced to Carvin by his mentor Frank Zappa, who had also used the X-100B. The drums were subsequently re-recorded for the album.

The equipment used to record Passion and Warfare was: Ibanez JEM and Universe guitars; Charvel Green Meanie guitar; Marshall JCM900 and Carvin X-100B amplifiers; ADA MP-1 preamplier; Boss DS-1 distortion pedal; Eventide H3000 harmonizer; Lexicon 480L.

The song “For the Love of God” is available for download for the 2007 video game Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, and was voted the 29th best solo of all time by a readers’ poll in Guitar World magazine.

In 2016, Vai embarked on the Passion and Warfare 25th Anniversary World Tour, where he played the album in its entirety for the first time.



Posted on February 22, 2017, in posts by aaron and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. I was a never a huge fan of this kinda stuff but I keep toying with getting this album. One of these days I’m sure I’ll finally bite!


  2. The overdubbed spoken parts can spoil tracks for me too – but if it sounds like Hot for Teacher, can’t be all bad!
    Well done Mike!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. There is so much going on with this album. It’s an instrumental concept album which is rare in itself. It was Vai pushing the limits of his new 7 string guitars. Only one song was played on six string. A lot of it was written when he was a teen. Then we have the Eventide harmonizer which was brand new and Vai really let it loose with experiments. Ballerina being a great example of what the Eventide did.

    Incredible album, give it time and read the liner notes and lyrics. Lyrics for an instrumental album? Oh that little Stevie Vai!


    • A lot going on indeed!7 strings guitars? What, are 6 strings not good enough? Haha I’ll bet he plays his 7 string guitars through amps that go to 11!

      He wrote this as a teen? Jeebus, that’s pretty damn advanced. Haha I read Eventide but saw Evenflow and thought “what did Pearl Jam have to do with this?” Hooboy.

      Truly incredible work, and I get the feeling that the more time I spend with it, the more it’s gonna sink into my brain and the more awesome it’ll get!



  4. Also note: “Answers” comes before “The Riddle”. Hidden message or part of the story?


  5. Love this album. I have followed his career since his work with Whitesnake and DLR. He is freaking amazing and so is this album. My favorite guitarist next to Joe Satriani.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Throw Eddie in there and we’re in total agreement!


  7. Bought this on Vai’s deal with Roth…so I knew the Chops would be there….It’s a great album at times a little too much wanky panky with the wang bar for my liking but it’s cool that it sold back than…
    Actually the only album of his I bought solo well that next one with that nut job Devin i bought also ..that one was wild….

    Liked by 1 person

  8. A friend of mine threw the CD my way a while back cause I was raving about Eat ‘Em & Smile after finally taking the plunge and buying the LP. I found it a bit too sprawling, but there are a lot of highlights to make it worthwhile. I wish I went to see him when he stopped in Glasgow for this tour.


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