Sunday, June 26, 2016

Steve Vai - 1984 "Flex-Able"

Steve Vai is an American guitar player, songwriter and producer. He started his career in 1980 playing with Frank Zappa and has since recorded and toured with Alcatrazz, Whitesnake, David Lee Roth and Public Image Ltd. Since 1983 Vai also released his own studio albums. His discography consists of eight studio albums, two EP's, two special albums, eight live albums, twelve soundtracks, twenty compilation albums and seven videos. Vai has been awarded three Grammy Awards and forty other awards. Vai also appeared as a guest musician on forty-four albums, playing with artists like Alice Cooper, Ozzy Osbourne, Motorhead and Gregg Bissonette and most recently for the second time with Joe Jackson.

Flex-Able is an album by Steve Vai. This was his first as a solo artist, and was created in Stucco Blue, a shed converted into a studio in Vai's old back garden. It is very different from many of his other albums, and is largely influenced by Frank Zappa. Flex-Able does not rely as much on massive guitar arrangements and shred moments as the rest of his output from the 1990s onwards, with the exception of Leftovers which is a compilation of bonus tracks and remasters from his sessions at 'Stucco Blue'.
The cover of the May 2009 issue of Guitar World features a photograph of Vai in a pose similar to the album's cover, including the bending guitar neck.

Steve Vai recorded his debut album, Flex-able, at home on an eight-track studio and released it himself in 1984. Even though Vai is one of rock's most renowned guitar virtuosos, Flex-able isn't really a typical "shred" album; playing with Frank Zappa for several years rubbed off on Vai, and many of his compositions reflect both Zappa's musical influence and a skewed sense of humor that makes for some whimsically entertaining moments (i.e., "Little Green Men"). Make no mistake, there's still plenty of Joe Satriani-esque technical virtuosity on display, but since Vai has a few other tricks in his bag, Flex-able turns out to be much more enjoyable (and accessible to listeners other than guitar-technique fetishists) than the average '80s guitar shred-fest.

This isn't the kind of album that you can just pop into your cd player and listen to for fun. That said, this is a great album. It's not one that will relax you, or somethign to help you get through the day. It's the kind of album that when you listen to, you listen hard and closely. There are tons of little nuances that'll make you smile, make you wonder if he's sane, or just blow you away. Vai really isn't the kind of guitarist that anyone can like. This also isn't a predominantly guitar album. When you listen to it, you respect Vai more as a composer/arranger than a guitarist. You want a guitar album, get passion and warfare, or alien love secrets. For a more zappa-inflected album, get this. The attitude song is very guitar based though, and call it sleep is just beautiful.

"Flex-Able" was recorded on a Fostex 1/4-inch 8-track machine in guitarist Steve Vai's home studio between April '83 and November '83. Self-financed, this record turned into an underground favorite, in spite of the low budget approach. Many of Vai's compositions reflect mentor and former boss Frank Zappa's musical influence and offbeat sense of humor that makes for some 'Zappa-esque' and entertaining moments ("Little Green Men", "Boy-Girl Song"). "Flex-Able" is so named becasue of its diversity, and includes the oustanding instrumental "The Attitude Song".

Track listing:

01.    Little Green Men    5:37
02.    Viv Woman    3:08
03.    Lovers Are Crazy    5:38
04.    Salamanders In The Sun    2:25
05.    The Boy/Girl Song     4:00
06.    The Attitude Song    3:22
07.    Call It Sleep    5:09
08.    Junkie    7:23
09.    Bill's Private Parts    0:16
10.    Next Stop Earth    0:34
11.    There Is Something Dead In Here    3:55
12.    So Happy (Bonus Track)*    2:44
13.    Bledsoe Bluvd (Bonus Track)*    4:21
14.    Burnin’ Down The Mountain (Bonus Track)*    4:20
15.     Chronic Insomnia (Bonus Track)*    2:03


Steve Vai / synth, bass, guitar, percussion, piano, keys, sitar, vocals, bells, drum programming
Scott Collard / synth, keys
Larry Crane / lyre, xylophone, bells, vibraphone, piccolo xylophone
Greg Degler / clarinet, flute, sax
Laurel FIshman / vocals
Peggy Foster / bass
Chris Frazier / drums
Stuart Hamm / bass, vocals
Bob Harris / trumpet, vocals
Suzannah Harris / vocals
Billy James / percussion, drums
Paul Lemcke / keys
Pai Maiocco / vocals
Tommy Mars / violin, keys, vocals
Chad Wackerman / drums
Pete Zeldman / percussion, drums

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