Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Steve Vai - 1998 [1984-1988] "Flexable Leftovers"

The Flex-Able Leftovers album, released on November 10, 1998 on Sony Records, contains five bonus tracks and is quite different from the original Flex-Able Leftovers EP. Unlike Steve Vai's other albums, which are mostly instrumental, almost all copies of Flex-Able Leftovers feature a Parental Advisory label, as a result of the song "Fuck Yourself" containing multiple profanities and sexual references. Other differences from the original version include the recording of live drums on "You didn't break it!" (Original was drum machine) and the complete re-editing and mixing of the songs.

Before his high-profile gigs with David Lee Roth and Whitesnake, Steve Vai served time as Frank Zappa's guitarist in the early '80s. And judging by Vai's first two solo albums released around this time, 1984's Flex-Able and Flex-Able Leftovers, he was heavily influenced by Zappa's songwriting and compositional skills. Although there is definitely a noticeable Zappa stamp on the tunes, Vai's own personality and awe-inspiring guitar chops are what really make these two solo albums so impressive. Also, Vai was one of the few guitar heroes of the '80s to stress the importance of songwriting over mindless soloing. While Flex-Able was a full album, Flex-Able Leftovers was originally just an EP of material that didn't make it onto the debut.

When Flex-Able was released on CD in 1988, a few tracks from Leftovers were included as a bonus, yet fans have wondered all along if the full EP would ever be released on CD. Ten years later, their wish came true. Not only has the EP been re-released, but unreleased tracks from that era are included, making up a full-length album. Vai's over-the-top humor can be sampled on the profanity-fest "#?@! Yourself" and the goofy "So Happy," while "Massacre" and "Natural Born Boy" feature his immense guitar skill. And Vai's unique songwriting talent is evident on such tracks as "Burnin' Down the Mountain," "The Beast of Love," and "Bledsoe Blvd." The 1998 version of Flex-Able Leftovers is highly recommended to guitar freaks everywhere, as well as lovers of completely original and cutting-edge rock music.

With $5000 and a homebuilt studio, Steve Vai recorded an album that made him a star and changed guitar music forever. On the 25th anniversary of Flex-Able, Vai delivers the most in-depth look ever into the making of his shred-tastic debut and his plans to remake it.

“I was completely scared to death of being famous,” Steve Vai confides. “And I just thought, There’s no way I could sell this music I’ve made. I don’t even want to try to sell it! It’s too personal.”

The music that Vai is discussing is Flex-Able, his first solo album. Released in 1984, a quarter of a century ago this year, it has become a classic among fans of virtuoso rock guitar and a landmark of the Eighties shred phenomenon that forever raised the bar for rock guitar technique. It has been reissued many times and in many formats, along with the now equally famous Flex-Able Leftovers bonus tracks. In commemoration of its silver anniversary, Vai is preparing a specially remastered, 25th anniversary deluxe reissue of the album that put him on the map.

Flex-Able was the disc that introduced Steve Vai to the world. Although he had already made several albums with Frank Zappa, Flex-Able was the first record that presented him on his own terms. His uncanny mastery of the fretboard, the strange voodoo he could work with a whammy bar, the soul-searching lyricism of his ballad playing, his compositional flair, even his mystical, tantric alien love god persona—the whole Vai story begins with Flex-Able.

The album is also an important early example of a rock musician seizing control of the means of production and distribution, and having it his own way. Vai recorded it in a home studio that he built with his own hands, and then released it independently. In that respect, Flex-Able is an important harbinger of our own digital D.I.Y. era of MySpace and YouTube, Pro Tools and Garage Band—except that Vai did it all analog, at a time before personal computers had even made their way into most people’s homes and the internet was still more than a decade down the road. Nonetheless, Flex-Able has sold more than 300,000 copies to date. Not bad for music that its creator thought would never sell.

Track listing:

All songs written by Steve Vai, except where noted.

"Fuck Yourself" (Listed as #?@! Yourself)[2] (Bonus Ed. 1998) – 8:27
"So Happy" (Vai, Laurel Fishman) – 2:43
"Bledsoe Bluvd" – 4:22
"Natural Born Boy" (Bonus Ed. 1998) – 3:34
"Details at 10" – 5:58
"Massacre" (Bonus Ed. 1998) – 3:25
"Burnin' Down the Mountain" – 4:22
"Little Pieces of Seaweed" – 5:12 (Vai, Larry Kutcher)
"San Sebastian" (Bonus Ed. 1998) – 1:08
"The Beast of Love" (Joe Kearney) – 3:30
"You Didn't Break it" (Bob Harris, Suzannah Harris) (1998 Version, with Robin DiMaggio (Drums)) – 4:19
"The X-Equilibrium Dance" (Bonus Ed. 1998) – 5:10
"Chronic Insomnia" – 2:00


Personnel:

Steve Vai – vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, coral sitar, keyboards, electric piano, bass guitar, background vocals
Mike Keneally – keyboards on "Fuck Yourself"
Tommy Mars – vocals, violin, keyboards
Stu Hamm – vocals, bass guitar
Bob Harris – background vocals
Joe Kearney – background vocals
Alex Acerra - background vocals
Larry Crane – piccolo xylophone, bell lyre, vibraphone
Robin DiMaggio – drums
Chris Frazier – drums
Deen Castronovo – drums
Pete Zeldman – percussion
Suzannah Harris – background vocals
Larry Kutcher - vocals and narration on Little Pieces of Seaweed

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