Steve Vai - Modern Primitive/Passion And Warfare album review

Steve Vai's second and definitive album gets a reissue, along with a bunch of newly updated material

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Released in 1990, Passion And Warfare was Steve Vai’s second album and is still regarded as definitive by many. An avid student of Frank Zappa, Vai transforms what is essentially a heavy metal instrumental album into a sublime guitar extravaganza with some judicious shredding, well-constructed solos with copious amounts of effects, broken up by the occasional ballad that can stir the heart while eschewing the obvious clichés. What few lyrics there are have an idiosyncratic wit and the overall sense is of an edgy heavy metal that’s invigorating, while refusing to settle.

For the 25th-anniversary reissue, Vai has created a whole new album of material that was written during the six-year gap between Passion And Warfare and his 1984 debut, a period that saw him playing with Dave Lee Roth and Whitesnake, among many others.

But rather than present the music as a bunch of outtakes, he has either recorded new parts over the original rhythm tracks, re-recorded the track with the original musicians or re-recorded the track using his current musicians – hence the Modern Primitive title. It’s a novel approach that has the effect of placing the original album firmly in the present, where it belongs.

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