CD and Digital out on January 27, 2023
LP out on February 24, 2023
Click here to pre-order Vai/Gash
Steve Vai’s highly-successful 2022 Inviolate Tour may be in the books, but there will be no slowing down for the guitar virtuoso as he turns the page to 2023. Vai, with support from Favored Nations / Mascot Label Group, is set to release Vai/Gash on January 27, a set of eight recordings from the early 1990s that have been mothballed for over 30 years.
As Vai shared, “This record was written and recorded in somewhat of a stream of consciousness in 1991 within perhaps a 2-week period as an answer to my desire to have a particular kind of music to listen to when I was riding my Harley Davidson Motorcycle with my friends. It’s reminiscent of a certain type of rock music I enjoyed as a teenager in the 1970’s.”
I had the pleasure of covering Vai’s Atlanta show at the Variety Playhouse back in mid-October, and paid for my son and I to participate in his intimate EVO Experience. It was during that pre-show session where Vai beamed about his upcoming excitement for this release, reminiscing that Johnny “Gash” Sombrotto would have ended up as one of the best rock singers of all time had it not been for his untimely death in a motorcycle accident back in September 1998. After listening to this album a few times through, it would be hard to argue against Vai’s prognostication.
Vai/Gash opens with “In the Wind,” an upbeat rocker with that distinct Vai guitar sound, supported by Gash’s vocal delivery that immediately reminds you of Paul Stanley (KISS). Vai offered, “’In The Wind’ was the first track that was recorded for this record. It captures the spirit of the open road freedom we felt while riding our Harley’s on bike rallies and interstate road trips. The track has the exhilaration of having that kind of power under you while kissing the wind.” “In the Wind” is definitely a “roll down the window and crank up the radio”-type tune meant to get the girl’s attention as you cruise around town.
Track 2 is called “Busted,” a track that comes across like White Lion’s 1989 cover version of Golden Earing’s “Radar Love.” If you close your eyes, you could easily imagine the crowd shouting the chorus of “You’re busted!” back at Gash during a live performance. This song might also have my favorite Vai solo within it, but it is always hard to pick.
“Let’s Jam” is up next, a tune that has a bit of a “I Can’t Drive 55” (Sammy Hagar) vibe to it. It kind of reminded me of that scene in Back to the Future II when Marty McFly goes to visit Biff’s casino with Hagar blaring as the motorcycles cruise around Hill Valley. This is a lively rocker with a variety of guttural vocal tones, along with a Vai solo that reminded me of his work on Whitesnake’s 1989 Slip of the Tongue release.
The next track is called “Women Fever.” This track has the shortest runtime at a quick 2:27, but it is also the only one on the album that departs from the typical rock-n-roll offering I was expecting. Gash shows off his twangy, southern sounding vocal capabilities in this bluesy, countryish tune, with a Vai solo you could easily picture him playing in one of those open window bars along Honky Tonk Highway (Broadway Street) in downtown Nashville, Tennessee.
Track 5, “She Saved My Life Tonight,” is by far my favorite song on Vai/Gash. This song is straight out of Eat ‘Em and Smile, the 1986 release that Vai co-wrote with David Lee Roth. It shows off Gash’s wide vocal range (with a Roth-type delivery), has a catchy chorus, and contains an extended bridge that leads into a Vai solo you would expect to pluck out of Eat ‘Em and Smile-era sessions. There is no doubt that this song would have received heavy air play back in the day.
“Danger Zone” is probably the hardest track on the album, with Gash changing his tone to be deeper and more growly. I would offer up that it has a bit of a Judas Priest feel to it. And while a little short for my taste, Vai also delivers one of his more typical flamboyant guitar solos of the album during this track as well.
The penultimate song on Vai/Gash is called “New Generation,” a somewhat pop metal, party type song, with a fun chorus that shouts out repeatedly “So let’s go!” However, there is also a background track of clapping and ambient audience noise that happens underneath Vai’s solo midway and then throughout the remainder of the song, which I am not sure if I like or not. Maybe this song would have been an up-tempo, live show closer?
Vai/Gash concludes with “Flowers of Fire,” the longest track on the album at 4:44 and the one you could most label a ballad. Gash’s passionate vocals immediately draw you in to this song. He’s then complimented throughout with a nice blend of ongoing harmony vocals and Vai’s guitar acoustics. This song is not quite Extreme’s “Hole Hearted” or “Love of a Lifetime” by Firehouse, but to me it falls into that same grouping. It also has a powerfully-written chorus that Gash delivers with an anthem-resounding performance:
I see the fire in your eyes
Just like a burning torch, a power you can’t disguise
Heaven is in your heart
Brighter than the brightest star
Shining down, love is what you are
And I see the flowers of fire
If you are a fan of Vai’s, obviously this album is a must-have addition to your collection. I will remind you that it is a short album, with a total runtime of approximately 30 minutes, and it is not simply a lost compilation of Vai just shredding. This release is meant to capture a musical snapshot in time, with Vai honoring and paying tribute to Sombretto. As Vai recalled, “I wish you would have had a chance to get to know John. I believe you would have loved him just as we all did. For now, he is ‘In the Wind’.”
I choose a rating of 9/10
1.) In the Wind (3:50)
2.) Busted (3:05)
3.) Let’s Jam (4:19)
4.) Woman Fever (2:27)
5.) She Saved My Life Tonight (3:39)
6.) Danger Zone (3:53)
7.) New Generation (3:33)
8.) Flowers of Fire (4:44)
About Steve Vai:
Steve Vai is a virtuoso guitarist, composer and producer, considered by many as one of the greatest guitarists of all time. In over 40 years in the industry, Vai has sold over 15 million records, received three Grammy Awards, and recorded with music legends like Frank Zappa, David Lee Roth, Whitesnake and many more. Vai has also toured extensively and recorded live projects with G3 (collaborating with different touring lineups including Joe Satriani, John Petrucci, Eric Johnson, Yngwie Malmsteen, and Steve Lukather) and Generation Axe, a supergroup Vai formed with Zakk Wylde, Yngwie Malmsteen, Nuno Bettencourt and Tosin Abasi. Vai is the author of Vaideology: Basic Music Theory for Guitar Players (Hal Leonard), his inaugural music theory book designed to help both beginners and veteran guitar players.
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Elliott is a music photographer covering shows in Atlanta, Georgia, and the surrounding area. The highlight of his photography career was back in the early ’90s, when he sold Neil Diamond the rights to his negatives from a show and then purchased a set of tires for his 1979 280ZX during college with the money.