On its silver anniversary Charlie Griffiths pays tribute to one of the greatest guitar albums of all time: Steve Vai’s epic Passion & Warfare.
Charlie Griffiths pays homage to Steve Vai on the 25th anniversary of Passion & Warfare.
This Grammy-nominated 1990 release came five years after Steve Vai’s debut solo album Flex-able. With its creative songwriting, pristine production and jaw-dropping skill it’s hard to believe that Passion And Warfare was his second release.
Of course, Steve was already a seasoned live performer and session guitarist, having had a stint with Frank Zappa on the albums, You Are What You Is, Ship Arriving Too Late To Save A Drowning Witch and Them Or Us – to name but a few. Steve’s David Lee Roth period began in 1986, when he recorded one of the greatest rock records of the decade, Eat ’Em And Smile. Steve is awe-inspiring, and arguably steals the limelight from one of rock’s most charismatic frontmen. Proving he could step into the shoes of Eddie Van Halen was a huge boost to Steve’s career and exposed him to a wider mainstream audience.
The audience was certainly listening in September 1990 when Passion And Warfare was unleashed on the world’s unsuspecting guitar nerds. Like Satriani’s Surfing With The Alien three years earlier, the album redefined what instrumental guitar music could be. Not only was it heavy with tracks like Erotic Nightmares, but it was also fun and tongue in cheek with The Audience Is Listening. Of course, For The Love Of God was so packed full of emotion that it could make grown men weep into their fretboards.
With the following examples we look at some of the techniques and approaches used throughout the record, starting with a heavy syncopated riff that requires deft alternate picking and string-skipping chops, which combine to create a tight and punchy effect. Example 2’s contrary motion effect involves playing an ascending double-stop melody while simultaneously playing a descending bassline. Our next example emulates Steve’s ‘harmoniser’ sounds, adding major 6th and a perfect 4th, along with some delay to create a ping-pong effect - you’ll see instructions on how to create the effect. Examples 4 and 5 focus on Steve’s clean and funky rhythm.
Finally, we have a big solo ballad piece with note choices shifting between F Lydian and E Dorian - both bright and positive sounding modes. Expressiveness is everything when it comes to delivering a Vai-style melody; every nuance from the vibrato, to pinched harmonics, to whammy bar scoops and gargles is carefully placed, but should never seem gimmicky. Practise the solo in short sections focusing on connecting the techniques together naturally and – as Steve would tell you – above all, musically.
for the love of god was So packed full of emotion it made grown men weep into their fretboards!
NEXT MONTH Charlie looks at US hard rock band Winger featuring Rob Beach
Steve Vai: with his iconic seven string Ibanez Jem