REAL ILLUSIONS: REFLECTIONS REVIEW THREAD

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vukvai
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well i must say that i agree with every post lydian7 has posted in this thread.word for word.

One thing though:
This was ment to be a concept album, so why does it lack continuity so much????
ah well i still love it, and it'll take a lot of time to digest it all

ROCK ON!!!

P.S. How good is the last 20 seconds of "Building the church"
Ohhh yeah baby!!!!
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Big Bad Bill
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Well Vukvai, some may say that there is loads of continuity in the CD. It may be we simply haven't realised it yet! This could be an allgorical technique-it might not be!
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Samuele
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I hope Steve’s still been reading this thread, because I really poured my heart in some of my comments. Steve's been so kind to let us know lots of details through Inside RI that I felt compelled to do something similar. Almost.

1. Foreword

I temporarily surfaced from the listening of Reflections to write these few comments. I say comments because I really don’t feel as qualified as to write a ‘review’. It’s more like a report of my first few listens though, because from my experience the more I listen to Steve’s records the more details I get in them. It’s always been so for me. In the past I usually listened to each new record a couple of times a day for a month. This time it looks like three months. Ok, I know I’m being a little extreme here, but this is a very special record for me. On 02/22 in the morning I ran to the local music store and grabbed a copy of Reflections. Just taking the record in my hands was a thrill.

2. The cover, artwork and liner notes

It seems that for his past album covers, Steve sometimes went to some illustrators, and the final result was quite “figurative”. By that I mean the details (outlines, etc.) of the images were always well-defined, even in covers such as those for The Ultra Zone and Fire Garden, which are all illustration (no modified photographs). This time I feel the illustrator went for something more abstract – following Steve’s ideas, I guess. The outlines are well-defined but sometimes they overlap. To me, the result looks closer to Steve’s music (and way of playing) than ever. The past albums’ covers are all conjuring up a either a frame of mind (Ultra Zone, Alive in an Ultra World, Alien Love Secrets, Sex and Religion, the two Flex-ables) or a concept (Passion and Warfare, Fire Garden). To me, Reflection’s cover seemed to be conveying an ambience, an atmosphere, until I read these words:

"In the place known as “Under it All” there exists a pond known as the "waters of your being." It can reflect things, or out of it can come various things once you look into it. There are no defenses one can have against it’s reflections because what it sees is the truth. When she gazed into it, from it came the manifestation, in physical form, her inner most everything".
(Inside Real Illusions: Reflections – I’m Your Secrets)

I think this can explain the meaning of the front and back cover. The character on the front is probably Eve’s reflection on the pool’s waters. Steve’s reflection on the back probably means he’s presenting this work as his most honest. In the notes to Passion and Warfare (http://www.vai.com/AllAboutSteve/discon ... ssion.html) he wrote :

“I stripped myself naked of all outside expectations, all hang-ups and fears of what might happen. I made a record that I wanted to be a statement of my most inner feelings, a blueprint of my personality”.

Well, I think Reflections can be considered as Steve’s “updated” blueprint of his inner self. Also, did you notice that the girl’s hair curl on the front (left) is the same as Steve’s on the back (right)? I think there’s a meaning for that too. Moreover, the inside photographs (especially Steve’s face) made me think of these words:

“The mesmerizing stranger from the night before stood at the door with a frozen look of A Perfect Balance of All Emotions on his face”.
(Inside Real Illusions: Reflections – Under it All)

By now you should already know that I probably love this record’s artwork more than most of the others.

The liner notes are (understandably) more in the Passion and Warfare vein, in the form of story excerpts instead of comments on each song. I'm very interested in the story.

3. Listening pleasure

Building The Church - This song belongs to the heavy rhythm sections cathegory, but when Steve does songs like that it sounds like he always keeps the frequencies "well-rounded", even when he changes the EQ quite a bit. The aggressive rhythm guitar parts never hurt your ears. Instead, they build energy and transfer it to you. Trying to visualize images while listening made me think that "Under it all" must be a very colorful building, because there are endless tonalities of colors in the song's harmonies. The final part almost sounds like Pamposh is quickly putting decorations on it, adding little details. I think you can see an example of the two-handed technique from this song also on the London DVD, especially during Down Deep. Am I correct?

Dying For Your Love - Steve's vocal performances on Reflections seem to outstand anything he's ever done so far in regard to singing. This is probably the track where Steve pushed his vocal abilities the most (maybe along with Under it all). I real dig the rhythm sections, especially the chord changes. My favorite parts are the lines which start like "I saw angels […] In an ocean of your love".

Glorious - This is the rocking track of the record, maily because of the rhythm guitar riff. I like the contrast between that and the melody (the cat-like sound) - it takes a little intonation to play that, right? I have to agree with Steve on the "sweet spot" of this song: for me, it comes halfway through the breakdown section, my favorite part of the song.

K'm-Pee-Du-Wee - I love this song so much. I think the seed of its birth can be found in The Boston Rain Melody, I mean the main riff. But my ears seem to like the new one more. Every note has its own right place/meaning in it. The dynamics are stunning. There's also a little phrase that caught me by surprise, because at first I couldn't figure out the way it's played - it's around 3.20. Every new Vai record has some of those things. I'm sure Steve's always trying to do new things on the guitar.

Firewall - The intro vocals to this one are very rhythmically challenging. I remember Steve used to do things like that live to make his band play what he sang. Some of the guitar riffs have a Hendrix flavor, but the solo is totally Vai. I think that if there's a track on Reflections which has radio potential, it's this one. It has a magnificent groove.

Freak Show Excess - Definitely one of my favorite tracks on this record, besides being one of the hardest-to-play-yet-quite-flowing songs Steve has ever released. There's something that reminds me of Little Black Hole - it's just a short part around 0.45 (also 1.00). The sitar parts also are very interesting. I always thought Steve could have done something like this, almost in the Pusa Road vein. It will be interesting to hear the live arrangement for this one (and for Under it all). I love the bass lines as well, because they're far from being predictable, even from a 'secret weapon' like Billy.

Lotus Feet - This song could have been entitled "How to fill somebody's eyes with tears of joy". When I listened to the record for the first few times, I did so that this song came up around sunset/dusk, to produce a certain frame of mind I had done the same thing with every past album as it came out. On 02/22 in my hometown it had also snowed quite a bit, so you get some extra emotion. This song is so heartfelt that it could even surpass some of the other ballads Steve has released in the past. Every single note is… I don't think the human language has evolved enough to properly describe that. I love the way the solo is played, with the orchestra carrying on the harmonized melody.

Yai Yai - This track sounds like an exploration of dynamics, and it's perfect to "bring you back on earth" after a song such as Lotus Feet. I don't think it's too easy to play. I hear something which sounds like a bass line around 1.07. Is Billy playing that part? I daresay he's not, right?

Midway Creatures - Another beautiful one. Even if it has that Riddle feel to the rhythm, it's a different song. The parts that I like the most are when the melody gets harmonized, and then obviously the solo :) . There's so much musical tension in there.

I'm Your Secrets - The relaxing song on the record. The liner notes to it made me realize what the cover artwork could be about (see above, 2). And yes, lydian is probably also my favorite mode, because - like I wrote for the previous song - it creates a certain tension that doesn't resolve so easily. I think Steve is a master of creating that kind of tension, even with chords. Wait a moment, why did I write this is a relaxing song? Because I think Steve often combines "musical tension" with the warm element you can hear in this song. This one could also teach many of us how to not get corny/too much straighforward in regard with lyrics. All of the lyrics on RI are excellent.

Under It All - If this record hadn't songs such as Lotus Feet, Building the Church, K'm-Pee-Du-Wee, Freak Show Excess and some others, this one would be my absolute favorite. The only thing is that I can't do without the other songs :) . This one has a little of everything - excellent guitar playing (both electric and acoustic), beautiful singing, interesting talking parts (some of them really sound Zappa-influenced, right?), and those incredible chord changes. Words cannot describe properly such a work of art. So, we know Mikey is playing Michael Nemus. I think it's Fire who plays Joey Brider, and Laurel Fishman plays Maria Hendrix, right? It's hard to believe how deep this song goes as you listen to it more and more.

In general, all of the songs have what I sometimes call "unpredictable turns of color" (some other time cadenzas), that's one of the elements that makes them so interesting to me.

4. Final comment

Like I wrote before, the human genre has yet to come up with the right words to describe the feelings I get from this music. I don't think it will ever happen. As Steve's music surpasses any possible verbal conception I may ever be able to produce, my attempt is to get as close as possible to the right meaning.

If you really wanted me to come up with something that I don't like... it would be that the record is too short :lol: . No, really, that doesn't bother me. If you look at Steve's past albums (especially all of those before Fire Garden), they all clock in at little less than an hour. Even the songs (with some exceptions) all last around 4 or 5 minutes (sometimes even less). What I'm really concerned with is quality. I'm always at a loss when trying to find something Steve made that I don't like.

One of the feelings that I constantly get is that Steve is trying not to get too typecast, that's why he took off some of the tracks from the record. Believe me when I say that I really appreciate that kind of effort. I feel honoured and privileged just to be able to listen to his music. Another thing is that I'm glad that Steve's still always loving the guitar and making new things with it. I think there's plenty of that on RI (if I didn't admit that, I'd probably have tin ears :wink: ).

Given that while we are in this world we cannot reach perfection, this record is the closest one to perfection that I've ever heard. Maybe I could say that it's perfect because it's totally personal. It is really becoming my favorite Vai album.

I'm glad to report that to this day there's only one musician making records (at least that I know out in the market) that NEVER fails to please my ears, imagination and heart. His music has all of the elements that I ever dreamed of feeding my ears with.

It's Steve Vai.

Thank you for doing what you do, Steve. If it weren't for you, I'd probably be not so attached to music (and the guitar) as I am now. You might think I'm being unnecessarily kind to you, but I can't help it. I really feel I must tell you how I feel about your work. It represents a big key to my heart, and I don't think I'll chase (did I write chase??) after any girl who doesn't love your music :lol: (kidding). If it's true that we are drops from the ocean, you're like Angel Fall. See you on tour.
Last edited by Samuele on Wed Feb 06, 2008 2:46 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Big Bad Bill
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Errr... yeah.... me too! :wink:

To be serious, I think many of us feel similarly, but perhaps can't find the words to express these types of things or are just too embarrassed to. Thanks for saying it for us Samuele.

After a week of virtually living with RI I think I can categorically state that it's an amazing work and as a whole, the best thing Steve's done in a long time. His playing is simply sublime (goes without saying but I bet even Steve needs to hear this from time-to-time!) his empassioned singing is better than it's ever been and I'd even say he sings a lot better than most artists in the 'Top 40'. It amazes me that a person can develop so much, before our very ears.

Personally I've got to thank Steve for opening my eyes/ears to types of composition that I'd usually just avoid and for also pushing my sonic perception to new limits.

We are indeed, privileged to have Steve's music in our lives. It's like 'ointment for the soul'-a soul that is constantly being savaged by the rigours and harsh knocks that life deals us.

Thanks for the healing Steve, it's sincerely appreciated!
bigviges
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Steve has set a new standard here with this album. He has written an album that is epic with characters, depth, meaning, and some entertaining riffs and ideas ("yai yai" anyone?) "Building the Church" and "Dying for your love" are definetely the best tracks on the album. The passion and sense of melody are amazing. "Midway Creatures" and "Under it All" are two other outstanding tracks. The rest for the most part complete the story and that is what is needed here. This isnt another "alien love secrets" but it was not meant to be one anyway. Oh, and Billy Sheehan's bass playing just makes all the songs "sing" that much more. So thanks Steve.
nodge
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The first time I heard Joe play Flying in a Blue Dream live, I just closed my eyes...

I can't wait to do the same when I am next in Mr Vai's audience with Lotus Feet.

So much emotion without a word - absolute genius!!!
LeslieM
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I don't know how relevant my opinion is since I am not a musician of any type, but I have listened to Steve's music for a very long time (don't want to publicly age myself here :lol:) so here's my non-technical review:

I LOVE IT!!! :D

I love the emotional progression of the songs - the journey we take together when we listen.

I love the way my heart feels lighter in my chest when I hear Lotus Feet. This song is so fantastic that even my dog was moved. (No kidding.) Lotus Feet takes me to a comfy place deep inside myself.

Most of all, I love that Steve gave us the gift of this CD. I feel that he's sharing such an intimate part of himself with us through these songs and this story. I am so very grateful for this gift. Thanks Steve!!

Much love,
Leslie M.
mikesmith32
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Great album, Building The Church is one of my favorite songs. Midway Creatures is a great song, especially the tapping part, Freak Show Excess is just crazy and brilliant. The whole albums good, i cant wait to see this live.
GuitarStrings
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I've been listening to this album since the day I've purchased it(18 Feb), and it's still growing on me.
I LOVE this album. K'm Pee Du Wee is so beautiful for instance, I really cried over this song.
EVERY track on this album gives me so much emotion.
Reading the description of each song makes gives me more sense for every song. See the final guitar solo on Building the Church and the final sentence of the liner notes of this song. Steve descripts it so perfectly with Music.
Steve Vai writes Music from his heart, I LOVE Steve.
pauldlr
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I've been put of writting my thought on this album as I can't find the words but if I don't do it soon I never will! :lol:

First listen and as I expected did not grab me straight away, eccept a couple of bits. However after every listen it grows and grows. What a fantastic record. :D Its now continuously playing in my head and I love every minute. :D :D At the end of the day Steve, if you touch one person and make them feel the way I do you have succeded and done a great thing, however in your case I don't think I am the only one!

Many many thanks to Steve and all involved with this album. Truly fantastique. :peace
8erry
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I received my album with 3 picks yesterday by mail!!

These picks are not Fender Heavy. Why?
Wazza
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Awesome. This keeps getting better with every listen, and I loved it on the first listen.
I was looking forward to hearing "Building the Church" and "Midway Creatures" after hearing the previews, and I have to say they are amazing. They are more than what I could have ever expected. "Building the Church" is my favourite track at the moment.
The vocal tracks on the album are great, from the haunting melody of "Dying for Your Love" to the acoustic "I'm Your Secrets".
"Glorious" is really growing on me, with the much talked about cat like tone.
The first time I heard "K'm-Pee-Du-Wee", I thought of "Die to Live", though both songs have their own beautiful uniqueness.
I think "Firewall" would'nt look out of place in Fire Garden.
"Freak Show Excess" is appropriately titled.
I thought It was a bit strange hearing a live song on the album, but if Steve says it fits the story, I'm not going to argue. "Lotus Feet" is a worthy 7th Song.
"Yai Yai" is humorous, the first time I heard it, I was thinking of aliens - If there were little green men in space, then this is the music they would be groving to.
I like the artwork too, I think it would make for some great art on a new jem model.
Thank you Steve for another awesome album. I can't wait to see how the story unfolds. :wink:
jem613
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Whooah! Awesome! :P

The first listen left me in need of another listen, there's just so much to take in. I love all tracks...

...except Dying for your Love... this is taking many listens for me to like it.

Sad really, I can appreciate the music, the melody etc, and I love the oriental sounding guitar melody, there's just something about it that doesn't grab me by the balls! :? I think it's that annoying bass/drum sound, it's kinda distorted. When I first listened to the CD on headphones I thought I'd blown them from listening to Building the Church too loud!! Maybe that's spoilt that 'magical first listen'?

All in all though, I love this album, especially Freak Show Excess and Under it ALL. Everytime I hear "... but I accidentally killed my baby brother when I was seven..." it brings a tear to my eye, it's such an emotionally charged piece of music.

Congrats Steve and the guys, this is a great work, can't wait for the next two :D

Oh, and hurry up and play England again - gotta see this stuff live!!!!!!

Cheers
Zongadude
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JamieLeeBLues wrote: lets have another great classic album like Passion & warfare,
But to me, that's exactly what "Real Illusions: Reflections" is !!


Aah, "everyone hears music differently". Indeed. ;)
FINGERS76
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Steve Vai has done the impossible...he has created a work of art that speaks with the voice of God. Every single song on this cd made me cry...twice. There has never been, in the history of mankind, a musical experience so profound as this. It truly is the epitome of music. No one needs to create music anymore, for Vai has created the perfect series of notes. One could put this cd on and throw the rest of their cd's away. None can compare. Every time I listen to it I feel I am closer to heaven.

My God you guys sound lame. It is a good cd. Nothing more. I am disappointed in it, due to so many of the songs sounding like other Vai songs.


Don't get me wrong, it is a good album. Not great. Not new. Not original. Good. The only song I think I really love is Lotus Feet, and that wasn't even made for this cd.

And will someone please stop Vai from singing...
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