Well I never really thought this thread would get such a great response!
After much more time with the record I've decided to give it another review! So here goes...
1 - Bop! : I still really like this track. Although I understand it was written around an effect, I'd still like to have heard the parts as true electrics instead.
2 - Dark Matter : I really love the syncopation/groupings of this track, and I like the Hendrix-y vibe of the whole thing. Gotta love the 7#9s! It's a nice change from the 'normal' Vai sound to me, both in terms of writing and production.
3 - Mighty Messengers : Nice hyperactive little track. I've been singing this one quite a bit! The texture and tonal textures give this one quite a really nice production quality. I love the contrast between the out of phase Strat and those wonderfully heavy chords in the interlude and ending, as well as Vai's voice doubled in octaves with a female voice. Wonderfully produced track.
4 - The Lost Chord : I still maintain this is my favourite track on the record - maybe even one of my favourites end of. I love the segue from Mighty Messengers, it doesn't feel at all forced or 'easy'. It's a very natural transition. This track has been played so much and I'm nowhere near sick of it! Devin really makes this track. Others might say his tracks are buried a bit in the mix with all the reverb - especially in the higher registers - but I think it complements the main melody quite nicely and gives quite a ghostly feel. Whilst I don't mind the B section, I think I'd have preferred more of a traditional section.
The last chorus is one of my all time favourite Vai moments. Such a rich timbre in all parts, wonderfully produced. It doesn't sound like a track from a Steve Vai record to me, but its almost exactly the direction I've wanted Vai and Devin to go in for a while now. Others may disagree, but I much prefer the Real Illusions sonic aesthetic to any other records. (And I'm dying
for the next one, I don't care for a technical record that's been mentioned in interviews all that much)
5 - Upanishads : For a song with only two chords (well, not literally, but you know what I mean), I quite like it. It doesn't feel boring, and I love the sound of the MusicMan. It's a subtle, but nice timbre change to the Coral used on most other things. I've quite enjoyed working this one out and transcribing it.
6 - Fast Note People : I still think the compression was hit a bit too hard at 2:00, but I really like the instrumentation. It's like Flex-Able, but grown up and more mature.
7 - And We Are One : I still really like this one. It feels very spacious, yet never sparse, and the solo never feels overplayed. I've really enjoyed playing/transcribing this one too, lovely bar work.
8 - Never Forever : There goes Mr. Lydian...
But seriously, I like the Ultra Zone vibe this one has to it. This'd make a great Naked Track.
9 - Lights Are On : This one is REALLY fun to play with, and gave me some nice ideas of my own to expand upon. I like the audio montage aesthetic mixed with the traditional instrumental guitar style.
10 - No Pockets : This is another I've been singing in my head a lot too. If this was 1985 I'm sure it'd be all over the radio! I could actually hear DLR singing this.
11 - 13 - Pink And Blows Over : I still really like this one. It'd be nice with some brass and some strings.
I really like the production quality of this record, and the promo video that came along shortly after. I really
want more like that on a regular basis, or maybe a real documentary/making of for the next record. I'm quite interested to hear what else is on the shelf now!
PASSION AND WARFARE
The mastering is definitely a lot nicer on this than the original release. You can tell digital conversion has come a long way since the late 80's/early 90's. It is still lacking a lot of bass end punch when you compare it to Modern Primitive, but its a lot better than it was.
I'm sticking to what I originally said about the bonus tracks, with the addition that I learned and transcribed Lovely Elixir the day it was uploaded. It's hands down one of my favourite Vai tracks, and should have been released on P&W originally. In my opinion, it might even rival For The Love Of God - less is more. The instrument/recording timbre doesn't match the rest of the record, which suggests it probably wasn't finished until recently - especially considering similar techniques are used that only really pop up on Modern Primitive. I'd have loved to have seen it performed on the UK leg of the tour that recently passed through.
I still really like this album. I'd quite like a vinyl release, but not as much as some other stuff. It has some incredible moments, but equally some tracks that I (personally) don't feel all that attached to. Although, I'm sure it'll be on repeat for a very long time yet!
The only other thing I'll say is that I hope the tour doesn't go on too long. Don't get me wrong I loved seeing Steve's incredible live show and getting a chance to meet him afterward was an experience I'll always treasure, but it makes me feel a bit uneasy that so much time is passing between records. Its been 4 years already since The Story Of Light, 7 years before that since Reflections, and 6 before that since the Ultra Zone. I love seeing my favourite artists live and out in the world doing things, but sometimes it feels like its at the expense of the music and the other stuff that's been announced/planned and never followed through. Personally I think the two current releases for the Real Illusions trilogy contain some of the best music I've ever heard, and it'd be a shame if the artistic potential of someone like Steve wasn't completely realised. I realise that sounds Über whiney and perhaps a little harsh, but I know its true for a lot of people.
I'd give the record overall an 8/10. The production quality is very high and a little different than previous releases, and I really like the contrast between Vai then and Vai now. Its very varied yet not alienating, and gives a very authentic listening experience. Even with unfamiliar tones and textures you know who you're listening to - which is the mark of any great artist. I'm actually writing for some commissions as well as producing my own guitar record as we speak, and it was a nice little injection of creative influence into the projects since I'd hit a bit of a creative wall and it was refreshing to hear something new.
I'm incredibly interested to hear what else is on the infinity shelf after this effort!
GO AND BUY THIS RECORD