The American guitarist, composer, songwriter, producer and three-time Grammy Award winner (and fifteen-time nominee) STEVE VAI, who took guitar lessons from fellow New York native Joe Satriani in the early 1970s, began his career by playing in Frank Zappa’s band in 1980. He embarked upon a solo career and issued his first studio album, Flex-Able issued his own label, Akashic Records ion 1983.
Vai has cited artists Jimmy Page, Brian May, Ritchie Blackmore, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, and jazz fusion guitarists Allan Holdsworth and Al Di Meola as major influences.
In 2022, Vai was spotlighted on the Texas prog-rockers Polyphia’s track ‘Ego Death.’ Polyphia are noted for incorporating virtuosic guitar parts into their extraordinarily highly developed sounds.
On November 10, 2022, Vai announced that his next album would be titled, ‘Vai/Gash’. The album, originally recorded in 1991 alongside his neighbour and buddy, the Queens born vocalist, Johnny “Gash” Sombrotto, will be released on January 27, 2023.
Sombrotto sadly passed away in 1998 following a motorcycle accident and, as a result, Vai ended up shelving the project.
Vai explains, ‘He would have absolutely been the greatest rock lead singer you would ever want to know. All the elements were in place, but he was gone. Disheartened, I put the entire project on the shelf, and would listen to it at least once a year for the past 30 years, especially around the anniversary of his passing.’
‘Then recently something compelled me to want to put it out now. 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.’
Vai recalls: ‘This 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 1970s…’
‘Busted’ is rammed with helter-skelter energy and is a nail biting, no-holds-barred, bumble-goose, burn-ride into hair-trigger agitation. The single (we share it below) kinda falls partway between the sound of early Tornados and .38 Special in terms of reminiscent rock ‘n’ roll ultraglide vibe. Yet the song also features the smooth tones and wholesome boogieness that are trademarks of Vai’s very special guitar performance. And Johnny’s vocal is, of course, as stunning and fiery as it is vivid.
‘In The Wind’ is a genuine glam-blues-rock treat and reminds us of Permanent Vacation era Aerosmith. On this number Johnny delivers the Graham Bonnet to Vai’s ‘Malmsteen’ so we assuredly tap into that type of zany-zealous 80s metal heaviness that bands like Alcatrazz offered us back in the halcyon days. Yes, this song is catchy and free-spirited and sums up the biking life: the leathers, the tar, the oil, the mood, the freedom… and most of all the heady exhilaration of the moment.
We can’t think of a more fitting commemorative of a rock ‘n’ roll life ridden hard. This is a joyously pleasurable tribute!
File alongside: Joe Satriani, Eddie Van Halen, Golden Earring
VAI / GASH is due out digitally and on CD January 27, 2023 via Favored Nations / Mascot Label Group