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Few people in the history of music have been truly worthy of the 'guitar legend' label. When the groundbreaking and seminal 'Passion and Warfare' was released in 1990, a flawless, masterful work of breathtaking sonic ingenuity that would change how the instrumental guitar album would be perceived forever more, Steve Vai indubitably established himself as such and has remained worthy of legendary status over the past two decades. His richly layered instrumental-based compositions, adorned with sonically alluring guitar leads that drip with emotive intent, 'speak' to the listener on a level more profound than your average bread-and-butter player. For Vai is a man who is capable of expressing his inner soul and very being through his chosen medium like no other - a true virtuoso beyond mere technical ability. Fact. And 2010 sees the arrival of his cunningly titled new concept, VaiTunes, a series of previously unreleased tracks recorded throughout his career that are now being made available as single-track downloads via iTunes (see press release below for full details). The second of these to be released, 'The Moon and I', has been made available for review here. Originally born from a pre-gig jam during soundcheck in 2000, and recorded at The Music Box in Athens, Vai embellished the original in March this year with sporadic lyrics, sung by the man himself, and other various tweaks. The result is a beautifully ethereal, lengthy piece of music that is loaded with Vai idioms. With an accompanying eight page digital booklet in the form of a PDF file, this provides a lengthy explanation penned by Vai as to the precise origins and evolution of the piece and, for the musos, a degree of theoretical and technical detail such as his admission this was "the first time I pulled and bent octaves with the whammy bar into workable and diatonic target notes, or used fast picking on the fret just above the notes being fretted." It's a level of information that will undoubtedly be of great interest to many of Vai's fans, myself included, who strive to play guitar one tenth as good as he does, but also provides a neat insight into the progression and evolution of his style and technique. Also of interest is the fact he acquired a vintage 1987 Jem in 2009 from a pawn shop, following a tip-off from a friend, to re-record the parts originally laid down during the 2000 soundcheck. I 've refrained from talking about the actual track too much as over-analysis of such art destroys the essence inherent in the listening experience. So go buy these snippets of Vai and hear the beauty for yourself. VaiTunes via iTunes...now there's a tagline!
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Review by Mark Holmes
4th May 2010
1) The Moon and I
"...a beautifully ethereal, lengthy piece of music that is loaded with Vai idioms."
Text from full press release (dated 14th July 2010):

Grammy award-winning guitarist Steve Vai has created VaiTunes, which will be a digital series of single-song releases intended to share some rare pieces of his unreleased catalogue with fans. The latest release from the series is The Moon and I and is available now.

It’s not uncommon for a musician to record more work than they release. In Vai’s case, the guitarist has a digital ocean of snippets in various degrees of completion. Some are leftovers from assorted sessions, projects that were never completed, soundcheck jams, or songs that were specific to a particular venture. “There are enough lonely, unreleased notes in my world to fill an infinity shelf,” says Vai.

Each release comes with a pdf booklet containing detailed notes about the creation of the song, the story behind the recording and gear involved. The Moon and I evolved out of a soundcheck jam in Athens, Greece in the spring of 2000. The pdf notes allow the listener to follow Vai as he birthed the chord changes in Greece and subsequently watered and fertilised the song ten years later, half way around the world in his Encino studio. Equally fascinating is the story for the guitar used to finish “The Moon and I.” Under unique circumstances, Vai purchased one of his own model circa 1987 yellow Jem guitars from a pawnshop and named the guitar ‘Moon.’

Vai plans to offer several VaiTunes per year, each one representing a unique moment in his personal musical history. The releases can all be purchased via iTunes and digital music providers worldwide. Other VaiTunes available now are Without Me and Speed. Underground Garden, a sweet vocal ballad, will be released shortly.

Steve is currently working on his next solo album and will embark upon a World Tour in 2011 to support the release.