Ramon : This month guest writer Remco Post picks up two DVDs from Lick Library for you again. Besides the fairly accessible works of Foo Fighters he also peeks into the honorary gallery of guitarists, the man who words can't justify his level: Steve Vai. Remco has the experience and background to value works like this, but he has absolutely no trouble admitting that he disconnects at some points. These are the songs of David Lee Roth's 'Eat 'Em And Smile' album. Remco takes over from here on (Ramon).
Take one tip from me: don't tell anyone at Lords Of Metal that it might seem fun for you to do a review on a Lick Library DVD form 'Learn To Play Steve Vai'. As a result of that I now possess Volume 1,2 and 3 and every next month I am set to review one of them But the level is quite challenging, to use but a euphemism. A little thing about myself: I have been playing for about 20 years now and I have played in several metal and hardrock bands. My level is advanced to good, but I am not a guitar hero, or anything. See me as a James Hetfield, or Jim Root-like player level. I am good at rhythm and I am okay with playing solos, but I am not a virtuoso. I never had that ambition either and still I am pretty happy with the level I reached. And therefore it is such fun to attack a DVD like 'Learn To Play Steve Vai volume 1' for a review. This DVD contains (only) four songs with the titles:
Ladies Nite in Buffalo
All of these songs come from the David Lee Roth album 'Eat 'Em And Smile'. The songs from amongst others 'Passion And Warfare' will follow on Volume 2, which can be read next month. Before I actually start it might be useful to say I currently play Telecaster or Les Paul, so there's no tremolo on it for me, which will make things nearly impossible at times. So here's tip 2 already: make sure to have a guitar dressed up with a tremolo. You have learned quite a bit already.
The first song is 'Yankee Rose' and again we meet up with teacher Danny Gill. That guy is skilled, he keeps on surprising me, while he is seemingly so quiet and modest at the same time. The first licks are immediately in the spirit of talking with your guitar, so something like say “Hey You” with your guitar, with the aid of bends, a wah pedal and a big delay on it. But it is still manageable until here. It is a hot as hell technique and Vai's trademark. But after that one freak part after another passes by… DAMM! And Danny just laughs while doing it, as I both fear and hope this is not his every day routine either. The big advantage is that in the end they are just songs, so it does contain ordinary singing riffs and choruses, here we play regular riffs for a change. But if you just master power chords, grab your gear and say goodbye, as chords pass by I honestly never heard of before. He does constantly use the wah to give the chords the right sound. So if you master that already you have a slight advantage. Next on we bump into the song 'Going Crazy' with another tutor, knowingly Dave Kilminster. There's one thing he does right from the stat, as he plays the white signature Vai guitar, on which you see Vai play on himself 99 out of 100 times, the JEM 555. This bloke is incredibly (almost annoyingly) relaxed and he just plays the songs like they are. Just like that. The intro is not a real achievement, since they are chords that are no rocket sience. In the verses it goes on to fingerpicking and you can forget about your pick, pluck on! When we reach the solo, he took of his shirt and goes on in an undershirt. Would that be a harbinger? In the solo too it is fingerpicking, which doesn't make things particularly easy. For the solo no less than 13 chapters are reserved, just the solo, does that say enough?
Song three is the song: 'Ladies Nite In Buffalo'. And one thing is a true eye catcher. In the chapter index we see solo part 1, solo part 2, solo part 3 and solo part 4... WTF! For this song they flew in the guru Guthrie Govan, some sort of English hippie. He is ready for it and he encourages us to get started. The intro and the first riff is freaky right away. The pulse, together with strange chords and the use of tremolo makei t incredibly funky, but also very challenging. When we start with the solo Guthrie says “Now let's have some real fun!”. I count the chapters again and I come to 21! And if even your teacher dubs it licks from hell, brace yourself indeed! This is a level of its own. The last song is 'Big Trouble' and again Guthrie is in charge. This time he changed his PRS for a fat, red Ibanez. The trick again is the funky pulse with again new chords. I guess Vai doesn't even know powerchords and the standard E and A open chords, why easy when there's also a hard option? It sounds amazing, really, but he lost me a long time ago.
That brings me to the final conclusion: Vai is for guitarists that are way better than very good. It amazes me that there are three people (teachers) found to play these songs after him. These are the David Lee Roth songs and to me they are far less appealing than the 'Passion And Warfare' and later tracks. So let us head on to the next issue, where I will deal with those ones.