Steve Vai’s rise to fame began when he sent Frank Zappa a perfectly transcribed note for note transcription of some of Frank Zappa’s most difficult pieces. Zappa took immediate notice of Steve Vai’s talent and hired him to transcribe more music. Eventually, Steve Vai would join Frank Zappa’s band and tour and record with Frank Zappa from 1980 to 1983. For any modern musician joining Frank Zappa’s band would be the equivalent of a string player in the 18th Century being asked to perform on a nightly basis with Beethoven. Many people believe, including this writer, that Frank Zappa was the greatest musical mind of the 20th Century.
Steve Vai released his first solo album in 1984 entitled Flex-Able. The album featured over twenty musicians performing music that was clearly inspired by the work of Frank Zappa. It was a brilliant debut album that showcased a young amazing talent that had an incredible future ahead of himself in the music business.
Six years would pass before Steve Vai released his second solo album entitled Passion and Warfare in 1990. While some readers might find it odd that it took Steve Vai six years to release his second solo album, they are probably unaware of all the other projects Steve Vai became involved in during the 1980’s. As stated in the opening paragraph, Steve Vai was recruited by David Lee Roth to join his band in 1985 to record the Eat ‘Em and Smile album. This was only a year after the release of Steve Vai’s debut solo album in 1984. Steve Vai toured with David Lee Roth in 1986 and 1987. In 1988, the David Lee Roth Band released the incredible Skyscraper album once again showcasing the guitar work of Steve Vai along with the brilliant musicianship of Gregg Bissonette on drums and Billy Sheehan on bass. The band sounded incredible and for close to three years was easily one of rock and roll’s greatest groups. David Lee Roth had pulled off a genius move recruiting these musicians after leaving Van Halen. It should also be noted that between 1984 and 1986, Steve Vai also performed and recorded with the band Alcatrazz.
Steve Vai left the David Lee Roth Band as he readied the release of his sophomore album Passion and Warfare. At the same time Steve Vai also began work with Whitesnake in the studio on what would become the mega selling Slip Of The Tongue album. In 1993, Steve Vai released his third solo album entitled Sex & Religion.
In 1996, Steve Vai released the Fire Garden album which stood as his fourth full length solo release. Steve Vai had actually released and EP entitled Alien Love Secrets in 1995. During the mid 1990’s Steve Vai also worked with Ozzy Osbourne on the album Ozzmosis. After the release of Fire Garden, Steve Vai joined forces with Joe Satriani, and Eric Johnson for the G3 tour.
The year 1998 saw the release of the Flex-Able Leftovers album and in 1999 Steve Vai released the album The Ultra Zone. Five years would pass before Steve Vai would release another solo album. In 2005, Steve Vai released the Real Illusions: Reflections Record. After the Real Illusions: Reflections Record was released it would be another seven years until the release of Steve Vai’s eighth studio album was issued in 2012 entitled The Story of Light. Steve Vai latest solo album as of this writing in 2018 was released in 2016 entitled Modern Primitive. Steve Vai’s last three albums were connected as a trilogy.
Top 10 Steve Vai Songs
Complied by Thomas Neokleous and written by Brian Kachejian.
Our top 10 Steve Vai songs list presents some of Steve Vai’s finest moments from his solo albums. It does not include music from his projects with Frank Zappa, David Lee Roth, G3, Whitesnake or Alcatrazz. It was written as a tribute to the music of Steve Vai and to also serve as an introduction to the talents and music of Steve Vai to those who are unfamiliar with Steve Vai’s solo work.
# 10 – Building The Church
The song “Building The Church,” was released on the album Real Illusions: Reflections. The album was released in 2005. The Real Illusions: Reflections CD was the first of a trilogy of albums that Steve Vai released with the second part of the series being released in 2012 entitled Story of Light and the third installment of the trilogy released in 2016 entitled Modern Primitive. The song “Building The Church,” was the opening track on the album Real Illusions: Reflections.
The album featured a busload of musicians who performed on the record including ex-David Lee Roth band mates Gregg Bissonette and Billy Sheehan. The album also included Jeremy Colson on drums. Guest appearances throughout the record were performed by Bryan Beller, Jerry Hey, Gary Grant, Dan Higgins, Larry Williams, Bill Reichenbach, Jr.,Charlie Loper, Stacy Ellis, Metropole Orkest, Chris Opperman, Pia Vai, Fire Vai, Laurel Fishman, Ruby Birman, Len Birman, Jeff Mallard,Michael Mesker and Thomas Nordegg.
“Building The Church,” is the perfect choice to open our top 10 Steve Vai Songs list. It’s vintage Steve Vai from the opening moments that features an insanely fast triplet guitar lick to the soaring twisted melodic guitar lead playing that was symbolic of Steve Vai’s best work.
# 9 – Liberty
Steve Vai’s classic breakthrough solo album Passion and Warfare was released in 1990. Steve Vai had been working on the album before he joined the David Lee Roth Band. The album was put on a hiatus until Steve Vai quit the David Lee Roth Band in 1989. A year later the great Passion and Warfare album was released. It stands as one of the most creative guitar based albums ever recorded. We could create a Top 10 Steve Vai songs article just from the Passion and Warfare album alone. It was very difficult choosing what tracks from this album to be represented on this list as we wanted to cover as much of Steve Vai’s solo work as possible.
One listen to the song “Liberty,” and it will be obvious as to why Steve Vai entitled the song “Liberty.” The song’s majestic sweeping chord changes juxtaposed against Steve Vai’s emotionally fulfilling lead guitar parts will have you hitting that repeat button again and again and …..
# 8 – Dyin’Day
In 1996, Steve released the album Fire Garden. The song “Dyin’ Day,” that represents the album on this top 10 Steve Vai songs list was co-written with Ozzy Osbourne. The song was originally written for Ozzy’s Ozzmosis album but did not make the final cut on Ozzy’s record. Nonetheless, Steve Vai recorded a great instrumental version of the song which appears here from the Fire Garden album.
# 7 – Windows To The Soul
The Steve Vai song “Windows To The Soul,” was released in 1999 on the album entitled The Ultra Zone. The album featured an all-star cast of musicians including Koshi Inaba, Tak Matsumoto, Mike Keneally, John Sergio, Philip Bynoe, Bryan Beller, Gregg Bissonette, Mike Mangini ,Robin DiMaggio, Andy Cleaves, Duane Benjamin and Niels Bye Nielsen.
Steve Vai’s guitar work surrounded by the magical sounding keyboard work of Mike Keneally and the rhythmic sense of drummer Mike Mangini makes this a track to die for.
# 6 – All About Eve
We return once again to the Fire Garden album on this Top 10 Steve Vai Songs list for the great track “All About Eve.” The Fire Garden album also featured an amazing selection of brilliant musicians that contributed to the brilliance of the Fire Garden album. Featured on the album of course was Steve Vai on lead vocals, guitar and so much more. Outside of Mr. Steve Vai, the album included musicians, Devin Townsend, Will Riley, John Avila, Stuart Hamm, Fabrizio Gossi, Chris Frazier, Greg Bissonette, Deen Castronovo, Mike Mangini, Robin DiMaggio, C.C. White,Tracee Lewis, Miroslava Mendoza Escriba, Kimberly Evans, John Sombrotto, Mark McCrite, Jim Altan and Julian Vai.
# 5 – Rescue Me Or Bury Me
Making its first appearance on our Top 10 Steve Vai Songs list is the album Sex & Religion. The album Sex & Religion was released in 1993. One of the highlights of the album was the track “Rescue Me Or Bury Me,” which featured one of Steve Vai’s most brilliant guitar solos in the middle of the song. The album also featured the Steve Vai all-star band featuring Terry Bozio of Frank Zappa, U.K. and Missing Persons fame on drums, T.M. Steven who played with just about everybody in the business on bass, Kane Roberts who had sung with Alice Cooper on background vocals and the great Devin Townsend on lead vocals.
# 4 – Call It Sleep
In the number four spot on our Top 10 Steve Vai Songs list we finally get to Steve Vai’s first solo album entitled Flex-Able. The Flex-Able album was released in 1984. It was a year that saw some of the biggest album releases of the 1980’s hit the stores including Van Halen’s 1984, Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. and Prince’s Purple Rain.
The great track “Call It Sleep,” is a shining example of Steve Vai’s mastery of the guitar. It’s easy to hear the influence of Frank Zappa on Steve Vai’s playing, but the other guitar player that comes to mind when listening to Steve Vai is Stevie Ray Vaughan. They both shared the same penchant for space in their solos. There are also similar phrasings that resonate in comparison between the two. They may have come from completely different backgrounds and while Stevie Ray Vaughan was a blues man and Steve Vai a fusion of just about everything, there is a shared soulfulness between the two. In simple terms, they were both able to make the guitar sound like it was crying!
# 3 – The Attitude Song
It would be impossible to have only one song from Steve Vai’s impressive debut album Flex-able appear on our Top 10 Steve Vai songs list. The great track “The Attitude Song,” was the opening number on the album’s second side. It is one of Steve Vai’s most popular songs. It is also one of his most often performed songs on the concert stage. There is so much going on in this tune musically we don’t even know where to start. Best place is probably the play button.
# 2 – Tender Surrender
Steve Vai’s killer track “Tender Surrender,” was the closing song on the EP released in 1995 entitled Alien Love Secrets. When we get around to compoisng the top 10 guitar solos in rock songs article, this one will make the list. Easily one of his greatest guitar solos if not the best. It’s funny that the Alien Love Secrets record was called an EP as it came in at thirty-three minutes and twenty-six seconds. There were some Van Halen full length albums that ran shorter that Alien Love Secrets. In fact, Van Halen II (31:36) Women and Children First (33:13) Fair Warning (31:11) Diver Down (31:24) and even 1984 (33:17) all had shorter running times than Alien Love Secrets (33:26). You can take that to the bank! Which is pretty much what Van Halen did.
# 1 – For The Love Of God
As we come to a close on this Top 10 Steve Vai Songs list, we return one final time to Steve Vai’s spectacular 1990 album Passion and Warfare. The track “For The Love of God,” was placed as the seventh track on the CD. The song begins with one of Steve Vai’s most iconic guitar licks of his career. This is pure Steve Vai in every fashion. For the Love of God is Steve Vai’s signature song, If we had to choose one song that would represent the spirit, the passion, the soul, and the brilliance of Steve Vai the guitarist, musician and human being, “For The Love of God,” this would be the one.