Happy birthday, Passion & Warfare!


It’s hard to believe that this year marks the 25th anniversary of “Passion & Warfare” by Steve Vai (actually, the album came out in Sept 1990, but the remaster is being released now, and Steve will do a special tour, playing the whole album every night). I remember when it came out, and how I spent the following summer listening to it on a daily base. Every single day, over and over, mixed with “Surfing With The Alien” and “Flying In A Blue Dream” by Satch.

I loved “Passion & Warfare” from the beginning… the majestic “Liberty”, which sounded like this insanely huge, beautiful hymn, followed by some totally nutty guitar-wizardry in “Erotic Nightmares”, “Liberty”, “Answers” etc.

Then Harmonizer-magic (I think everyone who was playing guitar and was into Vai and Satriani wanted an Eventide Harmonizer so bad, and gee, those were so EXPENSIVE) in “Ballerina”, followed by “For The Love Of God”, which is just one of the most beautiful guitar-ballads ever. So intense, so beautiful, so emotional and lush.

“I Would Love To” and “The Audience Is Listening” were just insane fun, and “Blue Powder” and “Sisters” were so beautifully melodic and full of great playing.

I have no idea how many times I listened to this album throughout the years (gosh, a quarter century…I feel old suddenly lol), but even today, I listen to it at least a couple of times every year, and I STILL find new things, discover new layers or sounds or licks or whatever.

P&W was SUCH a huge undertaking, and it’s such a layered and interesting album. Mind you, I loved all the Shrapnel-records, and they were influential for me too, but after those kinda records, which often were produced rather quickly and didn’t always have amazing production-values, hearing this incredibly lush and huge-sounding album with all these… soundscapes was amazing.

Steve was on the cover of every magazine back then, pretty much, and I loved reading about how all this came together. And of course, I had the poster in the booklet on my wall…Steve with the white Universe. Also, there were TV commercials for the album on MTV, they’d play the video clips of “FOr The Love Of God”, “I Would Love To” and “The Audience Is Listening”, and when he released “Sex & Religion” (the next album), Headbanger’s Ball had a 3 hour special, featuring Steve, his influences, his video-clips, interviews, videos by Joe Satriani and much more.


And yes, I wanted a Harmonizer AND a Universe. =)

So it was quite a touching moment with a lot of memories coming back when I got an envelope from the magazine, containing the 25th anniversary reissue…


Note how the guitar on that iconic cover is one of the new special edition Universes that Ibanez is releasing this year. I guess each of the three is on some of those covers, so if you like, you can collect them. =)

There are four bonus-tracks… two songs, previously unreleased, plus a rather raw demo and an orchestration demo.

AND the album comes with another CD, which features “Modern Primitive”:

pw5 pw4

…which is a collection of songs written mostly in between “Flex-Able” (Steve’s debut-album) and “Passion & Warfare”. Original tracks were used and combined with new parts, like new lead guitar etc. And it’s fascinating, because it’s like the missing link between these two albums, which sounded wildly different. While “Flex-Able” was quite quirky and very much influenced by Zappa still, “Passion & Warfare” pretty much the arrival of the Vai we know so well.

So, if you’re a fan of those early albums, wanna rediscover “Passion & Warfare” or get a remastered version, this is a great buy.

Had a big smile on my face listening to it, and it’s fun to look back to those days. Nowadays, I play instrumental rock myself, and of course, Vai is an influence (which is rather obvious in parts like the solo in “Black Hole” or the short solo-piece “Dream-Quest”). I used to own an Eventide Harmonizer (it indeed rocked!), even though I don’t use it anymore, and the Universe has become one of my favorite guitars. And whenever I play that one, I think of P&W and of how much I love that record, how much of an influence Steve was and is, and hope that a bit of his magic can be channeled into my own playing.

Thank you, Steve… it still is amazing (both the guitar AND the album!!)

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