Steve Vai can be astonishingly, almost frighteningly nonrepetitive, and on his masterful new album, The Story Of Light, he travels to new places, both sonically and emotionally. “As you evolve as a player, you keep going out on a limb," Vai says. "Sometimes it pays off, and I know for me, this album has been a very rewarding experience."
Viewing The Story Of Light in context with his past work, Vai sees a common thread in that "they have my DNA all over them." Even so, the guitarist admits that "there’s a harmonic, melodic sensibility that I always kept at bay, until now.
"Perhaps I was insecure, or maybe I just had to live a little – I’m 52, so there’s a lot of experiences I have now that I didn’t then – but I was able to let go on this album and open up more. Things come into your soul and your heart, and as a musician, the key is to recognize those feelings and express them in a pure, sincere and authentic way."
Vai recorded The Story Of Light in stages, beginning around January of 2010. During this time, he surrendered to what he calls a "certain cavalier attitude" that he says is relatively new to him. "I threw caution to the wind," he says, "because really, what do I have to be cautious about? Age comes into play here. You start to think, I may not have a lot of time left here, so what do I really want to say? And what’s the worst that can happen? That I’ll fail? I don’t feel as if I have anything to lose. I don’t have to pander to radio or record companies, so I can stick to my own artistic sensibilities. If I remain true to what’s in my heart, that’s all the success I need."
The record is largely instrumental, but there are some bracing vocal moments: Vai himself sings on the heartbreakingly personal The Moon and I. Elsewhere, he's joined by guests such as Aimee Mann, who duets with him on the compelling No More Amsterdam (she also co-wrote the song), and Beverly McClellan, a season one finalist on The Voice, who tears it up with Vai on a version of Blind Willie Johnson's John The Revelator, a track so forceful that it deserves to be called controversial.
Other musicians who contribute to The Story Of Light are guitarist Dave Weiner, drummer Jeremy Colson, bassist Philip Bynoe and harpist/multi-instrumentalist Deborah Henson-Conant, all of whom will be joining Vai when he takes to the road in August.
Of the record in whole, Vai enthuses that it has "everything I like on my albums: big, intense compositional pieces; dense harmonics; really stripped-down guitar, bass and drum tracks, and the soaring seventh song ballad that just takes off into the unknown.
"So there’s a continuity of diversity, of different atmospheres, and it comes down to what I hope is a purity of vision – that’s what I shoot for, at least. What I care about is the atmosphere that I’m trying to capture. And I think I got it here."
You can pre-order The Story Of Light - and we know you'll want to - right here.
On the following pages, Steve Vai walks us through the staggering achievement that is The Story Of Light track-by-track.