HardReviews 4
by Martin Popoff

Steve Vai - The Elusive Light And Sound Vol. 1
(Favored Nations)

This album is a sparkly blast, like Pop Rocks (do they still make those?), basically instrumental music for short attention spans by a man with a similar darting mentality. The idea was to gather music and music snippets Steve's drummed up for movies - used or not - for this episode, until 1998. And it's very cool, all exceedingly hi-fidelity, some full band, some not, fully 40 tracks of Steve doing his stratified and ironic parody of a guitar god thing. The highlights are actually the opening two tracks, two full songs, first being again an ironic, over-acted version of The Kinks' Celluloid Heroes, Steve getting all thespian and hammy but making it work, end result being na•ve and bright-eyed. The second one, Love Blood, was inspired by Interview With The Vampire, which Steve wanted to get involved with before getting outgunned by David Geffen. Man, in totality, what a zesty collection of sounds, Steve proving his versatility, explaining in the extensive notes how different brain muscles make this stuff up; and yeah, you can almost/often visualize him watching the footage, white hot axe in hand. But more than anything, I love the short and snappies, just like I wish every concert comprised ten bands playing two songs each. Bonus: wicked 3-D cover art.
Rating 7.5

Mike Tramp - Recovering The Wasted Years

Nice to see a true follow-up to the godly Capricorn roots rock record, White Lion's Mike Tramp tooling an elegant four-panel digipak package for another album in the passionate Capricorn vein but with a bit more production and arrangement thus less home-spun fireside intimacy. Still, Tramp is a major talent, one whose main philosophical theme seems to be exploring a sense of grounding, creativity without the noise pollution of fame, a cheerful embracing of the clubs. His vocals and his phrasings and his lyrics... the whole combination invites the listener into the man's spirited songs of relationship and intense emotion, break-ups and make-ups, redemption and re-invention. And it's all set to full band arrangements, lots of electric guitar, some keys, boomy drums, a tad synthetic and spiffy but nonetheless drenched in great ensemble "feed the song" performances. This is a crude way of putting it, but stylistically, what you get with Tramp are those searching, melodramatic melodies found within Springsteen, Mellencamp, mellow Bon Jovi and mellow Poison. The latter two comparisons might do a disservice to Tramp, but damn it, there's a real hair band lighter thing going on here... the dusty road, the hitch-hiking with the guitar slung over the back, Axl getting off the bus.
Rating 8

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