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- Me, Myself, and I
- Growing up on Led Zeppelin and progressive rock, Vai has always had a penchant for the conceptual side of rock. While many of his albums revolve around a specific thematic axis, Vai considers "Alive in an Ultra World" (2001, Epic) the high point of his conceptual efforts.
A contender for one of the most ambitious live albums ever recorded, Vai wrote, rehearsed and recorded the music for the two-disc set during a 32-country world tour. Each song is dedicated to a different country – Bulgaria, Spain and Romania to name a few – and reflects the flavor of each country's indigenous music. Creating the album was equally exhausting and rewarding. "On paper the project looks insurmountable," says Vai. "I wrote songs in the morning, rehearsed the new music at sound check with the band in the afternoon, played a two and a half hour show at night and then download the show from my mobile studio later that night. Somewhere in all that craziness, I found time to immerse myself in music from different countries.
"It was hell on me and the band making that record, but when I listen to the music now there are no words that can describe the joy I feel for having made that fantasy a reality."
"Alive in an Ultra World" includes "Whispering a Prayer (Song for Ireland)," which earned Vai his sixth Grammy nomination to go along with his 1991 Grammy win for best rock instrumental performance for his version of Frank Zappa's "Sofa" on the live Zappa tribute album, "Zappa's Universe." "Whispering a Prayer is probably the most beautiful pieces of music I've ever played in my life," says Vai. "Every time I play it, I'm overcome by feelings of freedom and happiness."
In contrast, Vai needed 20 years of patience to realize his idea for "The Seventh Song: Enchanting Guitar Melodies - Archives Vol. 1" (2000, Epic). The album features the seventh song from every Vai solo album before 2000. "The seventh song on my records has always been the wistful, screaming guitar ballad. Those songs sounded a bit out of place on the original records, but when I put them all together it creates a beautiful, flowing musical experience."
Without a doubt his biggest achievement in terms of sheer girth is "The Secret Jewel Box" (2001-Ongoing, Light Without Heat) – a 10-CD compilation documenting Vai's career through a mix of rarities, outtakes and oddities. Each disc explores a different facet of Vai's career including his soundtrack contributions, work with Frank Zappa, live and studio recordings with Alcatrazz, Japanese-only releases and an eclectic art piece that includes music interspersed with dialogue.
The collection of hard-to-find gems and unreleased music is a gold rush for fans. "The Secret Jewel Box is a way for me to gather in one place a lot of the hard to find things I've done in the past," explains Vai. "I think hardcore fans will really enjoy the CD that features a band I was in before I recorded 'Passion and Warfare'
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