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1996 – Part 4.6: Steve Vai – Fire Garden

I sort of lost track of Steve Vai in the mid 90’s along with all the other instrumental guitarists I was into.

“Fire Garden” is his fourth studio album, released on September 17, 1996 through Epic Records.

As described by Vai in the liner notes, Fire Garden is a concept album divided into two “phases”.

“Phase 1” comprises tracks 1–9 and is entirely instrumental while “Phase 2”, features Vai on vocals on every song except the instrumental “Warm Regards”.

There’s a Fire in the House

The start of Phase 1.

This feels like it could have come from a Whitesnake album. David Coverdale would have had a nice time coming up with lyrics to the riffs here as it’s got that heavy rock feel from the “Slip Of The Tongue” album which although Steve Vai didn’t co-write, he recorded all the guitars for.

The Crying Machine

I like the funky rock on this and Vai’s lead for what I call the “verses” is excellent.

Then it moves into a Blues and Funk Rock fusion solo section.

Dyin’ Day

This song is listed as a co-write with Ozzy Osbourne as it was written during the writing sessions for Osbourne’s 1995 album “Ozzmosis”.

Another song from those sessions, “My Little Man”, made its way onto the “Ozzmosis” record and is credited on that album as being co-written by Vai.

I don’t know what Osbourne could have written on an instrumental song, however I am pretty sure contractually Vai had to add him as a co-writer.

How good is the acoustic guitar riff to start it off?

Whookam

Useless track of backward vocals.

Blowfish

Great track, with a groovey riff which wouldn’t be out of place on a Joe Satriani album.

The Mysterious Murder of Christian Tiera’s Lover

A minute of Steve Vai doodling and it’s somehow a track. More like a solo section spot light.

Hand on Heart

It’s a romantic power ballad instrumental. Press play on it.

Bangkok

Written by Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus and Tim Rice. Yep it’s those Abba dudes. The sound of flies starts it all off and the flies get louder and louder and louder and then the music comes in, more soundtrack like with a classical exotic feel.

It’s a great track which segues into the best track on the album.

Fire Garden Suite

It clocks in at 9.56 and it has four parts in “Bull Whip”, “Pusa Road”, “Angel Food” and “Taurus Bulba”.

It reminds me of the progressive rock fusion of Al DiMeola and Dream Theater. It’s some of his best music.

Definitely press play on this.

This song also has Mike Mangini playing drums on it.

And Phase 1 ends here.

Deepness

Phase 2 begins here.

A 47 second song that features some vocals from Devin Townsend, actually more yeahs and ahhs then vocals.

Little Alligator

Vai’s take on the Blues is very Mixolydian and Lydian like instead of Pentatonic.

All About Eve

Vocally, Vai sounds very Alternative Rock like. But musically, it feels like I am listening to a Dream Theater album.

Aching Hunger

It sounds like a Prince song, like “When Doves Cry”.

Brother

Emotional song, with Vai’s attempt on Southern Country Rock sounding modern and great.

Damn You

I like the riff that starts it, and before bands like Stone Temple Pilots blew us away, I guess Steve Vai was already doing it.

When I Was a Little Boy

It’s a skip for me.

Genocide

It’s a weird title for a song which sounds like a stadium rock song.

Warm Regards

A relaxed ballad instrumental jam to end the album.

And the personnel for the album is extensive. Steve Vai plays a lot of instruments plus he produced it and engineered it and wrote it. He had five drummers come in. The bulk of the drums are done by Deen Castronovo, with Mike Mangini playing a couple of tracks and Chris Frazier, Greg Bissonette and Robin DiMaggio providing drums on a track each. Steve Vai plays most of the bass, but that funky bass on “The Crying Machine” is played by John Avila and Stuart Hamm appears on “Dyin’ Day”.

Phase 1 is exceptional.

Phase 2 is Vai trying to do things a bit different and add vocals to his solo career which didn’t connect.

In the end, the album is a fusion of so many different styles that it almost can be labelled a prog rock record.

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5 thoughts on “1996 – Part 4.6: Steve Vai – Fire Garden

  1. I wouldn’t call Whookam useless, it was a reunion of Vai with Devin Townsend which I need more of. But this isn’t my favourite album by a long stretch. Too long and meandering. It was supposed to be a double.

    • Vai and Townsend together again, I would be into that in a heartbeat. But Removing the nostalgia of them being together again, it’s still a track I’ll skip.

      I would have preferred if it remained instrumental.

  2. Steve can get pretty weird some times so he is hit or miss for me. I did find Flexable on vinyl this weekend and bought it just because. It is so strange at times. Passion & Warfare will always be my go to album of his.

    • I’m more of a hard rock and Metal fan and Vai lives in that Zappa genre which has so many styles and weird arrangements.

      Passion and Warfare is my favorite instrumental and I like what he did with Devin Townsend on Sex And Religion but it was also a bit confusing because it was the follow up to Passion And Warfare and I was sort of expecting P&W part 2.

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