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A Review of Steve Vai’s “Vai/Gash”

On Jan. 27, guitarist Steve Vai released his twelfth solo studio effort, a collaboration with the late John Sombrotto, who provides vocals on this recording.

Vai, who has experienced a bountiful career with the likes of Whitesnake and David Lee Roth, is also a superb solo artist, best known for his 1990 album Passion and Warfare, which spawned his best-known song “For the Love of God.” To this day, he remains a prominent and influential member of the guitar community.

Shortly after the release of Passion and Warfare, Vai recorded the eight songs which make up Vai/Gash, an album which has remained shelved for the past 32 years.

Vai’s vocal collaborator on this record is John Sombrotto, a New Yorker who met Vai through a mutual motorcycle friend. Vai took a liking to Sombrotto, or “Gash” as he is referred to thanks to a scar he sustained from a motorcycle injury, and believed he had a great voice for some “biker songs” the guitarist was working on.

In a two-week span, the pair created a half-hour worth of material, all of which was released this past week.

The biker energy starts from the album’s onset. The opener is a bluesy, glam rock track which could serve well as the opening credits to a biker film.

Gash (whose face appears on the album cover) delivers a powerhouse vocal performance reminiscent of the glam style, reminding me of KISS’ Paul Stanley from the band’s Asylum/Crazy Nights era.  

The album then transitions into the bombastic intro of “Busted.” The guitar parts throughout the song possesses various sounds which easily carry inspirations from Van Halen. While Gash provides his own unique vocals on it, the album’s second number could easily be fronted by David Lee Roth.

By far, the most passionate and driving guitar riff to come from this album is “Danger Zone,” the record’s sixth track. During such a shining moment, the vocals are seemingly pushed into the background and sometimes masked altogether thanks to the immensity of the guitar.

The album ends on a far different note, however, closing with a power ballad called “Flowers of Fire.” While a beautiful end to the record, the song sounds a bit dated, especially as power ballads were more of a late ’80s early/’90s glam rock staple, not seen much in 2023.

Vai/Gash is going to be seen as an outlier in the Steve Vai catalog, especially since it functions as a “lost record” of sorts, dating back to 1991 and therefore is meant for more passionate fans of the legendary guitarist. Anyone starting in Vai’s catalog is unlikely to choose this record as a first listen.

However, even if you have never ventured into the discography of Steve Vai, there is still some magic hidden in these eight tracks. If you are looking for great hype music to cruise down the highway with, Vai/Gash may hold some benefit.

With only eight tracks and a runtime of 30 minutes, Vai/Gash is an easy, digestible listen, perfect for morning or afternoon commutes when you need to pump yourself up or let off some steam.

Gash ultimately passed away in 1998, so the world will never see another Vai/Gash collaboration. However, what the world does have, thanks to this new record, is a back-to-basics, wild and loose collection of tracks by an unknown singer and legendary guitarist, which provides a great alternative to Vai’s typical guitar-based compositions.

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