Record Review 

Barely three minutes into the opening track of Steve Vai's The Seventh Song, it's apparent that any notion of an inspired collection of depth and melody is going to vanish into an egomaniacal abyss of scales. Though it's not as complete a jack-off session as something by Yngwie Malmsteen, it is disappointing to see Vai still leaning in that direction. There's no denying Vai is a guitarist with stellar skills. When he's forced to actually construct a song, however, problems arise.

When are these scale-wailers going to realize that a composition can be more than a platform from which to solo? Instead of repeating the plaintive wail of pentatonics, Vai might do well to take a lesson from what Steve Stevens has done with Terry Bozzio and Tony Levin: add some diversity and bone up on the chunky rhythms that can take a solo, and a song, to new, complete heights.

The news isn't all bad. There are some truly beautiful ambient moments here. "Touching Tongues," "Tender Surrender," "Melissa's Garden" and "The Wall of Light" represent Vai's crystalline moodiness well. But once you come across things like "Christmas Time Is Here," just try to hold back the cringes. Do we really need a definitive Vai solo on the yuletide? Bring Kenny G in on this one and he would've had a Wal-Mart hit in the making.

Bottom line: It's time for a diet Steve; you're tipping the scales way too much.

-- MARK KOHLER

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