Favored Nations
rating icon 6 / 10

Track listing:

01. In The Wind
02. Busted
03. Let's Jam
04. Woman Fever
05. She Saved My Life Tonight
06. Danger Zone
07. New Sensation
08. Flowers Of Fire

An unexpected treat from the Steve Vai archives, "Vai/Gash" reveals a rarely seen side to the legendary guitarist. Recorded back in 1991, somewhere between "Passion and Warfare" and the Devin Townsend-augmented "Sex and Religion", this 30-minute project was conceived to provide Vai with some suitable music for him and his friends to enjoy while riding their (presumably enormous and expensive) motorcycles. With close friend Johnny "Gash" Sombrotto on vocal duties, he clearly had no trouble conjuring something appropriate, even though these eight radio-metal bangers have gathered dust on a shelf ever since. Tragically, Sombrotto passed away in a motorbike accident in 1998, and so while this is a fairly lightweight offering when compared to the Steve Vai norm, "Vai/Gash" serves the noble purpose of paying tribute to a fallen comrade.

Cynicism is impossible when faced with music this bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Wholly unchallenging but thoroughly likeable, these songs exhibit great charm and not a little commercial potential. "In The Wind" was the first to be recorded, and the entire record's ethos is summed up within its wildly catchy four minutes. At the other end of the bombast scale, "Flowers Of Fire" is a rather lovely, lighters-in-the-air ballad, with a faint tang of '90s arena grunge and a particularly fine vocal from Sombrotto.

Of course, those hoping to hear lots of the usual six-string pyrotechnics will find "Vai/Gash" rather limited in its appeal. Similarly, while these are all well-crafted and charming tunes, they live happily in the middle of the road, with no rough edges or spiky musicality to liven things up a bit. Fortunately, the strutting, CHICKENFOOT-like "Let's Jam" has enough swagger and sass to compensate for shortcomings elsewhere. It's a certified riot, with the genuinely touching sound of Vai and Sombrotto rocking out together and sharing a special moment. For that alone, "Vai/Gash" is admirable and worthwhile endeavor, even if it may also be for completists only.

Author: Dom Lawson
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