Steve Vai's new "The Story of Light" is his first full-length studio album in seven years. But he was hardly a couch potato during the interim.
Besides a long tour to promote 2005's "Real Illusions," the guitar virtuoso -- who's worked with David Lee Roth and Whitesnake in addition to his own material -- ticks off tours with Zappa Plays Zappa and Experience Hendrix, composing orchestral music and recording and releasing alive symphonic album during the interim. He also built a new studio.
"There was a lot of work," says Vai, 52. "The effect it had reminded me I should never do anything but my solo records. And I didn't NOT enjoy that other stuff; I'm interested in anything I'm doing. But anyone can do that other stuff, and only I can make a Steve Vai record."
Vai was not exactly starting from scratch with "The Story of Light," however. The set -- which features guest vocals by Aimee Mann and "The Voice's" Beverly McClellan -- is the second of a planned three-album concept package that began with "Real Illusions," though Vai explains that he's not working on it as a linear narrative. "I wanted to stretch it out over a period of time," he says. "You get hints and shadows of the story line through the lyrics and liner notes, and then after the third record comes out I'll release a four-CD box that has the music from the three records, plus additional music, all in the right order and understandable."
For that reason, however, Vai is keeping the actual plot under wraps.
"It's a human interest story," he says. "It's about the human condition. It's about this guy who has this traumatic experience in his life and it drives him insane. There's some comedy involved, but it's pretty esoteric. We'll see what people make of it when I finally have the entire piece finished and ready to come out."
Steve Vai and Beverly McClellan perform Friday, Sept. 21 at the Royal Oak Music Theatre, 318 W. Fourth St. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $29.50 in advance, $35 day of show. Call 248-399-2980 or visit www.royaloakmusictheatre.com.
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