STEVE VAI — Flex-Able (review)

STEVE VAI — Flex-Able album cover Album · 1984 · Hard Rock Buy this album from MMA partners
3/5 ·
UMUR
"Flex-Able" is the debut full-length studio album by US, California based guitarist Steve Vai. The album was released through Urantia Records in January 1984. Vai started his music career working for Frank Zappa, transcriping his songs, but from 1980-1983 he became part of Zappa´s touring band. After he left Zappa in 1983, he became a solo artist and built a studio in a shed in his back garden. The recordings featured on "Flex-Able", were recorded at his home studio. Vai handles synthesizer, bass, guitar, percussion, and keyboards on the album, but he is helped out by several guest musicians, including a couple of his old colleagues from the Frank Zappa band in Tommy Mars (violin, keyboards, vocals), Bob Harris (trumpet, vocals), and Chad Wackerman (drums).

The material featured on the album was recorded between 1982 and 1984 and the recording sessions spawned 24 tracks. Only 11 tracks are featured on the original version of "Flex-Able", while later reissues feature 4 extra tracks, which are culled from the 1984 "Flex-Able Leftovers" EP. The "Flex-Able Leftovers" EP originally featured 8 tracks, but was re-released in 1998 as a full-length album featuring all 13 tracks, which did not originally appear on "Flex-Able".

Stylistically the Zappa connection is obvious when listening to the music on "Flex-Able", which is a wacky, comedic, and challenging type of rock music, featuring idiosyncratic vocals, quirky lyrics, and all sorts of sonic experiments and adventurous time signatures. This is a far cry from the sound Vai would develop and be known for from the early 90s onwards, although a few tracks do featured some of his crazy signature guitar abuse. "The Attitude Song" is the track which sounds most like the Vai most people know, but a few other tracks also feature his unique guitar playing. Most of the other tracks are quite creative and experimental rock songs, even at times touching avant-garde territory. It´s not all pretty and sometimes it all becomes a bit too silly for its own good, but there´s nothing wrong with the high level musicianship on display.

As the material was recorded on an 8-track recorder, it´s not always professional studio sounding, and there is definitely an air of demo recording to some of the material. Especially the drums feature a powerless and sometimes programmed sound, and I´m pretty sure some tracks were recorded using a drum machine, which is a real shame, as the drum machine sound doesn´t do those tracks any favours.

Wearing your influence (Frank Zappa) on your sleeves as much as Vai does here is maybe just a bit too much, and thankfully Vai would later find his own path, but "Flex-Able" is still a relatively interesting release, and a 3 star (60%) rating isn´t all wrong.
Share this review

Review Comments

Post a public comment below | Send private message to the reviewer
Please login to post a shout
UMUR wrote:
40 days ago
You´re right, it´s much more enjoyable these days, than when I first listened to it in the early 90s, after discovering Vai. I didn´t get it then...
UMUR wrote:
40 days ago
You´re right, it´s much more enjoyable these days, than when I first listened to it in the early 90s, after discovering Vai. I didn´t get it then...
siLLy puPPy wrote:
40 days ago
Despite the demo production and the somewhat goofiness, i've come to love this album a lot. It grows on ya after years of repeat visits.

MMA TOP 5 Metal ALBUMS

Rating by members, ranked by custom algorithm
Albums with 30 ratings and more
Master of Puppets Thrash Metal
METALLICA
Buy this album from our partners
Paranoid Heavy Metal
BLACK SABBATH
Buy this album from our partners
Moving Pictures Hard Rock
RUSH
Buy this album from our partners
Powerslave NWoBHM
IRON MAIDEN
Buy this album from our partners
Rising Heavy Metal
RAINBOW
Buy this album from our partners

New Metal Artists

New Metal Releases

Through Rose Coloured Glasses Sludge Metal
STASH
Buy this album from MMA partners
The Rojo Tapes Sludge Metal
STASH
Buy this album from MMA partners
Apocryphal Sludge Metal
GRAVESEER
Buy this album from MMA partners
Pain Perspective Metalcore
FOR THE LIKES OF YOU
Buy this album from MMA partners
Elegy Deathcore
SHADOW OF INTENT
Buy this album from MMA partners
More new releases

New Metal Online Videos

How To Shake Hands
CLUTCH
Tupan· 1 day ago
More videos

New MMA Metal Forum Topics

More in the forums

New Site interactions

More...

Latest Metal News

members-submitted

More in the forums

Social Media

Follow us