Sound — 10
Most of the time when Steve Vai and his music are mentioned, the album Passion & Warfare comes to most people's minds that are somewhat familiar with him. One could generally argue that Passion & Warfare could be Vai's finest solo album, and probably some of the best and creative music he had composed and crafted. As a result, most of the time he's judged and labeled by fans and newcomers to that album as the prime example of what he can play and create. On 1996, several years later after the all-instrumental and acclaimed albums Passion & Warfare and Alien Love Secrets were released; he finished recording Fire Garden. Being the first album which Vai started using lyrics and singing to his songs, it happens to be a lengthy masterwork - half-instrumental, half-vocal in nearly 80 minutes of time. Many fans were enraged and annoyed with Vai's new change of style and expression for his music, and have been all the way to his recently (and somewhat great) released album, Real Illusions: Reflections. In Fire Garden, these fans don't know what they're missing at backing away from this gem. Based off a script Vai wrote entitled Fire Coma, the album tells a story of a man who leads a dangerous lifestyle, is put into a coma in a near assassination, and learns about truth and reality in his dreams. Cutting through beautiful riffs and solos in several songs such as 'The Crying Machine', 'Dyin' Day', and 'Hand On Heart', and moving to more 80s thrash heavy rock such as seen in 'Blowfish' and 'Bangkok', the mix of genres is very exceptional and wondrous, and a classic style seen in Vai throughout his carrier. What really stands out is the ten minute instrumental piece, 'Fire Garden Suite: Bull Whip/Pusa Road/Angel Food/Taurus Bulba'. Separate into a couple parts, and using magnificent composition from classic rock to fast paced Hindustani-esque music, this could be one the best singles Vai has worked on, and truly shows his unique and original talent with this mind-boggling song. After that, the album leads into the vocals. Vai may not be the best singer (as, for fear of maintaining the music he wants to produce, he hasn't chosen a signer for him yet), but his surprisingly great voice is suitable for the songs he plays along to (listen to All About Eve, for instance). This is a greatly recorded album, and shows not only what different ways Vai can express himself, but also how talented and prolific he is with the magnificent compositions and lyrical approaches of guitar playing and music.
Lyrics — 8
In the album's all-vocal second part, many of the lyrics and content written (if read literally) can be considered corny, but the music and singing completely outweighs that factor to produce great results. Vai isn't the greatest singer around, but surprisingly for a lifelong solo guitarist, his voice is very suitable and puts a nice ring to his songs in the second-half of the album. For being a perfectionist, Vai still will continue singing (as mentioned before) until he finds someone that pleases him enough for his music. As for the lyrics, Vai kept developing them every newer album after Fire Garden, so much that on Real Illusions: Reflections, the writings have become more poetic, intellectual, and sensible. Who knows how much he can keep improving this skill as the years go by?
Overall Impression — 10
Fire Garden, which shows a fresh and new compliance to all in this new phase in his carrier, is majestic and an overall wonderful album. Using hefty, strong composing and talented playing, this is a must have for all true fans of Vai, and also an important solo album of his which brought him to a new degree in playing music the way he intends to.