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Steve Vai

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Steve Vai Flex-Able album cover
3.61 | 67 ratings | 6 reviews | 16% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
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Studio Album, released in 1984

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Little Green Men (5:39)
2. Viv Woman (3:03)
3. Lovers Are Crazy (5:39)
4. Salamanders In The Sun (2:26)
5. The Boy/Girl Song (4:00)
6. The Attitude Song (3:22)
7. Call It Sleep (5:09)
8. Junkie (7:34)
9. Bill's Private Parts (0:16)
10. Next Stop Earth (0:35)
11. There's Something Dead In Here (4:00)

Total time 41:43

Bonus Tracks on 1988 & 1997 reissues:
12. So Happy (2:43)
13. Bledsoe Bluvd (4:22)
14. Burnin' Down The Mountain (4:22)
15. Chronic Insomnia (2:00)

Line-up / Musicians

- Steve Vai / guitars, bass, piano, synth, keyboards, choral sitar, bell lyre, percussion, Linn drum programming, vocals, producing & mixing

- Bob Harris / vocals (1,3,5,8), trumpet (1-3,5)
- Suzanne Harris / vocals (1,3,5,8)
- Pia Maiocco (Vai) / vocals (2)
- Laurel Fishman / lead vocals (12)
- Lillian Vai / vocals (12)
- Joe Despagni / vocals (12)
- Scott Collard / Prophet V synth (1,13), Rhodes (1,7), keyboards (8)
- Paul Lemcke / keyboards (1)
- Larry Crane / bell lyre (1,4,13), vibraphone (1,8,13), piccolo xylophone (1,13), bells (8)
- Greg Degler / clarinet (4), flute (1,4), sax (5)
- Stuart Hamm / bass (2,6,7), vocals (1,8,12)
- Peggy Foster / fretless bass (4)
- Chris Frazier / drums (2,5,6)
- Pete Zeldman / drums (7), percussion (14)
- Chad Wackerman / drums (8,13)
- Billy James / percussion & drums (9)
- Tommy Mars / violin, keyboards & vocals (13)

Releases information

Artwork: Raul G. Gonzalez

LP Urantia Records (SyVy) ‎- UR777 (1984, US)

CD Food For Thought Records ‎- CD GRUB 3 (1984, UK)
CD Akashic Records (35) ‎- UR777-2 (1988, US) With 4 bonus tracks from "Flex-Able Leftovers" EP, also released in 1984; New cover art
CD Epic ‎- EK 68033 (1997, US) As above

Thanks to Retrovertigo for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
Edit this entry

Buy STEVE VAI Flex-Able Music

Extra tracks
Epic / Akashic / Sony 2011
$6.98 (used)
Flex-Able LeftoversFlex-Able Leftovers
Epic 2011
$2.78 (used)
Flex-Able (+4 Bonus Tracks)Flex-Able (+4 Bonus Tracks)
Jvc 2000
$16.41 (used)
$7.01 (used)

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STEVE VAI Flex-Able ratings distribution

(67 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of rock music(16%)
Excellent addition to any rock music collection(36%)
Good, but non-essential (33%)
Collectors/fans only (12%)
Poor. Only for completionists (3%)

STEVE VAI Flex-Able reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Philrod
4 stars Steve Vai's career has been one of versatility. From the hard-rocker whitesnake to the late great Frank Zappa, Vai established himself as a bona fide guitarist. On his first solo album, Vai was still heavily under the influence of his former, Frank Zappa. The album is not necessarily representative of his career, but it is definitely one hell of an album. Starting with the crazy Little Green Men, you will hear from the beginning this influence from Zappa. What distinguish Vai from let's say Satriani is his ability as a songwriter, and his always original use of the guitar. The second song is the great rocker Viv Woman with a great riff and extravaganza from Vai. The rythm section is excellent with mister Chris Frazier on drums and the always great Stu Hamm on bass. This is one of the song wich is really original and where he starts to find his sound. The next two songs are heavily Zappa influenced, but Vai still manages to bring his own personal touch. The Boy-Girl Song is still played live today, as it is a song wth great rythm, but prog lovers won't necessarily love it! The next one is the absolutely great Attitude Song, with a real killer riff and a demonstration of Vai's talent as a songwriter and guitarist. Stu Hamm is also great with his slapping! This song alone is worth the price of admission! An asbsolute must-listen. After Call it sleep, wich is good but nothing special, we have the great junkie, with an incredible solo that is not in the shredding style, but that prog lovers will absolutely adore! The last piece of the original version(the one I own) is there's something dead in here, thati personally dinf a bit over the top, but that maybe some of you will like! All in all, a great enjoyable album, and in the top 5 of the virtuosos movement in the 80's. Vai shows what he is capable of, and definitely deserves his status as one of the best guitarist today. 4.5/5
Review by Sean Trane
3 stars With this reputed guitarist's career, one can expect almost anything , but here clearly the emphasis Vai chose for this album is his passing through Zappa's band. To say that Vai does not input any personal touches would be demeaning to such a great musician, but it is rather hard to tell his persona from the influences he received throughout his sideman career. While I am saying this, I must confess that I only have a very partial knowledge of the man's career.

However, this 83-recorded album (and the Left-overs album) is clearly of interest for any progheads wishing to investigate this metallic hero axe man. It is due to the great insistence of colleague reviewer MikenRegalia that I actually started to listen to this album a few months ago. I was expecting a much more guitar-ey album with heavy heroics and fireworks - much like you'd expect it on a Satriani album (or for that matter of fact on other Vai albums) - but here, even if a homemade album, and an ever changing cast of musicians (this is clearly not a group effort), then results are rather flattering for the main man, but to the proghead's ear. Clearly, the man had the urge to record some metallic fusion (in the jazz-rock term) album, but some of those tracks (Call It Sleep) are close to ECM jazz meets Santana, but he fails to convince me totally. In case you are wondering, Billy's Private Parts is not that ballsy;-) and plain boring even if the most experimental track of the album.

If you choose to take the album out of the context of Vai's career, this can be a great album, but knowing his past and his future with Diamond Dave Lee Roth, even if you hear many times his metallic guitar wizardry, this album was a revelation to me. At least enough for me to investigate Vai's career further, but so far, not giving me the urge to actually buy the album.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Flex-able is the debut album from Steve Vai. It was released in 1984 and most of it was probably recorded while he was playing with Frank Zappa. Around the time of this release he was about to join David Lee Roth for studio and touring along with bassist Billy Sheehan and one of the Bisonette brothers on drums ( I canīt remeber which one of them plays the drums, Greg or Matt ?) but the music is deeply rooted in Zappaīs music even though we begin to hear where Steve Vai will be heading in the future.

The music is generally not what we would expect from Steve Vai. He is mostly known for his virtuoso guitar skills and instrumental guitar compositions but here on Flex-able about half of the compositions are vocal based. Little Green Men, Lovers Are Crazy, The Boy/Girl Song and Junkie are all vocal based tracks which many Steve Vai fans wonīt enjoy much if you ask me. Personally I find most of them charming and good, but not more than average. Itīs in these tracks that the Zappa influence is most evident. There are not many tracks on Flex-able that reminds me of Steve Vaiīs later guitar led albums but the live classic The Attitude Song is an exception. This song shows exactly why Steve Vai is regarded among guitar freaks as the best in the world. Itīs totally insane. This version isnīt as good as the live versionīs on later albums though. Call It Sleep can also be compared to the later style that Steve Vai began on Passion & Warfare even though Call it Sleep seems like a rehearsal to later tracks.

Steve Vai is an extraordinare musician and and even on this album where his guitar isnīt in focus all the time itīs very evident that his skills as a composer was already pretty well developed. It has to be mentioned that former Zappa collegues Bob Harris, Tommy Mars and Chad Wackerman makes contributions to Flex-able.

The production isnīt too good. Iīm not enjoying this sound

Flex-able is a very imature and a bit confusing album. There are lots of different styles crammed into the album. Song by song this is good music but as an album Flex-able fails to deliver a cohesive experience. This one is a big 2 rounded up to 3. A strange start to a great solo career.

By the way the cover art on my version of Flex-able is very different from the one depicted here. My version hasnīt got the four last songs So Happy, Bledsoe Bluvd, Burnin' Down the Mountain and Chronic Insomnia so I donīt know how those extra songs sound like.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars This album, Steve Vai's first solo album, is not like the rest of his catalog. Sure, there are some unbelievable guitar solos, but a large number of the tracks are poppish vocal songs. Probably because the album came just after Vai's stint in Frank Zappa's band, the album has quite a bit of Zappa influenced music. I would even say that for all of the albums by Zappa alumni, this is one of the most Zappa-like. So, if you like Zappa's music, you will probably like this as well.

Highlights? Well, all of Vai's solos are incredible, but there are some songs that deserve special mention. Little Green Men sounds like a sequel to Zappa's alien visitation opus, Inca Roads, both in subject matter and tone. And Junkie is graced by a solo that just cuts right through you.

But the most magnificent piece on the album is The Attitude Song. This song, released before the album as a flexi-single in Guitar Player magazine, is a shredding showcase of just what a powerhouse guitarist Vai is. And it still may be his most jaw dropping recording ever. And that's saying a lot.

The CD version has a few songs from the "Flex-Able Leftovers" record (later expanded into a full length CD). They add some length to the album, but you can hear why they were leftovers, although I like Bledsoe Bluvd, with Tommy Mars.

Review by Negoba
4 stars Young Genius on the Playground

Most every electric guitarist from the last 30 years knows the name Steve Vai. Along with his teacher Joe Satriani and Swede Yngwie Malmsteen, Vai essentially created the shred guitar movement. However, what differentiates Vai from virtually every other speed demon out there was his other teacher, the one and only Frank Zappa. Immediately after his stint with Frank, Vai spent some months cooped up in the studio basically playing and experimenting, learning the craft of using the studio, and composing quirky tunes to try various techniques. I'm not sure if any of these were ever truly intended for general consumption, at least at first. The results of these sessions was FLEX-ABLE and FLEX- ABLE LEFTOVERS. Vai self-distributed the record on vinyl and it remains one of his most successful works.

The shadow of Zappa is all over this record. The most obvious examples of this are "Salamanders in the Sun" which is a romp in the spring flowers featuring mallets and some subtle Gong-era Allan Holdsworth-ish guitars. "Little Green Men" is also a light- hearted, goofy vocal piece with Frank's big smile clearly evident. All of the pieces are massively orchestrated, often in odd time, and actually rely very little on shred guitar. "The Attitude Song" is the main guitar showcase, but even that is more about the wierd groove in 7 than pure wankery. "Call It Sleep" is my favorite of Steve's slow bluesy numbers (he does about one per album). Though this piece has its share of firebreathing, the beauty is in the wierd articulation of notes, the spaces in between notes, and the effects added for tone variety.

After this album, Vai would do several gigs in more mainstream bands starting with Alcatrazz and then his signature gig with David Lee Roth and famous one album stint with Whitesnake. While there are some great guitar moments on those records, they sucked a little of the wierdness out of Steve. PASSION AND WARFARE is still spacier than most shred records, but I miss Zappa's influence. Vai was clearly trying to make a commericially viable product there. But on FLEXABLE he's just having fun with experimental delight. The result is so varied that 14 year old me didn't know what to do with this record when I first heard it 25 years ago. Most art rockers' disdain for virtuosity will make that aspect of the record not work for them. But if you like both, as I do now, this is a singular achievement in the history of experimental guitar.

The two "pop" songs, "Boy-Girl Song" and "Lovers are Crazy" are mildly interesting but not nearly as as other tracks. "Junkie" is a wierd painful lament with a huge guitar solo. "Viv Woman" is more of a typical Vai track, very much foreshadowing the songwriting style he brought to David Lee Roth. (Aside from the Zappa bridge) There are few quirky transition pieces, and the almost fully avant "There's Something Dead in Here."

This is a 4.5 album that I'm very near to giving a masterpiece rating, but I'm backing down for now. There really are only 3 monster tracks, with 2 still strong songs, and some oddities. Still, I would put this in the essential albums list for guitar nerds, ahead of the more famous PASSION AND WARFARE.

Review by Prog Leviathan
4 stars Flex-able is under-rated guitar virtuoso Steve Vai's first solo album, featuring a enjoyable mash-up of song styles and instrumental playing. While it's not exactly a guitar clinic or instrumental showcase, it is completely fun, infectious, and energetic.

Zappa's influence on Vai is all over this album; in fact, if one didn't know better, the album's opener "Little Green Men" could be mistaken for a lost Zappa track. It's a jaunty, highly complex and orchestrated song with diverse instrumentation like flutes and vibes. There's even an enjoyable send up of the Close Encounter's melody. This and the rapidly shifting time signatures and playful vocals/characterizations make a great first impression. It's a fun track that is cheesy enough to enjoy at a superficial level, but such a dense composition that there's actually a lot going on behind the surface. This description goes for much of the album.

That's not to say that Vai is just ripping off Zappa. There is a distinct guitar signature that we hear throughout on later songs. There are numerous instrumental transitions that show off Vai's ambitious and almost vocalized guitar sound. There's no shredding or in your face solos, just a lot of nice axe work incorporated into the fun vibe of these songs. I guess I'd call Vai's guitar playing as being sassy, as we hear in the apply named "Attitude Song". The Zappa influence acknowledged, I actually found just as much Fripp influence as well, as Vai's creativity comes across as the sort of tangled guitar sound we hear on Crimson's excellent Discipline album. Even Flex-able's "pop" songs, "Lover's Are Crazy" and "The Boy/The Girl Song" are too weird for most casual music fans to enjoy.

The lengthiest song on this album, "Junkie Song" is hilarious. It sounds like a send-up of a musical, or film score, and features an open-ended solo filled with crazy effects, bends, time changes, etc. A great song.

With Vai's excellent playing, a great supporting band, fun mix of songs, and hilarious exuberance, Flex-Able comes highly recommended for rock fans in the mood to have a good time enjoying experimental, warm, and eclectic music.

Songwriting: 4 - Instrumental Performances: 4 - Lyrics/Vocals: 3 - Style/Emotion/Replay:5

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