Steve Vai Passion and Warfare one of the greatest guitar albums of all time

Passion and Warfare was released in the year 1990 and is the second studio album from guitar master and legend Steve Vai. The album is based on a series of dream sequences that Vai had when he was younger and Vai describes the album as Jimi Hendrix meets Jesus Christ at a party that Ben Hur threw for Mel Blanc.

The Passion and Warfare album is considered by many to be Vai’s greatest and it also contains what some consider to be his greatest song, For the Love of God. For the Love of God is certainly one of my personal favourites from Steve Vai and there are a couple of other great tracks in this album too, but I’ve never actually sat down and listened to this album from start to end. Today, that is going to change. Is the Passion and Warfare album as good as people say? Let’s find out.

steve vai passion and warfare album

Passion and Warfare full album review track 1 – Liberty

I’m not even an American yet liberty which is the track that opens Steve Vai’s Passion and Warfare makes me feel proud to be one. I’m as American as apple pie when I listen to this. What a fine and patriotic way of opening an album. This track is on the short side clocking in at just two minutes, but a lot of quality is crammed into that short time. This is a track that could open any significant sporting event and it would be equally suitable as the soundtrack to any cheesy American movie. The lead stuff at the end of the track is as big and epic sounding as the apple pie melody that precedes it. Liberty is a track that will make you feel good. It has a very positive and infectious vibe to it that makes me feel warm inside, kinda like an apple pie.

Passion and Warfare – Erotic Nightmares

Erotic Nightmares certainly has the most intriguing track title of the album and after an opening beast of a riff that’s as tastey as an apple pie, the lead guitar kicks in and lives up the intriguing label I gave the track before I hit the play button. This one is anything but in the box. At times, it’s off the wall crazy but Vai is in full control here clearly. This is a performance from a true guitar master and intelligent composer. I loved too many individual elements to list here. Erotic Nightmares is a fascinating and tremendously fun experience that showcases what a guitar can do in the hands of a virtuoso. It makes me smile.

Passion and Warfare – The Animal

The Animal isn’t just a nickname for a certain part of my anatomy. It’s also a badass instrumental track on a so far perfect album with a monster beat and a strong dynamic range that feels like an ultimate jam session. I can honestly say that this track has everything that a good instrumental guitar track requires. The tones are stunning as you’d expect, and the lead guitar work is the same. The Animal is more than just a bunch of guitar playing though, it’s an adventure through a dangerous and previously unexplored jungle. It’s like I’m being stalked by something that wants to consume me and will probably do so in one bite.

Passion and Warfare – Answers

The tone of that rhythm guitar though. Beautiful is an understatement and the forefront guitar stuff doesn’t sound any worse. Answers is a sub three-minute romp through a warm, happy, and upbeat land of optimism. This one is all about the forward driving story told in the melodies rather than the flashy flash pie in the sky lead guitar stuff although, that is there too at times and as always with Vai, it’s to a superb standard. I mentioned that the track is under three minutes and I can’t help but feel that we could have got more out of this one. I think there was room for further development but what we did get was splendidly chirpy and fun.

Passion and Warfare – The Riddle

The Riddle is more than twice the length of the previous track clocking it at almost six and a half minutes and from start to finish, it’s nothing less than an intriguing experience of sounds. This is a track that’s very out there. I’d say that the title of the track is very apt because this feels like something to solve. It’s bloody bizarre but not necessarily in a bad way. Perhaps The Riddle falls into the art category. It will invoke plenty of discussion. I definitely get why folk would like this one and the guitar playing is on point as one would expect but for me, it was a little slow paced which made the interesting exploration feel less interesting than it was. I found myself clock watching a little, waiting for the riddle to solve itself.

Passion and Warfare – Ballerina 12/24

No idea what the Spanish lyrics at the start of this one are saying and I have no idea why there’s a baby here, but I do know that the guitar sounds pretty dam awesome. It’s like I’m listening to the most cheerful and happy robot ever created. This is quirky and light and rather on the short side but I’m not complaining about that. On the flip side to my earlier comment, a track doesn’t need to be any longer than necessary. I enjoyed this chimey little piece. A very distinct and unique composition with a very clever arrangement that leads us nicely into the huge track that follows.  

Passion and Warfare – For the Love of God

For the Love of God is the behemoth of the album. For many, this track is considered Steve Vai’s greatest recording, and I can certainly understand why that’s the case because this track is a stunning and faultless guitar masterpiece. The beat is brilliant and the drums sound epic. The pacing is perfect, the backing support is sublime and that’s all nothing compared to the melody work in this track which is far beyond greatness. On top of that, the lead guitar on show is absolutely mind blowing and truly some of the best that I’ve ever heard, and everything ties together to form one of the best showcases of guitar excellence in history. This track is six minutes long and I was hooked for every millisecond. So yeah, I like this one. A truly electrifying piece of music.

The Audience is Listening

I can’t give little Stevie Vai anything less than an A plus grade for this. I must say, this is one of my favourite tracks on the album. No, it’s one of my favourite instrumental guitar tracks ever. Can’t believe I forgot it when I wrote that list on twenty of the greatest instrumental guitar songs. I’ll definitely include it in the next one because The Audience is Listening is an absolute joy. The intro is bloody hilarious and the whole concept is a whole lot of fun. The idea of a little shy kid coming out of his skin through his guitar is something I can identify with but most importantly, that forefront guitar is once again, AMAZING! It’s a track that’s very much locked into that speedy rhythm and it demonstrates that above all else, the guitar is something to enjoy.

I would Love To

I would love to tell you that I liked this track. I really would. So, I will. I love it. I Would Love To is a track with a driving melodic approach with a solid beat and plenty of cool lead guitar bits squeezed in. I’m beginning to notice a pattern. I wasn’t particularly a fan of the fade out outro as it felt a little anti-climactic and I definitely think there was room for a big guitar solo section but these points didn’t harm my enjoyment of the track a great deal because that guitar at the forefront is freaking awesome. Every single lick has a purpose and every single lick moves the track forward.

Blue Powder

Blue Powder is described in the recording as a ballad about peace and love but that’s not how I’d have described it if that spoken word introduction wasn’t there. The lead guitar on show in this track is at worst phenomenal but I’d say that it lacks some direction on the melody side of things. That’s a criticism, but a small one because I still enjoyed this track for the interesting and creative guitar experience that it is. Blue Powder is a track that exhibits the versatility of the guitar. Vai’s fascinating virtuoso guitar skills are front and centre as we move through a selection box of different flavoured high-quality chocolates. But those chocolates aren’t called “balled bites”.  

Greasy Kid’s Stuff

So, I guess this song is about the stuff I owned as a kid. I loved the spoken intro where Steve describes the various mix changes that were made. Like any casual music listener would have a clue what was going on. I barely kept up myself, but very entertaining. Vai mentioned in that intro that the melody guitars were turned up, or something to that effect and I say it was a good decision because the melody guitar parts are the powerhouse in this one. The forefront guitar parts do not allow you to be bored for a second. The track is always moving. Also, Vai finds room for some nice and flashy lead guitar stuff too so this is one with a bit of everything. Brilliant track.

Alien Water Kiss

Alien Water Kiss is a difficult one to review because it’s such a short experience at just over a minute in length. I want to say that I know what he was going for here. The track is very watery and very Alienish and interesting and other worldly, but I hesitate to call it a song. I’d say it’s a series of interesting noises that are akin to the title of the track. Very cool and all that but I doubt that the album would be any worse off if this wasn’t included. Doesn’t do a great deal for me to be honest but interesting and well put together. It does paint a vivid picture.


Next, we have the penultimate track from the Passion and Warfare album entitled Sisters, which features a beautiful sounding clean tone guitar. This is a very calm, peaceful, and laid-back track in comparison to a lot of the other material in the album. There’s some excellent natural harmonic work in here and the overall mood is just lovely. I normally love the good old rock n roll sounding stuff but I gotta say, this is one of my favourite tracks on the album. Sublime from start to end. Could Steve have gone even further with this? Perhaps, but why mess with something that sounds so nice?

Love Secrets

And here we are. The final track from Passion and Warfare. Love Secrets. Steve Vai has all the answers when it comes to how to correctly use a guitar and he’s proven that in this album, so maybe he has the key to the L word too. This is one of those experimental kind of tracks that sort of feels like the middle of Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love mixed in with a bunch of Aliens that communicate in pitched tones. It’s a track that grows on you as it progresses. If you play the track and you find yourself feeling unsure about it at the start, just let it play and I promise by the halfway point, you’ll be hooked. I loved the approach to percussion and the way it slowly draws you in is very impressive.


I’d heard a few individual songs from the Passion and Warfare album before today but like I said, I’d never sat down and listened to the whole thing from start to end. After doing so, I can honestly say without any exaggeration that Steve Vai’s Passion and Warfare is one of the greatest instrumental guitar albums I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to. No, I take that back. It’s one of the greatest albums I’ve listen to period.

This is an album that features spoken words, but the guitar does the talking. The bulk of the that talking isn’t done with insanely impressive lead guitar though. Don’t get me wrong, that stuff is there and when you get it, wow, but the show stealer for me is Vai’s melody work. The guitars at times grab these songs by the neck and drag them, and us, forward on a journey through the exciting and versatile parallel universe that Steve Vai’s weird dreams have created.  

Passion and Warfare is an enjoyable album for many reasons and the most important of those reasons is that the album is fun. I’ve made a couple of tiny criticisms but I can’t think of a single moment where I wasn’t enjoying the experience of listening and if you’re a guitarist or just a guitar fanatic, I think you should experience this album too if you haven’t already. It may change your outlook on the guitar forever.

What next?

Want to read more review-based content? I have plenty here at Eat Sleep Guitar Repeat. Here are a few more instrumental album reviews that you may be interested in reading. 

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