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4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 19 March 2005
This album is brimming with emotion, but manages to sustain complex and perfect guitar playing- contrary to what some may percieve. I really truly feel that Vai has, as with previous albums, opened his mind to other music cultures and current trends- there is great variety on this album! Perhaps because of this wide range of styles some can't connect with what Vai is trying to say/ play. For example, I recently read a guitar mag article how Vai based freak show excess on Bulgarian wedding music, of which emits strange structures, notes and textures alien to us 'westerners' - this is why this track can take time to get used to. Its worth a mention that some of the guitar effects are a step forward in sound technology, along with the albums production itself.
What you need to know...worth a listen if you can be open minded towards music. He yet again has raised the bar for playing, production, and technical thought!
P.s. Each track has a little commentry that adds to a really strange but interesting story, kinda kool!
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on 22 February 2005
I both love and hate this album to be honest. There are some fantastic tracks, including the excellent opener Building the Church, Freak Show Excess, and its shining light, the immersive seventh track, Lotus Feet. Of the other tracks, I can't help feeling that passages are at times garish and excessive. There are too many layers of sound on many, cringe-worthy lyrics on others (Firewall) and one track in particular (Yai Yai) just doesn't fit with the album.
It could also be that Steve's music has evolved into something perhaps a little too obscure and esoteric for my tastes. I've listened to the album many times over now though, trying each time to digest a little more, perhaps to try and better appreciate the brilliance and work Vai has put in. Certainly, the tracks will grow on you and there are many sections of his playing reminiscent of earlier works: K'm-Pee-Du-Wee in particular seems to borrow from pieces like Boston Rain Melody, Die to Live and Frank.
I personally don't think Real Illusions: Reflections stands up to earlier albums like Fire Garden or Alien Love Secrets, but if you're a fan of Steve Vai you'll have to purchase and make your own mind up. It's still a very good album (3.5).
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on 30 July 2009
I apologise this review is so belated!!!
We are all willing to experiment from time to time! Be it trying new food, playing a new sport or making a vaguely conceptual artistic masterpiece of an album whilst simultaneously spanning a multitude of genres, stretching instruments beyond regular potential and creating songs which will live on in the listener's mind for a long time after the first listen. It is all in a day's work for our 'little Italian virtuoso' and Real Illusions: Reflections is the greatest experimental expression and perhaps the greatest album by the evermore reliable Steve Vai.

Ranging from funk to incredible guitar shredding skills, from love songs to just plain absurdism, this album is worth the more than reasonable price just for the ride, let alone the incredible instrumentality.

There is undoubtedly something for everyone here. Those who enjoyed Passion and Warfare will be seduced by the enchanting soloing of Building The Church #though out of Vai's collection it is probably most similar to Bad Horsie#, the beautiful, yet oh so powerful melody of Glorious and the heartwarming K'm-Pee-Du-Wee where Steve Vai's guitar seems to weep far more gently than Vinnie Moore's ever could. Flex-Able fans, don't you worry, there are references which hark back to the good old zaniness of Vai's debut, most notably Yai Yai's simplistic but mesmerising and stunning absurdity. The Ultra Zone has not been forgotten either, those who relished Vai's vocal affairs infused with alternative guitar styles will also relish the droning guitar melody of Dying For Your Love and it's eccentric vocal display. Firewall will also tickle the ear buds of those who enjoyed the Ultra Zone and it bears a striking resemblance to Here I Am off the aforementioned album. All of this is not forgetting the individuality that exists within Real Illusions: Reflections, in a word it is magnificant, completely and utterly magnificant.

Ultimately what makes Real Illusions: Reflections so great is not merely the spanning of genres and themes, but the spanning of Vai's previous works too. There is truly something in this for everyone: lovers of his other works, fans - both new and old, and even those who are less inclined towards guitar virtuosity. At the possible cost of consistency, Vai has managed to concoct a masterpiece that covers all bases, but is somehow trying something new, all in a day's work really.
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on 19 March 2015
This my absolute favourite Steve Vai album.

At first, I wasn't quite sure what to think of this album, as it (in true Vai style) doesn't quite sound like anything else. But I kept on listening, and with each successive listen it just grew and grew on me (like many great albums). Now it is one of my favourite albums, ever! (The final track, Under it All, is one of the most incredible pieces of music I've ever heard)
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on 22 September 2005
Having been a loyal Steve Vai fan since the 1990's it's with some regret that I listen to this album.
This album is both masterly and self-indulgent. His style is prominent, form the very first note, throughout the album (which is a mark of musical greatness).
However, his musing with odd scale structures and Eastern European music top find originality has led to a very eclectic blend that never sounds homogenous on the album.
Lets just call a spade a spade and sum up what many Vai fans have been thinking for a decade: He has yet to approach the level of Passion & Warfare. That was maybe the greatest guitar-album recorded by a solo artist.
That was made great by strong melodies and emphatic playing that made sense within the context of the whole album. A wonderful work.
This album by contrast sees that player moved on into the electronically manipulated sound design realm that has somehow clouded the raw, emotive playing of his previous endeavours.
There are inspired moments especially the orchestrated "Lotus Feet" which twists and turns in a way that is reminiscent of Pat Metheny's "Secret Story" material. That's a real change for Vai.
There's no doubt that he's moved on in the last decade, and no one can expect him to churn-out the same hit's of the 90's. However, what's lacking is the wonderful tension, raw beauty and structure of his earlier work.
This is *not* easy listening material! It's to be listened to actively as it's been intricately crafted by dictated-to musicians. However, it may not inspire as much as overwhelm.
It's one of his best albums of the later period, but if you've not been introduced to Steve Vai's work previously, you would do yourself & Steve Vai a service to first here the seminal Passion & Warfare and use that as a benchmark.
If you've got everything he's done then you'll buy this anyway and see it as part of your collection; ignoring the dross as artistic movements to justify the whole - much as we do on Jeff Beck albums. However, Beck's musical-genius is *very* pronounced and therefore may justify the mental editing somewhat.
Listen with an open-mind and take each track as it's own "chunk" of sound within the album.
Considering what Via fans have been hoping for, it's another unexpected turn in his output.
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on 23 February 2005
After a plentiful supply of guitar genious like Passion and Warfare and Alien Love Secrets. Many many Vai fans won't have read any reviews or anything before convincing themselves to buy this album. However, there aren't many positive things I can say about this particular offering that I can't say about any of the others.
On the plus side you've got the carefully woven fabric of music that Steve Vai has developed through his more recent releases, possibly at an even higher level than before...but thats about it.
At best - to me anyway - tracks from this album sound like copies of songs from The Ultra Zone album, which were never among my favourites. I'm left wondering is it just that I can't comprehend the depth of Vai's modern styles?
On the negative side, there is virtually no speed to the overall feel of the album, there are the trademark fast runs ocassionally, but overall tempos sound horribly slow for the most part. I can't help but think there's nothing new in the album that hasn't been on previous albums. Furthermore, the new story element to the album, is completely incomprehensible so far, has Vai gone completely mad or eccentric?
Maybe it is the result of the G3 with Robert Fripp, or maybe its just the old age, but despite moments of speedy playing, the feel is more Radiohead than the usual uptempo rock that you'd want to hear from Vai, as only one or two tracks like Building The Church and Firewall bring any real rock to the album. If the tracks had been around in demo form to be considered for inclusion, I'm fairly confident that only Building The Church, Glorious and Lotus Feet could've made the cut for The Ultra Zone, and I'm not sure if any of the tracks on the album could've made it onto any of the other albums hes released. My personal opinion if you want it is - Go ahead, buy some Steve Vai albums, he's an excellent guitarist, but be warned, don't get this one.
It seems like Vai is trying to write a new For The Love Of God - and failing.
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on 25 February 2005
Hmmmm, ho-hum.
Steve Vai was the reason i started listening to this sort of stuff in the first place. 15 years ago when 'Slip of The Tongue' and 'Passion and Warfare' were out there i was quite simply blown away by the amazing Vai.
However since then i feel his albums have taken a slight decline over the years, and much to my disappointment Real Illusions continues this trend.
Its not bad, but its not good either. But for a musician of Steve's calibre its not really up to scratch. Vai's guitar work as always is superb, but he's only treading the same ground he was 15 years ago. But song wise the album takes a dive- the songs are at best pretty good, and at worst pretty awful. Its kinda of like listening to out-takes of The Ultra Zone, which was a reasonable album - but certainly not Steve's best. The album seems a rather disjointed affair that lacks sparkle and some decent melodies.
Its a shame really because after many years of being assaulted with nu-metal i was enjoying listening to the whole guitar hero thing again. Recent instrumental albums by Mattias Eklund, John 5, and Rusty Cooley in my opinion are as good (if not better) than virtually all of the instrumental shred metal i grew up listening to in the late 80's and early 90's. The above guitarists have all got that jaw-dropping Vai technique, but seem to use it in a more melodic and presentable way.
In conclusion its really not a great album - whichever way you look at it. Those two letters of 'OK' really do sum the album up. However all is not lost folks, don't forget that a certain John Petrucci has his new instrumental cd out shortly which should more than satisfy anyone's needs for a great guitar hero album.
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on 20 May 2007
overall this is a very good album, steve achieves his main accomplishment which is to create new sounds from his guitar. some of the songs lack that cutting edge, an example of this being the opener 'building the church'. It's got huge potential to be an excellent heavy rock instrumental track, with a good rhythm and crisp notes. But sadly that bit extra never comes and I feel its the same for other tracks too.

On the other hand, 2 tracks clearly shine above the rest, 'lotus feet' and 'freak show excess'. both are completely diverse and take you on an musical journey which really give off a message of what steve is trying to achieve.

Finally I believe that for a voice which he has, which I must say isn't bad at all, he should perhaps think about including more tracks with lyrics.
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on 25 February 2005
One of the most emotional records I've heard in a while. Brimming with passion and fire, whole album is just one huge shiver-up-the-spine. If all these other people feel the record is not 'rock' enough, well thats their problem, personally I think its the most concentrate 55 minutes of distilled Vai i've heard. Everyone has heard 'rock' anyway, we all know what that sounds like. Vai doesn't have to remind us. He mastered that whole scene back in the 80s/90s.
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on 21 February 2005
I have been a fan of Steve Vai for a few years now, and I don't think that this incredible musician will ever cease to amaze me.
Once again, he has released a completely jaw-dropping piece of art, showing various different aspects of his unique, diverse ability.
The first track, 'Building The Church', is one of my personal favourites. It is a fast ride, through a heavy, powerful backing riff, with Vai's absoloutely beautiful melodies, effortlessly flowing above it. His tone just sounds perfect to my ears. And he's not shy either, in showing off his tremendous virtuosity on the instrument.
Another highlight for me, is the track 'Firewall'. Opening with a strange, tribe-sounding chant, it throws the listener into a vocals track, complimenting the fabulous musicianship holding it up. Accompanied by Trumpets, Saxes and Trombones, this track really shows Vai's diversity. He really is, never afraid to try something different.
While listening to this CD, I couldn't help feeling a Fire Garden-esque vibe. The melodies especially, remind of that previous album. So if you were fond of FG, then don't hesitate at all in buying this excellent album.
Ultimately, I think that this CD should be owned by all Vai fans, mainly to emphasise his immensly diverse ability.
Happy Listening.
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