Steve Vai – Flex-Able, Instrumental Rock Album (1984)

Flex-Able‘ is the title of the first studio album by American guitar virtuoso Steve Vai which was released in 1984, initially through Urantia Records (most likely a reference towards the esoteric work ‘Urantia Book‘, which was a noteworthy literary influence from the spiritual genre in the passing of time for other well known rock guitarists such Jimi Hendrix or Stevie Ray Vaughan) and then subsequently through Akashic Records (in 1988) and finally through Epic Records (in 1997).

Steve Vai – Flex-Able 25th anniversary frontal cover artwork (initially released in 1984). Image source: Spotify

‘Flex-Able’ was the first solo studio album by Steve Siro Vai, being tremendously influenced by Frank Zappa for which Vai previously worked as a guitar transcriptionist and then as a full-time member in his band during the late 1970s. The LP is quasi-experimental and differs very much from other studio albums released by Steve Vai since the 1990s onwards.

The album was officially released in January 1984 and recorded between April and November 1983. It is a very interesting mix of instrumental rock, progressive rock, and experimental rock. Its initial total length was 41 minutes and 18 seconds and, eventually, with the reissue including several bonus tracks, the total length of the album amounted to 55 minutes and 4 seconds.

The initial, standard version of ‘Flex-Able’ consists of two sides, the first totalling 5 tracks whereas the second containing 6. The entire tracklist of the album is as follows (all of the songs being written and arranged by Steve Vai):

  1. Little Green Men (composed/dedicated for Nina Hagen);
  2. Viv Woman;
  3. Lovers Are Crazy;
  4. Salamanders in the Sun;
  5. The Boy/Girl Song;
  6. The Attitude Song;
  7. Call It Sleep;
  8. Junkie;
  9. Bill’s Private Parts;
  10. Next Stop Earth;
  11. There’s Something Dead In Here.

Subsequently, in 1988, the album was re-released as an extended version with several bonus tracks by Akashic Records (yet another label with a spiritual/esoteric reference in its name). The bonus tracks were extracted and added from the ‘Flex-Able Leftovers’ EP, an extended play which was released shortly after ‘Flex-Able’ in 1984. Therefore, the full tracklist of the extended version is the following one (all tracks written by Steve Vain unless otherwise noted):

  1. Little Green Men;
  2. Viv Woman;
  3. Lovers Are Crazy;
  4. Salamanders in the Sun;
  5. The Boy/Girl Song;
  6. The Attitude Song;
  7. Call It Sleep;
  8. Junkie;
  9. Bill’s Private Parts;
  10. Next Stop Earth;
  11. There’s Something Dead in Here;
  12. So Happy (written by Steve Vai and Laurel Fishman);
  13. Bledsoe Bluvd;
  14. Burnin’ Down The Mountain;
  15. Chronic Insomnia.

The recording personnel was as follows:

  • Steve Siro Vai – vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, sitar, synthesizer, keyboards, piano, bass, bells, percussion, drum machine, drum programming, design, mixing producer, and sound engineer;
  • Scott Collard – synthesizer, keyboards, Fender Rhodes piano;
  • Larry Crane – lyre, xylophone, bells, and vibraphone;
  • Greg Degler – clarinet, flute, saxophone;
  • Joe Despagni – sound effects;
  • Laurel Fishman – vocals;
  • Peggy Foster – bass;
  • Chris Frazier – drums;
  • Stuart Hamm – bass, sound effects, vocals, backing vocals;
  • Bob Harris – trumpet, vocals (credited as Irney Rantin);
  • Suzannah Haris – vocals (credited as Ursula Rayven);
  • Billy James – percussion and drums;
  • Paul Lemcke – keyboards;
  • Pia Maiocco (Steve Vai’s wife) – vocals;
  • Tommy Mars – vocals, violin, and keyboards;
  • Lill Vai – sound effects;
  • Chad Wackerman – drums;
  • Pete Zeldman – percussion, drums.

Production personnel:

  • William Becton – composer;
  • Aaron Brown – design and illustrations;
  • John Matousek – mastering;
  • Mark Pinske – assistant;
  • Neil Zlozower – photography.

In critical regards, the album was well received by Allmusic (which gave it 4.5 stars out of 5) and Classic Rock magazine (which gave it 3.5 out of 5 stars).

Personally, this was one of the first Steve Vai records that I listened to as early as secondary school (more specifically during the early 2010s). I am still listening to it as time passed by and I have very fond memories of it and when I was when I was listening to it.

Therefore, that being said and without any further needless ado or unwanted spoilers on my behalf, I wholeheartedly recommend integrally listening to the album’s tracks (each remastered on the occasion of the album’s 25th anniversary), all embedded via Youtube below. All the best and enjoy!

Bonus – 36th anniversary of the album announcement by Steve himself:

Documentation sources and external links:

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