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Mike Keneally With
Steve Vai

released in 1998

MK involvement:
Keyboards on the track "Fuck Yourself" (although you wouldn't know it from reading the liner notes)

Robin DiMaggio gets credit for drums, and Steve Vai gets credit for "everything else" on this track. Hey. That's me playing organ (actually a sampled organ patch), and Steve also extrapolated some of my organ performance, switched patches in the computer and changed it to horn parts. Forgetting to list me was just a simple oversight, which I'm not angry about, but which I'll happily never let him forget about: during the recording sessions for his new album, which took place in December '98, Steve took a moment to thank us, his band, for helping to make the album come to life before his eyes and ears; he'd always dreamed of recording a real album in real time with a real band and we were bringing his dream to life. It was a very touching moment, which I then blew to pieces by saying "yeah, just put our names on the fucking album."

"Fuck Yourself" is a very fun, nasty-sounding song with a great, long guitar solo and somewhat surprising lyrics. I especially like his little message to people who get on his case because he knows how to play the guitar - that was a long time coming.

Available all over the place.

released in 1997

MK involvement:
Piano with Steve Vai on the track "Christmas Time Is Here"

Hot on the heels of the G3 live releases comes this smooth holiday item. I think our track sounds like shimmering magic. Steve fashioned a beautiful, witty solo over Vince Guaraldi's sophisticated changes, and I admit to being proud of my piano solo - I'm learning how to play the spaces around the notes these days. Coolest of all for me, after all the madness accompanying my entrance into Vai land, is the appearance of Bryan Beller on bass on this tune - closure at its finest.

Our track is my second favorite on the album. Number one is Eric Johnson's "The First Nowell" (sic) - masterful? Exquisite? Such words do this performance scant justice. Eric is unbelievable. I miss him a lot, actually - we occasionally got to spend a bit of quality time together during the '96 G3 tour, but not nearly often enough. I also really like hanging out with his keyboardist Steven Barber, who co-arranged this track and is a masterful composer as well - the Meridian Arts Ensemble has performed and recorded Steven's work.

Other standout tracks for me are Jeff Beck's "Amazing Grace" and Brian Setzer's "Jingle Bells". Alex Lifeson did a sweet "Little Drummer Boy" as well, and Steve Morse is his usual amazing self. Also appearing are Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Joe Satriani, Joe Perry, Richie Sambora and Hotei. Steve and I tried really hard to think of a better name for this album but John Kalodner shot down every one of our suggestions, so "Merry Axemas" it is, unfortunately, but don't let that stop you from picking one up - Eric's track alone will keep you cheered through the holidays, and our track won't hurt you none either.

CD and video released in 1997

MK involvement:
Guitar, percussion and keyboards on "Answers"; electric sitar on "For The Love Of God"; guitar on "The Attitude Song"; vocal (with Steve) on "My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama."

The first recorded evidence of my tenure as Steve Vai band member escapes to the public on these slices of live guitar nirvana. As corporate rock product goes, both of these releases are actually highly entertaining.

My guitar parts had to be redone in Steve's studio because the microphone which was placed on my amplifier for the live recording was trashed and useless, so I got to experience the magic of re-recording my "Attitude Song" part under the watchful eye of the composer. It was fun! I haven't had such minute attention to detail focused on my playing since, oh, 1988 or so. We did a lot of laughing and I enjoyed being subjected to such scrutiny. Let me re-emphasize: I REALLY LIKE being in Steve Vai's band.

The performances on the video, although they're the same songs, are completely different performances than the ones on the CD, and I think the mix on the video might be a little more sympathetic to yours truly, especially where the "My Guitar" vocal is concerned. Both products are fine investments for lovers of good guitar playing - leave us not forget that Eric Johnson and Joe Satriani appear as well.

One point which I found interesting: on the tour from which these products arose, the order of performance went: Vai, Johnson, Satriani, all three. On the CD and video it goes Satriani, Johnson, Vai, all three. Naturally, since Satch was the headliner, it makes sense that he's placed first on the CD and video, but in terms of the listener/watcher's actual experience it's as though Vai is the headliner. Ah, just an observation.

Rampantly available everywhere.

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