IN BRIEF: : *** Steve Vai, "Passion and Warfare," Relativity. Albums rated on a scale of one star (poor) to five (a classic).

Having contributed withering GIT-tar fire to the likes of Zappa, Roth, White-snake and the "Crossroads" movie, maestro Steve Vai cuts loose with a solo album of instrumentals (vaguely) linked by kozmik spoken-word bullstuff. The playing, of course, is dazzling. Vai has an impressive musical vocabulary--and a tendency to slice 'n' dice every hip triptych known to man or machine-head into every square moment. The result is an intense, if somewhat wearying, experience.

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