Joe Satriani – Super Colassal (2006)

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The most frightening thing about “Super Colossal” is that it starts off sounding horrifically similar to the chorus of Billy Squier’s “The Stroke.” Thankfully, this is remedied immediately, and Satch returns to familiar territory. The sound of the title track is big and booming, but the tone and delivery are instantly recognizable. Satriani doesn’t pull any new tricks out of his bag, but lets his fingers do the talking throughout most of the record. And, of course, it wouldn’t be a Satriani record without a few midtempo numbers thrown in for good measure, and “It’s So Good” certainly delivers a swaggering punch that is reminiscent of not only Flying in a Blue Dream but moments of prot?g? Steve Vai’s epic album Passion and Warfare. There are moments of delicate frailty and instrumentals with a romantic and optimistic feeling, tempering the high-energy blues-driven guitar shredders and leaving Super Colossal with a nice sense of balance ? except for the album’s finish. “Crowd Chant” is arguably one of the weirdest moments in a career full of eccentricity, but it’s painfully out of place. However, with its catchy melody and call-and-response verses, it’s going to make one heck of a concert singalong. On the whole, Satriani really doesn’t push boundaries or stretch his guitar vocabulary too much here, but even on his worst day his productions could best any other shredder du jour based simply on the fact that he crafts songs rather than insipid guitar-scale exercises to flaunt and flail around carelessly.

1 Super Colossal
2 Just Like Lightnin’
3 It’s So Good
4 Redshift Riders
5 Ten Words
6 A Cool New Way
7 One Robot’s Dream
8 The Meaning of Love
9 Made of Tears
10 Theme for a Strange World
11 Movin’ On
12 A Love Eternal
13 Crowd Chant
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Joe Satriani – Is There Love in Space (2004)

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Guitar boss Joe Satriani’s ninth album reflects the terrain he’s traveled more than it points to an unexplored one ? and yes, that does prove to be a good thing. Satriani has explored many directions over eight previous albums, mashing together rock, blues, jazz, and pure technical proficiency in a dizzying blend that bears his unique signature. Is There Love in Space? recalls two distinct projects from his catalog, the groundbreaking Surfing With the Alien and the exotic Strange Beautiful Music. From the former is the driven, balls-out, tough blues-and-hard rock riffs and hooks, while from the latter are involved and sometimes intricate melodies and Eastern-tinged modes ? though none of the electronica. Satriani’s sense of writing catchy turnarounds and hooks is ubiquitous here, and though he uses keyboards, they are never employed as more than devices to further along the framework of a particular tune. Even the vocal cuts here work well, “Lifestyle” with its roosty rock & roll vocal, boogie on methamphetamine whir, and bombastic power chords is a great choice for a single, as is the stomping, metallic “Hands in the Air,” which updates Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild” riff in extremis. The mid-tempo tunes, such as the wah-wah-phased title track and the shimmering “If I Could Fly,” are nice changes of pace too. The funky future blues of “I Like the Rain” features a slightly annoying vocal, but in its ZZ Top-fueled desert boogie, it hardly matters. The masterpiece on the set is “Searching,” however. It’s slow- to mid-tempo stride and minor key cadence pushed to the limit by the razor-wired and feedback aesthetic of its ten-minute sprawling excess. While guitar hero records are anything but cool in the new century, this guitar hero offers one cool little record.

1 Gnaahh
2 Up in Flames
3 Hands in the Air
4 Lifestyle
5 Is There Love in Space?
6 If I Could Fly
7 The Souls of Distortion
8 Just Look Up
9 I Like the Rain
10 Searching
11 Bamboo
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Joe Satriani – Engines Of Creation (2000)

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With Crystal Planet, Joe Satriani made an effective return to his signature sound following the erratic blues-rock detour of Joe Satriani. For the follow-up to Crystal Planet, Satriani is once again exploring novel territory in an effort to keep his music fresh, and Engines of Creation is the biggest stylistic shift he’s made yet ? to electronic music. Satriani has challenged himself to find ways of coaxing totally new sounds from his guitar, and he weaves them seamlessly into the futuristic electronic soundscapes. Moreover, his melodies and main themes have rarely been this angular and off-kilter, meaning that exploring this music has indeed helped Satriani refresh and re-imagine his signature sound. Even the pieces that aren’t ultimately that revolutionary are still intriguing, since very few musicians have the technical training and innate sense of musicality required to mine this territory. Overall, Engines of Creation is a brave and sporadically successful experiment, and it’s also a promising new direction for Satriani should he choose to continue this vein of exploration and take it out even farther.

1 Devil’s Slide
2 Flavor Crystal 7
3 Borg Sex
4 Until We Say Goodbye
5 Attack
6 Champagne
7 Clouds Race Across the Sky
8 The Power Cosmic 2000, Pt. 1
9 The Power Cosmic 2000, Pt. 2
10 Slow and Easy
11 Engines of Creation
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Joe Satriani – Crystal Planet (1998)

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Recording wih longtime bassist Stuart Hamm and drummer Jeff Campitelli, Satriani turns in an all-instrumental record with Crystal Planet. It’s an instrumental record with a difference, finding the guitarist taking more chances than ever. There are some familiar hard rock and ballad workouts, but what’s astounding about the album is that it shows his technique continuing to develop and deepen, reaching into new, uncharted waters. It’s his finest all-instrumental effort since Surfing With the Alien.

1 Up in the Sky
2 House Full of Bullets
3 Crystal Planet
4 Love Thing
5 Trundrumbalind
6 Lights of Heaven
7 Raspberry Jam Delta-V
8 Ceremony
9 With Jupiter in Mind
10 Secret Prayer
11 A Train of Angels
12 A Piece of Liquid
13 Psycho Monkey
14 Time
15 Z.Z.’s Song
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Joe Satriani – Time Machine (1993)

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Time Machine is an excellent double-CD set providing something for just about everyone who’s interested in Joe Satriani’s music. Disc one reprints four tracks from the 1984 Joe Satriani EP, while also showcasing nine new studio tracks and a loose jam session, and disc two is a collection of 14 of Satriani’s best live performances. Included among the new material is the booming “Time Machine,” the straightforward but slamming “Mighty Turtle Head,” and the hammering “Dweller on the Threshold,” as well as “Banana Mango II,” a new companion piece to the re-released “Banana Mango.” Also of note is “Speed of Light,” yet another of his trademark “surfing songs,” and “Baroque,” a beautiful acoustic piece. This set of recordings makes an excellent starting point for new fans and will give longtime fans something new as well.

1 Time Machine
2 The Mighty Turtle Head
3 All Alone
4 Banana Mango II
5 Thinking of You
6 Crazy
7 Speed of Light
8 Baroque
9 Dweller on the Threshold
10 Banana Mango
11 Dreaming #11
12 I Am Become Death
13 Saying Goodbye
14 Woodstock Jam
15 Satch Boogie
16 Summer Song
17 Flying in a Blue Dream
18 Cryin’
19 The Crush of Love
20 Tears in the Rain
21 Always With Me, Always with You
22 Big Bad Moon
23 Surfing With the Alien
24 Rubina
25 Circles
26 Drum Solo
27 Lords of Karma
28 Echo
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Joe Satriani – The Extremist (1992)

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The Extremist lives up to its name, continuing Joe Satriani’s tradition of exploring new musical and compositional ground. A vastly different array of musicians assists him in creating the songs displayed on this all-instrumental disc, and as such the songs are different from even the usual envelope-pushing Satriani fare. The chugging “Summer Song,” the warm “Friends,” the slamming “Motorcycle Driver,” and the crunching “The Extremist” show Satriani’s talents as a guitarist are undiminished, while the more traditional neo-folk approach to “Rubina’s Blue Sky Happiness” and the bluesy “New Blues” are different from anything he has done before. So, too, is the droning rock of “War” and the plaintive, questioning funk-rock of “Why.”

1 Friends
2 The Extremist
3 War
4 Cryin’
5 Rubina’s Blue Sky Happiness
6 Summer Song
7 Tears in the Rain
8 Why
9 Motorcycle Driver
10 New Blues
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Joe Satriani – Flying In A Blue Dream (1989)

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An hour-long disc filled with musical explorations and compositions that defy belief, Flying in a Blue Dream is unquestionably Joe Satriani at his absolute best. Breaking his all-instrumental tradition for the first time, he croons on six of the disc’s 18 tracks, including the weird “Strange”; and the bluesy, hard-rocking “Big Bad Moon”; and the driving “Can’t Slow Down.” Satriani’s voice isn’t extraordinary, but it fits extremely well with the music he creates, especially on the acoustic-tinged, uplifting “I Believe.” It’s his playing that’s the really impressive thing here, though; his unique tone and complex song structures are enhanced by his signature playing style and the incredible array of effects and tricks he wrestles out of his instrument. The disc closes with the high-flying, misty piece “Into the Light,” leaving behind a feeling of real wonder. Soaring, powerful, and triumphant, this recording deserves a place in everyone’s collection.

1 Flying in a Blue Dream
2 The Mystical Potato Head Groove Thing
3 Can’t Slow Down
4 Headless
5 Strange
6 I Believe
7 One Big Rush
8 Big Bad Moon
9 The Feeling
10 The Phone Call
11 Day at the Beach (New Rays from an Ancient Sun)
12 Back to Shalla-Bal
13 Ride
14 The Forgotten, Pt. 1
15 The Forgotten, Pt. 2
16 The Bells of Lal, Pt. 1
17 The Bells of Lal, Pt. 2
18 Into the Light
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