Purchased at BMV for $7.99 during Toronto Record Store Excursion 2016.
Like a manic version of “Puttin’ on the Ritz”, the title track from Joe Satriani’s latest Shockwave Supernova will render you mute as you pick your jaw up from the floor. Syncopated guitars and drums unite before Joe focuses everything on the melody. Joe’s brand of instrumental rock usually features the lead guitar in a melodic position where a lead singer would normally deliver the hooks. That’s Joe’s job and he has done it consistently well.
New age-y guitar twinkles highlight the ballad “Lost in a Memory”, which pulses with understated rhythms. It is only appropriate that this spacey music was recorded at Skywalker Sound. What atmosphere and what power. Things take a turn down Weird Street on “Crazy Joey”, a showcase for sounds you didn’t know a guitar could make, but still with a cool melody to remember. Unbelievable accuracy and dexterity here. “In My Pocket” brings back Joe’s bluesy harmonica work (often overlooked) with a stripped basic track. Then we fly “On Peregrine Wings”, but the song itself is heavy as granite. An unorthodox guitar hook reminds us that Joe isn’t a typical songwriter or player. Thunder returns on “Cataclysmic” which moves along with the grace of a herd of rhinos.
Joe hops in his Tardis for a trip back in time to the early 60s on “San Francisco Blue”, but of course with his own space age sound. He just has to “Keep On Movin'”, but it’s still a surprise when the piano shares the spotlight. There is no shortage of string majesty, but the piano is a nice touch. Things cool down on “All of My Life”, a gentle song with breezy congas and unexpected twists. “A Phase I’m Going Through”, track 10, is the point at which the listener begins to get a little bit of ear fatigue. 15 songs might be normal for a Joe album, but 10 songs might be the ideal length for the average listener.
Take a break if you have to because there are still great moments ahead. “Scarborough Stomp” is an apt title for the snare-heavy 11th track. It’s all about that uncomplicated beat, but there is a cool baroque section in the middle that sounds as if lifted from Joe’s brief stint in Deep Purple (1994). A tender ballad (“Butterfly and Zebra”) is a transitional song leading to the ominous backwards guitar intro to “If There is No Heaven”. This song is reminiscent of past Joe blasters like “One Big Rush”. Then you will see the “Stars Race Across the Sky” on one of Joe’s more atmospheric tracks. A “Goodbye Supernova” sends us off in dramatic fashion with heavy keyboard accents by veteran Mike Keneally.
Very few Satriani albums will let you down. Though some might argue “if you have one Joe, you have them all”, his fans will appreciate the differences.