Joe Satriani

REVIEW: Joe Satriani – Joe Satriani (1984 EP, 2014 RSD reissue)

JOE SATRIANI – Joe Satriani (1984 Rubina EP, 2014 Relative Record Store Day 180 gram reissue)

In 1984, The Squares guitarist Joe Satriani quietly put out a low-key instrumental EP on his own label, Rubina records.  How limited was the release?  An exact figure is hard to find, but original copies today run about $500.  Four of the five tracks were reissued on Joe’s Time Machine album, but the fifth track’s master tape was damaged.

This is a release most people assumed they’d never own without parting with some serious dough.  Then in 2014, for the 30th anniversary, the original Joe Satriani EP was reissued for Record Store Day.  Unfortunately, due to the lack of liner notes, we don’t know how this was accomplished.  The damaged track, “Talk To Me” is intact and sounds just fine.  Was it sourced from an original vinyl?  Was it restored?  You can now experience a 180 gram “replication” of the original 1984 EP that started it all.

Guitar Player magazine went nuts for the EP, which is remarkably performed entirely on guitar.  Every instrument you hear is a guitar.  The “drums” are Joe tapping on his pickups.  The “bass” is a detuned six string.  The sound effects and other “instruments” are Joe wringing every sound he could think of from his instrument.  It’s truly innovative.  It’s even pretty listenable.

The record opens with “Talk To Me”, which could be seen as a precursor to Joe’s uptempo guitar anthems like “One Big Rush”.  In fact, there’s a familiar lick in this track that Joe used as a main hook on Flying in a Blue Dream‘s “Back to Shalla-Bal”.  This track, thought long lost, is probably the best of the five and most indicative of where Joe was headed.

“Dreaming Number Eleven” is an interesting song, with a suitably dream-like opening that soon gives way to a funky beat complete with “slap bass”.  The experimental side of Joe manifests in the sound of a roaring train, all performed on guitar.

Side two commences with the light and tropical “Banana Mango”, a breezy track with blazing speed laid overtop.  This contrasts with the nuclear “I Am Become Death”, a gothic dirge.  There is a middle section that sounds like the wind blowing through a wasteland.  Then, a backwards guitar section that foreshadows part of Flying in a Blue Dream.  Finally, “Saying Goodbye” is a brief but tender ballad as Joe is known to do.  It is constructed from gentle volume swells.

It’s clear from this record that Joe was going to be a formidable composer, let alone player.  Just as interesting as the guitar work are the arrangements.  They are all meticulously constructed, and though some tracks are more listenable than others, they all make up a snapshot of who Joe Satriani would become.  Within three years of its release, Joe would change rock history by Surfing With the Alien, his talents now fully expressing themselves.  The Joe Satriani EP is an experimental prototype to the genius to come.

3/5 stars

#911: The Pros and Cons of Rediscovery

RECORD STORE TALES #911: The Pros and Cons of Rediscovery

Ever have an artist that you like listening to, but have neglected for many years?  It happens.  Maybe they appeal to you only when you’re in certain moods, or you have forgotten why you originally liked them.  Or perhaps the albums got buried in a corner and you forgot about them.  There are numerous reasons why any serious music fan might not have heard an artist they like in a long time.

Whatever your reasons are, I assume they are good ones.  When I neglect an artist for a long period of time, I blame it on the haphazard way I’ve ripped my CDs to my digital library.  An ongoing project due to the thousands of albums in the house (and more arriving every week), I have not done it alphabetically.  I tried doing it that way, but it was tremendously monotonous, so I resumed “ripping what I feel like” instead.  And if I didn’t feel like listening to somebody, I didn’t rip it, and often forgot about it.

I’ll give you an example:  Joe Satriani.  Recently I was in the mood to listen to all-instrumental music for a day.  I went to my Satriani folder and only found five discs inside.  I knew I had more, but for whatever reason, they never made it onto my hard drive.  I had guesses as to why.  They were albums I wasn’t as familiar with.  I obviously ripped the familiar stuff that I wanted to hear rather than the stuff I needed to spend time with and grow into.

“I forgot about this song,” I mumbled during “Up in the Sky” from Crystal Planet.  I remember buying that CD.  It was 1998 and I was living with T-Rev, and I was excited about new Satch.  I wanted to touch base with my instrumental roots that began when I bought Steve Vai’s Passion and Warfare back in the summer of 1990.  I also made sure we carried Satch in-store.  It sold well enough for us, but I remember being underwhelmed listening to it.  I couldn’t distinguish a lot of the songs, and I found it a bit overlong.  I guess I rarely revisited it for those reasons.

Getting out Crystal Planet again, I might not have been wrong, but there are some cool songs buried within.  The title track has a really cool rhythmic, metallic riff.  “House Full of Bullets” For ballads, “Love Thing” is pretty sweet.  There is good stuff here that I missed out on for a few years due to neglect.

Other artists that I have recently dove back into include Steve Vai and Jethro Tull.  Undeniably, two more challenging artists.  Their music is not designed for simplicity.  I’ve always found Vai’s Fire Garden difficult to digest.  A single disc, it was originally intended to be a double, but still contains the same music because Steve discovered it would all fit on a modern CD.  It’s dense.  As such, it never made it onto the hard drive.  Until now.  Same with Tull’s A Passion Play.

There’s a negative side to this rediscovery as well.

Upon playing these old Satriani, Tull and Vai albums once more, I started looking up their discographies.  Reading about the albums I had, and the ones I didn’t have.

“Oh!” I exclaimed.  “Satriani has a box of all his studio albums plus a bonus disc!”

“There’s a Thick As A Brick deluxe box now!”

“I still need to get an original vinyl Flex-Able Leftovers to get all the tracks!”

Don’t worry.  I didn’t order all that stuff.  The only purchase I made was an RSD reissue of Satriani’s first self-titled EP.  Original copies go for $500, but I found a reasonably priced RSD copy.  It was within budget so that’s on its way.  And that’s it.  I didn’t go hog wild.

Yet.

Lockdown Video #7: Mail Day!

#827: Freestylin’ 5 – Brave New World

GETTING MORE TALE #827: Freestylin’ 5 – Brave New World

Oh, how so much has changed in such a short time. The conveniences I once took for granted are now dearly missed. I feel as if I am living in the early chapters of an old undiscovered dystopian fiction novel. Then there is the paranoia I feel when we get such mixed signals from all around. Don’t go out! But this store is offering pickups. Wear a mask! But only if you’re not able to be more than 2 metres away from the next person. Or not. And what kind of masks? It’s a surreal day that ends with a phone call with your mother about what kind of mask she’s wearing these days.

Look at classic science fiction.  There are very few that feature gloves as part of regular daily attire that are not dystopias!

Because I feel it’s appropriate, I’m listening to Kilroy Was Here by Styx for inspiration while I write.

“We all need control.  I need control.  We all need control.”

And to think we were led to believe that the future dystopia would involve robots and rock & roll rebels.

On the other hand, I feel like I’ve been rehearsing for this my whole life.  In spite of losing hundreds of books and movies in a recent purge (to be discussed in full in another chapter), I still have dozens unwatched and unread here to enjoy.  I was saving them for the proverbial “rainy day”.  Who was to know it was going to be three months of rain?

As a classic introvert, I tended to spend most of my time indoors anyway, nose buried in a laptop, headphones on.  I never particularly sought busy weekends of going out and being social.  I left that to Jen while I did my own thing.  She’s managing as well as anyone else.  What I really miss are the luxuries.  Dropping in at the parents house to steal groceries from their fridge for a visit.  Going out for a medium rare steak when you’re craving it.  Wandering the aisles at the record store.  Even ordering from Amazon.

I am a creature of habit, but with more emphasis on spending locally in social media, a thought occurred to me.  Why am I relying on Amazon for music?  We have Encore Records here in town, and they have been advertising that they ship.  The other day, John at 2loud2oldmusic mentioned that there was a new Joe Satriani coming out.  I liked the track he posted, so I checked and Encore had it in stock.

I don’t believe in ordering “just one” of anything so I browsed a bit and quickly filled my cart.  I searched for “Coverdale” (hey, you never know if something previously unheard will pop up) and their very smart search engine returned me a hit for all his stuff plus some related albums like Vandenberg.  Good ol’ Dekes has long asserted their brilliance so why not?  It looked like it’s probably one of those sweet Rock Candy reissues.  Love/Hate’s Blackout in the Red Room is an album I’ve wanted for 30 years but never pulled the trigger on until now.  It has three bonus tracks thanks to Rock Candy’s fine series of reprints.  Finally, King Kobra’s second CD Thrill of a Lifetime made it an even four.

I picked my shipping, hit the Paypal button and later the next day they had my order processed.  I’m going to have new music this week!  And plenty of it too!

New music helps keep up the illusion that things are still “normal”, while they are actually anything but.  You can pretend for a while.  I’ll sanitize the parcel when it arrives, a stark foreshadow of what the “new” normal will be like.  I’ll wash my hands when I’ve removed and discarded the cellophane.  Only then will I allow myself to enjoy the CDs without the reminders.

A wise person recently told me that now is the time to spread kindness.  I’m trying to remember that.  Part of that includes being kind to yourself.  I bought myself some CDs.  Don’t be afraid to treat yourself if you can.  I know we’re not all in a situation where we are financially able to do that.  I’m part of an essential service.  As much as I resented that at first, I’m really grateful for it.

As I try to be kind to myself, a dark side of me whispers in my ear.  “You’re being careless.  Everything you let enter the house is a threat.  You already suffer asthma.  You’re not paying attention to the statistics.  You should be working from home.”

We are all facing our own personal struggles right now.  I know a few people who have it bad, real bad, and I can’t do a damn thing to help them except be here to listen.  It’s a small gesture, but can be a huge one in some circumstances.  Don’t underestimate your own personal value as a human being that can listen.

My hopes are high that we will get through this together.  Together, separately.  Humans have a remarkable capacity to work together when we want to.  I don’t dare put a timeline on this in my mind.  I try to take it one day and one week at a time.  We have made it through another week, and all we have to do now is keep on keepin’ on.

So keep on keepin’ on, my friends.

REVIEW: Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson, Steve Vai – G3 Live in Concert (1997)

JOE SATRIANI, ERIC JOHNSON, STEVE VAI – G3 Live in Concert (1997 Epic)

It took me 21 years to finally buy this CD.  Why?  It was hard to get excited about three live Satch songs, three live Vai songs, and so on.  But a collector needs to catch ’em all, and it’s actually a pretty fabulous listen throughout.

Joe Satriani opens the set with “Cool No. 9” from his self-titled blues album.  Blues to Joe Satriani is a different kind of animal.  It’s trick-laden and thick with notes, although this doesn’t mean light on feel.  His landmark classic “Flying in a Blue Dream” is more what people expect from Joe.  I like to describe his albums as regular vocal rock records, just with the lead guitar singing the melody instead of a person.  I think I stole that description from Joe himself.  You can’t really call “Flying” a ballad but it sure is epic.  Finally it’s “Summer Song”, Joe’s big 1992 hit from The Extemist.  It doesn’t get more accessible for instrumental guitar rock.  Joe’s actually the perfect artist to open this CD for that reason.  His music, more than most instrumentalists, is door-opening for listeners.

The sublime Eric Johnson is in the middle position.  “Zap” is a tour-de-force of instrumental prowess, built into the framework of a nice shuffle.  Though you can certainly bop along if you like, the musicianship here is not for the timid.  “Camel’s Night Out” is a busy groover.  One of Johnson’s best tunes ever has to be “Manhattan”, which goes down unbelievably smooth live.  The playing is lyrical and warm.

Steve Vai’s threesome includes “Answers” and “For the Love of God” from Passion & Warfare.  “Answers” is one of Vai’s more challenging songs, fast and funky with weird tones and melodies.  This is probably the most blistering song on the whole disc, including a solo that isn’t in the studio version.  For all that, “For the Love of God” is the most awe-inspiring.  This ballad puts the passion in Passion and Warfare.  This is the one with Steve’s soul in it, every bend and every beat.  “The Attitude Song” is an oldie from the first Vai album Flex-able, just a solid rocker with some shredding.  Live it is much heavier than the tinny studio cut.

Finally, there is a trio of tunes with the three maestros playing together, as is the G3 tradition.  The blues standard “Going Down” is a typical jam, with Joe on vocals.  Then a tribute to Steve’s mentor, Frank Zappa, on “My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama” with everyone singing…and shredding.  Finally, Jimi Hendrix’s “Red House” finishes the CD with Eric Johnson on lead vocals.  Of these three tracks, “My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama” smokes the other two.

May as well pick up the original G3 CD if you find it in the wild.  It’s good stuff.

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Chickenfoot – “Divine Termination” (2017 single)

CHICKENFOOT – “Divine Termination” (2017 Edel coloured 7″ single)

For a band with only two albums, Chickenfoot sure do milk it.  After a single debut album, they did a live DVD called Get Your Buzz On.  Two albums in came a live album called Chickenfoot LV.  (Get it?  LV can mean both “live” and “55”, Sammy’s notable hit.)  Then another package called Best + Live, mixing the “greatest hits” with a new song and an audio release of Get Your Buzz On — which, by the way, was mined for five songs already on the previous LV album!

It’s all too much.  We like Chickenfoot here; really we do, but enough is enough.  Instead of buying all that stuff, we decided to just go for a 7″ single for the one “new” song called “Divine Termination”.  That seemed the most logical purchasing option, all things considered.  It’s a nicely packaged 45, on clear pink coloured vinyl.  The side A label depicts Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony.  Side B has Joe Satriani and Chad Smith.  It feels nice and heavy in hand.

Unfortunately, it’s not all rose-coloured.  These guys had five years to come up with one good new song.  “Divine Termination” is not it.  Although it does have a neat, vintage sounding Deep Purple riff, the Chickenfoot hooks and harmonies are missing.  The chorus has no meat.  “Divine Termination” is forgettable even though Joe Satriani plays as brilliantly as ever.

On the flipside is another release of “Highway Star”, the Deep Purple cover.  It’s available on Best + Live, but its first issue was on Re-Machined, the Deep Purple tribute album.  Too bad the B-side isn’t something exclusive, but it does blow away the A-side.  Listen to Joe somehow make his guitar resemble Jon Lord’s Hammond Organ.

Maybe Chickenfoot were too creatively spent after years of solo and other projects to come up with a memorable new song.  There’s talk of a third Chickenfoot album in the future.  If so, it has to be better than “Divine Termination”.

2/5 stars

 

#729.4: LeBrain’s Unorthodox Top 10 of 2018

Given everything that happened in 2018 (cancer, more cancer, death), I wasn’t as tuned-in to rock and roll as I normally would be.  I missed a lot of new releases, some on purpose, others by accident.  Therefore, this year I’m doing something different from my Top Lists of 2018.  Before we get to the lists, let’s talk about the past 12 months.


2018: RELEASES IN A NUTSHELL

January saw new CDs by Joe Satriani and Corrosion of Conformity, finally reunited with Pepper Keenan on vocals.  There was new Loudness, and a release by Beth Hart & Joe BonamassaDef Leppard had a low-key EP exclusive to iTunes (The Lost Session).  In February we got the return of the mighty Saxon.  March was a big month, featuring Judas Priest, Stone Temple Pilots, Jack White and Myles Kennedy.  The rock kept rolling in April.  The big metal one here was Stryper‘s God Damn Evil, along with new Godsmack and Thirty Seconds to Mars.  During this time I was personally only able to get the Stryper and Priest.

As temperatures warmed in May, Bad Wolves came out with their novelty cover of “Zombie” by the Cranberries which became a predictable hit.  Frank Turner and Five Finger Death Punch also released new records in May.  News in June was unfortunately dominated by Kanye West and Drake, but don’t forget Ghost, The Darkness (with their first live) and Nine Inch Nails!  In July, Halestorm came out with the critically acclaimed ViciousAlice in Chains made their long awaited return in August with Rainier Fog, an album I bought but have not yet fully penetrated.

Autumn began with the biggest name in rock and roll, Sir Paul McCartney himself.  SlashPaul Simon, Lenny Kravitz and Suicidal Tendencies had records out on the same day.  VoiVod, Therapy?, Metric and even Rod Stewart returned in September as well.  October featured two big soundtracks:  Bohemian Rhapsody, and A Star Is BornAce Frehley, Greta Van Fleet, and The Struts came out with new music the same month.  In November we got Mark Knopfler, the Smashing Pumpkins, Ted Nugent and yet another live Beth Hart.  The month closed with the latest Def Leppard best-of.  December boasted Metal Church but not a lot of rock.  Thank the Metal Gods that Max the Axe swooped in with Status Electric to save the year.


I spent most of 2018 checked out mentally.  I missed most of the new releases and have a lot to catch up on.  The summer was spent on Highway 401, and a flash drive loaded with music helped me survive it.  New releases were not the be-all and end-all for me.  Therefore, my Top Albums of 2018 list includes some oldies that just helped me get through it all.  It seems right to do it this way, since I can’t really do a well-curated list of new releases without absorbing them properly.

TOP 10 ALBUMS THAT GOT ME THROUGH 2018

  1. Blotto – Combo Akimbo (1982)
  2. Max the Axe – Status Electric (2018)
  3. Ghost – Prequelle (2018)
  4. The Darkness – Live at Hammersmith  (2018)
  5. Judas Priest – Firepower (2018)
  6. Blotto – Tonight At Toad’s (1982)
  7. Ace Frehley – Spaceman (2018)
  8. Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson & Steve Vai – G3 Live in Concert (1997)
  9. The Sword – Used Future (2018)
  10. Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds (1978)

 

HONORABLE MENTIONS

  1. Fu Manchu – Clone of the Universe (2018)
  2. Hello Hopeless – Dark Pasts, Brighter Futures (2018)
  3. Mike Slayen – Dude: A Guitar CD (2018)

TOP MOVIES OF 2018

Can’t do a movie list this year.  Not possible.  I didn’t see ’em all, but one movie blew away all the rest.

  1. Avengers: Infinity War

A PEEK AT 2019

What’s hot for 2019?

  1. Star Wars:  Episode IX
  2. Motley Crue‘s long awaited movie The Dirt, and new songs too.
  3. Dream Theater – Distance Over Time
  4. Avengers:  Endgame
  5. Queensryche – The Verdict

Stay tuned….

 

 

 

REVIEW: Derek Smalls – Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Aging)

DEREK SMALLS – Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Aging) (2018 BMG)

So very desperately, I wanted this to be good.  Alas, it is very very remotely far from anything good.  It’s not the line between clever and stupid; it’s just foul smelling putridity.  Spinal Tap’s bassist Derek Smalls, who might be best known for his “Jazz Odyssey”, cannot hold a tune.  There must be a reason why Smalls sings the fewest lead vocals of the three Spinal Tap members.  He’s all but unlistenable.

The gimmick on Smalls Change is twofold.  It’s a collection of songs about getting old, which is a crappy concept to start with.  There is nothing wrong with songs that have some life experience, but who wants to listen to a tune about an MRI?  Who wants to think about it all?  The second gimmick is the roster of guests:  old fogie buddies like David Crosby, Steve Lukather, Paul Shaffer, and so on.  There are few somewhat younger folks here too, such as Dweezil Zappa, Joe Satriani, Chad Smith, and Phil X.  But the guest stars can’t save it.  Admittedly, the lyrics are sometimes funny.  “Butt Call” is about butt dialing!  “Nobody speaks, handset by the cheeks.”  “Memo to Willie” is about erectile disfunction (get it?), a subject I’m sure you like singing about as well.  Then there’s “Gummin’ the Gash” which you can figure out for yourself.

The biggest problem is the voice, which is a cross between a garbage disposal and Otto the bus driver.*  No amount of Spinal Tap references can save it.  When the singer cannot sing, then Houston we have a problem.  And the thing goes on for 14 tuneless tracks!  An hour of gargling words out in an English accent.  Without a David St. Hubbins or a Nigel Tufnel to carry the melody, Smalls is sunk.  When there is an actual melody, that is.

We sadly have to proclaim Smalls Change as the worst, most unlistenable album of 2018.  Clearly, a lot of time and money went into making it, but don’t invest any of yours.

1/5 stars

* Yes, of course we know that Derek Smalls is played by Simpsons actor Harry Shearer.  If Otto was British, this could have been his album.

 

REVIEW: Merry Axemas – A Guitar Christmas – Various Artists (1997)

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MERRY AXEMAS A Guitar Christmas (1997 Sony)

Do you have a favourite Christmas album? Perhaps you need some Merry Axemas in your life.  The first one, in particular.

I used to have an annual tradition of making a Christmas mix CD.  I dropped it because after a while I ran out of good Christmas tracks. Something from Merry Axemas used to make the list every year.  Not only are there great traditional songs, but also the finest guitar slingers in the world.  For an album of (mostly) instrumentals, this one really rings the bells.

Louisiana blues rocker Kenny Wayne Shepherd gets things started with “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”.  Anyone on board with the blues should enjoy the solid jamming going on here!  This isn’t for grandma.  This is for guitar maniacs!  Progressive stylist Eric Johnson has a beautiful “First Nowell”, on a classical and electric guitars with accompaniment.  Grandma won’t mind this one at all, in fact she might want a copy for herself.  The wizard of the wires, Jeff Beck, then presents his slide guitar version of “Amazing Grace” complete with choir.  A different mix of elements, but not too hard to digest.


Not the version from this CD, which is instrumental

The Brian Setzer Orchestra comes out swingin’ with their instrumental “Jingle Bells”.  If you ever needed reminding how awesome the former Stray Cat is on six strings, then check this out.  Brian keeps it all accessible while simultaneously blowing off your nuts.  The big band is icing on the cake.  Joe Satriani is next up to the plate with an adventurous “Silent Night/Holy Night Jam”.  This one is strictly for guitar-heads and players, as it’s more a Joe showpiece than anything else.  Picture Joe circa Flying in a Blue Dream and you’re in the right place, but not very Christmas-y.  This is the only song that has never made one of my annual Christmas mix CDs.  Steve Morse’s “Joy to the World” is far more successful as far as the Christmas theme goes.  Steve does do it his way, but at least you can tell which carol you’re listening to.  If anyone can capture angelic Christmas guitar tones, it is Steve Morse.

How big can these names get?  Try Steve Vai on for size.  You might recall “Christmas Time is Here” from the classic Charlie Brown Christmas special.  Vince Guaraldi made it popular for all ages, and Steve does a playful take on it, using his guitar like a voice.  And the names keep getting bigger.  Heard of Joe Perry before?  The Aerosmith guitar hero does Elvis Presley’s “Blue Christmas” as a Hawiian guitar instrumental which suddenly goes surf rock.  Rush’s Alex Lifeson then brings “The Little Drummer Boy”, with a low-key and quiet instrumental.

“‘O Holy Night”, performed by Richie Sambora formerly of Bon Jovi, swings and just barely misses.  It just doesn’t have that Christmas feel.  The Japanese guitarist Hotei has the final track, John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War is Over)”, which is actually a traditional that Lennon and Yoko Ono wrote lyrics to.  He goes a little over the edge partway through, but it mostly maintains the right feel.

Here’s the great thing about Merry Axemas.  Even if you don’t care for Christmas music, there is usually a need for it around, once a year.  Merry Axemas, with some modest editing, could suit your needs.  Don’t celebrate Christmas?  No problem — if you’re a fan of these players (particularly Morse, Vai, Perry, and Johnson) then you’ll want to hear what they did with these tracks.

4/5 stars

 

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: Joe Satriani – Shockwave Supernova (2015)

Purchased at BMV for $7.99 during Toronto Record Store Excursion 2016.

scan_20161217JOE SATRIANI – Shockwave Supernova (2015 Sony)

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.

3.5/5 stars