JOE SATRIANI

"Unstoppable Momentum" (Epic Records; 2013)

Reviewed by Jeff Rogers

I've been a fan of The Satch for a long time. I think a lot of people started listening to him with his breakout disc, "Surfing With The Alien," because it didn't sound like anything on the radio at the time. Fast forward a whole lot of years and Joe is still cranking out instrumental music. This offering, his fourteenth, is a great disc for driving along with or just plugging in and 'trying' to play along. The Satch has an ear for melody and you can hear that in each track. His smooth tones and playful style are what makes him the leader in his craft.

I usually buy a new Joe Satriani disc without a second thought because I know I'm going to get some great guitar sounds to pump through my headphones or speakers. "Unstoppable Momentum" is appropriately titled because it starts off moving you and then keeps you in time with Joe's signature guitar licks and unmistakable tone. I recommend absorbing this disc with headphones first; find your favorite spots, then fire up the auto and go driving and crank it up when necessary.

Joe's band on this gig: Joe Satriani - guitar, keyboards, harmonica; Mike Keneally - keyboard; Vinnie Colaiuta - drums; Chris Chaney - bass.

For more information visit http://www.satriani.com

"Strange Beautiful Music" (Epic Records; 2002)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

I've always said that Joe Satriani is at his best in a clinical setting. "Engines Of Creation" took that idiom a little too far. While "Engines Of Creation" is a phenomenally creative record, it often sounded cold and dry. In anticipation for Satriani's next studio effort I began to fear that he might swing all the way back to a more organic approach such as he applied on the self-titled record a few years back.

Well, "Strange Beautiful Music" is organic, all right - and diverse. Sometimes the songs seem to stretch too much for my tastes, sometimes even sounding desperate to be different. Is that a bad thing? It probably is if you're thinking that all you want is Joe to return to the form he exhibited on "Crystal Planet." But, in the end, that's what most people like about Joe Satriani - he never repeats himself on successive albums.

Joe Satriani has snatched little bits and pieces from his recorded history on elements of "Strange Beautiful Music." The electronica of "Engines Of Creation" are retained if only with more subtlety and grace. Actually, the disc sounds like a blend of "Engines Of Creation" with the organic feel of the self-titled disc and the big sounds and strong melodies of "The Extremist."

In a way, the varying tracks on "Strange Beautiful Music" reminds me of the distinctiveness that all ten tracks exhibited on "The Extremist." And to me that means a record that never gets boring.

I won't go into detail about every single track, but it is worth discussing a few songs with descriptive narrative. "Mountain Song" may have the most immediate appeal of the fourteen tracks here with its robust melody and thick rhythms. "The Traveler" is a very seductive track with a neo-classical edge that really sounds like a journey. "Chords Of Life" and "What Breaks A Heart" mix in acoustic guitar to prominent status (which is something Satriani hasn't done too much in his career). Be-bop is the featured style on "Hill Groove." "Starry Night" is classic 'ballad' in the only way that Satriani can do. Joe Satriani brings Jimmy Page-isms back to life (electric blues boogie and swagger) on "New Last Jam," at least on the beginning, before launching into his trademark 'surfing' style. Joe Satriani even covers Santo and Johnny's "Sleep Walk" with the eclectic Robert Fripp assisting on the guitar.

In the end, "Strange Beautiful Music" isn't really all that strange, but it's certainly approaches beautiful in many spots.

"Strange Beautiful Music" was produced by Joe Satriani and co-produced by John Cuniberti and Eric Cardieux.

Joe Satriani was joined by Greg Bissonette on bass, and Jeff Capitelli on drums. John Cuniberti contributes additional percussion and Eric Cardieux contributes keyboards and other 'computer stuff.' Special guests include Robert Fripp (King Crimson) on guitar, Gregg Bissonette on drums, and Pia Vai on harp.

For more information visit http://www.satriani.com

"Live in San Francisco" DVD (Epic Records; 2001)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

The performance contained on the DVD version of "Live In San Francisco" is the same performance captured for all eternity on the CD version. To check out my thoughts about the musical performance read that review elsewhere on this page - there is no need to repeat myself here. Or even read my review of a Joe Satriani concert on the very tour that comprised this DVD by clicking here. Keep in mind, however, that the set that I witnessed was a little bit, but not drastically, different from the set list presented on this DVD.

The DVD version of "Live In San Francisco" contains bonus material of backstage footage, three songs with a cool multi-angle feature, and a discography. But that's not why I awarded the DVD version an additional half-chainsaw compared to the audio-only version.

The additional half-chainsaw is due to the fact that Joe Satriani's playing, while extraordinarily cerebral (for the listener and performer alike), is also a physical performance (for the performer only). Satriani is a master at eliciting sounds and tones out of his guitar that are outside the realm of pure electronic enhancement. To see Satriani work the wah-wah pedal, subtly bend the guitar's neck, shake his guitar for a slight warble, alternating between torturing and caressing his whammy bar, and otherwise do out-of-this-world vibrato is truly a sight to behold. Of course, the highlight of Satriani's physical performance is seeing him 'pull-off' the crazed licks in "The Mystical Potato Head Groove Thing" - fans of Satriani that have seen him in concert know what I'm talking about and those who haven't seen him will be awed by what they see. 

Stu Hamm's interaction with the crowd during his bass solo brought everything back to life from the ol' memory banks (I've see Satriani in concert four times). Guitarist/keyboardist Eric Cardieux and drummer Jeff Campitelli, while remaining in the background, provide ample support that allows Satriani to strut his six-string skills.

Shooting a live concert performance doesn't leave much for creative license from a director's standpoint. However, the shots are clear and the varying angles are balanced enough so as not to be bored by any one particular view. At least three tracks have multi-angle views that you, the viewer, control during the playback.

If you are a Joe Satriani fan this DVD is very much worth your money as there are plenty of shots focusing on Satriani's technique (not quite an instructional video, mind you, but guitarists of all skill levels could learn a thing or two).

"Live In San Francisco" was produced by Joe Satriani, recorded by John Cuniberti, mixed by Mike Fraser, and directed by Patrick Paulson.

Joe Satriani was joined by bassist Stu Hamm, keyboardist/guitarist Eric Cardieux, and drummer Jeff Campitelli.

For more information visit http://www.satriani.com

"Live in San Francisco" (Epic Records; 2001)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

When I saw Joe Satriani live in Summer 2000 I had a feeling based on the set list that there'd be a live CD in the works. Well, "Live In San Francisco" proves my hunch was right. "Live In San Francisco" isn't special because it's a double CD that covers 24 songs (not including the bass solo) in nearly two and a half hours of Satch's brand of technical, melodic, and catchy guitar heroism - it's special because it really does cover all of Satriani's material from the mid'-80s to the present.

If you are a fan of Joe Satriani, you probably already have "Time Machine" - "Time Machine" had 13 songs recorded live during the tours that followed the releases of "Surfing With The Alien" and "The Extremist" (these songs can be found on the second disc of the two CD set). And this begs the question: why should you bother with "Live In San Francisco?"

There are plenty of reasons to get "Live In San Francisco." The apocalyptic freak-out and rebirth of "Time" brings Satriani's weirdness and accessibility into a seamless whole. Even the robotic, nearly sterile "Devil's Slide" and "Borg Sex" breathe new life in the concert setting. The rapid-fire, bluesy workout of "House Full Of Bullets" gets new shades of color as Satriani follows his gut rather than his precision-like internal compass.

For me the gems here are the songs that I love that I've always enjoyed hearing in the live setting such as "The Extremist" and "Raspberry Jam Delta-V." Older songs like "One Big Rush" and "Big Bad Moon" sound fresh. Even "Cool #9" from the disappointing self-titled CD sounds alive and energetic. Tracks like "Crystal Planet" and "Friends" also get high marks from me in this performance.

Stu Hamm's bass playing is tailor made for Satriani's histrionics. Jeff Campitelli may not be the most amazing drummer around, but he gets the job done. Eric Caudieux proves his versatility on backing guitar and keyboards and amply displays that he is a special weapon that allows Satriani the freedom to cut loose in the live setting.

"Live In San Francisco" proves two things. The first is that Satriani can pull-off the songs in a live recording. The second is that he has an amazing catalog of material that not only displays his skills, but also demonstrates his enduring ability to craft amazing songs from amazing melodies and song structures. Of course, there's no way that a live concert can allow Satriani to accurately display some of the sonic wizardry that he can conjure in the studio, but even with those technical crutches aside Satriani does little to embarrass himself on stage. Hell, it even strengthens the case of his outstanding talent and raw ability.

Overall, I think there is some electricity missing from this particular live recording, but that could simply be a function of how engaged I am when I'm actually in the audience seeing Satriani perform that doesn't necessarily translate to hearing the material played back through home stereo speakers.

Fans of Joe Satriani simply cannot have "Live From San Francisco" missing from their collections. Fans of instrumental guitar who haven't yet heard the genius of Joe Satriani couldn't do better than to pick up this disc to get a full idea of what Joe Satriani can do on the guitar studio excellence notwithstanding. Is this essential? Not quite, but it certainly isn't a throwaway either.

Joe Satriani was joined by Stu Hamm on the bass, Jeff Campitelli on drums, and Eric Caudieux on guitars and keyboards.

"Live In San Francisco" was produced by Joe Satriani. The production is moderately decent as I wish Satriani had mixed his guitar a little higher in the mix, but he may have been trying to avoid the egoism of guitar heroes who might unnecessarily bury their bandmates so that only they can be heard - mercifully that doesn't happen here.

For more information visit http://www.satriani.com

"Engines of Creation" (Epic Records; 2000)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

It has been said that Joe Satriani performs best in a clinical environment. The environment doesn't get any more clinical than "Engines Of Creation." Obviously not content to rest on his laurels, Satriani is armed with only his guitar, assorted keyboards, and drum machines and has driven his career into another deliberate left turn. After the stunning return to form with 1998's "Crystal Planet," Satriani has shaken up the conceived notions of his body of work with a very heavily programmed backdrop for his guitar wizardry. 

"Engines Of Creation" is the complete opposite of his 1996 self-titled disc which is about as organic a product we'll ever see from Satch. In fact, "Engines Of Creation" harkens back to the days of "Not Of This Earth" when Satriani literally bashed new sounds out of the guitar unlike anyone had ever heard before. Yet, let's not forget that there is a method to the madness. Even after seven full-length CDs, it's somewhat expected that Satriani will find new ways to challenge his musical ruminations. With "Engines Of Creation" Satriani creates a very interesting environment where the natural tone of the guitar and fluid style offsets the mechanized rhythms. Yet, even the mechanized rhythms allow for a diversity in approach that allows him to craft unique melodies. The arrangements also provide a springboard for unchecked creativity where the melodies change seemingly on a whim yet never out of the song's context. 

Fear not, faithful reader, Satriani's trademark mind-blowing melodies are still present on "Engines Of Creation." Satriani's insane blending of new melodies against aggressive programmed rhythms is like nothing you've heard before. Just to be safe I threw "Engines Of Creation" in my five CD changer with four of his latest releases and the new disc still has the same overwhelming effect - it's Satriani all right, just presented in a different light. 

"Champagne?" finds Satriani melding his traditional sound with Southern melodies and free form jamming over a propulsive electronic pulse for a weird, but affectionate, amalgam of the heavily processed and the completely natural. The guitar sparks that shoot like flames from the speakers of "Attack" is a treat not unlike previous efforts like "Killer Bee Bop" (from the self-titled disc) and "Psycho Monkey" (from "Crystal Planet"). The fluid grooves of "Devil's Slide" are interspersed with maniacal percussive beats for shrapnel-like effect over top ominous electronic hums. The title track finds Satriani's usual tone forced into a mix of blues-stuttering and glissando slides with attractive results.  The two part "The Power Cosmic 2000" recalls the days of "Flying In A Blue Dream" when Satriani was successful at presenting two melodic ideas in separate, yet connected songs (check out the horn emulations in the second part!).

Any fan of Joe Satriani knows that he's famous for his 'surfing' songs, but there are no 'surfing' songs on "Engines Of Creation." This, in a way, is a complete break from the past - and a refreshing break it is.  There is a sweet ballad, the pleasant "Until We Say Goodbye," yet this track is the one exception to the rule where Satch employs Pat Thrall for the bass and Anton Fig for drums. Unlike many other artists, Satriani avoids the dreaded trap of repeating himself by cooking new soundscapes to dazzle with his swift blend of technique and soul. 

Joe Satriani continues to remain relevant even when evoking his past out-of-the-ordinary approach in this new modern realm. All in all, there's no doubt ever that while you are listening to "Engines Of Creation" that you are hearing the guitar genius of Joe Satriani despite whatever high-tech gear is spinning behind him.

Joe Satriani was assisted by Eric Caudieux in nearly every conceivable way during production, engineering, and mixing, and actual playing. 

For more information visit http://www.satriani.com

"Crystal Planet" (Epic Records; 1998)satchcrysl.jpg (11426 bytes)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter



Joe Satriani returned in 1998 with a solid disc of new tunes entitled "Crystal Planet." The fifteen tracks include a wide variety of songs that continue to show off Satch's unique blend of technique and tasty melodies. Although Satriani's 1995 self-titled release was a more organic departure from the normal way Satriani creates his music, it wasn't as satisfying as his previous studio work.  With "Crystal Planet," Satriani returns to a more calculated setting by literally "cutting and pasting" the best of his new studio work together. You might argue with the methods, but you cannot argue with the results. "Crystal Planet" Satriani returns to form and raises the bar on some occasions.

Continuing his tradition of "surfing" songs, Satriani has a solid workout with tunes such as "Ceremony" and the Grammy-nominated "A Train Of Angels". While there are no outright ballads in the vein of his classic "Always With You, Always With Me" there are lovely little pieces such as the spirited echoes of "Love Thing" and nearly understated "Z.Z.'s Song."

Highlights on the disc include "Raspberry Jam Delta-V" and "With Jupiter And Mind" when Satriani really stretches out with some new ideas and great tone. Satriani also revisits some interesting arrangements and juxtapositions on "Time" which has an apocalyptic feel to it. These tunes engage the listener in a journey of musical ideas that very few artists even dare try.

Satriani is supported by the ever-great bass playing of Stu Hamm and solid, if unspectacular, drumming of Jeff Campitelli. Also, assisting on the disc are Eric Caudieux contributing keys and programming as well as Eric Valentine in a variety of roles. Producer Mike Fraser, who has worked with the likes of Aerosmith and Metallica, does a great job of keeping a balance between the big rock sounds of "The Extremist" and the eclectic stylings of "Surfing With The Alien."

All in all, this disc is a return to the high standards fans have come to expect from Satriani. Check out Joe Satriani's official website at http://www.satriani.com/ for more information.

Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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Copyright 2015 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 06 Mar 2016 14:20:06 -0500.