Joe Satriani is one of those artists that rate adulation and dismissal in almost equal quantities. For some he is no more than a technical shredder with no soul while for others his skills and songwriting are unmatched in the rock world.
His last album ‘Shockwave Supernova’ was magnificent but he found himself being consumed by the character he had created and vowed to create an album from within his soul rather than any external invention. As Satriani hit the road in support of the album, he discovered Shockwave Supernova, the latest in a long line of alien personas he had created, was truly suffocating him.
“As I was doing the last few legs of the tour, I started to think ‘Wow, maybe this is real life.’ I am feeling like I should just drop this guy and figure out a way to do something very different.” What happened next was nothing short of a metamorphosis. “It was an internal artistic rebirth,” Satriani says. “I’m thinking, ‘No science fiction, no time travel, no songs about distant planets or aliens or anything like that.” Instead, Satriani looked inward, writing songs, he says, “about a human being, two feet on the ground, heart pumping, with emotions, dreams, and hopes. That seemed to be the direction I really was yearning for.”
The result is quite remarkable. Hooking up with Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple, Black Country Communion, et al) on bass and Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers & Chickenfoot) on drums he has made an album that has more soul than any I’ve heard from him in years – probably since ‘Surfing With The Alien’ - and wonderful references to rock in all its glory..
Right from the off, with the appropriately titled ‘Energy’ he blasts off at a pace and with all the power of a Formula 1 car in launch mode. That stunning fretwork is evident, tearing up and down the board with incredible pace and screaming off into the listener’s nervous system so that when it finishes you find yourself exhausted. ‘Catbot’ has a more funky feel to it, rhythmic and driving with Chad Smith’s drums solid and Hughes bass lines melodic and sinuous. ‘Smooth Soul’ has touches I never thought I would hear on a Satriani album, soft, slow and beautiful without his fret excesses.
All through the album Satriani’s skills are evident but he is definitely playing with more considered feel and a sense that the real Satch is showing through – playing two top musicians doesn’t hurt but it really is Satriani that shines through.
Production from Mike Fraser creates an intense and clean soundscape that focuses on the listener, hitting right between the ears and the whole musical package really comes together brilliantly on my personal favourite ‘Thunder High On The Mountain’.