How To Buy: Joe Satriani


Mai 17 2007, 13h16

Ok, yes I've decided to turn this into a series, so with no further ado, I present to you my opinion on how someone new to Joe Satriani should go about starting their collection.

Buy first:
Surfing With The Alien

To those of you who know Satch well, and especially those of you who've already read my "How To Buy: Steve Vai", it may seem like I'm just going along with a vast majority and being pretty cliche by choosing this one.

Surfing is the album that brought Satriani his first 'success' really, and not without good reason. The album is a perfect introduction to instrumental music for anyone who is not only just getting into Satriani, but also the genre. The album doesn't have the longest run time ever, but that almost plays to its advantage when listening to it as a whole album.

As with Vai's Passion and Warfare, Surfing is almost unequalled among Satriani's back catalogue for each track's individuality. The first six tracks will pass most listeners without anyone thinking "Hang on, didn't I just hear this track?" I predict, that even people who aren't used to instrumental rock music will be able to pick up on the individuality of the tracks.

Satch Boogie and the title track are often listed in magazine polls as among the best solos ever and sometimes even the best guitar centric songs, which is a tough claim to live up to. In addition, Surfing also houses the fantastic ballad Always with Me, Always with You, a song many fans consider to remain unequalled among Satriani's back catalogue. The songs on the album may be fairly short and mostly revolve around simple song structures, but, hey, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it".

Then buy:
The Extremist
Crystal Planet

Firstly, The Extremist could be Satriani's best album. Yes, I said that. Possibly even better than Surfing. So, why didn't I put it first? Well, The Extremist has a fair few longer songs such as War, Rubina's Blue Sky Happiness and New Blues. While these songs are, in my humble opinion, among Satriani's best, I'm working on the assumption that if you don't know any Joe Satriani, you probably don't know any instrumental rock, in which case Surfing's shorter songs will be a gentler introduction for you.

Like Surfing, The Extremist showcases a large variety of songs. Cryin', Rubina's Blue Sky Happiness, Tears in the Rain and New Blues are really the slow tracks of the album, yet they all have completely different feels and there is no way anyone could get any of those four confused with another. Cryin' is a vaguely similar style to Surfing's Always With Me, Always With You, while Tears in the Rain is a short unaccompanied piece closer in style to Surfing's Hill of the Skull or Midnight. Meanwhile, Rubina's Blue Sky Happiness is unlike any track on Surfing, and New Blues is a kind of slow vaguely jazzy ending track.

The faster tracks are also hard to confuse, Summer Song uses natural harmonics in its early hook that come round every so often, and is accompanied by an energetic rhythm section that give the song a great feel. Why is another standout which, again, is wholly unlike any style Satch displayed on the rest of the album or any of his previous ones. It has a kind of funky feel to it.

Anyway, in light of the realisation that I'm running out of words to describe the previous album, onto the task of justifying my next choice.

Crystal Planet? What can I say about this? Not quite on the back of the other two. We've lost a bit of variation here, partly because we've now got fifteen tracks instead of ten. So it's not all bad news. Ceremony is a great song with a procession of riffs before the main theme comes in and one of his catchiest main riffs he's ever done. A Train of Angels is another good one, its quite upbeat and happy. The album has a certain consistency to its songs, which sort of counts against it, as although there are undeniably different sounds and feels to the songs, they have a tendency to blend together unless the listener employs a lot of effort. Its the curse of technical music.

Leave 'til last:
Engines of Creation
Not of This Earth

Engines of Creation was released in the year 2000, when, seemingly, the whole world was swept with a passion for futuristic things. In Satriani, this manifested itself as an album backed with electronic beats normally reserved for trance, dance, techno, that kind of thing. All the genres that elitists hate. The album isn't without its merits, but Satriani should've stuck to what he does best.

Not Of This Earth was Satriani's first album, and has frequently been described as 'eccentric'. Again, it's not without its merits, it has some good tracks, but it's let down. In my mind, I've chalked this one up to inexperience.


  • evilpandawrath

    Damn, I can't disagree with a thing here. You've even given a good reason for The Extremist not to be number 1. Though I'm not sure that Surfing With the Alien (the song at least) is particularly gentle... It nearly blew my ears off when I first heard it, though I'd never heard of shred guitar before then

    Mai 18 2007, 19h04
  • GrantRS

    Point taken, but isn't that what you want from Satriani? In addition, Surfing with the Alien is closely followed by the longish intro of Ice 9 which is more melodic than flashy. If you listen through in track order, Crushing Day is the next really shreddy one and you get Always With Me, Always With You as a 'breather' after that. Then Hill of the Skull serves a similar duty for Satch Boogie. Circles, if I remember correctly, has its own slower sections and by then you're nearly at the end of the album. So that's what I mean by 'gentle'. I think Surfing (the album) owes a lot of its success and brilliance to its track order to be honest. If it had been arranged: Surfing (the track), Satch Boogie, Lords Of Karma, Crushing Day, Circles as the first five tracks I don't think it'd be as instantly memorable. It would have been borderline disasterous if Hill Of The Skull and Midnight had been put together on the running order.

    Mai 19 2007, 12h42
  • evilpandawrath

    Oh I see your point there, I suppose it is, as a whole, more gentle than most of his albums... I would try and argue for the inclusion of Flying In A Blue Dream, purely because of Bells of Lal and The Mystical Potato Head Groove Thing, but a lot of the tracks don't seem as strong as the other albums mentioned so I'll leave it alone.

    Mai 19 2007, 14h49
  • GrantRS

    I just couldn't bring myself to put an album with The Phone Call on it in the first three albums I'd recommend, you know? It's true One Big Rush, Potato Head, and Back To Shalla-Bal are among my favourite Satriani tracks, but there are definitely a handful of songs on there that don't really standout among the Satriani catalogue: Ride anyone?

    Mai 19 2007, 17h01
  • Ice_9

    I'd probably replace Crystal Planet (although I love it) with Strange Beautiful Music if it were up to me. I think you see what Satch is all about on SBM. A lot of different styles and stuff =D

    Mai 21 2007, 16h08
  • GrantRS

    That's a good point, and I can assure you it was pretty difficult to pick Crystal Planet over quite a few of them. I have to admit though, I was thinking of his self titled album and Is There Love In Space a little bit more. The Self titled one for its bluesy, soulful side, while ITLIS for my favourite Satriani track ever: Souls Of Distortion. It was tough not being able to call it a four (or maybe even five0 way tie for the second runner up.

    Mai 21 2007, 18h36
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