It is really tough to select the right achievement to describe Joe Satriani’s career in one fact. Over ten million records sold and thus being the best-selling instrumental rock guitarist of all time? Fifteen Grammy nominees? Being a guitar instructor for big names of the music industry like Stevie Way, Larry LaLonde or Kevin Cadogan? All of that is true. Shapeshifting, which has been released on 10th April 2020, is already Satriani’s seventeenth studio production – no doubt that I should have a listen to it! If you miss any lyric quotes: it is really all instrumental!
Joe Satriani – About The Artist
Born on 15th July 1956 in Westbury, NY, Joseph Satriani is almost a New York City boy. His grandparents were Italians. The death of Jimi Hendrix inspired Satriani to learn the instrument. He studied music with jazz guitarist Billy Bauer and jazz pianist Lennie Tristano. Satriani also started being a guitar instructor in these times, Steve Vai was one of his first students. In 1978, he moved to Berkeley, and pursued his musical career as well as his teachigng one.
His first appearances on stages were with a San Francisco band called the Squares. However, in 1986, he also released his debut album Not of This Earth, which did not make it to the charts. One year later, his second longplay Surfing with he Alien reached gold status in the USA with a top placement of 29th – it even made it to the Top 10 in Australia. He reached his some-sort-of commercial breakthrough in 1992, when the album The Extremist ranked in the charts of several markets worldwide. While he could not keep up with that success initially, the 2010 album Black Swans and Wormhole Wizards was even some sort of commercial success again, with a fifth place in the US Hard Rock charts. Three years later, Shockwave Supernova even topped that leaderboard. Joe Satriani was also some part of band projects, e.g. G3 in the early 2000’s and Chickenfoot.
Joe Satriani – Shapeshifting – Track by Track
Shapeshifting is a thirteen track album. The playtime is 46 minutes.
I already pre-listened to the whole album before starting to write the review. I have to tell you that I am a bit afraid of it. Just intstrumental, no lyrics – describing it with the limited number of words available to a German mother tongue who feels to blog in a language everybody understands (i.e. not German…). Hope you still enjoy what I am writing.
The album starts with the title track. It is a pure blast to listen to Satriani. Already the first track does not feel like a four minute guitar solo (if you ever had Bryan May live, you know what I mean), but really like a song with a structure. If you start listening, you just keep your mouth open and are amazed how Satriani is able to express emotions, a story, without telling you.
2. Big Distortion
Was there a touch of Sheena Is A Punk Rocker by the Ramones. While the first track was very hard rock-alike, Big Distortion is so melodic and takes me back to the 1980’s (even though I know that the Ramones recorded Sheena in the 1970’s…). Wow!
3. All For Love
Some electric background sounds and a lot of atmosphere, this comparably slow, even a bit of melancholic feeling track is one of the tracks on Shapeshifting which catches me most.
4. Ali Farka, Dick Dale, an Alien and Me
I added this video to my review as the song perfectly illustrates how Satriani is able to compose songs, set up stories and musical elements. Ali Farka Toure (The Bluesman of Africa, who died in 2006) and the recently died Dick Dale would be prod to represented in a song like that – and yes, you cannot argue that you do not hear the alien as well.
A very emotional song. Hope that does not sound too pathetic, but if Joe Cocker would have been a guitar player rather than a vocalist, he would have sounded like that. Very soulful track which even uses church bells later.
6. Perfect Dust
The last tracks touched your emotions too much? Then it is time to feel happy and dancing – Perfect Dust feels like pure happiness, the groove reminds me a bit of ZZ Top and also Sultans of Swing by the Dire Straits. Great rhythm as well. Love ti!
7. Nineteen Eighty
If you need an additonal proof of Satriani’s popularity: Nineteen Eighty has been released some two months before the Shapeshifting album – and it already has more than 1.6 million streams on YouTube only since then. A perfect example that instrumental guitar play does not need to be boring at all.
8. All My Friends Are Here
A bit of summer, a bit of blues and a lot of smile – you just want to find the parts of the songs where you could sing along a All My Friends Are Here – but hey, there are no vocals in this one as well, of course. Amazing bridge atmosphere as well.
9. Spirits, Ghosts and Outlaws
Unfortunately, I haven’t published my review of visiting the ghost town Nelson in Nevada yet – this track reminded me a lot of my recent visit there. A touch of dark country, creaking atmosphere. It feels mysterious and a bit of dangerous in this place where Spirits, Ghosts and Outlaws live.
10. Falling Stars
The song starts with very tight bass sounds, while Satriani’s guitar plays starts to slowly evolve a story on top of that. It has a touch of a jamming session in its second part.
Waiting is a very special track of the album as the piano is definitely the leading instrument of the track, Satriani is more in the background and takes back his presence here. Cool!
12. Here The Blue River
Yeah, Joe “Satch” Satriani can also do it with a reggae rhythm track. He is surprising me even in the twelfth track of the album.
13. Yesterday’s Yesterday
The album stops with a song which feels like a happy pop track to me. Whistling, a banyo and an acoustic guitar are maybe not elements you would expect at a Satriani album – but if you got the talent, you can play them all – and make us dance around even in Corona times.
Joe Satriani – Shapeshifting – Spotify
Here is the link to the Spotify pre-listening of the album:
Joe Satriani – Shapeshifting – My View
With the introduction of the new voting system, which allows me to vote from 0.0 to 5.0, this Joe Satriani album just gave me one big question: Will I do it or not? This album is a definite Top Pick!, no doubt. I am a lyric person. In my private life, I talk to much (and sometimes tend to write too much in this blog as well) – and when I listen to music, I love to listen to the stories, how people create pictures in your mind with words. Satch Satriani creates a lot of pictures by just grabbing his guitar. He does not need words for it. Instrumental albums are boring? Yeah, I have to admit that I sometimes feel like it when listening to them – but this definitely does not apply to Shapeshifting, which is so diverse, so different in thirteen parts that I just have to love it any second of these 46 minutes.
Okay, I do it. 5.0, full score. There is no reason for a lower voting.
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