May 17, 2020 – Whether creating Rock anthems or just memorable guitar music, one thing Joe Satriani has always been a master of is taking us on a little musical journey with each individual song. He is one of those rare artists that you actually have to sit back and listen to, without distractions, to get the full effect of what he is trying to convey. Now, some journeys are better than others and sometimes I feel like I’ve been down that road before but in that regard I want to tell you about a little bit of irony:
I had tried to listen to Satriani’s latest release – “Shapeshifting” a couple of times and to be honest, I wasn’t really feeling it. I had heard the first two released cuts – “Nineteen Eighty” and “Big Distortion” and I thought they were decent enough. I anticipated this to be a really good album, as I always do with “Satch.” In a way, it isn’t fair to him because I want each album to be his next “Surfing…” or “Crystal Planet” but that’s hard for even Joe to live up to. It wasn’t until I brought the album with me to listen to in my car that I felt the full effect of “Shapeshifting.”
I had to drive about an hour to pick up an amp I had purchased. It was a warm, sunny day. There was little traffic on the road and it was the perfect day to go topless (the car, that is.) As soon as I hit the road I put on the album and wow! – it made all the difference in the world. The title cut kicked it off, with its snare and bass drum kicking the song into gear. It was time to rock!
“Big Distortion” followed; with its “Rumble” beat setting the tone for Joe’s melodic playing. This song automatically puts you in a good mood. His pentatonic bluesy soloing fits song perfectly and counters the harmonized rhythm guitars as they play off of each other. If you weren’t consciously tapping the beat with your hand to your thigh as you cruised down the road, you probably didn’t even notice you were doing it.
The slower, “All for Love” followed. It was a short but sweet diversion but fit right in as Joe’s guitar seemed to take me away to another place. Next, one of my favorites; the spacey “Ali Farka, Dick Dale, an Alien and Me” was just mesmerizing. I heard staccato single-note tremolo picking and knew instantly it was a tribute to the late Dale without even knowing the name of the track. I had to be careful to keep an eye on my speed as I couldn’t help hitting the gas.
“Teardrops” was next on my automotive jukebox. At first, the song seemed a little out of place. It was definitely a slower number with a bluesy feel and electronic hand claps that I could have done without but still a sweet detour before getting back on the main road with “Perfect Dust.” If you can imagine cruising down the road with the clouds going by and the sun darting in and out of them while the white lines get eaten up in quick succession, “Perfect Dust” is indeed, perfect.
“Nineteen Eighty” is this year’s “Summer Song.” It is rocking, uplifting and “pedal to the floor” music. Imagine going through the gears as you climb to cruising speed and then holding it there with your sunglasses on and the wind blowing through your hair. This song brings it to life.
“All My Friends are Here” and “Spirits, Ghosts and Outlaws” continued the musical journey. No, every song isn’t a 4/4 time headbanging track as were so many of his hits but the few that are there remind you that Joe knows how to write a song that gets your blood pumping. He also knows how to create soundscapes that take you over hills and through valleys like well, a road!
The last four songs – “Falling Stars”, “Waiting”, “Here the Blue River” and “Yesterday’s, Yesterday” take things down a notch but were great for the drive home. Imagine you’re finishing up a day at the beach, you’re tired and ready for the drive home and just want to mellow out a bit. These songs are perfect for it, especially the reggae-tinged “Here the Blue River.”
I don’t know what it was but putting the top down and cruising while Satch entertained me was cathartic. Just about every song seemed to fit in with cruising down the road, even the slower songs. All of these soundscapes seemed to fit right in with what I was doing at the time – driving.
So put the top down, the sunroof or just roll your windows all the way down and feel the wind hit you in the face while you listen to “Shapeshifting.” It’s one way to social distance without feeling like you’re a shut-in and actually enjoy it – masks off!
PS. If you’re wondering why there’s no video in this review it’s because I wanted you to listen to it and not watch it. See with your ears and let your imagination run wild! 😉