Joe Satriani – The Complete Studio Recordings
Sony/Legacy Recordings – 2014
This massive, sprawling, all-encompassing CD Box Set contains almost 200 songs from Joe Satriani’s illustrious 30-year career. What I really like about it the most is that the songs are alphabetized, which allows you to listen to them differently then how they were on the original records.
It’s an overwhelming task to try and tackle this monstrosity as a whole, so I’m going to break it down into paragraphs containing alphabetized groupings of songs how they appeared on the download sent to me.
What struck me the most right off the bat was how the slow down-cool out songs stood out. The positivity of “A Cool New Way” and “A Door Into Summer” both feel like a sunny day. Speaking of slowing things down, “All Alone” is beautifully constructed with Joe getting his guitar to cry out with emotion that anyone can relate to. “Always With Me, Always With You” will forever be special to me since I put it on a love tape to my wife (then girlfriend) early in our relationship and she has it as my phone ring-tone. “Back To Shalla-bal” rips out of the mix as the most rocking tune off the first grouping. The drum work in “Banana Mango” is absolutely sensational.
“Big Bad Moon” is one of Joe’s best tunes. The combination of his voice telling the story, cool slide guitar riffs, plus harmonica playing makes it a classic. There’s a great upbeat rhythmic quality in “Can’t Go Back” that Joes uses as a trampoline for his guitar. “Can’t Slow Down” says it all as Satriani fulfills the song title definition. You got to love the melody flow of “Circles” as it begins soft and slow, but then moves half-way around to shredding guitar, before returning to join the song as a closed plane curve. How can you not love ‘Cool 9” with its infectious groove? This tune gets me moving every time and Joe takes his guitar into places he’d never gone before, or since.
“Crazy” is wacky fun. “Crowd Chant” is very catchy and if any of you watch the MLB Channel, you’ve probably heard this song playing amongst their programming. Joe puts his heart into his playing during “Crying.” I’ll admit that when I first heard “Crystal Planet” back when it was first released, I didn’t appreciate it as much as I do now. Joe really tears it up with fantastic drumming by Jeff Campitelli. The high string distorted riff in “Devil’s Slide” made a bigger impact than when I first heard it as well. This is what I mean about the songs sounding different than against their original album arrangement. “Diddle-Y-A-Doo-Dat” is a fun bluesy tune that propels Joe to rock out over a deep groove. “Down, Down, Down” has this great dark mood that totally captures the blues. It’s also a perfect place for Joe to whip out a wicked lead section that stands out because of the slow-almost depressing rhythmic nature of the song that precedes it. Even the instrumentation and drums work better because of the sound not being glossed over.
If I was forced to choose one song to represent Joe Satriani it would by “Flying Through A Blue Dream.” The tune best typifies everything that seems to be important to the guitarist. It begins with warm, gentle guitar strokes, like gentle hands of someone you love, putting you to sleep. Then Joe’s guitar leads into an exciting dream full of vibrant color and endless possibilities. Satch keeps the whole thing rooted with the initial warm, clean strumming and tremolo induced notes that glow like a friendly night light always close by. But Joe gets a chance to rock out during the journey before bringing it back to our peaceful slumber beginning. Summed up it’s a stunning and absolutely unforgettable track. “Gnaahh” is growing on me. “God is Crying” features an energetic groove that propels you forward. I like the instrumental platform Joe is able to jettison off from during “Hordes of Locusts.” Satriani paints almost abstract guitar in “I Am Become Death.” The song that follows has almost the opposite mood as Joe creates the universally uplifting song “I Believe.” It’s definitely one of his best.
“I Like the Rain” plays like a cousin to “Big Bad Moon.” Joe sings with a little effect on his voice and let’s his guitar do the rest of the talking. Satch jams out big-time during “Ice Nine.” There’s a happy-go-lucky mood to “It’s So Good” that it makes you feel great inside. It’s a tune that produces energy that exudes togetherness of a bunch of people. I can’t help but always visualize the characters from Sesame Street dancing about to the instrumental movement of “Jumpin’ In.” The active percussion in “Lies and Truths” gets you bopping for sure. I love the humorous slant of Satriani’s singing and lyrics of “Lifestyle.” The bass lines of “Light Years Away” really give the tune thrust. Joe lays down one of his heavy duty riffs to send this one into space.
Joe has fun singing “Look My Way” with little country blues twang interjected amongst his rock riffs. “Lords of Karma” just proves that looking back at Satriani’s first two albums, not only was he already a phenomenal guitar player but the man could write memorable songs from the get-go. “Love Thing” has such a romantically sweet riff that you can’t help but fall head over heels for it. There are two versions of “Luminous Flesh Giants’ with the second one sporting a darker underbelly. I definitely appreciate the way Satch has the lead embellishment play on top of the softer clean guitar in “Made of Tears.” The opening electrified distortion of Joe’s guitar in “Motorcycle Driver”, sounds turbo-charged against the Bissonette brothers’ rhythm section.
There’s a four-song run that plays out in a way that seems as though they were designed to be arranged together (which is impossible as they came from different albums recorded many years apart); “Not Of This Earth”, “One Big Rush”, “One Robot’s Dream” and “Oriental Melody.” The quick tapping percussion of “Out Of The Sunrise” gives it life-affirming boost. I don’t know why but it reminds me of Charles M. Schulz’s Peanuts cartoons. Drums and percussion guides Joe to jam along the communicative furrow that is the “Raspberry Delta Jam V.” I have never rode a motorcycle, but every time I hear “Ride” I makes me just want to get on a bike and ride through life. Very inspiring lyrics that are smart to live by.
It’s obvious Joe’s love for the subject matter of “Rubina.” The care given by the guitarist in every note is done with such deep passion that it’s always been one of my chosen Satriani songs. I remember the first time I ever heard the song was when I saw Joe play live in 1992 on The Extremist tour. “Satch Boogie” jams just as effectively as it did when Joe surfed with the alien. “Searching” is performed like it’s truly a gathering of musicians improvising together to find musical truth. Joe’s use of foot pedal control guitar distortion pitch is awesome to listen to. I love all the ways Joe let’s his guitar play off feedback and tremolo bar controlled dive bombs. The melody of “Secret Prayer” is eternally optimistic. The hopefulness and confidence about the future successful outcome of something is captured in “Speed of Light.” I remember when I met Joe Satriani at an appearance he made at Tower Records in his hometown of Carle Place, NY (Long Island) in 1992. Joe’s personality made me think of him as the famous yellow “Smiley Face”, this song reinforces my assumption of him.
The quick arpeggio fueled run in “The Mystical Potato Head Groove Thing” is insanely cool to listen to, though probably extremely difficult to pull off. “Phone Call” continues the string of songs scattered throughout this collection that feature Joe’s humorous vocal slant. “The Snake” has a 80s infectious groove that sounds like Satch must have watched the movie Weird Science before recording this tune. “Time Machine” is mixed so beautifully that it explodes out of this collection, like a breath of fresh air.
“Tumble” is a groovy tune where Joe uses a slow down musical environment to release some molten hot lead guitar. It’s not all just fast playing but rather where he allows the moments sink it with sustained notes.
There is so much forward momentum to “Unstoppable” that you believe it. You get two versions of the hopelessly romantic “Until We Say Goodbye.” The harmonics incorporated at the start of “Up In The Sky” are inspired. “War” has that superb production sound that Andy Johns captured on The Extremist. Somehow Satriani is able to musically ask; how come, for what reason, for what purpose, what for in his composition of “Why.”
“Woodstock Jam” is over 16-minutes long (I believe Joe’s longest recorded track) and has the guitarist diving into all sorts of experimental sounds, feedback and riffing.
This is the biggest CD-set I’ve ever reviewed in the many years I’ve been a journalist. It contains all fourteen of Joe Satriani’s studio albums recorded between 1986 and 2013. In total, you 186 tracks with a running time of 845 minutes and 50 seconds. I actually got sent thisto review back in April. But because of working two jobs seven days a week, plus producing & directing a movie, and the gigantic size of this prevented me from finishing my review until now. In some ways it’s a good thing as I really got to listen to this quite a bit and really get to appreciate it’s many qualities.
Joe Satriani – The Complete Studio Recordings is an absolute must have for any fan of rock, hard rock, metal, guitar playing and outstanding musicianship in general. Joe’s been pretty prolific and consistent over the years and you can get it all with this box set.