Strange Beautiful Music
Sony / Epic
Strange Beautiful Music is an appropriate title for the latest album from guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani. Once again, he takes us on a musical journey of dizzying heights. Ever since I saw the cover for Surfing With the Alien, I knew I would like this guy. He hasn’t failed me yet.
The disc starts off strong with “Oriental Melody.” Now, while I didn’t really hear many Eastern influences in it, it was still an impressive tune that immediately grabbed and held my attention. Joe’s guitar takes center stage for his wandering solos. He breaks into new territory using a seven-string guitar for the aptly titled “Seven String.” And he closes us out on a very mellow, sentimental note with “You Saved My Life.” You can almost hear lyrics during this track as Joe’s intricate picking flows from your speakers and soothes away any stress you may have been feeling. “Mind Storm,” on the other hand, is all out rock, with full attention given to his rhythm section during the majority of the song. Joe shreds on this track, and the rest of the band keeps up with him.
I only wish they had fared as well on some of the other tracks. I don’t know if it was the mixing or the actual arrangements, but on several tracks, everyone except Joe sounds like they are playing theme music from cheesy ’80s action movies. Based on their stellar performance on “Mind Storm” and a few other tracks, I want to believe this is not simply a lack of talent or effort on the parts of Matt Bissonette (bass) and Jeff Campitelli (drums). Normally, even this would not be much of a complaint for such a great album. However, one of Joe’s purposes this time out was to create a “real rock record” from a “normal rock band.” Normally, I would just look at the rhythm section on a Satch album to simply be there to support him, but with this goal in mind, I am afraid the group as a whole comes up short.
The best surprise for me on this new album was a beautiful rendition of Santo and Johnny’s classic “Sleep Walk.” It still has one of the most haunting melodies I have ever heard, and Joe’s guitar evokes all of the nostalgia while still keeping the playing fresh. WARNING: This song will get stuck in your head after you listen to it! This is the best cover tune I have heard since Gary Hoey did “Linus And Lucy.” And, coming from me, that is high praise indeed.
If you have ever enjoyed instrumental rock guitar albums in general, or Joe Satriani in particular, you should enjoy this album. While staying true to his roots, Satch manages to stretch and grow with new riffs and styles on each album. Strange Beautiful Music is a testament to his unique talents as a player and a composer.
Joe Satriani: http://www.satriani.com