JOE SATRIANI is one of the most innovative guitarists on the planet. His sixteenth solo album What Happens Next (Legacy Recordings) is due out on January 12. The release coincides with his latest G3 Tour which will kick off one day prior, and features John Petrucci and Phil Collen from DREAM THEATER and DEF LEPPARD respectively. Equally as impressive for this album, Mr. Joe brings Roak and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Glenn Hughes (DEEP PURPLE) on bass and Chad Smith (RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS) on drums as well as esteemed producer, engineer, mixer, and longtime collaborator Mike Fraser.
SATRIANI has six gold and platinum albums over his career (including one from the supergroup CHICKENFOOT). You may not be aware, but this guy from New York taught legendary guitarists Steve Vai (STEVE VAI), Kirk Hammett (METALLICA) and Alex Skolnick (TESTAMENT) how to lay it down. So, if you ask me, being able to actually write about this legendary guitarist is nothing but exquisite pleasure for me. Now, let’s look at some of this mastery.
Leading the pack is “Energy”. One thing I noticed right off was a bit of a different style, with a more hard pounding drum beat heading everything off. Of course it doesn’t take long for SATCH to power drive your butt into oblivion. An instrumental that will make you want to go punch a wall. Second up is “Catbot”. It made me tilt my head, like a curious feline. Some futuristic guitar, with a reminiscent feel of “Borg Sex” on Engines of Creation to some degree.
“Thunder High On the Mountain” begins with a thunderous bass drum and SATRIANI tapping out a very deliberate lick to the beat; it’s a more traditional hard driving rock force. Ending with a similar finger fretboard tapout, one gets lost in a dream until he drives this spike through your skull at the end. I freaking LOVED this song. Transition to “Cherry Blossoms”. One might picture themselves in a grove of these flowery trees, eventually resting in a tranquil air of sweet smell, until a strong wind comes and blows them all to the ground.
“Righteous” falls right in line with the mind trip we have been travelling. Slowing down the groove, this tune just beckoned me to close my eyes and bob my head to the tasty bass and occasional keyboard. I drifted and got lost in the crossover between jazzy funk and perfection of SATRIANI-sin-sational mythodical licks. Wow. As you can imagine “Smooth Soul” slides into your intellect and captures what is left of your ethereal common sense and strips you of any remaining doubt about this album. Right here, you inwardly KNOW it’s a masterpiece.
“Headrush” pretty well describes what happens to your mind from beginning to end, and this took me back to some of SATRIANI’s earlier ballbusting like “Back To Shalla-Bal” from Flying in a Blue Dream. Now where does “Looper” fall in this zone of Sachifunkiness? It’s hard to describe as it reminded me of a tasteful jam session and here ya go! The title track “What Happens Next” arrives on the scene with a traditional Satchiness and emblematic sound that brought me back to a sense of the familiar.
“Super Funky Badass” doesn’t disappoint; it’s exactly the right title. Nothing else needs to be said. “Invisible” is highly noticeable and from the beginning it is a very clean tune, not too hard driven but with some very interesting riff expeditions. I got to thinking, “How can Mr. Satch do anything else that is unique?” but here it is! Hard to put into words. “Forever and Ever” tails with a more traditional sound which reminded me of the 1995 release of “Home”.
I’ve been a SATRIANI fan since 1987 when I made my 500 mile Texas trek to visit my mother in Oklahoma. I’d roll down the windows, crank up Surfing With the Alien and pray to God the Texas Highway Department wouldn’t catch me speeding on the back roads to Wichita Falls. JOE SATRIANI made that road trip fly on by. The adventure he has come up with in What Happens Next will truly will be the preeminent peak to climb over. Well done! Salude’
STANDOUT TRACKS: ALL OF THEM
-MARK“\M/ETAL \M/ESSIAH” EHRLICH