Who is the world's greatest guitarist? While the #1 spot might be a question of taste or style, Joe Satriani must be on the Top Five - finalist ballot.
Beginning his career as a guitar teacher, Satriani was coaxed out of the shadows by fellow guitarist Steve Vai (who worked with Frank Zappa, David Lee Roth, Alice Cooper, Ozzy Osbourne, etc.). In the sonic tradition of Dick Dale, Satriani's vision and grasp were in perfect alignment. He used different attacks (plucking, picking, strumming, tapping and hammering) while playing straight-ahead Rock, Blues or Boogie. Like all great guitar masters Satriani was also able to unleash some unearthly sounds out of his axe. But Satriani's music was more than guitar technique. He also managed to worked out complexed melodies and arrangements that makes his instrumental work spell-binding.
Though often recognized for his stint with Deep Purple (replacing founding guitarist Ritchie Blackmore), backing Mick Jagger on his solo tour and as a member of the Sammy Hagar fronted Chickenfoot, Satriani's solo work is his calling card.
"Unstoppable Momentum," Satriani's fourteenth studio album, was released through Epic Records. It landed at #42 on the Billboard 200 with first-week sales of nearly 11,000 copies, marking Satriani's highest U.S. chart debut in over 20 years. Recorded at Skywalker Sound in the Bay Area, the album was produced by Satriani and Mike Fraser.
1986 Not Of This Earth
1987 Surfing With The Alien
1989 Flying In A Blue Dream
1992 The Extremist
1993 Time Machine
1995 Joe Satriani
1998 Crystal Planet
2000 Engines Of Creation
2002 Strange Beautiful Music
2004 Is There Love In Space?
2006 Super Colossal
2008 Professor Satchafunkilus and the Musterion of Rock
2010 Black Swans And Wormhole Wizards
2013 Unstoppable Momentum
Guitar instrumentalists face two major challenges. No matter how many effects they use it's still a guitar playing lead (and usually harmony too). To jump this chasm Satriani has experimented, often successfully. However, he does, like his contemporaries, occasionally fall back on shop-worn Blues/Metal structures to his own determent.
Satriani's best work can be found on his debut CD "Surfing With The Alien," and "Crystal Planet." The former was created in the late '80s and the latter in the late '90s. Other Satriani CDs are also excellent but these two stand out. In the '90s, Satriani toured with Via and guitarist Eric Johnson on the G3 Tour. A live recording of their adventures arrive in '97 to decidely mixed reviews.
Satriani kicked off the new century with "Engines of Creation" and, two years later, released "Strange Beautiful Music." Both find him maintaining his unique vision as an exceptional guitarist/songwriter/arranger. "Engines" features sizzling opening track "Devil's Slide" while "Music" rides the intensely driven "Mind Storm and "Seven String." Though the latter sounds like ZZ Top backing Neal Schon, it works. There is one complaint. On "Music" Satriani wrote all the songs save one - the '60s snoozer "Sleep Walk." This "gem" was revived and updated by pop-Jazz guitarist Larry Carlton back in the '80s. Satriani doesn't add much, primarily because there isn't much to add. Didn't he have one more hot lick he could write a song around?
Ever wonder what vintage Van Halen would sound like without David Lee Roth? "Unstoppable Momentum" provides the best available answer.
Unfortunately, there's "Three Sheets To The Wind," an ill-advised attempt at Jazz/Rock and "The Weight Of The World," which sounds like Yes via Asia (in other words, backwards). But these are small missteps on an otherwise kick-ass set.