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Satriani, Joe: Shapeshifting

On his seventeenth studio release (yes, you read that right!), virtuoso guitarist Joe Satriani continues doing what he does best, which is come up with moderately catchy instrumental songs that provide a springboard for his electrifying solos. Rise, repeat, rinse, repeat. He's made a great career out of this formula, and Shapeshifting shows no signs that the well has run dry. Plenty of memorable fare on this latest platter, including the haunting "All For Love", the hard charging "Big Distortion", the ZZ Top-meets-surf insanity of "Ali Farka, Dick Dale, an Alien and Me", the swampy blues of "Perfect Dust", the scorching guitar acrobatics of "Nineteen Eighty" and the tasty fusion/metal that is the glorious title track. My one issue with Shapeshifting, and it's been my problem with most Satriani releases in quite some time, is that once you get to track #13, "Yesterday's Yesterday", fatigue has already set in. I find all Joe Satriani albums to be enjoyable to a degree, his guitar playing is dazzling as always, but so many of these releases have an almost 'interchangeable' nature to them. With a new album coming from Joe pretty consistently every 2-3 years on average, there's barely enough time to fully digest the dozen plus songs from the previous album before another one is in your lap. Again, it's all good stuff for the most part, but perhaps the appeal of an all instrumental guitar isn't quite as high in 2020 as it was in 1990? Either way, Joe Satriani fans are going to lap Shapeshifting up, the playing is impeccable, the variety as always is there, and the songs are memorable. He doesn't disappoint or deviate from the formula, which will continue to be a good thing for many.

Track Listing
1. Shapeshifting
2. Big Distortion
3. All for Love
4. Ali Farka, Dick Dale, an Alien and Me
5. Teardrops
6. Perfect Dust
7. Nineteen Eighty
8. All My Friends Are Here
9. Spirits, Ghosts and Outlaws
10. Falling Stars
11. Waiting
12. Here the Blue River
13. Yesterday's Yesterday

Added: April 21st 2020
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Artist Facebook Page
Hits: 1243
Language: english

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Satriani, Joe: Shapeshifting
Posted by Steven Reid, SoT Staff Writer on 2020-04-21 14:19:57
My Score:

It’s amazing that Joe Satriani has managed to stay in the limelight for some 34 years now. As with every artist his popularity has grown and receded over those years but he’s never stopped being the shining light of a much maligned genre. The reason for that, to me anyway, is pretty simple - Satch can play but he’s presuming you already know that, so Joe writes songs and often simply drops in some jaw dropping guitar lines where the vocals should be. Meaning that, while he takes plenty opportunities to stretch out and, I’m pleased to say, show off, somehow you can ‘sing’ along with almost everything he produces.

Shapeshifting is no different and yet it is. For Satriani is never afraid to experiment and never frightened to add new flavours. On this album we get a slam of surf rock (“All Farka, Dick Dale An Alien And Me”) and even some reggae (“Here The Blue River”). However, we also get more than enough of the traits that have ensured this guitar player has a huge, loyal following, with “All For Love” reminding of a slowed down “The Forgotten Part 1” from Flying In A Blue Dream, while “Waiting” also harks back to some of the more tender moments of that previous album. “Big Distortion” or “Spirits, Ghosts And Outlaws” on the other hand, wouldn’t have been out of place on its more energetic follow up, The Extremist.

“Perfect Dust” finds a quite beautiful synth backing that’s juxtaposed against a power popping, tambourine shaking, thump but it also features an ongoing theme of this album, with that being handclaps augmenting or in places completely replacing the snare drum, giving proceedings a real upbeat feel. The good times and fret burning of “Nineteen Eighty” is an open nod of appreciation to Edward Van Halen and the all flash and plenty of style era that he ushered into mainstream rock. Add in the mid-paced consideration of “All My Friends Are” and the vivid emotional shapes of “Teardrops” and the constantly evolving Shapeshifting couldn’t be more appropriately named.

Joe Satriani may not be alone in creating excellent guitar instrumental albums but it’s hard to suggest that he’s not still the go-to artist in this area. With collections like Shapeshifting, it remains remarkably easy to understand why.

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