Joe Satriani has been essential listening since I was 14-years old. His music is like comfort food to me. I discovered Satch my freshman year of high school with Surfing With The Alien and the world of instrumental guitar music was never the same again for me. After a Friday night of downtown shopping with my mom I ended up with a brand new pair of Eastland loafers and a shiny cassette copy of Joe’s sophomore release and masterpiece Surfing With The Alien. I was well into the world of guitar shredders and the Shrapnel Records’ roster by then, but Satriani was completely on another level to my ears. His work was otherwordly and prodigious, but it was also down to earth. Even Steve Vai would occasionally make me scratch my head and wonder what the hell he was doing, but Satch could always be connected to. That evening in my bedroom I sat stunned on my bottom bunk as I listened to someone playing electric guitar in a whole new and exciting way.
Since 1986 Joe Satriani has been putting out records every couple of years, and with each one he’s continued to move his playing forward while also making pop-inflected instrumental music that has generational appeal. My favorite Joe Satriani albums you ask? Top five would be 5. Time Machine, 4. Not Of This Earth, 3. Strange Beautiful Music, 2. Flying In A Blue Dream, and 1. Surfing With The Alien. 5 and 4 are pretty fluid depending on the day, but that top 3 is pretty solid. But there have been so many great albums like Crystal Planet, The Extremist, Joe Satriani, Shockwave Supernova, Black Swans and Wormhole Wizards, and Engines of Creation. Joe has always been a musician willing to step from his comfort zone and try something new, but always with melody first in mind.
On April 10th, 2020 Joe Satriani drops his newest album Shapeshifting. First single “Nineteen Eighty” is a riff monster of a track that combines the best of Joe’s work and talents into a tight rock and roll fretboard workout. I’m hearing lots of old school Satch here, with Surfing and Flying coming to mind. But as always, Joe pushes his playing forward with harmonic pop elements. In an interview he spoke about wanting to elicit the feeling of the late 70s and early 80s when he was working on the Squares album. Satch stated he’d pulled back a bit in those sessions in order to keep it more pop radio-friendly. “Nineteen Eighty” is Satch getting in the wayback machine and not holding back on those tracks.
Listen to “Nineteen Eighty” below, and preorder Shapeshifting here.