Guitar wizard Joe Satriani has had a long and accomplished career over the last nearly 40 years redefining what a guitarist can do. His prophetic skills and melody-driven instrumentals made albums like Surfing With The Alien, Flying In A Blue Dream, The Extremist, and Strange Beautiful Music essential listening for any budding guitar slinger. I mean, Joe was the guitar teacher for guys like Steve Vai, Kirk Hammett, Ler Lalonde, and Alex Skolnick to name a few.
Satriani is lightning fast up and down the fret board and uses his tremolo bar like a painter would use a brush, but he’s always been more than just a shredder. He’s a disciple of Hendrix, Brian May, and Ritchie Blackmore; guitarists that found their own distinct voice through melodic soloing as wel as jaw-dropping fretboard pyrotechnics.
In 2020 Joe Satriani released Shapeshifting, yet another amazing set of forward-thinking guitar tracks. Unfortunately the pandemic shut down any chance for Joe and his band to tour and promote the record. So instead of sitting on his laurels Satriani did what he does best, start wrting for a new album. The results are found on the excellent new long player The Elephants Of Mars. Over the course of 14 songs and 60+ minutes Satriani and his band lay down some of the grooviest tracks of Satch’s career.
The Elephants Of Mars wastes no time getting down to business. “Sahara” is all hands on deck, psychedelic undertones open the album with backwarsds guitars. Drums kick in with a solid 4/4 beat, eclectic percussion and a guitar tone that can only be described as Gilmour-esque bring us into the fold. It’s a grand and mysterious sound world. Of course title track “The Elephants Of Mars” is all frenetic guitars and touches of electronics which gives this amazing track a sense of urgency. There’s a stunning breakdown in the middle with tasteful keys and almost Adrian Belew-like tones.
“Blue Foot Groovy” has a great Strat-like tone to it, which lets the band lay heavy into the groove. Lesser guitarists would force some kind of fretboard mania, but Joe takes it slow and easy, giving the song some serious soul. “Tension and Release” sporst a wonky rhythm and lets Joe run his six-string through the ringer in the best way possible. “Sailing The Seas of Ganymede” goes back to Joe’s earlier, stranger work on his debut Not Of This Earth and Time. And as far his solo, this song has some of his best shredding in a long time. Absolute face-melting.
Besides the usual next-level guitar playing, there’s a hefty dose of serious composition. “Doors Of Perception” has an eastern lean to it, while the oh-so funky “E 104th St NYC 1973” locks into some serious late night vibes, with touches of jazz and fusion. “Night Scene” is all neon lights and retro-futuristic vibes. Synths and strings collide beautifully here.
The Elephants Of Mars sees Joe Satriani sounding more inspired than he has in years. This is his loosest, most eclectic set of songs since his 2003 masterpiece Strange Beautiful Music. The band is on fire, and Joe feeds off their energy, reaching the furthest artistically, technically and creatively than he has in years.