CD and Show Review: Joe Satriani “Black Swans and Wormhole Wizards”

This guitar virtuoso has been gracing our ears since 1987 with his pioneering guitar work, which is executed and produced with so much finesse. During the space of a few short years, after he began to work under his own name, Joe rapidly gained recognition as an internationally renowned guitar God. Nowadays, just about every rock fan knows just how influential Joe has been in helping to shape modern rock.

If you have read Aaron’s interview with Joe , here on The Rock and Roll Report, then you will be aware of the release of Black Swans and Wormhole Wizards earlier this month (October 5).  This is a great album and such a natural progression for this guitar orchestrator. Eleven great songs that say so much about Joe’s natural talent.

Black Swans and Wormhole Wizards differs just a little from Joe’s previous thirteen releases. This is due to the fact that Chickenfoot is now the outlet for Joe’s hard rocking side. This album rocks so well in so many ways while also exploring many musical avenues. This album was recorded in Skywalker Sound, the studio that Chickenfoot also use, and the result from this is a colossal live feel on the album. Produced and recorded by Mike Fraser (AC/DC, Metallica), Joe is joined once again by veteran Satriani drummer Jeff Campitelli, alongside newcomers Mike Keneally (keyboards – Frank Zappa, Steve Vai) and Allen Whitman (bass guitar – Mermen).

 

The album starts in a style that is so typically Satch. By use of that magical melodious style you are drawn in and nailed down by the song’s solo. This song, ‘Premonition,’ is a beauty. ‘Dream Song’ began to form as Joe had a dream from which the basis of this ethereal tune emerged. On waking from the dream Joe went straight down to his studio to finish writing this tune and it flows softly, fluently and fluidly. Following on from this dream tune, ‘Pyrrhic Victoria’ rolls along very sweetly and pleasantly, starting from a nice funky riff and rolling along from there.‘Light Years Away’ is a little more lively from the start, rolling and rocking along very strongly and is so typically Satch. ‘Solitude’ is a magnificent showpiece for Joe’s talents. Reminiscent of some of his earlier solo tracks this really punctuates and deserves some volume.

Next is a song oozing with a slow, soft bluesy feel that really does bring BB King to mind. ‘Littleworth Lane’ really is slick quality blues and a truly joyous tribute to Joe’s mother. The intro into ‘The Golden Room’ gives you a feel of true Eastern promise as it charms its way through slowly and gradually builds up, but never really takes off as it does not need to. It builds on its instrumental inspiration as it progresses. It is very rich and atmospheric. Two Sides to Every Story’ provides a neutral and easygoing backdrop to the guitar mastery that Joe plies so well. It makes you feel as if you could be in a smoky, sleazy bar.

A short atmospheric intro leads into ‘Wormhole Wizards.’ It rolls along cleanly on a great bassline, providing a great canvas for Joe’s guitar. ‘Wind In The Trees’ matches its title, it again flows atmospherically using another intriguing lead from Joe. ‘God Is Crying’ is a cracking penultimate closing track for the album as it is full of busy guitar, which sings so tunefully. It builds into a wonderful main melody; very strong and full of anthemia. This closes Black Swans and Wormhole Wizards. God would be crying if he did not have a copy of this album.

Rating: 8.5 / 10

I recently also got to see Joe play live during his U.K. tour when he stopped in Bristol at the Colston Hall on Monday, October 18. As I had never seen Joe play live before I was unsure what to expect, apart from a great show, and I was not disappointed.

Satch and his band came onto the stage and set right to it with Joe doing what he does best, backed up by Galen Henson on rhythm/additional guitar, while Allen on bass and Jeff on drums both got right on top of laying down the backbeat of the set. Mike got those keys going well, providing for and completing the entire Satch soundscape.

After the third song, ‘Surfing with The Alien,’ the stage backdrop lit up as the next song, ‘Light Years Away,’ started. This great song, and first single from the new album, really got things going. The atmosphere was buzzing blissfully already. All of the new album was played, the playlist was arranged incredibly well so that old and new songs fitted and sat well amidst all those classic Satch numbers. Near the end of the set, the new album was fully covered and Joe and the band were, by now, in full swing. They finished the set by performing some great numbers, one of which was a real rock and blues orientated tune where Joe sang and played a little harmonica. This had a real touch of rocking boogie about it. After this the band left the stage, just before being drawn back on for a couple of encores. The second of these was ‘Summer Song’; what a fantastic end to a fabulous evening!

For more on Joe Satriani: http://www.myspace.com/joesatriani