5 January 2014

Joe Satriani - Unstoppable Momentum

I first got listening to Joe Satriani only twelve months ago, when I was recommended to listen to one of his earlier records, which must be said had me sold outright. I also mentioned in a previous review that Surfing With The Alien was amazing and that instrumental rock need not be restricted in its creative frontiers when the vocals are absolutely redundant. And the title track? Well, aside from the Silver Surfer front cover, it's certainly a Marvel Comicbook memory, and this is just one of his many snippets that have been featured in various TV, Radio shows, commercials and trailers.

There's no other word to describe this New York teacher and wizard axeman, he is just that. But what sets his stall apart from every other shredder is the seemingly endless stream of hammer on, lift off, arpeggio, extreme whammy bar usage, and of course, the two handed tapping effects. Aside from his teachings, he's somehow able to find time to record with various famous acts though he's essentially a strong solo artist in his own right. He's also released fourteen studio albums of his own accord and this latest one, Unstoppable Momentum shows no sign of JS taking a rest from his Ibanez JS. How he approaches it is still open to conjecture for me. I do know that Eric Clapton prefers to take extended rests sometimes stretching up to months before picking up his Stratocaster, but seemingly not with Mr. Satriani given his track record.

For this outing, his backup crew consists of keyboardist Mike Keneally (ex Frank Zappa and Steve Vai, one of Satriani's students incidentally), drummer Vinnie Colaiuta (Sting, Megadeth, another Zappa-ista) and Chris Chaney (bass player of Jane's Addiction fame), and his idea for recording was to take everyone up to a secluded ranch in California away from the hustle of L.A. In my opinion, an eclectic lineup and good basis for cutting the album. JS's styles might not have altered greatly in the 25 years since the Surfing album but from the outset the six string noodling marries well with the other members' contribution to Unstoppable Momentum. And if I have to say or be shot, maybe timeless too. The title track opens proceedings with a good chorded hook line alternating with some deft shredding and of course, the tremolo. The other band members too are firing on all 8 cylinders, but the intricate production undertaken is just about perfect, pin sharp and clear, even if your speakers aren't up to scratch.

Next track, Can't Go Back, gives me the impression that he craves a bit of eighties flavour, perhaps imagining seeing Don Johnson flying past in his black open top Daytona. However, Three Sheets To The Wind is a sharp change in the course, which Keneally introduces with some oddball hurdy gurdy rhythmic keys and there's a possibility that for once Satriani's taking a backseat in the song storytelling. Then there's just him and and the keyboardist with the poignant filled two minute filler I'll Put A Stone On Your Cairn, possibly drawing inspiration from Deep Purple's instrumental Contact Lost.

We return to the positive rock roots with A Door Into Summer and Shine On American Dreamer. They're quite strong fillers but JS has a few little audio treats in store with Jumpin' In and the follow up Jumpin' Out, sounds appropriate actually. Now the former sees Satriani returning with some solid original riffs with notes that perhaps could be found on a Stevie Wonder track but the shredmeister makes it all fresh while the latter track has beats that remind me of The 'Purple's Any Fool Kno That, and his stringwork sounds similar with that of Steve Morse, but his dexterity is obviously the major selling point here.

It's only a 45 minute album, Joe Satriani seldom does epic recordings. But so far it's flowing reasonably well, and coming towards the end, The Weight Of The World has JS sharing hammer on and whammying tasks with Mike Keneally and his ivories alternating their leads between the verses, or bridges if you like. Closing Unstoppable Momentum is A Celebration, for me, best described as rockabilly and it's ok I guess. Not substandard thankfully, maybe agreeable but it's positive vibes sent out are resonating you further you delve into the track.

I can safely report that with Unstoppable Momentum, we have an assured solid album well cut, well polished and the production that's gone into is a fantastically worked piece. I also get the impression that Joe Satriani has drawn a lot of enjoyment out of the making of the album in the three or so months it took to record this, and that his enthusiasm has too rubbed off on his bandmates and sound team. Life is seemingly good in the Satriani camp and his work with the Ibanez JS is clearly a labour of love. All budding rock guitarists wanting to improve on their skills should listen to his material.

9 out of ten. Almost perfect...almost.
Best track : Jumpin' In

Joe Satriani Official Website here
Listen to Unstoppable Momentum here on Deezer
Buy the album here on Amazon

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