Monday, April 30, 2012

Music Review – Satchurated

Joe Satriani  - Satchurated [Live in Montreal] – April 24, 2012 – Previewed On Air – April 27, 2012
(Red Distribution - B0071BY084 – 25 tracks – CD, DVD)

This review requires a disclaimer at the beginning (which is precisely where it would have to go to BE a disclaimer).  "Satchurated" is made up of two full-length CDs and is all instrumental and therefore can be quite challenging to listen to from end to end in one sitting. OK, disclaimer completed. 

The very busy Satriani is on the road as I write this, touring with not just one band, but two. Intermixed with his solo dates supporting this CD, are live dates playing with Chickenfoot supporting their new CD “Chickenfoot III”. I, for one, would find this confusing. One night taking center stage as the guitar virtuoso of this generation…directing traffic and ensuring a flawless performance, the next jumping to and fro, dodging Sammy Hagar’s unpredictable, high energy movement on stage, being one of the guys, laughing at Sammy and Mike’s spontaneous jokes and gestures while making enough noise on the guitar to fill the space created by a three piece band. Confused, but enjoying every minute of it. OK, personal jealousy aspect addressed.

First of all….hmm, make that third of all, a scant few musicians are accomplished and confident enough to record live,  instrumental works for public consumption. But we know that Satriani is one of them, having blistered the guitar neck several times on previous instrumental outings. This new work “Satchurated” (sic) blasts from the first note, takes us on a journey that is both powerful and thoughtful, touches on both good and evil, both safety and fear, both calm and violent. In the end what it does best is entertain. To create music to fill a double live CD, the composer must be at the pinnacle of creativity and musically ingenious. Satriani more than meets the requirement, for no two themes on this CD are alike…not one reminds the listener of another. This is a feat in itself. This music is inspirational, motivating and, more importantly, interesting. The CD proves once more, that overwhelming technical ability can be made stimulating and remarkable. Listeners old enough to recall the fusion movement won’t have the grounds to state, as they did of fusion, “very skillful but boring”. If this music bores you, perhaps you should consider cutting down on the PCP.

I’ve chosen not to go through the CD song by song, but rather speak to those songs I feel highlight this work, as reviewing 20 tracks would be tedious for both of us. I begin with “Hordes of Locusts”, a slower, driving chord progression that Satriani at first accompanies, then rides over, weaving in and out of the large but surprising spaces the progression creates. And ok…he’s damn fast. “Flying in a Blue Dream” then soars, allowing us to fly along with the music. I must admit to wondering what David Gilmore would do with these passages, but Joe gives them a freeing, unfettered disposition. There is a sense of never ending flight in that the progression never really resolves itself, but keeps finding one opening after another to flow through…an aural rarity…and very pleasing. This is the third song on the CD and I was already impressed and found that as each song ended, I couldn’t wait for the next song to begin. That is also rare for a CD. On “Light Years Away”, the driving rhythm section takes center stage, with some sweet, slow passages that allow Satriani to shift gears as the music pushes back into a consistent thump. There is an evil feel to “War”, maybe threatening would be a better description, but I found myself on the edge of my seat listening to this one. While the guitar work on each song is notable, his work here is astounding. Moving through Dorian, Ionian and Mixolydian modes, there is a palpable tension ringing through the speakers that Satriani uses to both push the song forward and to remind us, this ain’t your average rock and roll guitar player up here jamming. And ok…he’s damn fast.

The CD is well recorded and engineered and the musicians Satriani has chosen to help him express this music are exceptional and don’t fade into the background for a moment. Bassist Allen Whitman and drummer Jeff Campitelli are responsible for the driving tempo of much of this release. Keyboardist Mike Keneally is challenged to keep up with the guitar wizardry Satriani creates and mostly succeeds, while second guitarist Galen Henson is forced to maintain the progressions in the background, his absence would leave a void in the ambiance being generated in the music. 

And ok…he’s damn fast.

This is a prodigious work, complete and satisfying taken in large or small bites. I give “Satchurated” 3.5 floggers (out of 4)

 -DocRock - AKA VanHelsing

"War" - Joe Satriani - "Satchurated"

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