Courtesy Epic Records
Guitar great Joe Satriani has done seemingly everything that can be done by an artist of his caliber and experience. He has built quite the successful solo career. He has served as a member of the famed rock band Deep Purple and as the rock super group Chicken Foot as well as so much more. Considering how much Satriani has done and how much success he has had throughout the course of his decades-long career, one is left asking after each of his releases, “what happens next?” Thus we get the title of his latest album, What Happens Next. Released Jan. 12 via Epic Records, this 16th full-length studio recording from the virtuoso guitarist is everything that audiences have come to expect from Satriani. That is due to the continued growth exhibited throughout the album’s 51-minute run time. That growth is exhibited both in the songs that throw back to Satriani’s established albums and to those that show his continued abilities. That growth is just one part of what makes this album stand out Its sequencing plays its own important part in the album’s overall presentation, too. This element will be discussed later. The record’s production rounds out its most important elements. When it is set alongside the record’s sequencing and clear growth exhibited within the songs’ arrangements, the whole of the elements noted here makes this record a work that will leave listeners asking once again, “What happens next?” in the very best way.
Joe Satriani’s latest full-length studio recording What Happens Next is easily one of this year’s top new rock records. The 12-song record shows yet again over the course of its 51-minute run time why Satriani remains today one of rock’s elite musicians. This is due to the continued growth exhibited throughout the course of the album’s run. Right from the outset, fans familiar with Satriani’s body of work are transported to his 2004 album Is There Love In Space? in ‘Energy.’ the aptly titled song is a straight-forward, up-tempo piece that harkens back to ‘Hands In The Air,’ the third of the album’s offerings. What’s really interesting to note here is that while the songs bear a stylistic similarity in their sounds and energies, it’s obvious that Satriani didn’t just rehash that earlier song. This completely contradicts the statements of so many who have claimed that this album is more of the same from Satriani. One could argue that the album’s second song, ‘Catbot’ also throws back to some of his older works, too. Even with that comparison possible, one has to admit that the song’s arrangement, with its fuzz effect on the guitar bears more similarity to recent works from Royal Blood than anything that Satriani has composed before. The album’s third song, ‘Thunder High on the Mountain’ presents a run that would make Zakk Wylde and Tom Morello proud. It’s the kind of run that Satriani has not composed before, but instantly conjures thoughts of his aforementioned counterparts. Again, it shows that continued growth that has been mentioned so many times already. That display of growth doesn’t end here, either. Rather it continues on throughout the rest of the album. ‘Cherry Blossoms,’ with its contrasting “A” and “B” sections also takes listeners back in time, conjuring thoughts of perhaps works from Satriani’s 1998 album Crystal Planet while also changing things up considerably. The changes come in the form of the string arrangements in the “A” sections and the more reserved guitar line in the “B” section. The song gets even more lively in its bridge, with Satriani just letting go. ‘Headrush,’ with its uptemp guitar lick instantly conjures thoughts of ‘Satch Boogie,’ from Satriani’s 1987 album Surfing With The Alien. Deep Purple bassist Glenn Hughes’ walking bass line in this song adds a nice bluesy touch that helps in its own way the growth, as does Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith with his polyrhythmic patterns. It’s yet another way in which this record reaches back in time while also looking clearly forward. As if that wasn’t example enough, ‘Super Funky Badass’ reaches back to Satriani’s ’06 record Super Colossal thanks to its arrangement. Yet again though, as much as it bears similarities to songs from that record, it also establishes its own identity, thanks again to its arrangement. There is some material here that is slightly more intense than the music on Super Colossal. That contrast and comparison once more proves that this record is in fact not just more of the same from Satriani. It shows that while yes, there are some similarities between songs here and his established works, there is just as much new to appreciate from start to finish. Much the same could be argued of every one of the other songs not noted here. That being the case, when those songs are joined with the works directly discussed here, the arrangements featured here form a solid foundation for the record’s presentation. They are not the album’s only important collective element either. Its sequencing is important to discuss, too.
The sequencing at the heart of What Happens Next is important to its whole because of the general effect that it creates through the song’s energies. The album starts off rather upbeat, as has already been noted. Even with the momentary reservation in energy in ‘Thunder High on The Mountain,’ that decline is only momentary. The same can be said of the energy in the album’s fourth track, ‘Cherry Blossoms.’ The song’s energy feels slightly reserved at times, but even in that reservation, it doesn’t necessarily slow down per se. It’s something that must be heard to be fully understood and appreciated. It’s just a nice solid balanced up and down of energies within the very context of the one song. That balance is just as evident in ‘Righteous.’ As the album enters its midpoint in ‘Smooth Soul,’ the album does markedly slow down, but it’s in a good way. That pullback gives listeners just enough time to breath before Satriani launches into the much more up-tempo ‘Headrush,’ which again is another throwback composition that shows a certain growth from the professor. The album’s energies vary even more as the album makes its way through its second half from contemplative to playful to gentle and reserved to close things out. Simply put, from one song to the next, the album’s energies remain stable without fault. That being the case, it shows plenty of thought was put into the album’s sequencing, proving once and for all why the album’s sequencing is so important to the album’s whole. It is not the last of the album’s important elements, either. The album’s production rounds out its most important elements.
The production at the center of What Happens Next is important to discuss because of the general effect that it has on the album’s overall presentation. Just as the album’s energy is balanced from start to finish in this record, ensuring listeners’ maintained engagement, so are each of the trio’s parts in each song. Satriani, Hughes and Smith each shine throughout the record thanks to producer Mike Fraser’s work. This should come as no surprise considering that Fraser has worked with Satriani for so many years. The pair’s friendship and understanding of one another comes across clearly throughout this record as not only Satch gets plenty of time, but he also gladly gives up the spotlight so many times in favor of teamwork from his fellow musicians. Because each member of the group gets his own time to shine (and plenty of it at that), the end result is a record that sounds great and new from beginning to end even with its comparisons to its predecessors. When this is considered alongside the expertly balanced energies exhibited throughout the record’s sequencing and the impressive and enjoyable arrangements at the heart of each song, the whole of those elements shows without doubt why this record will indeed leave listeners asking “What happens next?” in the best way possible.
Joe Satriani’s 16th full-length studio recording What Happens Next is, while maybe not one of his landmark offerings, still an enjoyable record that is certain to leave listeners asking “What happens next?” in the best possible way. That statement is proven in part through 12 musical arrangements that take listeners through Satriani’s past, present and even future. The sequencing of those songs strengthens the record even more thanks to the balance of energy from one song to the next. The record’s production puts the final touch to its presentation. Each element is important in its own right, as has been pointed out. All things considered, this record is another impressive and enjoyable offering from one of the true masters. It is a work that once more will leave listeners asking “what happens next?” in all of the best ways possible. More information on What Happens Next is available online now along with all of Satriani’s latest news and more at:
To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.