Joe Satriani’s music has taken him to great heights and to a great number of places around the world during the course of his decades-long career. That is because his music has taken so many forms from one album to the next. So it should come as no surprise that Satriani’s latest album – his 17th album – bears the title Shapeshifting. This 13-song, 46-minute recording, which is scheduled for release April 10 through Sony/Epic, boasts arrangements that fully put on display Satriani’s great talents, changing the style from one song to the next. That diversity in the songs’ styles is the foundation of the record’s presentation. It will be discussed shortly. The sequencing of the songs adds even more interest to the record. The record’s production rounds out its most important element and will also be addressed later. Each noted item is important in its own way to the whole of the album. All things considered, they make the record another positive offering from Satriani and one more early candidate for a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s top new rock albums.
Joe Satriani’s latest full-length studio recording Shapeshifting is a strong new offering from the veteran guitar virtuoso. It is a presentation that Satriani’s longtime fans will appreciate just as much as music lovers in general. That is due in part to the very shapeshifting that takes place throughout the course of the record. From one song to the next, the styles change. The album opens with a straight-forward, mid-tempo rockwork that will appeal to any prog-metal fan in the LP’s title track. ‘Big Distortion,’ which immediately follows, changes things up, opting instead for a decidedly mainstream sound that crosses elements of 90s pop rock and classic 80s arena rock. The 80s arena rock elements come in the song’s “chorus” section while the 90s pop rock elements are more prevalent in the arrangement’s “A” section. The coupling sounds odd on the surface, but in reality, it works quite well, with the result of that song being one of the album’s best works. Its whole sounds like something that would fit quite well on Satriani’s 2004 album Is There Love in Space? Satriani changes things up yet again with a much more reserved arrangement in the album’s next song, ‘All For Love,’ which also sounds like it would fit well on the noted album. The song boasts what sounds like Pink Floyd influences throughout its reserved nature. As the album continues through its first quarter, Satch changes things again in the fully experimental ‘Ali Farka, Dick Dale, An Alien and Me.’ The use of the electronics alongside Satriani’s guitars, the solid time keeping of Jeff Campitelli and bass work of Chris Chaney makes the arrangement a work that he has never composed before. Finding anything comparable is difficult too, which is a good thing. The album’s progressing changes continue from here in ‘Teardrops,’ the full-on bluesy composition that will instantly grab listeners. The changes don’t end here. The tone turns distinctly country in ‘Perfect Dust,’ which follows ‘Teardrops.’ Interestingly enough, Satch mixes that country element with an equally strong rock element for a whole that stands easily on its own merits. Satriani’s tribute to Eddie Van Halen that is ‘Nineteen Eighty’ continues the musical shapeshifting, and the variations don’t end there, either. From that point, on, audiences continue to get even more variety with each song right up to the record’s end. The whole thing ends on such a high note in ‘Yesterday’s Yesterday.’ The simple, folksy (yes, folksy) arrangement will instantly have listeners tapping their toes and smiling as they do. The time keeping, the subtle addition of the piano here and the bass line are perfectly in sync with one another to make the whole such a great way to go out. Between that song and all of the others noted (and not addressed), the whole of the record’s body keeps the musical styles shifting nonstop, ensuring listeners’ engagement and entertainment. That constant change in styles does so much to make the album’s presentation so strong. It is just one of the elements that makes the record so strong. The record’s sequencing couples with the songs themselves to add even more “oomph” to the LP’s presentation.
Shapeshifting’s sequencing is so important to examine because of the very fact that there are so many different styles of music throughout this album. It would have been easy for those behind the album’s creation to just toss the songs together, but that didn’t happen. The song opens with a familiar rock sound from Satriani, before going a bit more mainstream. That sound eventually moves into a more introspective, experimental sound in the album’s third composition. The energies in each song are just as different from one another as are the styles. The mood, energy and style changes yet again from there in ‘Ali Farka, Dick Dale, An Alien and Me,’ keeping things interesting for listeners. Following the infusion of energy and experimentation in that song, the energy pulls back dramatically in ‘Teardrops,’ ensuring again the album doesn’t get stale. That is definitely ensured as the album makes its way into ‘Perfect Dust’ and ‘Nineteen Eighty.’ ‘All My Friends Are Here’ presents its own celebratory vibe, yet not too much over the top, again keeping things interesting with its mid-tempo presentation and controlled instrumentation. Of course, as the album enters into ‘Spirits, Ghosts and Outlaws,’ that fire definitely starts to burn brighter again with its up-tempo, guitar-driven arrangement. From here, the album’s energy gradually eases off right until its finale, gently landing listeners on that other shore. Simply put, the energies and moods in the album’s songs varies just as much as the styles themselves. The order in which those energies and moods were arranged adds so much to the record’s overall impact. When this is considered along with the variety in the songs, it proves even more why the album is such an impressive new offering from one of the great guitarists of our time.
The songs featured on Shapeshifting and their sequencing do a lot to make this record appealing for listeners. As much as they do to make the album so appealing, they are only a part of what makes the record so enjoyable. The LP’s production and mixing put the finishing touch to its presentation. From start to end, each song was expertly crafted and mixed. Case in point is the layering of the guitars in the album’s opener/title track. There were multiple guitar lines, likely all played by Satriani. The way in which they were set alongside one another made for a very good balance, ensuring each got its own attention. Meantime, the bass and drums are just as audible as those guitar lines. The whole makes for a work that is a powerful introduction for the album and an equally powerful statement Satriani and his fellow musicians. ‘Ali Farka, Dick Dale, An Alien and Me’ is another example of the importance of the album’s production and mixing. As already noted, there is a certain amount of electronics added into the whole of the song’s arrangement. The decision to add this element into the mix was a wise choice, as it adds a certain nuance that without it, would have left the song feeling empty. When it is joined with the guitars, bass and drums, the overall arrangement presents itself as one of the album’s most original works. What’s more, the balance of the elements in the end product adds even more appeal to the work. There is a lot going on in this song, what with all of the elements, but thankfully, at no point do any of the arrangement’s elements overpower the others. It would have been easy for that to happen in this scenario, too. So to know that this did not happen is, again, a statement to the talents of the musicians and to those who produced and mixed the album. ‘Spirits, Ghosts and Outlaws’ is yet another example of the importance of the album’s production and mixing. This straight-forward, driving country-rock style arrangement is another in which there is a lot going on. Between the solid time keeping (especially through the cymbals), the guitar and the bass, each line has a lot to do with making the song whole. Each musician “has a lot to say” so to speak. Each line holds its own importance, and the song would not have been what it is without each part. Each line is just as well balanced, even with so much musical firepower combined in one container. The end result is another energetic, enjoyable arrangement that strengthens the album in whole. When these arrangements are considered alongside those in the rest of the album, it becomes clearer why the production and mixing that went into each song is so important to the whole of this record. When this aspect of Shapeshifting is considered along with the album’s songs and their sequencing, the whole of all three elements makes the LP another impressive offering from Satriani and company, and one of the year’s best rock records. It is potentially one of the year’s best records overall.
Joe Satriani’s latest full-length studio recording Shapeshifting continues his trend of success – and that of his fellow musicians. That is because the record’s arrangements constantly do in fact shapeshift from one song to the next. The musical styles never stay the same throughout the album. The sequencing of that constantly varying musical styles adds even more to the ensured engagement and enjoyment. The production and mixing that went into each arrangement puts the finishing touch to the whole of the album. Each item noted is key in its own way to the whole of the album. All things considered, they make Shapeshifting another welcome offering from Satriani and company, and a work that is one of the year’s top new rock records and potentially one of the year’s top new albums. More information on the album is available online now along with all of Satriani’s tour dates in support of Shapeshifting is available online now at:
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