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Joe Satriani - Engines of Creation Print E-mail
Tuesday, 14 March 2000

Joe Satriani

Engines of Creation
format: CD
label: Epic
performance: 6.5
sound 7
reviewed by: Jerry Del Colliano

ImageWhen it comes to badass guitar licks, Joe Satriani is the guru the best pro players in the world come to for advice. Steve Vai, Kirk Hammett from Metallica and Primus’ Larry LaLonde are just a few of the names under Satriani’s tutelage. In 1988, when Mick Jagger was looking for a replacement for his legendary chop-master Keith Richards, he called on Satriani, who was enjoying double platinum sales of his breakthrough album Surfing With The Alien.

When it comes down to the technical cutting edge of playing guitar, Joe Satriani may just be the absolute authority. He can shred better than the best of them and has some of the hottest solos ever transferred into zeros and ones to prove it.

Satriani’s new record, Engines of Creation, melds modern electronic music with Satriani’s insane guitar antics. Reportedly, Satriani was working on these songs more as an exercise than for release; it’s said he had to be convinced to make them into a record instead of vault tapes and or a side project. Ironically, Satriani’s sound has always been on the technological edge. He uses racks full of both analog and digital gear to process an extreme palate of tones. As on the vast majority of his records, Satriani performs nearly all of the instruments on the album, including guitars, bass, drums, plus programming and more. Thankfully, unlike on his Flying In A Blue Dream album, Satriani doesn’t sing. (His voice was just that bad; I am sorry I even had to bring the topic up.)

The songs on Engines of Creation are very complex and deeply layered. The tones range from fiery to spacey and practically everywhere in between. The intro track "Devil’s Slide" reminds me of a few cuts on Orbital’s Insides record (highly recommended) with a fast-paced drum and bass beat with a sing-song melody. Satriani breaks up the verses of fingering mastery with machine gun-like percussion from his guitar. The song progresses as if Satriani just edits in better and better solos to top himself.

"Attack" lures you into a false sense of security with a gentile 20-second introduction which segues into a balls-to-the-wall techno beat-fest. "Until We Say Goodbye," which is, predictably, the fourth track on the record, sounds much like "Always With Me, Always With You" from Surfing with The Alien, with a little heavier rhythm section and a less catchy melody. It could catch on with more progressive adult contemporary radio and or be used in TV commercials (as frequently happens with Satriani’s work).

Engines of Creation is a solid Joe Satriani record. While the techno angle adds some new life to his guitar lunacy, many of the melodies refer back to his earlier albums. The sound of the record is not bad. At times, it can be busy and compressed. There is very little, if any, acoustic material to be found in the mix; the sounds can come out intentionally compressed and packaged.

When I was a teenager in the late 1980s, I was so enthralled with the guitar mania on Surfing With The Alien that I saved up all of my money to be able to buy a white Ibenez six-string with a locking tremolo, an axe I still own for obvious historic reasons. I sat in my room and practiced the chops until my fingers bled (it was the summer of ‘69? – or maybe ‘89?). At one point - and I’ll have to disclose this recording before I run for President, along with those pictures of me handcuffed to a Go-Go poll at a titty bar as a 17-year-old in Camden, New Jersey’s Fantasy Showbar – I actually played the lead guitar part on "Always With Me, Always With You" in my high school cover band. I only blew about three or four parts, which is pretty funny if you ever hear the tape.

I say all of this to illustrate how I felt about the prospect of Satriani doing a techno record. It could have been something absolutely off the hook. Unfortunately, Satriani fell into some old habits of playing all of the parts on the record and having a lot of say in its production. Imagine if Satriani took a page out of Carlos Santana’s book and recruited a happening techno producer like William Orbit and then called on a who’s who of players and DJs ranging from Orbital to Kirk Hammett to The Orb to The Crystal Method and or any number of others. This record, which is pretty good, could have been the best of the year. Perhaps, with the commercial and musical success of Santana, Satriani will try this idea the next time out.

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