REVIEW: JOE SATRIANI – “What Happens Next”
Guitar extraordinaire Joe Satriani has propelled his craft immensely in an almost 40 year career releasing multiple albums, touring worldwide with G3 and as a solo artist and teaching masterclasses for aspiring guitarists to find their own unique voices on the instrument. Throughout his career Satriani has always been a working musician and his reputation has garnered him the opportunity to collaborate with some talented musicians in the music industry. For his latest album titled ‘What Happens Next ’ Satriani recruited Red Hot Chilli Pepper’s drummer Chad Smith (who’s also the drummer for his other band Chickenfoot) and legendary Deep Purple bassist Glenn Hughes. This powerful trio had a lot of fun playing together and their chemistry in the studio created an instrumental album that paves a new music direction for Satriani to blend his rock and soul influences together emphasizing on a stiffness quality in the percussion resembling modern EDM and hip hop production techniques.
Opening song “Energy” is Satriani churning a mighty Jimmy Page type riff with a blistering solo, pounding drums and thunderous bass backing him up. “Catbot” oozes with funk, a trait that both Chad and Glenn do so well in their respective bands and Satriani brings his funkiest guitar playing to date. “Thunder High On The Mountain” is an epic composition with additional strings heightening the drama; Satriani really pulls out his best tapping skills as well as his well refined metallic riffing. “Cherry Blossum” leans almost in a modern RnB direction (somewhat similar to Muse’s Undisclosed Desires) it’s romantic to its core with its futuristic keyboards and Chad’s drumming sounds like he is playing on a MPC drum machine. “Righteous” returns to a more familiar rock territory, its light and has a catchy melody.
“Smooth Soul” is Satraini’s ode to the soul music of the 60’s and 70’s he grew up listening to as a kid, at times his guitar style on the composition reminds me of Santana or Eric Clapton. “Headrush” is for those who love a feel good boogie tune, reminiscent of Beck, Bogert & Appice going ballistic and Satriani does it justice in his own brilliant way. “Looper” is a tame groove based composition, the guitar soloing is free and at times feels improvised but it’s a welcomed addition to ‘What Happens Next’. The self-titled song continues the soul and rock theme throughout this album delivering excellent musicianship from the trio. “Super Funky Badass” is everything the title suggests, it’s the longest composition on the album but doesn’t ever drag on for too long and never bores the listener. “Invisible” brings out Satriani’s jazz fusion tendencies and Glenn Hughes contribution on bass is seemingly notable as he goes all out on his instrument. “Forever and Ever” is a fitting composition to end the album, it embodies Satriani’s emotive guitar playing and pays in part tribute to his hero Jimi Hendrix with Electric Ladyland like guitar passages.
‘What Happens Next’ was a question Joe Satriani asked himself when he was contemplating what music direction he would take on this album and he answered by going into a new and different route creatively. It is definitely an album that goes back to the guitarists’ roots taking inspiration from the soul and rock music he grew up on as a kid but it fits very well into this age of making Spotify playlists and cherry picking single songs rather than consuming full length albums. Even for the more traditional Satriani fan there’s still something to chew on as the veteran guitarist is still exploring new ideas sonically and plays his instrument like a pro-athlete who’s still hungry for meddles and titles. This is a refreshing new path that Satriani is exploring rather than revisiting and it should be applauded and embraced.