Track(s) of the Week: Joe Satriani

Track of the WeekJoe Satriani was my personal guitar hero. He was the first guitarist to capture my musical interest when I was a kid. I remember trying to convince my friends to listen to Joe and being disappointed to learn that they would much rather listen to Wham! or New Kids on the Block. Blasphemy!

At 8 years old, I apparently was on the young side of Joe’s listening demographic. Nevertheless, every mix tape I made from the time I was 8 years old to 13 years old featured Joe Satriani on one side and everything else on the other. That’s how it was for me: Joe up here, and everyone else down there.

But like all infatuations you have when you’re 13, it didn’t last forever. I found other musicians, other bands, that I could love just as much. That’s why they call it puppy love I guess. But Joe was first and that makes him one of my all-time favorite guitarists.

Here are five of my all-time favorite Joe Satriani songs, in no particular order except that I saved my favorite for last:

“Back to Shalla-Bal” from Flying in a Blue Dream.
This song is classic Satriani. It features the melodic style that sets him apart from other shredders like Steve Vai and Yngwie Malmsteen. Joe’s songs always have distinct melodies and thematic content and this song is one of the strongest examples that.

“Circles” from Surfing with the Alien.
I always liked this song because of the juxtaposition between the intro and the face-melting verse that comes in at 1:00. A lot of machismo in this one.

“The Phone Call” from Flying in a Blue Dream.
I love this song’s sense of humor. The instrumentation is a bit of a departure for Joe. Firstly, he’s singing through (what sounds like) a telephone. Secondly, he’s playing the rhythm guitar part on a resonator guitar. It all creates a tongue-in-cheek roots-rock vibe that makes me smile.

“Summer Song” from The Extremist.
Another quintessential Satriani trait is his use of pitch-axis theory in his improvisation. This song is a great example of it. Listen for the moments when his melodic lines change direction to follow a new tonal path. It almost sounds like he transposed the song to a new key, but he hasn’t. He just played in a different mode over the harmonically ambiguous power chords.

“Satch Boogie” from Surfing with the Alien.
My absolute favorite Satriani tune. This song has got everything: attitude, energy, melodic flair and fantastic legato and blues riffs. Enough said.

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7 responses to “Track(s) of the Week: Joe Satriani

  1. What an enjoyable time I had over this past Memorial Day weekend, thanks to you! I remember hearing Joe for the first time on the tip from your Uncle Allen. Instantly he became one of my favorites. Surfing with the Alien was very unusual, as it was popular even though it was purely instrumental. Music with vocals are usually what becomes commercially successful, but Joe’s talent is what carried this cd. I’d compare him to a latter day composer of contemporary guitar music. Remember, when you want to start your Blues Junior project, I’d like to sit in on that one. Maybe I’ll learn a little something! As always, great blog!

    • You’re definitely gonna help me with the Blues Junior project. I can’t ruin circuit boards with my poor soldering technique alone!

  2. I like the mental image of little Earle obsessing over making Joe Satriani mix tapes. (Back when they were still tapes!)

  3. Earle, we’ve talked about Satriani before, and we have a difference of opinion, but consider it a point for your side with “Satch Boogie”. I’d never heard that before, and I like it (although I could do without the interlude at the 2 minute mark). I probably like it b/c it sounds similar to Van Halen, especially when paired with that particular style of drumming (which I have no idea how to describe….it’s “bumpy”).

    Anyway, thanks for sharing the Earle Jams ’87 mixtape with us. Is it live, or is it Memorex?

    • I think you like “Satch Boogie” more than the others because is firmly rooted in the blues, whereas a lot of his other songs are very modal. I was a Memorex man for sure, although I used Denon tapes too.

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