Joe 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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