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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Joe Satriani

Black Swans and Wormhole Wizards

Review by Larry Toering

After teaming up with his friends in Chickenfoot, just like after he left Deep Purple, Joe Satriani shows a thicker side of himself once again on this multi-flavored release. It’s not much different in that respect to his self titled album from 1996, as here we get a relaxed side of Satch. There is a lot of keyboard work added to the mix (including some classical piano) and it really does wonders.

Everything is blended so nicely with the help of producer Mike Fraser, that it stands apart from most of Satriani's catalog, and from start to finish it's a comprehensive, intense but mellow ride. All eleven tracks go so well together that it comes across as a display of perfection that hopefully marks a new wrinkle for future efforts from one of the leading guitar virtuosos in an ever changing musical environment. One cannot help but love what they're about to hear on this great outing, Keyboards are handled by Mike Keneally who has worked with Steve Vai and also Frank Zappa, and bass duties are filled this time by Allen Whitman.

Satriani does not let down for one second on this extremely well put together collection of artistic tunes.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2010  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Premonition

A bit of industrial noise and other things kick right off in classic Satriani fashion. This is the usual bombast, yet so nicely laid back that it just chills the spine with great vibes. Some big riffing comes in and makes way for some cool soloing, complete with pick slides and the usual raunchy sounds. It then kicks effortlessly back into its mellow mood enhancing thrills.

Dream Song
As this entire disc suggests, more of the same, it proves to be a fantastic idea. Here the groove just sizzles and proceeds to treat the senses to a cosmic delight.  
Pyrrhic Victoria
A subdued but high intensity funk is carried throughout this track full of otherwise trademark Satch hooks. It sounds like a joyous trek to the sun and back. It's amazing how he can be all over the place, yet keep everything contained to one simple groove. It’s an absolute masterstroke!
Light Years Away
This has a beefy groove with repeated crunching riff changes, and some various bits of classical piano as well, in a one key-tinkering approach for a great texture. One feels like they are still on the way back from the sun after the last track. The entire disc concept is already felt by the time this track is over. 
Solitude
This is a brilliant little piece reminiscent of some of Satriani’s earlier work. It’s very baroque and also reminiscent of Blackmore's Night's 'Mistral Hall.'
Littleworth Lane
A beautiful ballad full of narrative lines, this track feels like a story and is not far removed from something like the feeling that “Crying” emotes. It’s just a pleasant track for rainy day blues.
The Golden Room
This is fantastic, with Indian tribal beats spiced with percussive keys to add to the dreary and mystical guitar. Things just continue to get better and better as it goes on in this heartfelt number with an almost tech vibe to contrast the outdoorsy feel. This would enhance any movie soundtrack with ease, as its atmospheric approach proves.
Two Sides to Every Story
Here we get some fascinating jazz-drenched fun with the usual standard hooks and colliding melodies. There are more rainy day blues vibes galore with some searing, spine tingling guitar fills and well placed keys. This has a holiday spirit to it that is hard to describe. It’s very cerebral.
Wormhole Wizards
On this, the title track, Satriani gets completely beat driven and proceeds to toy with it to a humorous effect. It almost sounds like he is doing stand up comedian style guitar in a joke telling way. The musical interaction is just so comical it's like magic. There is intense instrumental sparring back and forth with an underlying life-like groove. Piano takes a front seat after that and it's used to a massive degree, but not used enough at the same time. This is a great new signature track.
Wind in the Trees
A nice and smooth intro, some piano key flurries enhance the overall approach with a very complementing effect. This is sort of a lyrical guitar tune with a lovely mellow feel. It’s a very Chopin like number because of the great classical piano work, right down to the last ivory tink. I have to call this one of Satriani's best tracks to my ears, wonderfully tasteful stuff. What a gem!
God is Crying
After the last track anyone would cry, but not before hearing another masterful Satriani exercise full of more bombast amongst another amazingly mellow arrangement.
 
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