Joe Satriani - Black Swans And Wormhole Wizards

After notching up half a million album sales in 2009 with Chickenfoot (with ex Van Halen frontman Sammy Hagar, bassist Michael Anthony and Red Hot Chili drummer Chard Smith), Joe Satriani releases yet another solo album of sheer quality. Not content with two platinum and four gold solo albums, as well as fifteen Grammy nominations, ably abetted by Jeff Campbell (drums), Mike Keneally (keyboards) and Alan Whitman (bass), 'Satch' has managed to put together a refreshing new collection.

The mix of tracks has been drawn from his various influences. His trademark sound is still there in bucket loads but, taking me by surprise, he also dips into jazz and blues. Unquestionably, his musical ability is still of the highest order and his arrangements here seem deeper and somehow more atmospheric.

'Black Swans and Wormhole Wizards' opens up with 'Premonition'; a statement of his prowess in compiling layers of melodic sound coupled with a some pretty meaty rhythms and a thunderous lead break. In contrast, the funky wah wah intro to 'Dream Song' brings the tempo down to a nice gentle pace, Satch's guitar moaning the melody prior to some more superb fret board gymnastics; astounding.

'Pyrrhic Victoria' has a more blues/rock feel; nice heavy chords and drumming to support the lovely tones of the guitar. Again, as expected, the lead break is outstanding. The heavier and chunkier 'Light Years Away' follows and the addictive rhythms just grab you by the throat and force you to turn the volume up to maximum; a great track. By complete contrast, Joe does away with the band and just plays alone on the brief but enchanting 'Solitude'.

The unashamedly blues track 'Littleworth Lane' is a nice diversion. It drifts along in a melancholic way with some progressive takes on the traditional structures of the blues. The epic sounding 'The Golden Room' follows with its Middle Eastern rhythmic undertones and some exceptional lead guitar; something that's more typical from him. 'Two Sides To Every Story' is a blues influenced tune, though with some jazz keyboards thrown in for good measure. There are some very nice crystal clear guitar sounds and a very addictive mood laid down here'. The keyboards are featured heavily in the rockier 'Wormhole Wizards'. A gentle intro develops gradually with a simpler guitar melody, less layering and a great keyboard solo which fits in perfectly. Not to be out done, Satch delivers another blistering solo himself.

The laid back 'Wind In The Trees'. With its distorted wah is next; lots more finger gymnastics and great mood. One of my favourite tracks on the album, it reminds me a lot of the great solos that Zappa used to pump out. The album closer 'God Is Crying' is a multi layered (in all senses of the word) classic. Building from simple origins, the track develops into a crescendo of melodic sound and some driving rhythms; a very apt choice.

This album is not typical of Satriani as it blends more styles and moods than he has done so in the past. It's refreshing to hear him successfully take on these new challenges and the result is simply stunning.