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Music Review: Joe Satriani – Black Swans And Wormhole Wizards

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Joe Satriani (a musician I first heard of through my brother’s constant attempts to clear Satch Boogie on Rock Band 2) has released his 14th studio album. I’m not sure where the title Black Swans And Wormhole Wizards (rather annoying, I keep typing that as ‘black holes’) came from but it sounds like it could be a band by itself. Although there is a track on the album called Wormhole Wizards, it only explains about half of the title.  

Joining him are Mike Fraser (production duties), Jeff Campitelli (drumming), Mike Keneally (on keyboards, which sound more like the classical piano sound you would hear in a hotel lobby somewhere) and Allen Whitman (bass guitarist). They kind of fade into the background but help to complement the guitar work by Satriani, so it works on that level. However, on Two Sides To Every Story the drums seem to be more prominent than on the other tracks. 

All of the songs are instrumentals and there are 11 tracks on the standard version of the album (there’s two more if you go online or get the Deluxe Version from Best Buy), ranging from less than a minute for one track (Solitude, which sounds calming, like an electric version of one of those self-relaxation tapes) to a long 7 minutes and 43 seconds for the aforementioned title track. My personal favourite track is the one with the pun-tastic title, Pyrrhic Victoria, which has a good blend of guitar work and bass guitar at the beginning of the song. 

One of the tracks from the album, “Light Years Away,” has been released separately as a single, and it can be obtained for free from the official site in exchange for promoting it on your Facebook or Twitter page for others to see. This is quite a clever strategy, in my opinion, as it ensures exposure.  

The cover features Satriani looking like he’s taken fashion education from Morpheus from The Matrix. The actual title of the album is quite small, to the extent that the elderly would most likely have trouble reading it. But that’s not who the awesome guitar work (that you will most likely be air-guitaring to) is meant for. When I requested the album for review first of all, I didn’t think I would like it but I thought I’d give it a go. The fact that I am currently playing the album while typing this and air-strumming along should give you some indication of how it has grown on me. Fans of Satriani’s other work should appreciate this one too.

The album is intended to lead into Satriani’s U.K. tour which starts on October 17th at the Manchester Apollo. It is now available in both the U.K. and U.S. 

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About Scott Varnham

  • Luciano

    I really liked the album, especially the songs Premonition, that brings a good rock and roll guitar sound on the base, a very cool chorus that complements the brilliant guitar solo, Light years Away, with good base guitar, solo and that “joe’s atmosphere”, Wormhole Wizards, that sounds like a mistery in the air, and slowly progress to a standard rock beat and a very cool guitar chorus. God is Crying brings in my opinion the best chorus guitar, very agressive and pure “joe’s rock and roll” style! This album is a bit different from the last ones, like “Super Colossal” and “Professor Satchafunkilus and the Musteryus of Rock” because it adds more weight on the bases (rock style) and sometimes more keyboards effects. I really appreciated too much.

  • colin

    Have to say I agree with ‘Guest’ from a week ago….This Album is definatley not up there with the likes of ‘Crystal Planet’ or ‘Surfing’ etc, but rather a mix of ‘The Extremist’ coupled with Joe’s self titled album. Incidentely, I think Joe’s best slow ballad style track (ever!) was on the self titled album, called ‘You’re My world’……absolutley beautiful !!!
    With this album, after giving it 3-4 outings so far, I found myself only really listening to 3 or 4 tracks over again, namely ‘Dream Song’, ‘Lights Years Away’, ‘The Golden Room’ and ‘Littleworth Lane’…..and even then I was kinda disapointed.
    There is no real ‘shredding’ on this Album people!!….in fact when I was listening to it, I imagined Joe sitting back on his sofa at home with a cup of camomile tea, feet up, plugged into a small marshall amp with the ‘Blues / Jazz’ button turned up full…..and basically just jamming to backing tracks for an hour or so……..It’s kind like his self titled Album gone wrong!!!!…..tho that said, the Backing Guitars are really just brilliant, as is the Bass!!
    If anyone out there is hoping for a ‘Crsytal Planet’ styled song, or ‘Ceremony’ or even ‘Borg sex’, ‘Midnight’ or ‘Andalusia’…you will be very sorely disapointed.
    If however you are looking for the 2-3 tracks on Joe’s Albums you might not really rate….this album is compiled basically of those…
    THAT SAID, it’s only my opinion!…..I like Satch because he brings something new and refreshing nearly every time he realeases a CD…and he does here to a degree, but it’s not to my taste…..Normally, one or two tracks stand out as either Anthemic, or pure note for note utter genius……but this CD is is really very very Jazz / Blues based, with little of the Satch signature that made his eighties and early ninties playing so distinctive..
    Is easy to know is Satch, don’t get me wrong, but with an organ solo in the second last track and a piano sounding solo in the last, this Album could have been done by…. (take ur pick really)…..I was reminded of ‘The Doors’ at times…..god forbid!!!
    In short, go buy it ‘cos it’s Satch……but only if you like ‘The Extremist’ crossed with his self titled album…..and of course ‘The Doors’…..

  • Scotty2

    Hmm, thank you for the input, I shall bear that in mind for future reviews 🙂 This is my second music review, so I clearly need more practice.

  • Daniel Young

    This has got to be one of the strangest “music” reviews I have ever read. You reviewed the title, told us who was on the recording and, oddly, about one song where the drums are more prominent. Then, you tell us how long the songs are and how one song can be obtained for free. And then you evaluate the cover.

    The only impression of the music that you offer is that is has grown on you.