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Music Review: Joe Satriani – Surfing with the Alien: Legacy Edition (CD+DVD)

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Written by Fumo Verde 

I learned to surf in 1987, which was the same year I picked up a cassette of Surfing with the Alien and within the first thirty seconds of listening to it I was hooked. I’ve been surfing ever since and have listened to the album from time to time until my truck’s tape player ate my Workingman’s Dead, so when I got a chance to review the new digitally re-mastered CD, along with a DVD of Satriani performing at the Montreux Jazz Festival, I was super stoked.

Satriani has had a major influence on young guitarists around the world. Not only a great player of the guitar, he also teaches. His students have included Kirk Hammett of Metallica and Steve Vai. Surfing with the Alien has been called the quintessential guitar rock album of the ‘80s and for anyone interested in playing guitar they should pick this Legacy Edition and just listen, watch, and learn. Joe Satriani is a master musician and his one true passion is creating music with his guitar.

The title track opens up with rocket-like fury, as Satriani blasts off into the waves of the universe, dropping in deeper, carving harder, and getting shacked into tubes of cosmic forces. Contrast that with “Always with Me, Always with You” where Satriani slows it down as he lets the notes do the singing. This jam takes you away to a remote tropical island with sandy white beaches and intense colored sunsets. Next up is “Satch Boogie,” a jazzy jam that brings Satriani’s talents of his former teachers into play. He learned from some of the best, including jazz guitar great Billy Bauer and legendary pianist Lennie Tristano. The hard work and ceaseless enthusiasm Satriani brings to his art can be heard throughout Surfing with the Alien but to get a real idea of what he can do, you need to watch the DVD.

Part two of the Legacy Edition contains previously unreleased concert footage of from the Montreux Jazz Festival in Montreux, Switzerland from July 1988. The show is great and the camera work is top of the line, getting in close to see the amazing finger work Satriani lays down. He plays seven tracks off the album, including “Always with You, Always with Me,” “Echo,” “Ice 9,” and “Lords of Karma.” The show also includes a sweet bass solo along with the jams “Hordes of Locusts” and “Rubina,” and a very funny interview conducted by Spinal Tap guitarist Nigel Tufnel, who now has an amplifier that can go up to infinity. The liner notes are good, with pictures of Satriani in studio and on tour, and he gives explanations of how each song came about.

Joe Satriani cares about his fans and if you ask any of his students they will tell you the same. His music comes from the heart and as you watch him on stage, like his idol Jimi Hendrix, the soul and life of each note when played is echoed in his body movements and facial expressions. This is a great set for those of us who love the sound of the electric guitar. Listening to him play or seeing him live is like watching Jerry Lopez ride Pipe, a true master in his element. As soon as I save up enough cash, I’m getting one of those water-proof MP3 players and Joe Satriani is going surfing with this alien.

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS