I walked into the record store, not expecting anything much, and there it was: Joe Satriani's new release, "Strange Beautiful Music". I hadn't visited his web site recently so I was totally unaware of it coming - which is much like the previous albums happened to me. Maybe Joe doesn't need the marketing anymore. I guess all his albums sell pretty consistently as it is.

"Strange Beautiful Music" offers about an hour of new guitar music. No vocals, again, and also he has again enlisted the help of Eric Caudieux in the keyboard/computer department. Though not quite as industrially influenced as "Engines of Creation", Joe has clearly stuck with the new sound. However there are also some new guitar sounds to be discerned. There's some acoustic guitar, for starters, in "Chords of Life". There's a Hammond-style organ in "Hill Groove". There's Rage Against the Machine-like guitar stuff going on in "Mind Storm", the heaviest track on the album and my favourite one to boot. Most unusual on "Strange Beautiful Music" is "Sleep Walk", a cover of an original 50's classic by Santo & Johnny. Additionally, Joe enlisted the help of Robert "King Crimson" Fripp and his 'Frippitronic' guitar on this cut. Arguably the must unusual Satriani recording ever.

When you buy a Satriani record you know it's going to be pretty much 4/4 bars, pretty melodic and indisputably talented guitar-wise. However, "Strange Beautiful Music" has more than its expected share of unremarkable tunes. The second half of the CD is pretty much made up of gentle, soulful guitar playing over mid-tempo drums. It's not quite the excellence of "Mind Storm", nor the groovy "Chords of Life", "New Last Jam" and "Mountain Song".

"Strange Beautiful Music" is not a bad album at all, it's just that almost every other Joe Satriani album (except for the self-titled 1995 release) is better. Then again, my favourite ("Flying in a Blue Dream") grew on me tremendously after my initial dislike. Only the future will tell.



Written June 2002


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