This happens!

By Tom MacIntosh

American instrumental rock guitarist Joe Satriani started off as a guitar teacher, guiding people like Steve Vai, Larry LaLonde, and Kirk Hammett to name a few, toured with Mick Jagger on his solo record, had a brief stint as lead guitarist for Deep Purple, founded the G3 tour, working with a whole battery of guitarists, and was part of the supergroup Chickenfoot, and has been nominated for a Grammy Award 15 times, and has sold over 10 million albums, making him the best selling instrumental guitarist in history.  

He just released a new album called What Happens Next, a trio formed by Satriani, bassman Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple, Black Country Communion) and drummer Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers). It is his 16th record in a career that covers over 30 years, and this new output is simply hammers out rock to towering levels, with searing solos on his Ibanez JS2400 (his signature brand on the label). The album comprises 12 “crazy, rockin’, soulful, groovin’” tracks according to the man himself, and we will mention some of the tasty bits here in our review. This record dazzles with his dense ‘wall of sound’ dexterity and pounding Hughes bass lines over Smith wicked sticks.

The opening track Energy is right out of Peter Green's playbook, loud blues rock - what used to be called ‘head-banging music’ - the boys are having a lot of fun with this driving beat and tight phrasing. A great road song! Thunder On The Mountain starts off with thundering a drum line (of course) and builds on what sounds like a synthesiser-like guitar run, only to slow into a heartfelt Satriani guitar solo, then something like  celtic dance riffing with a big boom ending. Classic Satriani! Cherry Blossoms opens with primal drums to be swept up by some sweet ‘latino’ riffs, turning into arpeggios and back, then all gets dark heavy and simply slams shut. Track 5 is Righteous, sounds like it was lifted from 70s rock, a bit funky, with a memorable groove. The following cut is the soulful sexy Smooth Soul that will remind listeners a bit of the Carlos Santana sound, replete with echo and with some punchy rhythm section work. Fasten your seatbelt for the next track Headrush, it drives, and drives fast. It rises and falls on some very yummy solo guitar runs, and Hughes’ bass lines. A song where they show their pedigree as top players, shifting gears and keeping it on the road like champs. And if you like deep bass groves and rat-a-tat drums, the next number is the funk/rock Looper, one of the catchier songs on the album. Satriani and his boys know how to deliver solid, clean, tight riffs at every turn. This song stands out!

The title track is more of a rock melody sprinkled with some jazzy touches that makes it hard to ignore. Super Funky Badass is just that, and the final cut is Forever and Ever, which has a Hendrix feel to it, starting slow with celestial riffs, and may be one of the more subtle, romantic numbers on this superb collection.  

Joe Satriani is one of the few guitarists that has so many signature guitar models, such as: the Ibanez line, JS1200, JS24P, JS2410, JSA20 JSA10 - an acoustic which he describes as, “...a beautiful sounding acoustic guitar. It’s really great on stage because it allows me to get that total acoustic tone and playability without getting crazy feedback, squeals, and all that. And it’s so black! How much blacker can you get?” Then there is the Hagstrom III, the 1948 Martin 000-21, and too many Gibsons, Fenders, to get into. A maestro and his tools!

Joe Satriani is a guitarist’s guitarist and if you don’t have any of his material, this would be a great start; an earthy, adventure into pure rock guitar, backed by his 2 formidable partners. Check it out!