Surfing With The Alien (Legacy Edition)

Joe Satriani

Every now and then there seems to be someone who takes it to another level — in sports, entertainment, politics, whatever. In the world of the rock guitarist, there have been many. But it seems like only a couple of times a decade has a guitarist actually REVOLUTIONIZED guitar playing, sound-wise, technique-wise, or both.

In the 60s, it was Jimi Hendrix. Enough said. In the late 70s, it was Edward Van Halen. In the 80s, there were many. But one player took the sound and technique to an extreme, virtually out of the blue. And that man was Joe Satriani.

When Surfing With The Alien was released in 1987, I was working at a record store during the day and hanging out with musicians at night. A promo copy of the RECORD -- remember them? -- was passed on to me, and I played it in the store. I was immediately approached by no less than ten people asking, "Who is THIS?" We ended up selling out all our copies of Surfing With The Alien that first day. I knew I had something special in my hands.

That night, I brought my copy to the local music club that I was DJing at, and the same thing happened. I played "Satch Boogie" three times over the course of the evening. It seemed like everyone wanted a copy of this record. And soon they did. It reached #29 on Billboard's Top 200 and went platinum. This was a first for a guitar instrumental album.

One cut from the record, "Always With Me, Always With You," was nominated for a Grammy. It seemed like EVERY guitarist I knew was trying to duplicate Satriani's sound. Virtually overnight, he became "The MAN" when it came to guitar players.

Twenty years later, and that magical time has been resurrected by the re-issue of Surfing With The Alien, newly remastered by the guitarist himself and original album co-producer John Cuniberti. As an added bonus, a live DVD from the 1988 Montreux Jazz Festival featuring Satch and his band — bassist Stu Hamm and drummer Jonathan Mover — is included.

The idea of this recording sounding even better than the original is very intriguing to me, and I was not disappointed at all. "Ice 9" has this amazing groove that has been fattened to the point where it's fun to watch the woofers in your speakers bounce. His tone in "Always With Me, Always with You" is gorgeous; the melody, simply breath-taking. "Satch Boogie" immediately made me want to get behind my drum kit and, after years of trying, again attempt to keep up with Satriani's amazing playing. (I'm STILL working on it) This is an incredibly well done record and I highly recommend it.

The bonus DVD is striking, in that, at first view, you see Joe looking like the Joe he hasn't looked like in years — with long curly hair! And, of course, the 80s stage clothing gave me a chuckle. But then again we ALL looked kinda funny back then. That's part of what's cool about viewing old videos. Once you get past that (and you will), you see the band at their beginning, making new fans out of new audiences.

It's a great sight to watch a talented group of musicians work together. Even though the band is virtually in their infancy, they are a tight, musical machine. Scheduled to go onstage at midnight, the band was bumped to 4 AM due to the extended jamming of the previous acts. It IS a jazz festival after all. But you would never know this after viewing the performance.

Opening with the aforementioned "Ice 9," Satriani, Hamm and Mover pound out an hour of what they do best. Spotlighting amazing guitar techniques, such as "hammer-ons" and "tapping," on songs like "Midnight," for instance, you get a great view into how flawless and effortless it seems for Satriani to accomplish his work. He really is a master at what he does.

His band steps up as well. Mover can plays drums in ANY style, and Satriani shifts gears from slow ballads to uptempo, shredding rockers. I had almost forgotten about Mover, because it has been quite a while since he's toured with Satriani. Hamm is showcased in "S.T.U." and does things with a bass that usually are done with a six-string.

The band finishes up the set in Montreux with a killer one-two punch of "Always With You, Always With Me" segueing into "Satch Boogie," showing two sides of Satriani's repertoire. The camera work and sound on this DVD are excellent, considering it was shot during the 80s with what would be considered primitive equipment, by today's standards. As a music lover and musician, I highly recommend adding this to your collection. You will not be disappointed.

~ Junkman

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