Album review: JOE SATRIANI – Shapeshifting

JOE SATRIANI - Shapeshifting

Sony Music [Release date 10.04.20]

We’ve always commented on the energy displayed by Satriani not least sustained during a two hour live show.  Recent albums have been pretty convincing too.  That energy permeates this latest offering and will surely translate again to his rearranged shows in 2021.

Satriani remains a master of instrumental guitar performance and his strengths lie in the ability to fashion distinctive songs with lots of melody.  His past few albums usually offer up one or two gems in this respect.

On ‘Shapeshifting’ there is more of a loose jam feel that was creeping in previously – as displayed by the title track whilst ‘Big Distortion’ and  ‘Nineteen Eighty’ have understandably been pulled as early preview tracks and both are arena pleasers.

‘All For Love’ is characterised by moody orchestration and lyrical guitar work but there is no real chorus and it’s all over in less than three minutes.

‘Teardrops’ continues the slower, groovier feel along with ‘Falling Stars’.  The latter piece is the funkiest – and perhaps even the standout – but with only a hint of an attractive chorus. Another atmospheric piece – ‘Waiting’ – is again all too short but lifted by Eric Caudieux’s reflective piano figures.

‘Ali Farka, Dick Dale, an Alien and Me’ at least continues the tradition of strange song titles. With its percussive flavours  it owes something to Santana and evokes their Woodstock fiesta.  ‘Perfect Duet’ is another upbeat multi-tracked jam that we’ve become well used to but ‘All My Friends Are Here’ (and the cod-reggae ‘Here The Blue River’) are really very ordinary and inconsequential. The jam feel continues on ‘Spirits, Ghosts And Outlaws’.

There’s usually a curveball that doesn’t really sit with the rest of the album.  And that curveball arrives as the last track, the hillbilly shuffle ‘Yesterday’s Yesterday’.

At times you can’t help thinking that some of the songs are mere frameworks to show that Satch has lost none of his style or technique.  Band members (Caudieux, Kenny Aronoff and Chris Chaney) are fully supportive but this is Satch’s show so there are no wild keyboard solos to counter his wild guitar excursions or to bring him back to earth.  This is a shame.  And the jamming doesn’t really go on long enough to get into a real groove or wig out.

Like many artists of his stature Satriani never turns in a really duff album.  But to be painfully honest, most of this album isn’t that memorable.  Yes, a few songs will pad out a new setlist.  And, yes, it might be rude to expect another ‘Memories’  a ‘Why’ or even ‘The Crush Of Love’.  There’s no doubt it repays a few listens but song for song this album doesn’t match the consistency of either What Happens Next (2017) or Shockwave Supernova (2015).   One for fans, mainly.  ***1/2

Review by David Randall

Rescheduled European dates 2021

April 9        Zurich, Switzerland    Volkshaus Zurich
April 10     Winterbach, Germany    Salierhalle
April 12     Aarhus, Denmark    Train
April 13    Odense, Denmark    Posten
April 14    Copenhagen, Denmark    Amager Bio
April 15    Stockholm, Sweden    Fryshuset
April 16     Oslo, Norway    Rockefeller
April 19     Berlin, Germany    Huxleys
April 20    Nuremberg, Germany    Löwensaal
April 21     Karlsruhe, Germany    Tollhaus
April 23    Antwerp, Belgium    De Roma Borgerhout
April 24     Enschede, Netherlands    Muziekcentrum Enschede
April 25     Amsterdam, Netherlands    Melkweg the max
April 26    Heerlen, Netherlands    RABOzaal Heerlen
April 27     Oberhausen, Germany    Turbinenhalle
April 30    Birmingham Symphony Hall
May 1         Bexhill De La Warr Pavilion
May 2         Manchester Bridgewater Hall
May 4         London Palladium
May 5        Sage Gateshead
May 6        Glasgow O2 Academy


In his show broadcast on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio on 10 May David Randall played a further selection of artists and albums included in the new Features series, “2020 Vision”.


Listen in to Get Ready to ROCK! Radio…
Click the appropriate icons at the top of the page.

Featured Albums w/c 25 May (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 FM Synchronized (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 THE ROCKET DOLLS The Art Of Disconnect (indie)
14:00-16:00 BEN KUNDER Searching For The Stranger (indie)

Power Plays w/c 11 May (Mon-Fri)

THE MERCY KILLS Alone (Golden Robot Records)
DEAD REYNOLDS By Your Side (indie)
THE JAILBIRDS Watery Grave (Golden Robot Records)
ALI MASS & MICKY MOODY These Times (Last Man Music)
MASSIVE WAGONS Bangin In Your Stereo (Earache)
UDO We Are One (AFM Records)



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