Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Joe Satriani Surfing With The Alien (1987)


I was 14 years old when Surfing With The Alien was released. For close to two years prior I had been doing my best to learn how to play the guitar — but I was not entirely unguided. My guitar teachers were all my LP heroes — Randy Rhoads, Ace Frehley, Frank Zappa, Jake E. Lee, Jeff Beck, Ted Nugent, and a 10-minute segment of audio from the movie Crossroads that I had extracted onto cassette tape via my brother-in-law’s Tascam 4-track and a set of RCA cables.

I’d record all of my favorite songs onto the 4-track, then turn down the tape speed by half and listen to them, doing my best to pick out what segments I could and attempt to mimic them on my $80 black Yamaha SE-110. Diary of a Madman, Blow by Blow, Alive II, The Wall, Masters of Reality — this was my curriculum.

Then Surfing With The Alien crash landed into my life like a UFO. Suddenly, my world as a budding guitarist was blown wide open. All of my preconceptions of what being a guitar player meant were changed in all of 38 minutes. I had a found a new teacher.

For someone as personally connected to this music as I am, it’s difficult to select stand-out tracks. But there’s a reason why I’m so taken by it all. Contained herein are ten dizzyingly diverse tracks of guitar virtuosity. From the otherworldly rock-n-roll jam of the eponymous opening track, to the spacious and brooding “Echo,” Surfing is a seriously amazing instrumental album!

I’ve been humming “Always With Me, Always With You” for twenty years, warming up my fingers by playing the Van Halen-esque “Satch Boogie,” and sharpening my flexibility attempting to recreate “Midnight.” But unlike when listening to other guitar virtuoso/shredfest instrumental albums, you don’t need to be a guitarist or even a musician to appreciate the timeless tunes on Surfing With The Alien.

The Legacy Edition is a two-disc set that features remastered audio, live concert footage, music videos, a forward and liner-notes written by Joe Satriani with individual track-by-track stories, where he tells stories like how a friends newborn child inspired “Echo,” and about one of his heroes Kurt Vonnegut, who inspired the blusey “Ice 9,” and more.

Disc two features an hour-long video performance by the trio of Satriani, bassist Stu Hamm, and drummer Jonathan Mover from the Montreux Jazz Festival, filmed shortly after the release of Surfing with the Alien. Highlights from the concert include loads of majestic fretwork by Satriani, extremely welcome close-ups of the mind-blowing, finger-tapping opus “Midnight,” and an amazing classically-infused bass solo from Hamm. The disc also contains an “interview” with Spinal Tap guitarist Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest), and the videos for both “Satch Boogie” and “Always With You, Always With Me.”

Take it from somebody who knows … I’ve had this album for 20 years and if you have too, don’t hesitate, pick up this reissue. And for all you aspiring young guitarists out there, this CD/DVD is a mandatory addition to your collection.

March 10, 2013 - Posted by | Joe Satriani Surfing With The Alien |

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