Professor Satchafunkilus and the Musterion of Rock
In 1987, Joe Satriani’s sophomore effort, Surfing With The Alien broke into the Billboard Top 40, a place no instrumental album had gone so boldly before. Now, over twenty years later - and after having made instrumental guitar albums a lot less niche in the meanwhile – Satch has released his 12th studio album. Professor Satchfunkilus and the Musterion of Rock might be quite a mouthful when it comes to the name, but it’s an album that’s quite accessible to most fans of this genre of music. And that’s where the ‘problem’ might lie – many of the tracks on Professor Satchfunkilus… might sound like stuff you have heard on his earlier albums; which is not necessarily a bad thing. Just that one has come to expect the unexpected from Satch.
So ‘Musterion,’ and ‘Overdriver’ - both out and out rockers and brilliant ones at that - sound like tracks that could have found place on 1989’s Flying in a Blue Dream or 1992’s The Extremist. ‘I Just Wanna Rock’ is the quintessential stadium rocker, designed for the crowd to chant along with. But hey Joe, you already used that device in the rather unimaginatively-titled ‘Crowd Chant’ from 2006’s Super Colossal.
But give this CD a few spins and you will discover some absolute beauties on the album that will justify your putting hard-earned cash on the table. ‘Professor Satchafunkilus’ that kicks off with a fluttering saxophone part by Satriani’s son ZZ, has a nice and funky groove to it. ‘Diddle-Y-A-Doo-Dat’ is a quirky number that instantly reminds you of Satch’s once-student and now-friend, Steve Vai. Then there is the regulation ballad, ‘Come On Baby’, a paean of love for his wife Rubina. Despite the cheesy name, this is one helluva melody. As is ‘Out of the Sunrise’ with its soaring guitarlines. The best one of the lot, though, would have to be ‘Andalusia.’ It starts off with an acoustic six-string and hand claps. But as you go on to discover soon enough, the deceptive acoustic passage is tantalisingly short – just after the timer hits 2 minutes, Satch slips into a barrage of electric notes on his Ibanez. ‘Andalusia’ – one of the two tracks dedicated to Turkish saz player, Asik Veysel – is unique in that it’s not very often that Satriani picks up an acoustic guitar. In fact, I don’t remember the last time he did that on an album.
So what’s the verdict on the album? There should be no question about whether you really need to pick it up. You should. But lower your expectations just that wee bit. For just this once, hopefully.
© Bobin James/Rolling Stone India, 2008