Last update Dec 13, 2014


It's been 20 years since guitar monster Joe Satriani shook the world with his debut solo release, Not of This Earth. But when we broke this news to Satch himself, he couldn't believe it.

"Wow," he marvels. "I had no idea." Quickly he logs onto his website, "Whaddya know! You're absolutely right!"

Of course, this just proves that Satriani isn't the type to look back especially when he's got something like Super Colossal on his mind.

Who can blame him? Even in a catalog that's overflowing with some of the most amazing six-string wizardry ever documented, Super Colossal, his newest Epic release, stands out. Whether you're a connoisseur of the guitaristic arts or someone who simply digs great grooves and passion in music, this CD lives up to its name.

In fact, though Satriani has had a dream career that's ranged from building a reputation as the teacher that the greatest guitarists sought out for lessons, to exploding all over the map with more than ten million sales of 11 solo albums

(two platinum, four gold), 13 Grammy nominations, 3 platinum DVD's, the historic G3 guitar summits, and tours/sessions with everyone from Mick Jagger to Deep Purple to Spinal Tap, Super Colossal is an unprecedented achievement.

Why? Because it's about more than playing guitar.

It's about the magic in music.

More precisely, it's about finding that sweet spot where sweeping gestures and a craftsman's attention to detail enrich each other.

You hear it in the title track's thundering, foot-stomp beat and intricately textured lead line, in the spiritual intensity of "A Love Eternal" and the raucous, party-down exhilaration of "Crowd Chant, and in the cinematic menace of "One Robot's Dream."

And especially, you feel it because Satriani is digging down, finding the right note and letting it fly, and focusing more on touching hearts than blowing minds.

Super Colossal, then, completes his transformation, long in progress, from stunning instrumentalist to fully-realized artist.

"People who picked up on my records early on knew that I couldn't be easily pigeonholed," Satriani says. "I was never a metal player or a fusion player or a straight-ahead rock player, though these are all elements of my personality. I think I just go further into each of those places now, especially on Super Colossal. To me, there's more variety here than on any other album I've done."

The title reflects the ambition that Satriani brought to this project from its first conceptual glimmer. In the spring of 2005 he was winding down the tour behind his previous album, Is There Love in Space?, a marathon that had him playing 115 shows in 25 countries over 14 months. His plan was to head home to San Francisco, after the last show in India, wrap up a few projects the G3 Live in Tokyo DVD, music for a NASCAR video game and then start cutting a live CD.

Maybe that was his road adrenaline talking, for once he allowed himself a short vacation a different picture took shape. "It dawned on me that I didn't want to do that live album right now," he explains. "In fact, I was totally against it. Instead, I wanted to stay in my little cave my home studio and build a beautiful but powerful record, one that sounds big on the surface but also has details hidden inside that you hear after listening for maybe the tenth time."

With that, Satriani combed through more than 30 of his latest songs. As he whittled this list down, he backed away even further from the live concept, to the point that he decided to do the record, aside from the drum tracks, on his own. "I couldn't let any of them go," he admits.

And so the hard work began. In early morning and late evening sessions, recording digitally in the cozy facility he'd built next to his son's playroom, shaping each sound carefully through familiar and new equipment, Satriani addressed his songs, beginning with a guide track that he'd lay down on electronic drums. The keyboard and guitar followed, with the bass coming in at the end. The further he got, the better he felt about working on his own.

"When you're a multi-instrumentalist, layering each part, you have lots of time to reflect," he says. "After a few months you're dying to take the music out in front of an audience and slam it out. But the opportunity to get really subtle and delicate exists only when you're recording these songs for the first time. Also, you learn from it. You're fully engaged, so that you wake up in the middle of the night thinking about it. You worry and agonize over every detail, but six months later all that fades and you're in love with what you've done."

This attention to detail shines throughout Super Colossal. Encouraged by the sounds he was discovering through the interplay of instrument, amp, speaker simulators, and processors, Satriani found ways to express himself through long notes, perfectly selected and caressed, as well as the occasional blinding run. "It was a journey for me to play a song like 'Ten Words,' he points out, "to learn how to be restrained. You're not just wailing. It's hard to make an instrumental that really says something, that's not just background music or some superficial 'get up and dance' thing. There's nothing wrong with either of those forms; it's just that I'm not doing that. I'm going deeper.

"Besides, after making records for now that you've pointed it out 20 years," he adds, just a bit wryly, "I'd feel bad if somebody said, 'Man, you're just playing indiscriminately.' You're supposed to get better and to learn how to make the music work, and sometimes that does mean laying back and really speaking through your guitar instead of treating it as a vehicle that lets you play really fast, which increasingly means less and less to me."

After finishing his tracks, he sent them out for live drum overdubs: Four "A Cool New Way," "One Robot's Dream," "The Meaning of Love," and "Made of Tears" went to session giant Simon Phillips in L.A.; the rest were cut by Satriani's longtime associate Jeff Campitelli in Vancouver, at The Armoury, a studio that co-Producer Mike Fraser (AC/DC) had recommended. The acoustics of its main room yielded exactly what Satriani wanted for the rhythm track: a big, brawny resonance that complemented the power of his most aggressive lines, and a rich whisper for softer moments.

"I wanted a sound that was complex and emotional but never revealed the technology behind it," the guitarist explains. "As a result I managed to find the best guitar tones I've ever put on record. The sound of this album, the incredible variety that somehow fits under this umbrella of Super Colossal, makes it special in my book.

"And," he reminds us, "I didn't even know I was celebrating 20 years."


2006 Sony/Epic Records

Epic Records    Sony Music Entertainment Inc.



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