26 September 2023


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Reviewed by Ian Phillips.

By Joe Satriani, Sony Music/Legacy Recordings 2020.

Shapeshifting is the 18th studio album released by legendary guitarist Joe Satriani in his nearly 35-year career.

The idea for the album came out of exploring a central theme of change, hence the album title.

With this in mind he set about exploring different sounds and techniques and by the time he had amassed the 13 tracks that comprise the finished product he commented that “It sounds like there are 15 different guitar players… It sounds like I’m moving into an area where each melody requires me to almost be somebody else.”

And it is certainly true that each track is substantially different from the preceding one.

This album is Joe Satriani at his most creative.

Not only are his guitar sounds and techniques extraordinary but his compositions are some of the most melodic that he’s ever produced.

To realise his vision he enlisted the help of a wide range of collaborators.

To the central band of drummer Kenny Aronoff, bassist Chris Chaney and multi-instrumentalist Eric Caudieux he added the talents of keyboardist Lisa Coleman (The Revolution) and Christopher Guest, along with the remarkable engineering and production talents of Jim Scott (Foo Fighters, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers) who co-produced the album along with Satriani.

Joe Satriani has always been eclectic.

Unlike many of his contemporaries who so completely inhabit one genre that they become inseparable from it, Joe happily moves between genres, often lingering in the cracks and dark corners separating them, searching for something new.

In a track like Perfect Dust he takes from Texas boogie to tinges of rockabilly to avant-garde and back again on a journey that is seamless.

Nineteen Eighty opens with a classic heavy metal motif before morphing into a power rock anthem with a vaguely familiar pop chorus.

These may seem crazy mixes but it’s all a natural part of the exploration process for Satriani.

Satriani, along with the remarkable Jeff Beck, is still a class above the plethora of outstanding guitarists snapping at his (their) heels.

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