Saturday, March 2, 2013

Screamin' Guitars

"Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll."  When I was a kid that was the mantra of most teenage boys...and unless you were there you can't prove otherwise...

OK, so I wax nostalgic for a time when the music was loud, the guitars were screamin', life was nothing but a series of sunrises and sunsets, and time was on endless supply...youth truly is wasted on the young.  But while most of the girls were swooning over the velvet sounds of Chicago and the boys were banging their heads to Black Sabbath, I was somewhere in between.  I like loud, shredding guitar--don't get me wrong.  I just get bored with bands that set the amps on 12 and play loud for the sake of playing least that was how I justified my position then and I stand by that today.

A lot of guitarists--good guitarists--can play loud and fast with the best of them.  Just find me a player who can not only make the guitar scream but can also make it sing, and that is the amp I will set my beer on.  I will admit there were many times I simply played the stereo loud to piss off my parents; heck that was easy...the challenge in my head was to find something to get under their skin with that was really loud and worth listening to.  As I have grown I have gained a larger appreciation for metal...but metal done more in the progressive style...from King Crimson to Porcupine Tree.  As a youth I listened to a lot of "heavy metal" but was never really a huge fan...what can I say?

While I have always been a fan of the guitar, I have not always walked in lock-step with the masses.  I respect many players who I don't necessarily want to sit and listen to.  A quick flip through the vinyl (and plastic) in my collection may surprise the average listener as much for what is there as for what is not.  Lots of Stones, Clash, The Band, King Crimson, Dream Theater, Yes, Talking Heads, ELP, and Steely Dan among others...but no Led Zeppelin or Who.  I accept that these bands helped define a generation; it's just that the novelty of  listening to "Stairway to Heaven" 17 times a day wore off fast for me...

So today I turn it up a bit and take a listen to some "intelligent" guitar.  I have been busy digging through my boxes of vinyl looking for something that will take me back to a favorite past time; sitting up on the back of the sofa with the lights off as I traveled to the show.  Of course, I shall refrain from holding up a lit lighter in my own house.  This will not be my only trip to "Planet Guitar;" there are too many great players to try and squeeze into one post and besides, it's my blog...

Joe Satriani is one of those rare guitar players who can play anything, anytime, anywhere.  He mixes smooth riffs with "in-your-face" shredding while allowing the listener to just stop thinking and enjoy the ride.  I consider Satriani to be in a class with John Petrucci, Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen, Eric Johnson, and Adrian Belew.  Perhaps a few others--but very few.  Technically proficient and not afraid to venture into new territory, Satriani has set a standard for rock 'n' roll guitar playing that few will reach. He has been student, player, and teacher; inspired to pick up the axe when he was 14 by the death Jimi Hendrix.

Satriani has played with the well known and the well respected.  He was Mick Jagger's guitar player on Jagger's first solo tour in 1988 and has also worked with Robert Fripp.  Satriani appears in the credits of  many a band's album playing guitar, adding background vocals, and as producer.

I believe Joe is a fan of science fiction based on the names of his albums and songs..."Surfing with the Alien", "Not of this Earth", "Borg Sex", and "Back to Shalla-Bal" all seem like references to something a bit "extra-terrestrial..."  I am just glad he chose Mother Earth as the launching pad for his career.  Joe has also recently been involved with the band Chickenfoot, whose first release came out in 2009.

I chose "Surfing with the Alien" for this post because I like the way Satriani uses the guitar to its fullest.  Joe squeezes everything musically there is out of his instrument and then goes back for just a bit more--he has truly learned from his inspiration.  This particular version is a live cut, which is usually preferred when the sound quality is as superior as this one. Watching Satriani play gives me the definite impression he plays guitar because that is what he was born to do--much like why Rembrandt painted and DeNiro acts.

So sit back, dim the lights, climb the sofa, and take a ride to that concert hall in can even hold up a lighter if you are so inclined...

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