Saturday, October 24, 2015

Joe Satriani - 1986 "Not Of This Earth"

Not of This Earth is the first studio album by guitarist Joe Satriani, released in 1986 through Relativity Records.

In the liner notes, Satriani provides a brief introduction to himself and the background behind Not of This Earth. He states that his goal was "to make a 'guitar-record' that would be enjoyed by all; not just a 'guitar-chops-record' but one with real music on it." He also mentions the recording of a follow-up album which he promises "will turn heads, drop jaws and create world peace in our lifetime!"; this would become his 1987 breakthrough smash hit Surfing with the Alien.
The album uses electronic drums rather than acoustic drums. The title track utilizes a unique compositional technique described by Satriani as pitch axis theory, which consists of shifting modes underneath a pedal tone (in this case, E). "The Enigmatic" uses the enigmatic scale. "Rubina" is one of two tracks named after his wife, the other being "Rubina's Blue Sky Happiness" on The Extremist (1992). "The Headless Horseman" is performed entirely using a two-handed tapping technique, and was revisited in the form of "Headless" on Flying in a Blue Dream (1989).

Not of This Earth was the first studio release from guitar wizard Joe Satriani (not counting the hard-to-find Joe Satriani EP). This all-instrumental album was making ripples in the guitar-playing community not long after it was released, and it's easy to see why: superior compositions, a signature style, a unique tone, and playing that's out of this world. Satriani shifts musical gears deftly, often layering multiple tracks together to make a complex soundscape. The fiery sound of "Not of This Earth" and "Hordes of Locusts" is tempered by the cool, dark tone of "Driving at Night," the far-out Eastern approach of "The Snake," and the quiet, thoughtful "Rubina." Satriani's fluid playing and wicked licks are enough to drop jaws and widen eyes. There isn't a weak track on this disc, even though the guitarist was still maturing when he released it. 

Not of This Earth was Joe Satriani's debut album and wow. This is an eclectic collection of songs. Since Satch didn't have a ton of money to make this recording the songs have simple drums/percussion and he plays bass on the tracks as well as the guitar.I don't think that those two things make a difference. This is simply one of the greatest debut albums by anybody period. The title track is simplistic but it is a good introduction to a guitarist with his own style."The Headless Horseman" is a technique driven tune but it is also a lot of fun. One can picture the title character riding through the night creating mayhem. "Rubina" is dedicated to his wife and contains a great use of mood in the intro, a nice melody and one of the most emotional solos ever recorded. "The Snake" is Satch at his funky best. "Driving at Night" is the tune that, even if you didn't know the title of the song, would be the one to listen to on the expressway. Joe shows that he is an artist by painting a musical picture of pounding the pedal to the floor. He does break out some blinding licks but the song isn't about technique it is all about creating a picture through sound. This is one of Joe's best songs and it is dissapointing that he hasn't played it live since the first tour."The Enigmatic" is named after the mode that it uses. Joe sounds like Holdsworth at times but he does add his own flavor to the legato laced tune. This is one of Joe's wildest creations. This disc shows how music can give mental pictures from the audio. Joe is an artist in every sense of the word on this Cd and any guitarist or musician that doesn't own it should buy it immediately.

Joe Satriani's debut, Not Of This Earth is many things. One of the greatest debut albums in history. One of the greatest and most innovative Instrumental Guitar Rock albums in history. And certainly one of the most influential albums ever. When this came out no one played Guitar like Joe Satriani did. In 1988 this album was nothing less than mindblowing and revolutionary. I would be safe to say that had he lived even Jimi Hendrix's jaw would have dropped over some of the songs on Not Of This Earth, it's truly that amazing.

Contrary to what most people think, Not Of This Earth is not the first album realeased by Joe Satriani. A very first EP named Joe Satriani was released in 1984, but he quicly became unavailable and instead of produce it again, Relativity Records prefered but the songs on the Time Machine album, in 1993.

In 1986  the first “real” album of Satch was released, and for a first attempt, it’s such a nice album! The particular style of this guitar player from San Francisco is already very present, and we can hear in the very first chords of the CD the premises of the next albums, an extraordinary fluidity in his playing, dexterity, an unusual technic and a good dose of feeling that places him above all guitar-heroes.

The emotion is everywhere in the Joe Satriani’s music, listen to « Rubina » to realise. The album is of course full of solo because his music is mostly intrumental but people who are open and that know what is the quality shall appreciate it.

Joe Satriani alternates between the funky rhythm on « The Snake », a brooding atmosphere « Hordes Of Locusts », « Driving At Night » that illustrates well this feeling or even a crazy-country-blues-rodeo on «The Headless Horseman  », the two-handed tapping that close the album. Satriani went further in the guitar revolution that was initiated by Hendrix, extended by Jeff Beck, Eddie Van Halen and associates.
However, we can notice two bad things on this album, the production that is certainly not up to the high-level of Joe, and a too much important place given to the rhythm box.

But at least Not Of This Earth stays a true delight, but the best is yet to come. On the internal sleeve of the CD, Joe anounced that he’s working on a new album which, so he said, will blow evenyone minds.

I first heard this CD some time ago and didn't really take to it. Being a fan of his more commercial efforts - such as 1988's 'Surfing With The Alien' - I was expecting something along the same line: bone-crushing riffs, soaring 'in your face' solos and those infamous hooks that are synonymous with the name Joe Satriani. Instead I got something else - something that turned me away at first, yet kept clawing at me to come back and give this album another spin. One day, it all suddenly clicked with me. 'Not Of This Earth' is a wonderful combination of melody, feel and, yes, crunching guitar lines (even if they aren't as obvious as some of his other efforts). Other than those however, is a certain intangible quality; something I can't quite put my finger on... This album just creates a certain mood - an aura - that is something special. I'm sorry I couldn't describe it very well - music can be a very insular thing!

First up we have the title song 'Not Of This Earth', the world's introduction to Satriani. His weird lead phasing combined with the odd traditional (I use this term quite loosely) lick makes this piece quite interesting; it is also one of the first tastes of the 'pitch-axis theory' in rock music.

Next comes 'The Snake' which can be described in one word: funky. Seriously funky. Satriani is really grooving on some chords here and the experimental stuff half way through shows how creative Satch can be, as he explores an odd array of dive bombs, pick scratches, two-handed tapping and heavy-metal riffing. Also the pentatonic leads in this song, although minimalist, are very tasteful and apt.

'Rubina' seems to be one of the favourites off this album and, to tell the truth, it's quite easy to see why. Beautiful chord progressions and a gorgeous solo; the 'Live In San Francisco' version is even better.

'Memories' is one of Satch's most overlooked songs, if you ask me. It also contains a *fantastic* guitar solo. It doesn't jump right out at you at first, but if you pay attention there is some truly amazing playing going on.

'Brother John' is a nice little finger-picked piece.

'The Enigmatic' is, as another reviewer said, named after the mode it's in. It appeals to me quite a lot, because it's just so rare for something like this to be played in Satriani's 'genre' (or whatever you want to call it). It features an almost 'out-of-control' tempo and there is some really strange legato soloing going on; almost sounds like Allan Holdsworth playing heavy metal.

'Driving At Night' is, as many reviewers have put it, is a perfectly apt title; another underrated piece in the Satriani catalogue.

'Hordes Of Locusts' has some crunching metal riffs, and probably the heaviest on the album. Probably one of the better cuts, although I personally prefer 'Rubina', 'Memories' and 'The Snake'. 'New Day' is a nice pseudo-send-off - like many songs on this album this doesn't exactly jump out at you, but if you just listen, you will hear Joe's sensitivity shine through, especially at about a minute-and-a-half in.

The album ends with 'The Headless Horseman, a piece comprised solely of two-handed tapping. Personally I feel it's one of the weaker tracks, but is still welcome, even if it doesn't match 'Midnight' off the subsequent album.

If you are new to Satriani, then you should probably pick up 'Surfing With The Alien' or 'The Extremist' first (both excellent albums). However, if you have those or just want to hear some good, tasteful and creative guitar playing, then pick this up. Who knows, you may be surprised. Joe Satriani really is Not of This Earth!

Track listing

All music composed by Joe Satriani.
No.     Title     Length
1.     "Not of This Earth"       4:04
2.     "The Snake"       4:43
3.     "Rubina"       5:56
4.     "Memories"       4:06
5.     "Brother John"       2:10
6.     "The Enigmatic"       3:26
7.     "Driving at Night"       3:33
8.     "Hordes of Locusts"       4:59
9.     "New Day"       3:52
10.     "The Headless Horseman"       1:53
Total length:
    38:42

Personnel

    Joe Satriani – guitar, keyboard, percussion, bass, production
    John Cuniberti – vocals (track 10), percussion, engineering, mixing, production
    Jeff Campitelli – drums, percussion, DX, whistle

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