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Strange Beautiful Music
--über-axeman Joe Satriani's eighth studio album (following on from the acclaim of Grammy-nudging Engines of Creation
)--begins strangely and doesn't get beautiful until a third of the way through. Perhaps that's the result of a too-conscious effort to be that most elusive of things, "different". Openers "Oriental Melody" and "Belly Dancer" are every bit as Middle East as their titles suggest, but Satriani abandons this odd style with the kind of audacious whimsy that only a multi-million selling guitarist can do three tracks in, with the infinitely more interesting "Starry Night". It's semi-acoustic with a much simpler arrangement, which demonstrates that, in this genre especially, less can definitely be more.
His contemporaries have all carved out niches for themselves--from Santana's Latino-flecked demented noodling to Steve Vai's very strange but often very beautiful projects. However, no matter what Satriani tries (unless a completely acoustic album is on the cards--that would be interesting) there's nothing much a lead guitarist can really do to make things "different"--it's the same highly strung guitar with a scattering of strange effects--and at the end of the day they all sound like a buzzing Brian May with the capo on the eighth fret. If he really wanted to be different then he should have just hooked up a battered Jazzmaster to an overdrive and a fuzzbox, or unplugged altogether. --Ben Johncock