It’s hard to believe that it’s been 35 years since so many listeners first encountered the surfing alien that catapulted Joe Satriani to fame – not to mention his excellent “Not Of This Earth” the year before. Now, at album #19, “The Elephants of Mars” sees Satriani yet again upping his game, creating a “new standard” for his albums to reach and inhabit. His self-imposed higher quality control has certainly paid off: over an hour of music spanning 14 tracks which hit a breathtakingly wide range of styles. It’s Satriani as you know him at his best and yet still offering something new and refreshing. In other words, this is a must for his fans as well as an excellent stop to dip in if you haven’t been following closely the past 35 years.
The core rhythm section features Bryan Beller on bass and Kenny Aronoff on drums, though the keys of Rai Thistlethwayte brings in plenty of added colors and Eric Caudieux arranges symphonic orchestration for some truly epic moments. Mixed and Mastered by Greg Koller, the album sounds modern and yet earthy when needed. However, it’s likely Caudieux in the production seat which gives the album its special sauce.
Where “Elephants of Mars” excels most is in its relentless diversity. No two tracks are much alike which leads to a thrilling guessing game of where in the world the listener will arrive next. Lead-off track “Sahara” is utterly irresistible, saddle up your camel and giddy-up. “Pumpin’” delivers exactly what the title suggests, Beller’s bass percolating continually underneath as the keys and guitar take their moments on top, even occasionally hitting an Adrian Belew-esque elephant, before closing with tubular bells which could be a tip of the hat to ZZ Top’s “Heaven Hell or Houston”. “Blue Foot Groovy” serves up a relaxed but very satisfying jam whereas the title track is a searing, other-worldly freak out. “Doors of Perception” lives up to its psychedelic namesake with a middle-eastern vibe that provides the perfect contrast to the rest of the album, luxuriating more in rhythm and mystique than extended leads. And “E 104th St. NYC 1973” conjures up Santana’s “Red Prophet” while being one of the coolest tracks on the album, sounding like the band is just jamming in the studio together.
There are some classic Satch numbers here, like “Tension and Release” which excels at both melody and groove. “Faceless” is the main ballad on the album and an excellent one at that, Caudieux’s keyboard strings adding to the majesty of the sweep of Satriani’s playing. Toward the end we get more of Caudieux on the cinematic but dramatic “Through A Mother’s Day Darkly” which includes spoken word from Ned Evett and finally the sumptuous “Desolation” including a fully orchestrated canvas for Satriani to paint on. It’s a glorious way to close the album and leave us with the clear impression that this is one of Satch’s best.
Released By: earMusic
Release Date: April 8th, 2022
Genre: Instrumental Guitar / Rock
- Joe Satriani / Guitars
- Kenny Aronoff / Drums
- Bryan Beller / Bass
- Rai Thistlethwayte / Keyboards
- Eric Caudieux / Orchestrations
“The Elephants Of Mars” track listing:
2. The Elephants Of Mars
4. Blue Foot Groovy
5. Tension And Release
6. Sailing The Seas Of Ganymede
7. Doors of Perception
8. E 104th St NYC
10. Dance Of The Spores
11. Night Scene
12. Through A Mother’s Day Darkly
13. 22 Memory Lane
Excelling with its relentless diversity, “The Elephants of Mars” sees Satriani yet again upping his game, creating a “new standard” for guitar-oriented albums to reach and inhabit.