Joe Satriani – Surfing With The Alien

More Joe Satriani

  • Joe Satriani’s sophomore release finally arrives on the site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Trust me on this one – you’re going to have a difficult and (and expensive!) adventure trying to find a great sounding copy of this album on your own
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Joe Satriani’s 1987 breakthrough can be seen as the gold standard for guitar playing of the mid- to late ’80s, an album that captures everything that was good about the glory days of shred.”

This original Relativity pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What the Best Sides of Surfing With The Alien Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes even as late as 1987
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

What We’re Listening For on Surfing With The Alien

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Surfing With The Alien
Ice 9
Crushing Day
Always With Me, Always With You
Satch Boogie

Side Two

Hill Of The Skull
Circles
Lords Of Karma
Midnight
Echo

AMG 4 1/2 Star Review

Surfing with the Alien belongs to its era like Are You Experienced? belongs to its own — perhaps it doesn’t transcend its time the way the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s 1967 debut does, but Joe Satriani’s 1987 breakthrough can be seen as the gold standard for guitar playing of the mid- to late ’80s, an album that captures everything that was good about the glory days of shred. Certainly, Satriani was unique among his peers in that his playing was so fluid that his technical skills never seemed like showboating — something that was somewhat true of his 1986 debut, Not of This Earth, but on Surfing with the Alien he married this dexterity to a true sense of melodic songcraft, a gift that helped him be that rare thing: a guitar virtuoso who ordinary listeners enjoyed.

Nowhere is this more true than on “Always with Me, Always with You,” a genuine ballad — not beefed up with muscular power chords but rather sighing gently with its melody — but this knack was also evident on the ZZ Top homage “Satch Boogie” and the title track itself, both of which turned into rock radio hits. This melodic facility, plus his fondness for a good old-fashioned three-chord rock, separated Satriani from his shredding peers in 1987, many of whom were quite literally his students. But he was no throwback: he equaled his former students Steve Vai and Kirk Hammett in sweep picking and fretboard acrobatics and he had a sparkling, spacy quality to some of his songs — particularly the closing stretch of the Middle Eastern-flavored “Lords of Karma,” the twinkling “Midnight,” and “Echo” — that was thoroughly modern for 1987.

The production of Surfing with the Alien is also thoroughly of its year — stiff drumbeats, sparkling productions — so much so that it can seem a bit like a relic from another era, but it’s fine that it doesn’t transcend its time: it captures the best of its era and is still impressive in that regard.

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