There's not much to explain about these songs, really, them being instrumentals. But Joe names his songs so perfectly. So when you listen to Surfing With The Alien, you actually picture an extraterrestrial riding the waves (or browsing the internet together?). Joe is at his best when he's not showing off (there are some interesting but imminently shelvable tracks, there are others that are just meant to show off his prowess - such as Midnight, which is tap-happy), and he plays with incredible emotion.
Satch has never really had a 'down' stage in his career. There was a phase where he experimented with vocals (a decent experiment in my opinion, but yielded nothing remarkable), but like all great bands, had a purple patch - from his 2nd to 5th albums, which was critically and popularly acclaimed.
Satriani has a lot of very melodic, sweet passages (make that SWEEEEEEET!), which I like to call Joegasms. There are plenty, particularly in his slower songs, and I'll point them out as we go along.
Here's my 20.
20. Asik Veysel: One of his tributes to the blind Turkish minstrel of the same name. Also with some lovely basswork by Matt Bissonette. It's probably just a little tad too long at 7:42, which is rare, because Satch generally has a lovely sense of knowing when to stop playing.
19. War: There's a lot of frenetic doom in this piece, and images of warriors atop horses come to mind. Off one of his most acclaimed albums, The Extremist. A lot of Satch's work has been used elsewhere, and this is an example - Disney used this to promote Power Rangers at their theme parks.
18. Rubina: From his first album, a lovely slow piece dedicated to his wife. Surefire cig-lighter concert moment.
17. Premonition: Off his last album, this a lovely example of how he manages to sound emotive at high tempos. Joegasm moment from 0:48 to 0:57 (of course, you'll realise that all Joegasms sound better when they're played fully in song, rather than just fast forwarding to the good bits).
16. Made Of Tears: Mid-tempo masterpiece, and he makes it clear here how vital the backing guitar is as he launches off into one of his speed-to-feel solos.
15. Surfing With The Alien: Great use of effects, very surfy, indeed. Lots of his technical skills on show here. Emotion-seekers stay away. Contrary to popular opinion, it's not really about the Silver Surfer, it just so happened that the alien on the cover of the album resembled him. Of course, in an instrumental, what's supposed to be 'about' is more subjective than usual...
14. The Traveler: This one slowly grows on you, particularly the portion from 1:20.
13. Cryin': With a name like that, you'd expect him to make his guitar cry in a soft setting. That's pretty much what happens. It's also strangely uplifting in a way, almost like how you feel better after a good bawl in your room.
12. The Forgotten (Part 2): Forget part 1. This is a total masterpiece. It's got blazing stuff, slow stuff, everything. Just listen.
11. Satch Boogie: Another bag of pretty fast tricks. Probably the closest thing to a headbanger you'll get on a Satch album.
10. Starry Night: Allmusic called this an attempt to recreate another masterpiece (#2 on this list). I agree. But that song by itself is so good that any derivative is bound to be decent, at worst.
09. The Crush Of Love: Taken off a mini-album, and an explosive opening. Wah lovers rejoice. It's easy to see why Hammett was so obsessed with the effect.
08. Crushing Day: With a nice crunchy riff, the song begins and explodes in a smorgasbord of riffs, shreds and pretty much everything that could be done on a guitar. Old school, fast Satch here. Surfing much like the album says.
07. Memories: Joegasm from 0:22 to 0:32. Lovely. See if you can hear this song without some image of childhood flashing up. You wonder how he does that, this oh-so-perfect naming of instrumentals.
06. Secret Prayer: I love the buildup on this one. And the tone he uses is so smooth. Bassist Stu Hamm, often overshadowed by Satch, shines here if you pay attention (or have super earphones. Haha!). Particularly the dual outro.
Right, the big boys now.
05. Andalusia: This was a tribute to Veysel, as well. Starts off nice and folksily, before going off in a typical Joe fashion. But the real reason I love this song is because it has probably the best basswork on a Satriani song, so Matt Bissonette, take a bow!
04. Crystal Planet: The first time I heard this, I jumped out of my seat in a bus in Chennai. That intro! And this time, it's Stu Hamm blowing minds away on bass.
03. Why: Beats me why more people don't know this. What a brilliant piece. Joegasm at 0:25 to 0:41. Yes, he starts off his solo with a Joegasm. It's hard to think why anyone would hate this song. Like a comment on that YouTube video asks, "Why did 5 deaf people open this video?". The video itself seems to have created a mini-meme of sorts in the comments. Satriani just toys with his guitar and produces magic, much like VVS Laxman at his best.
02. Always With Me, Always With You: The song everyone knows. And for good reason. A sappy ballad, even by instrumental standards, but the cheesiest part is the name. This is a great intro for anyone trying to initiate someone else into instrumental rock or just rock in general. Plenty of harmonics, speed and tapping here, makes it a technical masterpiece as well.
Hold on, if that's #2, what's #1?
01. Lights of Heaven: What's that, you ask? Just a rippin' brilliant track off Crystal Planet. Yes, I know it doesn't warrant a place in SongMeanings' list, but then that's the fun of discovering a relatively obscure gem. What's not to love? The intro, the buildup, BRILLIANT basswork by Hamm, and that Joegasm from 0:53 to... Well, when he stops playing.
Gotta love that man, Satch.