Joe Satriani – Unstoppable Momentum


Review by Brian McGowan

Epic Records

At first glance, Satriani’s choice of musicians with whose help he recorded Unstoppable Momentum seems very revealing: Chris Chaney, bass, most recently of Jane’s Addiction; Mike Kenneally, keyboards, long time Frank Zappa’s “stunt” guitarist and keyboard man; and finally, Vinnie Colaiuta, who’s played with a few, notably Zappa, Asia, Wang Chung and Allan Holdsworth. Collectively, then, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Satriani had wired himself to the moon, appropriating various avant-garde artists and Progrock illuminati en route ready for some postmodern, cosmic freakout full of sonic improvisation. But you’d be wrong. There are no radical reinventions or bold new experiments in form here, and in a way that’s disappointing. Maybe Satriani has squeezed out all of his off-the-wall pretensions (helped by Hagar) and is now content to be creative inside the envelope. Once you accept that, Unstoppable Momentum is a joy to behold, and in no way do we feel shortchanged. His music has always been a mix of the visceral and the lyrical, with some moody introspection thrown in. In that sense, this album (his fourteenth) is no different.

Ironically, the title track and ’American Dreamer’ have the same sensation of melody and depth of feeling as something you might attribute to Eddie Van Halen. Dazzlingly simple, edgy and not obviously lyrical, though the emotional expression of the axe work is eloquent enough. It’s a quality repeated throughout the album, with powerful images and memorable melodies deployed with absolute precision, from the Celtic ethnicity of the Keaggy like ‘Stone On Your Cairn’ to the playful “piano” rag of ‘Three Sheets To The Wind’. The first single, ‘A Door Into Summer’ is clearly the most commercial track here, with Satriani’s remarkably lean yet eminently anthemic axework soaring above a piston pumping groove. ‘The Weight Of World’ spins and wheels to the beat of a barroom stomp, flipping into a classical mode en route to a short. sweet piece of fret melting. Magnificently apposite closer ’A Celebration’ is as lyrical a piece of guitar playing as you will get, a joyous, up tempo track with shades of melancholy reflected in the chord progression, leaving behind a lingering sense of regret that it’s over. Unstoppable Momentum is not Satriani’s best album but it’s not far off. And it’s streets ahead of the competition.

Joe Satriani - Unstoppable Momentum8 out of 10

Track Listing:

  1. Unstoppable Momentum
  2. Can’t Go Back
  3. Lies And Truths
  4. Three Sheets To The Wind
  5. Stone On Your Cairn
  6. A Door Into Summer
  7. Shine On American Dreamer
  8. Jumpin In
  9. Jumpin Out
  10. The Weight Of The World
  11. A Celebration