Joe Satriani, Surfing With The Alien

Some of Satriani's finest technical work surfaces here but unfortunately the real problem with this arresting red beauty is compositional. Besides its questionably short length most of the tracks on the second side don't exactly know where they're supposed to be going ("Hill of the Skull," "Circles") or only noodle their way there with difficulty ("Lords of Karma," "Echo"), and the obvious splattered-on drum machine riffs don't help. But when he's on, he's on: not just the scintillating title track or the deft "Ice Nine," or the fresh and crispy "Satch Boogie," but most of all the practically poetic "Always With Me, Always With You" with its central solo waxed so heartfelt his amplifier fairly sings. Just stop listening around the halfway point unless you're bored and you'll still get your money's worth. Current reissues omit the iridescent John Byrne Silver Surfer art due to a licensing dispute with Marvel; find any of the earlier pressings if you can for the full experience. (Content: pure instrumental.)