Surfing with the Alien
|Surfing with the Alien|
|Studio album by|
|Released||October 15, 1987|
|Studio||Alpha & Omega Recording and Hyde Street Studios in San Francisco|
|Genre||Instrumental rock, jazz fusion|
|Producer||Joe Satriani, John Cuniberti|
|Joe Satriani chronology|
|Singles from Surfing with the Alien|
Surfing with the Alien is the second studio album by American rock guitarist Joe Satriani. It was released on October 15, 1987, by Relativity Records. The album is one of Satriani's most successful to date and helped establish his reputation as a respected rock guitarist.
Background and composition
The album was recorded on a budget of $13,000. Satriani's equipment was limited by the budget, consisting of two Kramer Pacer guitars and an adapted Stratocaster guitar, for which he would change the pickups to get different sounds. To save money, the album heavily used drum machines, programmed by Bongo Bob Smith, with Jeff Campitelli recording overdubs of hi-hats, cymbals, toms and snares. Satriani stated this gave the music an "awkward charm", and maintained the combination of loose guitar playing and machine-like drum programming. "Satch Boogie" is the only song to fully feature live drums, played by Campitelli.
The heavy metal-influenced "Crushing Day" contains the only solo on the album that was worked out beforehand, due to its length; the others are improvised. Satriani expressed regret for this decision later, as he felt constrained when having to play the song on stage.
It contains fast and complex songs such as the title track and "Satch Boogie", which helped to further popularize shred guitar during that time. By contrast slower, melodic songs such as "Always with Me, Always with You" and "Echo" provide a change of pace. "Midnight" utilizes the technique of two-handed tapping at high tempo, evoking a Spanish fingerstyle effect. "Ice 9" references the fictional apocalyptic substance from Kurt Vonnegut's 1963 novel Cat's Cradle.
The cover art of the original release depicts the Marvel Comics character Silver Surfer on the front, with the hand of Galactus on the inside cover. The artwork, which was licensed from the publisher, is taken from a panel from Silver Surfer #1 (1982), drawn by John Byrne. Byrne did not receive a royalty for the art's use on the album cover. Satriani was unfamiliar with the Silver Surfer and had named the album and title track without the character in mind. However, Jim Kozlowski, the production manager for Relativity Records, was a comic book fan and had used the nickname "The Silver Surfer" as a radio DJ name. He suggested using the character for the album cover. Kozlowski presented the album to Marvel and obtained permission to use the character. Subsequently, Marvel Comics has paid homage to Satriani in Silver Surfer comics ("the planet Satriani") and Satriani has named later compositions after other elements of the Silver Surfer mythos ("Back to Shalla-Bal", "The Power Cosmic 2000").
The original license to use the character artwork was time-limited. Though the license was renewed multiple times, in 2018, Satriani and Marvel could not come to terms on a price, and so the cover art was replaced. As of 2018[update], digital retailers such as iTunes and Spotify display an alternative artwork that does not feature the Silver Surfer.
Release and reception
|Encyclopedia of Popular Music|||
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
|The Village Voice||C+|
Released on October 15, 1987, by Relativity Records, Surfing with the Alien charted at number 29 on the Billboard 200, proving to be Satriani's third highest-charting album in the United States. It remained on Billboard 200 for 75 weeks, the longest run of any of his releases. Surfing with the Alien was certified Gold on February 17, 1989, and Platinum on February 3, 1992, having shipped one million copies in the US. It was Satriani's first album to earn platinum certification, and remains his only studio album to have done so.
Two singles from the album reached Billboard's Mainstream Rock chart: "Satch Boogie" at No. 22 and "Surfing with the Alien" at No. 37. A third single, "Always with Me, Always with You", received a nomination for Best Pop Instrumental Performance at the 1989 Grammy Awards, while the album itself was nominated for Best Rock Instrumental Performance at the same event; these being Satriani's first two of many such awards. Live versions of "Always with Me, Always with You" would later be nominated for Best Rock Instrumental twice more, at the 2002 and 2008 Grammys.
In a contemporary review for The Village Voice, music critic Robert Christgau snidely referred to Satriani as "the latest guitar god" and felt he is too much of a formalist, because he not only composes but edits his guitar melodies: "Thus he delivers both the prowess cultists demand and the comfort they secretly crave". In a retrospective review for AllMusic, Stephen Thomas Erlewine was more impressed by his technical abilities and praised Surfing with the Alien, writing that it "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." According to The Rolling Stone Album Guide (1992), the record "put Satriani on the map. Beautifully played and well-paced, it manages to capture all the icy fire of fusion jazz without losing any of the visceral power of rock & roll".
Surfing with the Alien has been reissued several times. A remastered edition of the album was first released on July 27, 1999 through Epic Records, which featured expanded liner notes. A second remaster celebrating the album's 20th anniversary was released on August 7, 2007 through Epic/Legacy Recordings; this is a double-disc set comprising the album itself with further expanded liner notes, as well as a DVD featuring Satriani's live performance at the 1988 Montreux Jazz Festival, music videos for "Always With Me, Always With You" and "Satch Boogie", and additional bonus material. To promote the 2007 reissue, Satriani played exclusive club gigs in select cities.
The most recent reissue of Surfing with the Alien was part of The Complete Studio Recordings, released on April 22, 2014 through Legacy Recordings; this is a box set compilation containing newly remastered editions of every Satriani studio album from 1986 to 2013.
All music composed by Joe Satriani.
|1.||"Surfing with the Alien"||4:25|
|4.||"Always with Me, Always with You"||3:22|
|6.||"Hill of the Skull"||1:48|
|8.||"Lords of Karma"||4:48|
2007 remastered edition bonus DVD
|6.||"Lords of Karma"|
|9.||"Hordes of Locusts"|
|10.||"Always with Me, Always with You"|
|12.||"Satch Boogie" (music video)|
|13.||"Always with Me, Always with You" (music video)|
- Joe Satriani – guitar, electric sitar, keyboard, drum programming, percussion, bass, arrangement, production
- Bongo Bob Smith – drum programming, percussion, sound design
- Jeff Campitelli – drums, percussion
- John Cuniberti – percussion, engineering, remastering (reissue), production
- Jeff Kreegar – pre-production programming, sound design
- Bernie Grundman – mastering
|Australian Albums (ARIA)||10|
|Canadian Top Albums/CDs (RPM)||53|
|New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)||16|
|US Billboard 200||29|
|Australian Albums (ARIA)||72|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Silver||60,000^|
|United States (RIAA)||Platinum||1,000,000^|
*sales figures based on certification alone
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- In Review: Joe Satriani "Surfing With The Alien" at Guitar Nine Records