Not Of This Earth
Relativity Records, 1987
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/16/2003
Like many people, I suppose, I got into Joe Satriani courtesy of his ground-breaking album Surfing With The Alien. I've been fortunate enough to see him perform in concert, and experience my jaw scraping the floor of the arena watching Satriani do things on a guitar that didn't seem humanly possible. I have every album Satriani has released (not including G3 Live In Concert), and occasionally pull those out of the Pierce Memorial Archives when I need to clear out the mental pipes.
Yet I can't help wondering, when I listen to Not Of This Earth, Satriani's first full-length disc, why people made such a big deal out of this album. For all of the hype that has surrounded Satriani (most of which is deserved), Not Of This Earth demonstrates a lot of flash, but not as much substance musically.
Make no mistake, Satriani proves right out of the gate that he is an outstanding guitar player, as evidenced by the title track. He chooses to let a lead/rhythm line of his guitar do the work of a vocalist, and the power he unleashes by doing this is unbelievable. By the time he gets to the lightning-fast riffing in the solo, the listener will be hooked.
One wishes that all of the cuts on Not Of This Earth were of this caliber. Indeed, tracks like "The Enigmatic," "Hordes Of Locusts" and "New Day" all capture the six-string frenzy and power of Satriani. But the bulk of this disc finds Satriani actively searching for his instrumental voice, and not always making the correct choices.
Take "Rubina," for example. Admittedly not a bad track, it occasionally seems to be without purpose, not exactly knowing which direction the music should go. That tentativeness is also heard on tracks like "Driving At Night," "Memories" and "The Snake" - tracks which should have been slamming the listener's head to the ground with their power, but end up bouncing off of the headphones with a splat.
One part of the problem seems to be that Satriani is trying to do too much on his own. Yes, I know he handled the lion's share of the duties on Surfing With The Alien as well, but on Not Of This Earth, it sometimes sounds like Satriani became overwhelmed with trying to be a whiz on guitar, bass and keyboards, and trying to balance the three to make it sound like an actual band. The second problem is the drum work of Jeff Campitelli - no offense, but I sometimes found it hard to believe that I wasn't listening to a drum machine, that's how robotic these rhythm tracks often sound. Granted, something could have also been done in the mix to remove the tinny quality of the percussion sound, but sometimes you have to work with what you laid down on tape.
Yes, everyone needs to get their start somewhere, and I know that without Not Of This Earth, we wouldn't have such Satriani masterpieces as Surfing With The Alien. But one would be hard-pressed to say that Not Of This Earth is of the same caliber. Let's call this one a learning experience that's for the die-hard fans only.