Flying In A Blue Dream

Joe Satriani

Relativity Records, 1989

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


In 1989, Joe Satriani had the world by the tail. He had gone from a virtual nobody to becoming one of the most esteemed guitar gods ever thanks to his album Surfing With The Alien. Wanna-be guitarists had their jaws scraping the floor thanks to Satriani's pyrotechnic playing. Both his use of hand-tapping the strings and his using the guitar as a "lead vocalist" helped to create a unique voice for his songs, so that you knew when you were listening to Satch.

With all of this land conquered, why would he want to branch out into singing? That was the question on a lot of our minds in 1989, when the follow-up release Flying In A Blue Dream came out. (In between, Satriani also released an EP, Dreaming #11.) To people like me, adding vocals to the music was sacrilege - I mean, why would anyone want to top perfection?

It took me a long time to be able to appreciate this album - in all seriousness, it was probably a good five years since I last listened to my copy of the tape. Had it not been for the thrill of seeing Satriani perform live, I probably wouldn't have been willing to give this tape another try - but something about his live show clicked with me.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

It's obvious that Satriani was going to have a difficult time trying to top Surfing With The Alien - and, in retrospect, maybe the reason he turned to vocals was his way of distancing himself from his previous output. What is also obvious is that Satriani's talent on the six-string (as well as bass, keyboards, banjo, harmonica... good grief, is there anything this guy can't do?) hadn't diminished at all. Tracks like "One Big Rush" (which was featured in the movie Say Anything), "Day At The Beach" and the title track all proved without a doubt that Satriani could well be the best living guitarist today.

At times, it seems like Satriani dips into the cosmic weirdness of one of his pupils, Steve Vai. Tracks like "The Mystical Potato Head Groove Thing" sound more eclectic than they really are (in fact, it's another solid rocker from Satriani), while "Strange" is a little off the beaten path for Satriani, delving a bit more into psychedelic funk than we're used to hearing from Satriani.

Now that I've made a big deal out of Satriani tackling some lead vocals, something should be said about them. And, fact is... Satriani's pipes may not be the greatest, but they're not bad. On tracks like "I Believe" and "Big Bad Moon," Satriani handles the chores rather well. Also impressive is the distorted vocal on "The Phone Call," which is a raucous, enjoyable tune.

But there are times where I wished that Satriani had let his guitar do the singing. "Strange" is a tune that just isn't cut out for Satriani's style of singing, and ended up getting on my nerves on occasion. "Ride" is the one song where I would have preferred to let my mind decide where Satriani wanted to go with the song; in this case, the vocals take away from the song.

However, Satriani only sings on six of the album's 18 songs (16 if you combine "The Forgotten" and "The Bells Of Lal"'s two parts), so it's not like Satriani totally abandoned the idea of letting his axe sing out. While Flying In A Blue Dream definitely is not on the same level as Surfing With The Alien, in some ways, it's not meant to be. Rather, Satriani challenges the listener to attack it on its own ground, judging its merit on what you hear, not what you remember from the past. On that playing field, it turns out to be a pretty decent album.

Rating: B

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© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Relativity Records, and is used for informational purposes only.