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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.[4]

Surfing with the Alien
Joe Satriani Surfing With the Alien.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedOctober 15, 1987 (1987-10-15)
StudioAlpha & Omega Recording and Hyde Street Studios in San Francisco
GenreInstrumental rock, jazz fusion
Length37:37
LabelRelativity
ProducerJoe Satriani, John Cuniberti
Joe Satriani chronology
Not of This Earth
(1986)
Surfing with the Alien
(1987)
Dreaming #11
(1988)
Singles from Surfing with the Alien
  1. "Surfing with the Alien" / "Ice 9"
    Released: 1987[1]
  2. "Always with Me, Always with You" / "Hill of the Skull"
    Released: 1987[2]
  3. "Satch Boogie"
    Released: 1987[3]

Contents

Background and compositionEdit

The album was recorded on a budget of $13,000.[5] 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.[5] 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.[5] "Satch Boogie" is the only song to fully feature live drums, played by Campitelli.[5]

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.[5]

A Casio CZ-101 was used to record the flute and orchestral instruments on "Midnight".[5]

It contains fast and complex songs such as the title track and "Satch Boogie", which helped to further popularize shred guitar during that time.[6] 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,[6] evoking a Spanish fingerstyle effect. "Ice 9" references the fictional apocalyptic substance from Kurt Vonnegut's 1963 novel Cat's Cradle.[7]

ArtworkEdit

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,[8][9] is taken from a panel from Silver Surfer #1 (1982), drawn by John Byrne.[10] Byrne did not receive a royalty for the art's use on the album cover.[10][11] Satriani was unfamiliar with the Silver Surfer and had named the album and title track without the character in mind.[8][11][12] 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.[8][11] He suggested using the character for the album cover. Kozlowski presented the album to Marvel and obtained permission to use the character.[8][11] 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.[8] As of 2018, digital retailers such as iTunes and Spotify display an alternative artwork that does not feature the Silver Surfer.[13][14]

Release and receptionEdit

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic     [4]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music     [15]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide     [16]
The Village VoiceC+[17]

Released on October 15, 1987, by Relativity Records,[18] 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.[19] It remained on Billboard 200 for 75 weeks, the longest run of any of his releases.[20] 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.[18]

Two singles from the album reached Billboard's Mainstream Rock chart: "Satch Boogie" at No. 22 and "Surfing with the Alien" at No. 37.[19] 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;[21] 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.[22][23]

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".[17] 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."[4] 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".[16]

ReissuesEdit

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.[24] A second remaster celebrating the album's 20th anniversary was released on August 7, 2007 through Epic/Legacy Recordings;[25][6] 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.[26]

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.[27]

Track listingEdit

All music composed by Joe Satriani.

No.TitleLength
1."Surfing with the Alien"4:25
2."Ice 9"4:00
3."Crushing Day"5:14
4."Always with Me, Always with You"3:22
5."Satch Boogie"3:13
6."Hill of the Skull"1:48
7."Circles"3:28
8."Lords of Karma"4:48
9."Midnight"1:42
10."Echo"5:37
Total length:37:37

2007 remastered edition bonus DVDEdit

No.TitleLength
1."Ice 9" 
2."Memories" 
3."Midnight" 
4."Rubina" 
5."Circles" 
6."Lords of Karma" 
7."Bass solo" 
8."Echo" 
9."Hordes of Locusts" 
10."Always with Me, Always with You" 
11."Satch Boogie" 
12."Satch Boogie" (music video) 
13."Always with Me, Always with You" (music video) 
14."Bonus material" 

PersonnelEdit

ChartsEdit

Weekly chartsEdit

Chart (1987–1990) Peak
position
Australian Albums (ARIA)[28] 10
Canadian Top Albums/CDs (RPM)[29] 53
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[30] 16
US Billboard 200[31] 29

Year-end chartsEdit

Chart (1989) Peak
position
Australian Albums (ARIA)[32] 72

CertificationsEdit

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Australia (ARIA)[33] Gold 35,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[34] Silver 60,000^
United States (RIAA)[35] Platinum 1,000,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Joe Satriani – Surfing With The Alien". Discogs. Retrieved 2014-03-22.
  2. ^ "Joe Satriani – Always With Me, Always With You". Discogs. Retrieved 2014-03-22.
  3. ^ "Joe Satriani – Satch Boogie". Discogs. Retrieved 2014-03-22.
  4. ^ a b c Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Surfing with the Alien - Joe Satriani". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved 2014-03-22.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Astley-Brown, Michael (2017-02-01). "Joe Satriani talks Surfing With The Alien track-by-track". MusicRadar. Future plc. Retrieved 2017-02-17.
  6. ^ a b c Fox, Darrin (2007-08-01). "Joe Satriani(2)". Guitar Player. NewBay Media. Retrieved 2015-03-11.
  7. ^ Surfing with the Alien liner notes (1999 remaster).
  8. ^ a b c d e Doyle, Pippa (21 August 2018). "THE STORY BEHIND 'SURFING WITH THE ALIEN' ALBUM ART IS NUTS". 96fm.com.au. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  9. ^ "Discogs: Joe Satriani – Surfing With The Alien". Discogs. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  10. ^ a b Byrne, John. "Byrne Robotics: FAQ". byrnerobotics.com. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  11. ^ a b c d ""Surfing With The Alien": The story of a non-surf related masterpiece". Surfer Today. 23 November 2017. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  12. ^ "100 Greatest Guitar Solos: No. 30 "Surfing with the Alien" (Joe Satriani)". Guitar World. 28 October 2008. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  13. ^ "Apple Music Preview: Surfing with the Alien". Apple Music. Apple Inc. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  14. ^ "Spotify: Surfing with the Alien: Joe Satriani". Spotify. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  15. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music. Omnibus Press. p. 2659. ISBN 0857125958.
  16. ^ a b DeCurtis, Anthony; Henke, James; George-Warren, Holly, eds. (1992). "Joe Satriani". The Rolling Stone Album Guide (3rd ed.). Random House. p. 620. ISBN 0679737294.
  17. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (1988). "Christgau's Consumer Guide: Turkey Shoot". The Village Voice (November 29). New York. Retrieved August 2, 2015.
  18. ^ a b "Gold & Platinum Searchable Database" Archived 2015-09-24 at the Wayback Machine. RIAA. Retrieved 2015-03-12.
  19. ^ a b "Surfing with the Alien - Joe Satriani | Awards". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved 2014-03-22.
  20. ^ "Joe Satriani - Chart history". Billboard. Retrieved 2014-03-22.
  21. ^ "31st Grammy Awards - 1989". Rock On The Net. Retrieved 2014-03-22.
  22. ^ "44th Grammy Awards - 2002". Rock On The Net. Retrieved 2014-03-22.
  23. ^ "50th Grammy Awards - 2008". Rock On The Net. Retrieved 2014-03-22.
  24. ^ Satriani, Joe (1999-06-08). "news". satriani.com. Retrieved 2014-03-22.
  25. ^ Surfing With The Alien "Surfing With The Alien". satriani.com. Retrieved 2014-03-22.
  26. ^ "Joe Satriani Set to Play Exclusive Club Dates". JustPressPlay. 2007-07-12. Archived from the original on 2008-03-01. Retrieved 2014-03-22.
  27. ^ Bosso, Joe (2014-04-08). "Joe Satriani talks The Complete Studio Recordings album by album | Surfing With The Alien (1987)". MusicRadar. Future plc. Retrieved 2015-03-11.
  28. ^ "Australiancharts.com – Joe Satriani – Surfing with the Alien". Hung Medien. Retrieved October 19, 2015.
  29. ^ "Canadian RPM Top Albums/CDs". RPM magazine. Library and Archives Canada. 48 (6). May 28, 1988. Retrieved October 19, 2015.
  30. ^ "Charts.org.nz – Joe Satriani – Surfing with the Alien". Hung Medien. Retrieved October 19, 2015.
  31. ^ "Joe Satriani Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved October 19, 2015.
  32. ^ "The ARIA Australian Top 100 Albums Chart – 1989 (61–100) (from The ARIA Report Issue No. 1)". Imgur.com (original document published by ARIA). Retrieved 15 December 2016.
  33. ^ "ARIA Gold Sales Award". Eil.com. Archived from the original on January 24, 2016. Retrieved 24 January 2016.CS1 maint: Unfit url (link)
  34. ^ "British album certifications – Joe Satriani – Surfing with the Alien". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 24 January 2016. Select albums in the Format field. Select Silver in the Certification field. Type Surfing with the Alien in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  35. ^ "American album certifications – Joe Satriani – Surfing with the Alien". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 24 January 2016. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH. 

External linksEdit