Joe Satriani has always written great instrumental music. If you’ve ever needed some unique tunes to fill the background while playing a game of pool, Satch is your man. Way back in the distant-and-receding ‘ago,’ his album Crystal Planet grabbed my attention, with surging riffs, driving themes, and smooth solos filling each song. Satriani has been an inspiration of creativity, finding his way to the top of my playlist with each album.

He’s a nice guy too! I met him once at a meet and greet. Like his fans, he’s happy just to be around great music. Satriani led numerous G3 tours which featured three virtuoso guitarists joining together on stage to jam out great classic rock-blues songs. My personal favorite year was when he brought along John Petrucci (of Dream Theater) and Paul Gilbert (of Racer X and Mr. Big).

Black Swans and Silver Linings(2010) is unique in Satriani’s discography, although it took half a dozen listens for me to really hear just how much that is so. Of course, he still has the blazing solos and the neat whammy bar stuff. He doesn’t stray from standard timing very often, and the guitar effects are not new.

What sets this album apart is it’s groovy tones. Much more so than on previous albums, Black Swans relies on really great riffs that serve as a canvas for each song, upon which Satriani paints each section of music. The solos pop out really well because of these very consistent nature of the theme.

Dream Song, Pyrrhic Victoria, Two Sides to Every Story, and Wind in the Trees are great examples of the grooves Satriani cuts out, and then he stencils in the details. All he other tracks do this as well, but I’d like to note a few extra things about some of them.

Premonition grabs you, right off from the beginning of the album and surges adrenalin through your veins with its shiny grit. You can almost see someone striving to change the future, as the tones chant your way.

Littleworth Lane is like a step back in time to a ’50s diner, a slow jam that relaxes and comforts. If there was ever a song to bring down blood-pressure and burn away stress, this is it.

The Golden Room incorporates Sitar sounds and Indian drums into a silky set of riffs. You can almost see a palace set on the Ganges, Buddhist monks in meditation nearby, dancers in traditional garb twisting to Satriani’s free-spirited overlays.

Wormhole Wizards… This has to be my favorite track, in part because it starts out with the haunting noise of a wormhole where space-time is to be broken down entirely. If you have a high quality pair of headphones, throw them on and crank up the volume. Love the sound effects! The bulk of the song centers on a riff maintained by Allen Whitman on bass guitar that almost takes over some of Jeff Campitelli‘s job (drummer) for the duration. Mike Keneally has a delicate and inspired keys solo that bounces perfectly with the rhythm. And as always, Satch tears it up!

God is Crying wraps up the session, although one wonders why Satriani felt that name appropriate for this track. It doesn’t hit the ear as a sad scale or disturbing set of riffs. It’s beautiful, really, almost uplifting. If God is Crying after listening to Black Swans and Wormhole Wizards, it’s only because the Grammy’s continue to ignore Joe Satriani’s worthy entries (second most nominations of any artist). Seriously, guys… Fifteen nominations and not one award?

Get this album and enjoy it!