You really can't say that instrumental rock-guitar music is in fashion right now, but that doesn't make one bit of difference to Joe Satriani. The guitar maestro's new album, 'Unstoppable Momentum,' proves that good music is timeless, no matter what trends come and go.

After decades of being one of the world's leading rock instrumentalists, Satriani doesn't trying to reinvent himself on 'Unstoppable Momentum.' Far from it. Instead, he turns in an entire album of what he does best.

Satriani's strength has always been his sharp musical sense. Even though he has chops to spare, he doesn't come from the look-at-me-play-fast school of guitar wankery. What sets him apart from so many of his contemporaries is that his playing almost always serves the songs; they're not just vehicles for his instrumental grandstanding.

On 'Unstoppable Momentum,' Satriani plays down the guitar-god heroics. If anything, he's more of a contemporary composer whose primary instrument just happens to be the electric guitar. The songs showcase a marriage of melody, harmony, tone and phrasing with the understanding that a piece of music requires a viable rhythm/bed track before notes are sprayed in all directions. Some of the album's best tracks, like 'Can't Go Back' and 'Three Sheets to the Wind,' include such infectious melody and harmony lines that they could turn into genuine pop songs with a little nudging. And 'A Door Into Summer' and 'Shine on American Dreamer' feature such strong riffs that maybe Satriani should have saved them for the next Chickenfoot record.

That's not to say that shredders will be disappointed. 'Lies and Truths' showcases some of the fastest, showiest playing on the record. So does 'The Weight of the World,' which is a good thing, since the jaw-dropping licks rescue it from being the weakest track on the album (the goofy synth-pop riff sounds straight outta 'Beverly Hills Cop').

But if you think all instrumental rock just amounts to meaningless noodling, you probably won't get much out of 'Unstoppable Momentum.' Still, Satriani delivers on almost every track, showcasing a compositional depth that reveals something new with each listen.

8 out of 10


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