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Just what happens next in the long and illustrious career of a guitar virtuoso that now spans four decades? Joe Satriani releases his 16th solo album called 'What Happens Next', that sees him team up with two esteemed rock legends to form a musically potent power trio, that's what. Reunited with one of his Chickenfoot brethren, Red Hot Chili Peppers' drummer Chad Smith, the album also features the bass talents of fellow scene stalwart Glenn Hughes. Seeing as the latter's been fronting his own supergroup in recent years, in the form of Black Country Communion, perhaps this triumvirate of supergroup alumni should've released 'What Happens Next' under the moniker of Black Country Foot... or Chicken Communion. I jest, but it's an undeniably compelling rock communion, be it marketed as a Satch solo work or not.

The album's everything you'd expect from these three musical maestros, and a whole lot more. Satch idioms characterise the music throughout, from his general phrasing to the overall vibe and feeling of his playing. Yet, it's also refreshingly unpredictable. Take the third track, 'Thunder High on the Mountain', where a pounding bass drum and mystically swirling keyboard sonics are adorned with Satch's trill-led melodies, before seguing into a passage of groove-heavy stoner rock, and then progressing into heartfelt mellower, guitar leads/solos, before returning to the opening trilled motif. The transitions between the disparate parts have such an astoundingly natural flow... this is bliss. As is the musical interplay between the three men.

And this naturally flowing interplay characterises the entire album, right from the aptly named opener, 'Energy', where the album explodes into action with an untamed, yet refined, burst of superior rock might. The stomping rhythm, fuzzy bass and structured, yet fragmented, leads of 'Catbot' bring something a little different to the table. And then there's the structured/jamming dichotomy of tracks such as 'Cherry Blossoms', where the first half centres around an archetypal Satch melody (similar to 'If I Could Fly'... perhaps Coldplay will 'borrow' this one, too), before exploding into what sounds like an organically conceived rock jam.

Elsewhere, we have down-tempo numbers ('Smooth Soul'; 'Forever and Ever'); funked up grooves ('Looper' and 'Super Funky Badass'); and blasts of retro rock revelry ('Headrush'). And there are moments of true sublimity, such as with the more experimental 'Invisible', which houses all kinds of fretboard artistry, including some tremolo-picked passages that are accompanied by some by very nifty bass work from Hughes.

An album of familiarity and surprises, there's a lot to get excited about here. The Satriani/Hughes/Smith musical communion is a winner, for sure. Phenomenal stuff. What a way to start 2018!
Sony Music
Review by Mark Holmes
12th January 2018
1) Energy; 2) Catbot
3) Thunder High on the Mountain
4) Cherry Blossoms
5) Righteous
6) Smooth Soul
7) Headrush
8) Looper
9) What Happens Next
10) Super Funky Badass
11) Invisible
12) Forever and Ever
"The Satriani/Hughes/Smith musical communion is a winner, for sure. Phenomenal stuff."