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Articles Home » 2012 Articles » Schon, Neal - 2012 The Calling
Schon, Neal - 2012 The Calling

ARTIST: Schon, Neal
ALBUM: The Calling
LABEL: Frontiers
YEAR: 2012
SPONSOR: Frontiers (Haulix)


LINEUP: Neal Schon - guitars, bass * Steve Smith - drums * Igor Len - piano, keyboards * Jan Hammer - synthesizer

TRACK LISTING: 01 The Calling * 02 Carnival Jazz * 03 Six String Waltz * 04 Irish Field * 05 Back Smash * 06 Fifty Six * 07 True Emotion * 08 Tumbleweeds * 09 Primal Surge * 10 Blue Rainbow Sky * 11 Transonic Funk * 12 Songs Of The Wind II



GLORY-DAZE has always given Neal Schon's solo career a lot of time and support. From the lush 'Late Nite' to the acoustic wonderment of 1995's 'Beyond The Thunder', there has always been something to write home about. Talking of which, Neal's solo albums have seen a few homes over the last two decades, and with 2012's 'The Calling', his new home is Frontiers. Taking a break after last years 'Eclipse' album, and then getting prepared to take Journey to new destinations in 2013 (i.e. Australia and New Zealand), Schon has delivered his latest offering which he describes as 'an interesting mix and an album that has a lot of different flavours and colours.' Helping out are former Journey band-mate Steve Smith, former comrade Jan Hammer (from their Schon And Hammer days), plus pianist Igor Len. The one thing bought out on this album is it's spontaneity. Neal went in with no pre-conceived ideas nor did he have anything specifically written for it. Just a combustion of ideas that were generated in the heat of the fire with only the threat of studio time being consumed. This 'off the cuff' playing can be a hit and miss affair, but Schon has done this often enough to make it work. One thing's for certain: this is definitely not cookie cutter stuff!

The Songs
That Schon & Hammer vibe hits us as early as the first track - the title track. It's a case of high flying electric fusion with a big percussive back end. The 7 minute 'Carnival Jazz' is next. The drum beat is metronomic, while the entire song sounds extremely busy; hence the Carnival theme. There's a nice electric piano centerpiece from Igor Len that is subtle and understated. 'Six String Waltz' certainly has a waltz like tempo, but the song turns to mashed potato soon after. The solo is a real lolly scramble unfortunately and killed off any remaining appeal. 'Irish Field' is a brief one minute instrumental which is far too lovely and far too short. A pity Neal couldn't have made more of this. 'Back Smash' is quite a slammin' track. Loads of heavy theatrics, a big brash back-beat, and thick treacle laden guitar work. 'Fifty Six' is a fast paced modern excursion tipped on its head by some dextrous drumming from Steve Smith. 'True Emotion' takes on the appearance of a slinky cat. The jazz like structure allows Neal some room for soloing. 'Tumbleweeds' again forces a Schon & Hammer hit, I find it kinda terse listening, the guitar tone sounds like a lawn mower on hi-octane, the only respite is the keyboard work which acts as a moderator. 'Primal Surge' could be world music, actually it could be anything, high on percussion (obviously) and some guitar lines reflecting Neal's recent tome of work with Journey. 'Blue Rainbow Sky' takes Neal on a blues road-trip, this is kinda nice, a bit old fashioned but cool nonetheless. Carrying on where 'Primal Surge' left off, 'Transonic Funk' continues the off-beat tones and style coming out of thin air. Not practised, not rehearsed, just originating in the moment. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Left till last, 'Song Of The Wind II' could've been lifted off his 1995 classic 'Beyond The Thunder'. Lots of slow mo music, heaps of flanger in the mix, and a tone reminiscent of the BTT album just mentioned. A nice way to finish up.

In Summary
It's good that Schon is still keeping his solo gig happening, though compared to his other work, this is nowhere near the quality of past releases. Look, I know Neal said that he wanted to keep the songs on this album spontaneous, and to create music in the heat of the moment without having any pre-conceived notion as to how it would turn out. As I said earlier, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. In total, I think only half of the album appealed to me, the other half was a real tough listen. Fans of 'Late Nite', 'Beyond The Thunder' and 'Voices' may not get value for money here, however if you're into the more progressive work that Neal has undertaken previously such as Schon & Hammer then yes, it might appeal to your tastes more than most.

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#1 | Eric on February 04 2013 17:15:40
Wow, Igor Len put out a cool Russian prog/ synth album in the late 80s called 'Here'. Haven't seen his name in years.
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