Artist: Neal Schon  
   Title:  The Calling
   Label: Frontiers Records  
 

The date - 27th February 1954, San Mateo, California.  A guitar legend is born. That legend is Neal Schon, one of the founder members of Melodic Rock giants Journey.  Being so, it may well surprise a few people to find that he has actually released solo albums before, as far back as 1982's 'Untold Passion', in collaboration with keyboard maestro Jan Hammer.

 Now in 2012, the two hook up again on Schon's latest release, 'The Calling', and what a collection of tracks they are!  Of course he's well known for his rock work, so it'll not be too much of a shock that the opening track of the same name bursts onto the scene in a salvo of hi-hats and ripping riffs, getting the blood pumping as it boogies along.

'Carnival Jazz' ups the ante with some extraordinary guitar work, the over-dubbing bringing a magical sound to the track. Schon's finger tips ablaze on his lightening solos.  Weirdly, as good as this one is, on first hearing (and unfortunately many more), 'Six String Waltz' comes across as a mish-mash of noisy guitars trying to outdo each other.  Even Steve Smith's drum pattern seems to get lost in the mess, and all the frenetic fretwork just doesn't work at all, though what do I know!!

Smith does get the chance to redeem himself though, as on 'Back Smash', he's the one who stands out with some cracking skin-work, showing exactly why Schon chose his ex-Journey compatriot to star on his album.  The changes in tempo are clever, bringing in a lovely Spanish guitar to mellow the mood, before he beefs it all up again.  It's a 6 minute lesson of class for those wannabe drummers out there.

'Fifty six (56)'??  Could that be the speed in which Schon and Smith hit during proceedings, all centered around some lush Moog by Jan Hammer on this oriental-sounding explosion of music.  He also adds his keyboards on 'Tumbleweed' to great effect, breaking up the tune at all the right moments, before it becomes a tad boring, which at another 6 minutes plus, could well have been the outcome for us non-air guitarists out there!

Tribal connotations at their best make up the background to 'Primal Surge', adding to the already tense energy that is poured in via some more classy fret free-for-all and tub-thumping, where with 'Blue Rainbow Sky', you're taken on a trip not too unlike the one Jimi Hendrix conjured up back in 1967.  The intro has that laid back familiar groove that 'Hey Joe' has, though Schon takes you on a slightly different path, notably with a more run-of-the-mill solo or two that don't really jump out at you as much as you'd expect.

After some rather awkward press over the last year, Schon seems to have got himself over it and come out all guns-ablazin', letting any frustrations out on his poor guitar on 'The Calling'.  Love 'em or hate 'em, you just can't ignore the fact that there is something special about guitar-based instrumental albums such as this.  Ok, it's basically a six-string "tug-of-love" for the artist, but put your hands up anyone who'd sell their granny to be able to play half as good as Schon does here?  Erm ... Grandma, come here a minute, will you!!!

Review by: Robb Baldwin

Tracklisting:

1.  The Calling
2. Carnival Jazz
3. Six String Waltz
4. Irish Field
5. Back Smash
6. Fifty Six (56)
7. True Emotion
8. Tumbleweeds
9. Primal Surge
10. Blue Rainbow Sky
11. Transonic Funk
12. Song Of The Wind II   

                    

 

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