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Schon; Neal: The Calling

Neal Schon has an amazingly packed discography outside of his day job as the guitarist and ringleader in Journey, with collaborations with everybody from Bob Marlette, John Waite and Jeff Scott Soto to Paul Rodgers, Santana and Sammy Hagar. Seven years on from his last solo release I On U, Schon has reacquainted himself with two other names from his past, onetime Journey drummer Steve Smith and keyboard player extraordinaire Jan Hammer, with whom he released two albums in the early eighties. With Schon handling all guitar and bass duties, the only other musician to make an appearance on The Calling is jazz piano player Igor Len, who lends a more organic feel on the odd occasions that Schon isn't going full pelt. As you'll gather from that list of contributors, The Calling is a fully instrumental affair, allowing Schon to genre hop and self indulge, while still impressing and engrossing the listener.

A quick squint through the track titles will let you know that "Carnival Jazz" is a little bit jazzy, "Six String Waltz" is indeed a song to take your partner on the floor to, with a singing-like guitar solo style. Although "Transonic Funk" fails to live up to its title by shuffling along with more flunk than funk about it. However that aberration aside, The Calling is an album that satisfies fully both through scintillating performances and stunning melodies. As you'd expect from a fret-burner's instrumental album, the guitar's the star here, with Schon flexing his six-string muscles at every opportunity. Yes, as expected, there are times where Satriani, Moore and Timmons are brought to mind, but it is to Schon's credit that his tone and texture shine through often enough to ensure you'd never confuse his playing for anybody else's.

The passionate, slow burn of "Song Of The Wind II" tugs at the heartstrings as well as the guitar strings, while "The Calling" kicks the album off in uncompromising style with Schon, Smith and Len all jousting for supremacy - creating a melodic maelstrom that captures the imagination from the off. Add to that the dramatic "Back Smash" where the guitar is slain again and again, or "Primal Surge" where the keyboards shine alongside some thumping bass and the full on jazz of "Fifty Six", where Len gets a chance to dominate, while Hammer Moogs it up, and The Calling becomes an album that jumps from style to style while never sounding disjointed. That all said, the best moment possibly comes from the simple, beautiful guitar only "Irish Field" which beautifully illustrates the touch and finesse that Schon truly possesses.

The Calling follows the golden instrumental rule of write great songs, play them phenomenally well and the lack of a vocalist is soon forgotten. Making for an excellent exhibition of musicianship and style working in harmony to make for one of the best instrumental albums you'll hear this year.

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

Added: October 4th 2012
Reviewer: Steven Reid
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Hits: 5518
Language: english

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Schon; Neal: The Calling
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2012-10-04 14:44:17
My Score:

I tell ya, it certainly sounds like Neal Schon had something to prove when he put together his latest instrumental solo album The Calling. Not that anyone who has followed him through the years with Santana and Journey has ever doubted his prowess on the guitar, but with the darker, heavier, and more guitar oriented nature of Journey's most recent album Eclipse seemed to suggest, Mr. Schon indeed wants the world to finally take notice of his guitar work first and foremost. If you are ok with that (and I'm totally on board), then The Calling is going to be right up your alley.

Kicking off with the metallic, whammy bar & pinch harmonic shred fest that is the title track, Schon is declaring "I am mighty, hear me roar" with an aggressive attack we haven't heard since the underrrated HSAS album with Sammy Hagar many moons ago. Things don't let up from there, as plenty of rampaging fretwork (all with Schon's sense of melody) can be heard on "Carnival Jazz", "Fifty Six", "Irish Field", and "True Emotion", all featuring Neal's soaring licks and blazing solos, supported by drum legend Steve Smith and keyboard player Igor Len. Jan Hammer joins the fun with some wild Moog leads on the fun "Tumbleweeds", and Schon's remarkable way of crafting haunting melodies within an instrumental framework are well represented on "Blue Rainbow Sky" and "Song of the Wind II".

Hard rock, metal, funk, jazz-fusion, and just plain rock 'n''s all here from Schon, who makes a bold statement on The Calling and has come up with a memorable collection of guitar instrumentals that sizes up quite nicely next to recent releases from fellow players like Joe Satriani and Steve Vai.

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