In the late 1970s and early ’80s, Santana alumnus Neal Schon was not only known for his blazing guitar solos, he was equally famous for his ability to play with taste and restraint. He was one of the few heavy rock guitarists who wrote tuneful and memorable lines that were correct for the song, while still being able to burn when called for.
Schon’s tastefulness paid off and made Journey one of the most successful rock bands in history. Over the years, he has performed on a number of side projects and solo albums, but his latest solo effort, The Calling, has some of his most vibrant playing to date. It’s an eclectic rock fusion record with lush production, heavy riffs, epic textures, and some of the most stellar guitar tones Schon has ever recorded. As producer, he gets help from former Journey drummer Steve Smith and keyboard legend Jan Hammer.
What keeps this record from being just another instrumental overload is Schon’s sense of melody, dynamics, and the work of Igor Len on keys. The title track combines thick multi-tracked riffs with swirling melodies and Schon’s idiosyncratic blur style runs. The plaintive “Irish Field” offers Celtic melodies and counterpoint on two guitars. “Fifty Six (56)” takes us on a trip to India where tabla meets rock-fusion drumming with sitar wah interplay. But it’s on “Tumbleweeds” where the Schon/Hammer reunion showcases their special chemistry.
The Calling is ﬁne piece of work demonstrating that Schon has still got it going on – and then some. The signature style and phrasing that made him an icon remains intact, while the years have expanded his touch, tonal palette, and compositional prowess. The songs are strong and his guitar tones are absolutely luxurious.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Jan. ’13 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.