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| 24 June 2015 | Reply


Label: Music Theories Recordings

Release Date: June 23, 2015

Rating: 8.5/10

Reviewed by: Todd “Toddstar” Jolicoeur

The guitar sensation behind Journey, Bad English, Soul Sirkus, and other projects has released his latest solo project, an ambitious two-disc project entitled Vortex.  I am not sure if Neal doesn’t want to sing lead, can’t sing lead, or just wants to share his real talent – playing guitar, but this totally instrumental disc is one of the best representations of his ability and growth as an artist.  The way he uses rock as a foundation and builds on that with the infusion of jazz, world, and classical music makes for great listening, whether chilling at home, working in the office, or cruising around in the car.  Several of the tracks even blend a prog or experimental sound to the collection, such as “Awakening.”  The guitar work, while solid, shows another side of Schon’s playing.  No Schon-driven piece would be complete without a love song or two.  This collection has one on each disc: “Lady M (Our Love Remains)” and the song written and played for his wedding in 2013, “Triumph Of Love.”  Disc opener “Miles Beyond” has a jazz-fusion feel that can be attributed to the fact that this one is Neal’s personal tribute to Miles Davis and style of playing.  This track also features Steve Smith (also of Journey fame).  “Tortured Souls” has a Journey-flavor to it that cannot be denied through the different style and timing changes that take place during the 10+ minute opus.  “Talk To Me” is a song that screams to be sung.  The tempo and rhythm of the track, combined with the guitar parts, sets this song up perfectly to have a lyric thrown on top of the mix.

“Schon & Hammer Now” is a cool track that features longtime friends and collaborators Neal and Jan Hammer that demonstrates how well Schon can combine his guitar playing with a keyboard heavy track and creates a great rock vibe.  This tracks strength lies in the lack of vocals.  This one begs for a lyric on top of it, but is just as complete without it.  Reflecting on the package of 18-tracks, the guitarist has stated that this is “both my ninth and tenth solo albums.”  That is how he decided on the name of the soaring track “Airliner NS910.”  Sticking with love and dedication, like the earlier referenced love songs, is the track “Mom” which Schon says “wasn’t premeditated.”  In addition to all of the great guitar riffs, licks, and solos, Neal produced this collection, as well as play bass.  One odd piece that stands out on this lengthy project is the short, but beautiful Igor Len performed piano track “Eternal Love.” Slowing things down a bit, Neal plays his heart out (and ass off) on “Unspoken Faith” which morphs seamlessly into the ethereal “Twilight Spellbound.”  The latter track is anchored with a killer bass line and drumming that really gives this a cool rock vibe unlike other songs on Vortex.  “NS Vortex” leans in the prog direction, showing us another side of Neal’s playing and writing.  The final track on the collection, “White Light,” is a beautiful sendoff that keeps you engaged through the beautiful note twisting on Neal’s acoustic guitar.

Tracklisting: Miles Beyond – Awakening – Cuban Fly Zone – El Matador – Eternal Love – In A Cloud – Irish Cream – Lady M (Our Love Remains) – Airliner NS910- Tortured Souls – Schon & Hammer Now – NS Vortex – Unspoken Faith – Twilight Spellbound – Triumph Of Love – Mom – Talk To Me – White Light





Category: CD Reviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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