Neal Schon
The Calling

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

Neal Schon (Guitars)
Steve Smith (Drums)
Igor Len (Keyboards)

Late Nite (1989)
Beyond the Thunder (1995)
Electric World (1997)
Piranha Blues (1998)
Voice (2001)
I on U (2005)

Jan Hammer (Moog solos)

Produced & mixed by Neal Schon
Recorded at fantasy Studios

Released 19/10-2012
Reviewed 14/10-2012


Neal Schon is one of the greatest guitarists in the world. I've had that opinion for a long time and he's repeatedly proved why he should be considered as one of the best. Despite this, Schon is commonly forgotten when people list the greatest guitarists and this is probably because his main band is leigh rockers Journey where his skills might go people by - and so has Schon himself probably reasoned as he's released a great number of albums beside his main band where he's more clearly shown what a great guitarist he is. The latest album to be released at the side of Journey is 'The Calling', which is the seventh release to go under Schons own name.

All in all though Schon has released more than 20 side project releases and appeared as a guest on about 20 more albums. He began his career only 15 years old more than 40 years ago and as he grips the guitar and starts playing you can't argue with him mastering that instrument to the fullest extent. This doesn't necessarily mean that the music will come out great, though, and as we've written plenty of times already here on Hallowed you need more than skills to make good music - which is especially true when it comes to instrumental album like 'The Calling'. A good instrumentalist have a tendency to overdo things on an instrumental album as they only want to show off how great they are and doesn't considered the listeners point of view - what it feels like to sit through an album of only instrumental songs showing off. Beside Schon on this instrumental album stands three men with whom Schon has previously collaborated with - on drums former Journey drummer Steve Smith (who's worked with Schon on many of his releases beside Journey). On keys Igor Len who'd helped Schon on 'Electric World' (Schons third album) and 'I On U' (the last solo album before this) and contributing with some moogs is Jan Hammer, with whom Schon has played on two of Hammers' solo albums. They've done twelve songs for 'the Calling' and these twelve songs takes us 54 minutes to play from beginning to end.

It's easy to be fooled in to thinking that this will be another album where a guy is masturbating his guitar from beginning to end when you start the album and hear the first song. This is a song where Schon really is putting him self and his guitars in focus and this is truly a song for people that like narcissistic guitar show-off made with highest quality. As the album goes by you soon realize that this isn't a narcissistic album only made to show off how great Schon is, but a quite interesting album with big variation in the songs and not extremely dull like most instrumental albums. Igor Len and Steve Smith gets to shine on plenty of tracks as well and a specific style to categorize the album within is hard to find as it goes from being very rock to being jazzy and some tracks even that fusion thing Journey started their career playing. One song does even sound like it could be collected from a musical theatre piece. If you thought this would sound like Journey without vocals you're completely wrong - this is far, far away from Journey (except the odd thing reminding a bit of early Journey) and also quite far from other projects he's done over the years.

The instrumental skills are amazing all over 'The Calling' and Schon could probably make even the most hard core pessimist of solo guitars to admit that this album have some really good parts. The problem is that when you play this album a few times you really start to miss something and it doesn't matter how greatly the songs on the album is varied and how good the songs are - it still starts to feel a bit monochromatic with only instruments playing. I miss vocals! It doesn't matter that the album is a showcase of fantastic instrumentalists. If you're someone who hasn't considered Schon an amazing guitarist before 'the Calling' it would surprice me a lot if you don't change your opinion about him afterwards. It's not just the guitar skills but also the songs he compose with his instrument and the sounds he can create. If you're looking for perverted guitars to masturbate to, this is definitely your album, but as an album with music I just can't see it last long enough for me. Somewhere around seven or eight spins I started to feel a bit fed up with it and that opinion stands.

Still, 'The Calling' could very well be the best instrumental album of the year. it's definitely the most varied instrumental album of the year if nothing else. But I miss the vocals… it would have been enough with one or a few songs with some singing because 54 minutes of completely instrumental music is just a tad too much in my opinion.



Label: Frontiers Records
Three similar bands: Journey/Steve Vai/Joe Satriani
Rating: HHHHHHH (4/7)
Reviewer: Caj Källmalm

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