Neal Schon - Vortex

Neal Schon Vortex cover
Neal Schon
Music Theories Recordings
Neal is back sooner than he was expected after last year’s “So U”. I remember in “The Calling” review in 2012 that I wrote that it would be good if I didn’t have to wait for another 7 years for a new Neal solo work, since “The Calling” was released seven years after “I on U”. Unluckily, for some “weird reason” Neal released 3 albums in the last 3+ years! I didn’t see that coming! The even more disappointing thing is that none of them (including the new one) is even close to his first solo releases and especially the debut one. Certainly, there several fine tracks here and there but overall, the last three albums leave a lot to be desired.
“Vortex” is a 2-CD all instrumental release. That means approximately around 97 minutes of music! That’s both a good and bad thing too! Let’s be honest … none can write so many “great” or at least fine” instrumental tracks. So Neal didn’t think right on this. If this album had 10 or 11 tracks then it would have been more consistent and stronger on the whole. There are tracks that you won’t even notice they passed by and tracks that you will wish they are over sooner than they have to. Of course, there are a handful of very good tracks here like: “El Matador” (where Neal recalls his first days with Santana), “In a Cloud”, “Lady M (Our Love Remains)”, which is dedicated – along with “Triumph of Love” to his best friend and wife who inspired him every single day.
Musically “Vortex” blends melodic rock with jazz/fusion, world music, Latin and bits of progressive rock. It’s a typically well-produced solo release by Neal, which features some truly trademark solos of his, which we have heard over a thousand times before. He likes performing some certain “fast” guitar leads but they all are more or less in the same style.
Neal is accompanied by drummer Steve Smith, keyboardist Igor Len & keyboardist Jan Hammer. Neal has also played the bass & produced this album, which was recorded at Berkeley’s Fantasy Studios. The production is crystal clear and full in every part.
Unfortunately, long before the end, you’ll feel the urge to skip some tracks or stop listening or even deal with something else while “listening” in order not to get bored. And that ain’t a good sign for any album. I think it’s better for Neal to deal with Journey and leave some time to pass before he releases another solo work…