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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Music Theories Recordings artist: Neal Schon - Vortex - New Release Review

I just received the newest release (June 23, 2015), Vortex, from Neal Schon and it's quite good! Opening with Miles Beyond it is immediately recognized that you are listening to something different. With it's heavy bottom, almost like a giant strolling, it has unusual time signatures mixed in with middle eastern sounds and maybe even traces of Led Zep, but what it is all about is clean instrumental guitar work joined by Steve Smith on drums and Jan Hammer on keys. Very nice! Awakening immediately puts you into the feel of the Mahavishnu Orchestra with its excellent sense of rhythm and timing. Schon is certainly not copying McLaughlin here with totally different lead guitar style but essential and fluid just the same. Excellent! Cuban Fly Zone is a much more evenly paced track with vocal like jazz guitar leads and Hammer creating nice tension on keys. Schon is certainly equipped to fill a frame with notes but restrains himself for the most part creating melodic quick runs that tie nicely into the melody. El Matador has a Spanish guitar break within the melody and a Spanish guitar bridge between searing electric guitar soloing and hot tight drums. Eternal Love is a sweet piano melody set down by Igor Len. In A Cloud is a simple transition piece from the full onslaught of the earlier opening and ultimate quiet of Eternal Love. Slowly building from an easy flow to a more and more dynamic piece, this track does it's job nicely with clean ballad like guitar work. Irish Cream has an airy almost soaring kind of guitar feel over simple keyboard tracings of melody giving the track it's name. Smith really nails it on this track as Schon rides the wave. Lady M (Our Love Remains) is a bluesy ballad along what I'd consider the Gary Moore line. Although I like much of what I'm hearing overall, this track would seem the most natural radio transitional track from disc one. Airliner NS910 is a straight up rocker with Schon laying it all out there. Super smoker for the closer.

 Opening disc 2 is Tortured Souls, the epic track for the release. I particularly like Schon's bass lines on this track but am not as enamored with the synth horns but overall this is a real nice track with a solid focus. Schon & Hammer Now is guitar extravaganza with nice duets between Schon and Hammer reminiscent of earlier instrumental banter with Beck. Schon plays some incredibly fast runs on guitar and the track actually dances at times. NS Vortex opens with ethereal guitar work and then breaking into a fast, drum driven funk with Schon soloing over the top. Minor nods to BxB as Schon carves his own path accompanied by excellent precision drumming. Unspoken Faith reminds me a bit of a Jerry Goodman release from many years ago. It has a very tasty melody and clean guitar delivery. Excellent! Twilight Spellbound is another cool track that kind of walks between rock and jazz. I really like the dark melody that repeats itself under the prime guitar soloing which is the icing on the cake! Nicely done. Triumph Of Love has a definite anthem feel to it with it's repetition of the theme and military like drums. Once broken, the main track sounds like the soundtrack of an action film. Polished and nicely executed. Another break in the searing guitar is the simple acoustic Mom. Schon takes every care to make each note count on this quiet but impactful tune. Talk To Me is a slowly building slick guitar over scaled bass line track with some smoking hot guitar riffs. I like the tracks simplicity giving Hammer freedom on keys and Smith the chance to really hammer it home. Light bongo percussion and acoustic Spanish guitar balances nicely against a refrain on very heavy driving rhythm guitar with searing electric guitar lead. The release is wrapped by White Light, a cleverly light electric guitar solo over an acoustic guitar sequence and light keys. A nice track to cool down from a hot ride.  
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