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Neal Schon - 'Vortex' http://www.rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/47/ca/a6/neal-schon-vortex-99-1442177242.jpg Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     September 13, 2015    
 
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One of the best examples of the genre and one of the strongest releases of Schon's solo career.

After last year's triple vocal album 'So U' with Marco Mendoza and Deen Castronovo, prolific Journey guitarist Neal Schon has returned to the instrumental format with this double album which contains just under a hundred minutes of music. Working with his usual alumni of keyboardist Igor Len (ex-Yes) and former Journey drum legend Steve Smith, 'Vortex' delivers pretty much what fans of albums like 'The Calling' and 'I On U' have come to expect; a mix of Rock, Jazz, Blues and Fusion styles, bound together by Schon's accessible compositions along with his inimitable tone and passion.

The quality is uniformly high, starting with the heavily layered 'Miles Beyond', which takes a while to really get going but builds to a dramatic crescendo. Schon's beautiful playing shines brightly during the Dark Fusion of 'Awakening', the slow and Bluesy 'In A Cloud' and the upbeat Progressive themes of 'Irish Cream', with 'Airliner NS910' (signifying his ninth and tenth albums respectively) rounding out the first disc in a blaze of wild solos without losing the strong song structure. The Latin shuffle of 'Cuban Fly Zone' and flamenco aspects of 'El Matador' add even more variation, as does Len's haunting piano piece 'Eternal Love'.

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If anything the second disc is even better and features some of the longest tracks. 'Tortured Souls', for instance, is very song-based and clocks in at over ten minutes of Beatles-esque melodies and arrangements whilst 'NS Vortex' and 'Talk To Me' both last over eight minutes; the former an upbeat Rocker with furious guitar, drums and keys and the latter building from a mellow intro to a complex, Progressive tour-de-force. Some of the shortest pieces are here too, like the simple atmospherics of 'Unspoken Faith' and the gorgeous acoustic guitar interludes 'Mom' and 'White Light'. Other highlights include the memorable dramatics of 'Twilight – Spellbound' and Schon's delicate subtlety on 'Triumph Of Love'. But for my money the self-explanatory 'Schon And Hammer Now' trumps all with its Rocky riffs, lovely mellow bit in the middle and a lively guitar/synth trade-off between Schon and his legendary, former conspirator Jan Hammer.

I'm aware that instrumental music is an acquired taste and the long running time of this double disc effort may make it hard for all but the most devoted of fans to listen to in one sitting. However, the song construction and the virtuosity of all involved makes 'Vortex' one of the best examples of the genre and one of the strongest releases of Schon's solo career.

Phil Ashcroft

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