No one could accuse Neal Schon of laziness. In
an axe-slinging career that has lasted almost 35 years now (not bad for a
guy whose artist bio says he's in his early 50s), Schon is best known as the
long-time guitarist for Journey. Before that, he was a member of the
classic early 70s lineup of Santana.
He has also been ubiquitous in several supergroups,
including late 80s hit-makers Bad English (with John Waite), Schon & Hammer
(with Jan Hammer), HSAS (with Sammy Hagar, Kenny Aaronson and Michael
Shrieve), Abraxas Pool (with former Santana and Journey bandmates Gregg
Rolie and Shrieve) and the current Soul Sirkus (which had included Hagar and
Michael Anthony before they recently returned to Van Halen).
i on U is his sixth. Released
on Favored Nations, the label of fellow fretman Steve Vai, i on U is
an old fashioned guitar rock-out reminiscent of the work of Joe Satriani or
Vai. There are no vocals and no frills, this is just about some
old-time guitar noodling.Somewhere along the line, he has also made the time to
record some solo albums, of which
Musically, Schon strays into many of the styles and
genres that he has touched upon before, and a few that he hasn't. "It
Will Happen" has a bit of an exotic jazzy worldbeat feel to it, while
"Highland" is pure soaring power chord blazing. In "Urban Angel" Schon
gets a little funkier, laying down a track reminiscent of an early 70s
blaxploitation theme and yet at the same time surprisingly delicate.
He echoes the Latin feel of his Santana days in "Moon
Dust," while "Taken There" has more of a new wave feel to it before hitting
on a shredding solo. The album closer "Father" is a sweet and soulful
ballad that shuts the album down on a high note.
The only complaint that I really have is one that is
pretty much standard with all-instrumental guitar jam albums. No
matter how well done or diverse it is, it all starts to sound somewhat
alike. Without any vocals to capture the attention, rock music can
sometimes become a bit like musical wallpaper -- pretty, but not something
you're going to spend a lot of time pondering. There is a lot of
talent on display here, it's a shame it may fade into the background.