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CD Reviews: Neal Schon
Neal Schon: I On U
March 2005
By: Linda Spielman
album cover of Neal Schon's I On U

Music legends are born, not made. They are in a league all their own, and no matter what they touch it always seems to turn into gold. Even if the artist isn't performing in their original element, their style and musical expression shines through whatever project they are a part of at the time. Neal Schon is all of the above, plus so much more. I On U is just the latest in the Schon solo anthology that focuses on the amazing style of one of the most popular and recognized guitarists of 1970's and 80's popular music.

I On U brings out elements of pre-Steve Perry Journey music. The strictly instrumental CD allows the listener to rely more on their imagination for interpretation, rather than lyrical reference. There isn't one underlying theme or feel to this CD. It is a musical journey into the mind and passion of Schon. The tracks fuse jazz and new age musical flavors, along with rich melodies make this an incredible listen for those who love Schon the artist and musician, as well as those who generally gravitate to a deeper musical genre such as that which is included on I On U.

From a production standpoint, Schon, along with Igor Len and Gary Cirimelli, collectively took the artistic energy of each song and equally channeled it into the production of the CD. The clarity of the album as a whole helps set the stage for the twelve track-long musical journey. Although the CD is a purely guitar driven, Schon blends drums, bass and keyboards to further enhance the melodies of the tracks for a richer feel and sound. Through the stellar production, listeners can allow themselves to completely get lost in the music as a whole, as opposed to having to think too much about what they are listening to. From a deliberate and subconscious standpoint, I think that is what Schon intended for the listeners--- to simply fall into the music without much thought.

The Chamber has a completely alternative and techno vibe which sets itself apart from the majority of the tracks. If one track stands out as the most improvisational on the entire CD, it would be this. Schon lets loose on a roller coaster of guitar riffs that accompany the eclectic nature of the track. Urban Angel is just that--- very urban and somewhat dark and brooding. Through Schon's playing, you can almost feel the lost soul searching for answers in the abyss of a looming metropolis. This track is a welcomed break midway through the CD, which has the listener doing a 360 if they were expecting predictability.

Two of the other notable tracks on this CD, Burning Bridges and Taken There, are some of the most Journey-esque cuts on the album, if you really need to compare Schon's solo effort to that of his collaboration with the band. Both of these tracks have more of a melodic rock edge feel to them. They are highly driven tracks, which have many musical peaks and valleys to hold the listener's interest. Although they have remnant elements of the style Schon has contributed over the years to all the Journey songs, they truly have an identity all their own. They are fluid in melodies and high octane guitar rock.

Overall, this CD is an amazing listen. To hear an artist in his simplest and truest form is always a joy. For those who are used to Journey songs, this may not be what you would expect. For those who have followed Schon over the years, or unknowingly been exposed to this CD, it is one of his best solo efforts to date. There is a reason why Neal Schon is as respected as he is, and this CD is a prime example of why his artistry is held in such high esteem.