This new instrumental is interesting because Steve Smith showed up just as Journey took a turn in the late 1970s from its more fusion-informed early period toward a platinum-selling arena-rock formula.
Still, you always got the sense, as he subsequently moved deeper into the jazz roots of his youth, that Smith might have been a better fit for the early Journey records — when co-founding guitarist Neal Schon, keyboardist Gregg Rolie and bassist Ross Valory indulged themselves in a looser, free-form rock amalgam.
“The Calling” makes good on that notion, as Smith joins Schon for the first time since their mid-1990s reunion as members of Journey. The lineup is rounded out by keyboardist Igor Len, but this track is nevertheless dominated by the ongoing conversation between Smith and Schon, who also doubles on bass.
They play with a furious yet controlled abandon, sounding nothing like the smooth-swinging pop-rock that powered “Send Her My Love” or “The Eyes of a Woman.” Still, that doesn’t mean this doesn’t sound like Journey. It’s just Journey of a different vintage.
Instead, “The Calling” recalls the heavy weather of 1977′s Next, with its thunderous rhythms and fretboard-melting riffs, but at the same time retains the free-form prog-rock inclinations of Journey’s 1975 debut. For fans of the original pre-Perry configuration of this band, Schon’s “The Calling” is like a letter from a long-lost friend.
“The Calling,” the first advance single from two separate forthcoming solo Schon projects, was part of a recording session held at Fantasy Recording Studios in Berkeley, California, after Journey completed 2010′s Eclipse. Jan Hammer (who collaborated with Schon on his initial pair of early-1980s solo projects) also took part, along with bassist Marco Mendoza and current Journey drummer Deen Castronovo. Len appeared on Schon’s 2005 solo album I on U, as well.