Something Else! sneak peek: Journey's Neal Schon with Steve Smith, "The Calling" (2012)

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.

[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Steve Smith talks about reuniting with Neal Schon — and just how underrated that initial fusion-inspired edition of Journey still is.]

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.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso