Something Else! sneak peek: Neal Schon, “Exotica” from So U (2014)

Even as Neal Schon works on a long-awaited reunion with the Santana band, he’s unleashing a taste of what he calls “Latin fusion” from a forthcoming solo album with Marco Mendoza and Deen Castronovo.

Mendoza is best known for his bass work with Black Star Riders. Castronovo has been with Journey since the late 1990s, and before that worked with Schon in Bad English and Hardline. Together, they’ve updated the power trio concept for Schon’s So U, due May 20, 2014 via Frontier Records — starting with his eruption of old-school musicmaking that will bring long-time fans back to the Santana III days at the turn of the 1970s.

Schon says “Exotica” started in an unusual place: “I had this Korg keyboard, and I found this cool loop in it. I sort of just turned off the drums that were in it, and left the rest of the loop going. Marco and Deen went out and played, and I just moved the chord changes around.”

But there’s more to So U, Schon adds. Elsewhere, he co-wrote with Jack Blades of Night Ranger fame. Castronovo, Schon and Mendoza take turns on vocals, as well. “Everything we’d done on the record is real eclectic,” Castronovo confirms. “Everything is different. We went to a lot of different places, you know — and that’s what made it fun. Neal will just come up with something, and you fly.”

The guitarist, who was in Santana from 1971–72 before founding Journey, has been on a tear lately, issuing Eclipse with Journey in 2011, and a recording of his own called The Calling in 2012. This new album, in fact, grew out of those same solo sessions, though with different sidemen.

“I just play all over the map — all different types of music,” Schon adds. “I just like to jam and open it up, and see what’s there. You go back and listen, and maybe extract five little ideas out of five hours. I wanted to put a lot of different elements in it, musically — to try to be a little diverse, so it’s not all in one little box. Everybody’s so musical, there’s no reason to be like that.”

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