Neal Schon, “Lady M” from Vortex (2015): One Track Mind

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Neal Schon’s baseline pace, in particular on his solo recordings, is one of torrid invention — a style that led early mentor Carlos Santana to dub him the Vortex. It’s been safe to assume that his forthcoming album of the same name, due June 23, 2015 via the Mascot Label Group imprint Theories Recordings, promises more such tornadic outbursts.

There’s another side to Neal Schon, though, the side that contributed so much to Journey’s platinum-plated ballad successes, a side that plays with dilated emotion and no small amount of heart. Such are the more considered joys of “Lady M,” an advance track from Vortex.

That said, this is no sequel to Journey’s “Lights,” “Don’t Stop Believin'” or “I’ll Be Alright Without You” — all of which had Neal Schon co-writing credits. Instead, Schon builds off that kind of quietude, finding a kind of chest-bursting passion. In the end, “Lady M” feels both thunderously romantic and, in no small way, like a push back against the forces of doubt that initially surrounded his new relationship with the former Michaele Salahi.

Vortex is, in fact, dedicated in total to Michaele, and also includes the Schon original “Triumph of Love,” which he played at their wedding. If “Lady M” is any guide, that will serve as an interesting balance to the flintier excursions that have tended to dominate Neal Schon’s work away from Journey.

This certainly feels like one of his most personal offerings ever. Schon cut these tracks at Fantasy Studios, where Journey began recording in 1981 with Escape, and the album includes drum work from Steve Smith — a sideman from the same era. But other than some additional keyboard work by Jan Jammer and Igor Len, Vortex is a true solo project. Schon even played bass.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, 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 U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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