The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world




MAY 23 2014



There’s no doubt in my mind that Neal Schon has been involved in some of the greatest Melodic Rock releases of all time, from the obvious with Journey, to the amazing one-off projects like the first Hardline album, or Bad English among others. His solo output though has always been variable ranging from jazzy full instrumental outings to more contemporary fare. This release sees Schon team up with Marco Mendoza (Black Star Riders) and Deen Castronovo (Journey) to create an album where all three share vocals on a bunch of songs very much in the Melodic Hard Rock mould.


At only nine songs long, and two of those instrumentals ‘So U’ pretty much cuts to the chase, with ‘Take A Ride’ getting the cards down on the table early on. It’s a song that underlines the pedigree of the performers in that it’s tight as hell, but also shows that there’s clearly something there between them as they connect beautifully, channelling the Blues on the funky rocker’s groove-laden performance.


Title track ‘SO U’ is an epic song, clocking in at almost ten minutes and one of the real standouts here, even if it is rather unlike anything else. The song rises beautifully from low-key beginnings to reach just the slightly trippy heights you’d hope it would.


Just when all is right with the world ‘Exotica’ rears its Jazz rock head and knocks you back down to the floor. Sure musically it is beautifully played but it kind of takes the wind from the sails after such an epic rock statement.  
‘What You Want’ is a funky rocker that ticks all the boxes after that ‘Jazz’ interlude, and the sweeping ballad ‘Love Finds a Way’ that follows more than makes up for that one misstep.


As a contrast the urgent funk rock of ‘On My Way’ recalls Dan Reed at his most frenetic, and replete with some great harmonies it’s a song that quickly rights the tilting ship, and is one of the best tracks here.


The biggest song here though is perhaps the next: ‘Serenity’ is a huge catchy Melodic Rocker that says it all, OK it may not break any new ground but it’s a song that does what it says on the box – it’s one to sing along to and wind the windows in the car down for, it also reminds me of classic UK rock band UFO especially in the vocal delivery.


‘Shelter’ treads the same slightly funky rock sound of some of the other songs here and is just as pleasing. Closing with another expansive instrumental in ‘Big Ocean’ is really neither here nor there; it’s a song to listen to and take in but like ‘Exotica’ seems strangely at odds with the rest of the album.


The sort of album you’d like to hear more off, but please cut the instrumentals or leave them for another release!

Track Listing: Take a Ride | So U | Exotica | What You Want | Love Finds a Way | On My Way | Serenity | Shelter | Big Ocean

Band Lineup:
Neal Schon – guitar, vocals
Marco Mendoza – bass guitar, vocals
Deen Castronovo – drums, percussion



by Mark Diggins