It’s Neal Schon’s newest record since 2015’s ‘Vortex’, a fifteen track affair with six covers produced by drum master Narada Michael Walden.
Written by: gdmonline
ARTIST: Neal Schon
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
LINEUP: Neal Schon – guitars * Narada Michael Walden – drums, production * ‘Buddha’ – bass
TRACK LISTING: 01 Something In The Heart * 02 The Eye Of God * 03 The Universe * 04 Caruso * 05 Voodoo Child (Jimi Hendrix) * 06 Third Stone From The Sun (Jimi Hendrix) * 07 Purple Rain (Prince) * 08 She’s For Real * 09 What Has Become * 10 Lights (Journey) * 11 Silent Voyage * 12 Chrome Shuffle * 13 Be Happy * 14 I Believe (Stevie Wonder) * 15 Hey Jude (The Beatles)
WEBLINKS: Site Link
It was an easy decision to include this album in our review schedule, based on Neal’s past work such as ‘Late Nite’, ‘Beyond The Thunder’ and ‘Voice’, all three reviewed here previously. This latest one ‘Universe’ is two years in the making, and sees legendary drummer Narada Michael Walden doing the heavy lifting with all of the songwriting for the originals plus production for the entire album.
Across the fifteen tracks, there’s diversity galore, the mix is spacious and airy, only on a couple of tracks does it sound dry. The album includes six covers (refer track listing above).
As there are many tracks here, I won’t write about every song, I’ll cherry-pick a handful instead. The covers I’ll mention first, as these are tracks every rock music fan should know.
The Jimi Hendrix pairing of ‘Voodoo Child’ and ‘Third Stone From The Sun’ are as familiar as anything, so too ‘Purple Rain’ from Prince, a version of the Journey chestnut ‘Lights’ plus ‘Hey Jude’ from The Beatles. Not songs I would go back to listen to twice on a covers album but hey, it is Neal and Narada’s album after all.
Of the originals, not a lot got me going. ‘Something In The Heart’ was as atmospheric as material off ‘Late Nite’, a nice but perhaps an overlong seven minute excursion. The two plus minutes of ‘The Eye Of God’ with its Egyptian theme went nowhere, ‘The Universe’ was built on a strong backbone from Walden, but the guitar noodling was frankly discordant.
‘Caruso’ is a track we’ve heard before from Neal appearing on the 2001 album ‘Voice’. It’s a very soulful piece, nice to hear it again though I would have preferred to hear something new. The jazzy feel of ‘She’s For Real’ – propelled by some super drum fills from Walden and a smidgen of orchestration is a goodie. We don’t hear enough of this style from Neal.
The mellow ‘Silent Voyage’ was just far too dreamlike and ponderous to be memorable, much better is the raucous ‘Be Happy’ which once again shines a light on the Schon Hammer era of Neal’s back history.
It’s funny with this album because I was more interested in Narada Michael Walden‘s contribution, as I am a huge fan of his solo work during the late 70’s and early 80’s. And as Neal indicated in the press leading up to this, it was he who asked Walden to (quote) ‘write me an album’ (unquote).
There’s quite a bit of music within the tome of Neal Schon. I’ve heard all of it, and this would sit somewhere in the middle in terms of rating. I would struggle to get through this in one sitting – it’s just far too long and with 40% of the material as covers, that killed my interest substantially. Sorry to say.
She’s For Real