The Powerhouse Partnership of Neal Schon and Jan Hammer
By Dale Anderson
JOURNEY FANS may pay little attention to it once Frontiers, the latest album from the San Francisco superstars, hits the stores. Nevertheless, Journey's guitarist, Neal Schon, has developed a most intriguing collaboration with Czech-born jazz-rock keyboardist Jan Hammer.
The latest fruit of their partnership is Here to Stay (Columbia 38428), an album of such force and forthrightness that it should pique the interest no matter what one thinks of Journey.
Having probed each other's potential in last year's introductory Untold Passion album, Schon and Hammer zero in what they do best. The outcome is superior to what either of them do separately.
No homogenized licks from Schon here. He propels Hammer's hard-edged moods with the kind of lyrical overdrive that'll make people remember he once played with Santana. Hammer, meanwhile, in his quest to build better basic rock, gives Schon the substance and the schematics to work with, then wisely holds back most of the time and lets his newfound playmate wail.
The opening "No More Lies" demonstrates just how incendiary their approach can be. The phrases of the chorus flare out. The guitar cuts the synthesized backdrop into perfect pieces of kindling. It burns like a house afire. When Hammer takes the upper hand in the brittle blockish "(You Think You're) So Hot" and "Long Time," you understand why he gave up jazz.
Yhe Schon-Hammer pairing is proof of the adage that if at first you don't succeed, try, try again.