NEAL SCHON - instrumental guitar pop rock favorites - elevator ambience - RIFFZAK - " aka Eclectic Earwig Reviews Music and More for You!"
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Neal Schon: Voice (Higher Octave Music)

    Well, I have to say that of the countless CDs I received from EER this, 
hands down, is the one I like the least. People have said that one only truly 
dislikes music when he doesn't understand it, and maybe that's true, but 
Neal's ambitions seem quite easy to understand -- make smooth, instrumental, 
overproduced versions of everyone's favorite smooth, overproduced pop songs. 
In short, this is pure elevator music. Admittedly, the fact that Neal chooses 
songs I think are absolutely wretched shows we aren't on the same page, so 
maybe I truly don't understand him enough to comment. But I'm the reviewer, 
and that's my job.

    Ok.... I'll admit some of the pieces on the album are better than others. 
The first track, a typical easy listening workout with just enough jazz hints 
to be annoying, at least doesn't ever build to an atrocious melodramatic 
attempt to sweep me off my feet. The second track, "Hero," on the other hand, 
doesn't have this saving grace and sounds even more-overproduced (if there's 
one thing that drives me crazy, it's the quiet little reverbed tambourine hit 
on beat 4 that I hear in EVERY song they play while I'm sitting in the 
dentist's chair). An additional demerit for the cheesy piano part. The fourth 
track, "Killing Me Softly" (the first of these covers I actually recognized) 
starts with a decent ambient intro that would be quite bearable in itself. 
But sure enough, Neal once again breaks into the smooth land of reverbed 
tambourines on beat 4 as his guitar pretentiously soars above the 
overproduced synthesizer layers below. Speaking of Neal's guitar, he has the 
elevator music-sound down pat, and never varies it for a second. After a 
while, the soaring guitar sound becomes unbearable because he seems to NEVER 
use any other sound!
    The album basically continues on in this fashion, but there is one low 
point I can't resist mentioning. I'll put it to you straight - Neal does one 
of the worst covers of the song "My Heart Will Go On" (which I think is 
pretty wretched to begin with). It's worse than you imagine, dear reader. 
Neal's guitar is at the height of its soaring pretension and the little 
tambourine was never more reverbed or on beat 4 in its life. When the dual 
guitars come in, I want to commit violent acts against my CD player. And 
worse, this song sounds the most over-produced on the entire album. No 
offense, Mr. Schon, but personally, this is perhaps the worst piece of music 
I've heard in a long time.
    I really don't enjoy being this harsh, but there are very few things 
about this CD that I like at all. On the positive side, I can say that Neal 
seems to be doing what he intends to be doing about as well as anyone else in 
the field, and that technically he is a very good guitar player (on the last 
track he does do some decent bluesy soloing). This is not my kind of music, 
but if it's really his kind of music and he enjoys it, than more power to 
him. But for my personal recommendation, I would only recommend this to those 
who schedule extra dentist appointments just to hear the music.
     ~Jon Murphree~ EDITOR's notes: When you see the label, Higher Octave Music, expect the mellower side of jazz, soft rock, and synth music. Even a rocker like Neal waxes very pastel. The liner notes/ press kit explain Neal wanting a softer voice on his guitar . . . well, I have to agree 110% with Jon on his call as this CD induces zzzzzzzzzzzzsleep and/or swift ennui, ennui, ennui . . .




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