It’s been another top-notch year for guitarist Neal Schon.
Besides the fact that Journey—which includes Schon, Ross Valory (bass), Jonathan Cain (keyboards), Steve Smith (drums) and Arnel Pineda (vocals)—celebrated another season of non-stop touring, Schon also reunited with Carlos Santana to record Santana IV. The album marked the first time Santana’s classic lineup has worked together in more than 40 years.
We recently spoke to Schon about touring with Journey, reuniting with Santana, the 35th anniversary of Journey’s Escape, gear and some incredible career highlights.
What’s it like to still be performing at this high level with Journey after so many years?
It’s been an amazing ride, and I think it’s all due to a lot of hard work. When we decided to rebuild almost two decades ago, it was a long ride up the hill. Those first eight years were a lot of work, and in many ways it was like paying our dues all over again. We’re grateful to everyone who put in so much time rebuilding, and we still have much more to experiment with musically.
What does the band have planned for next year?
We’ve been playing the greatest hits for a while and know we have to play those songs in order to make fans happy. But our die-hard fans want to hear different material, and we have tons of it. So that’s what’s about to come next year. We’ll be playing our first shows in the Orient where we’ve been asked to play Escape and Frontiers in their entirety. I think it will be fun for everyone to get reconnected with those records. Some of those songs, like “Frontiers,” we’ve never played live. We actually went through it at a sound check recently and it sounded amazing. I’m excited about doing it.
What was it like getting back together with Carlos and the gang for Santana IV?
For me, it was a lifelong dream. Everyone had their own hangups at the time we disbanded, and a lot of us didn’t leave on the right note. I remember when we first got together to test out the idea, we had about eight days of rehearsal and jamming and it was just amazing. Gregg [Rolie], Carlos and I brought in songs, and we went at it in a very organic way and laid it all down. I feel so proud of this record and it’s very gratifying to have helped pull all of these guys back together.
This year also marked the 35th anniversary of Journey’s Escape, an album that saw the departure of Gregg Rolie and the arrival of Jonathan Cain. What was the chemistry like in the band at that point?
Honestly, it was great. Even before we did Escape, we were already at a height, when we put out the Captured. By that point, Gregg had enough of being on tour and wanted to start a family. At the time, the Babys were opening for us. They were a solid unit and I loved [John] Waite’s vocals. I was checking out Jonathan [Cain] and felt that he was such a great player, and I also liked the fact that he strapped on a rhythm guitar and played once in a while. So when Gregg was going to leave I asked him what he thought about Jonathan taking his place. Gregg thought it was a great choice and everyone else in the band agreed. We continued to evolve and even went into some new areas I had never been in before.
Read the rest of my
Interview with Neal Schon by Clicking Here.
Now you would think that as a musician The Grammy Awards would be something always on my agenda of things to watch. To see the best of the best get their due. But sadly, the ceremony, much like the AMA’s, CMA’s and any other “MA’s” I may have missed, seems to have become nothing more than just a lackluster showcase for the music industry to pat itself on the back instead of awarding real talent.
Don’t get me wrong, this year Adele easily deserved to sweep everything. She is a true diamond in a sea of the same old same. But outside of her obvious and most deserving win, every year the awards seems to turn more and more into something that can’t be taken seriously.
Consider the way Chris Brown was graciously accepted back onto the stage again and won a pair of awards after his most recent shenanigans. Or the way Dave Grohl of The Foo Fighters was blatantly cut off during his acceptance speech when he started telling the truth about how music should come from the heart and not a computer. And lets not forget the fact that a group of “old men” (The Beach Boys) schooled everyone who hit the stage before them with true vocal harmony.
But I’d really like to focus the meat of this blog on the list of artists from the “Rock Performance” and “Metal” categories. Because, you know me, it’s all about the Rock and Metal.
First, here’s a list of winners from thirty years ago:
Record of the Year: Rosanna: Toto
Album of the Year: Toto IV
Song of the Year: Always on My Mind: Willie Nelson
Best New Artist: Men at Work
Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female: Pat Benatar-“Shadows of the Night ”
Best Rock Vocal Performance, Male: John Cougar Mellencamp -“Hurts So Good”
Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal: Survivor-“Eye of the Tiger”
Best Rock Instrumental Performance: A Flock of Seagulls – “D.N.A.”
And now, here is a list of Grammy winners for 2012:
Record of the Year: “Rolling in the Deep,” Adele
Album of the Year: “21,” Adele
Song of the Year: “Rolling in the Deep,” Adele Adkins & Paul Epworth
New Artist: Bon Iver
Pop Solo Performance: “Someone Like You,” Adele
Rock Song: “Walk,” Foo Fighters
Rock Album: “Wasting Light,” Foo Fighters
Rock Performance: “Walk,” Foo Fighters
Hard Rock/Metal Performance: “White Limo,” Foo Fighters
Look at the variety of artists from three decades ago. All with hit songs and all deserving. Where is that variety today?
Please don’t misunderstand me, I love the Foo Fighters. Really, I do. But three different songs winning Grammy awards? And one Grammy for Best “Metal” performance? The Foo Fighters aren’t “Metal”.
It really upsets me that there seems to be a lack of true nominees in these categories whether by accident or deliberate intention. Every time you see the list of nominations you pretty much know who is going to win. And why is it that groups you’ve never heard of always seem to get a nod and bands that have Grammy history and new albums get ignored?
Consider artists like Journey, Foreigner and Night Ranger for example. Ok, I agree that it’s been years since any of them had songs that topped the charts. But all of these bands have released albums of brand new music, most of it very good and all within the time frame of nomination, but their body of work wasn’t even acknowledged by the academy.
Now I’m not saying any of these artists should win. Hardly. All I’m saying is that wouldn’t it be nice to at least recognize the efforts of bands that have stood the test of time and continue to deliver music for their fans? But instead, true musicianship gets over shadowed by the need for computer generated beats and auto-tuned vocal performances.
I guess I shouldn’t really be surprised though. I mean lets face it, this is the same awards show that gave the very first Grammy in the Hard Rock/Metal category to Jethro Tull instead of Metallica.
And don’t get me started on that whole Milli Vanilli incident.
Have you heard? The new Night Ranger CD, Somewhere in California, was released a few weeks ago. It’s probably their best studio album since Midnight Madness when Sister Christian peaked at #5 on the Billboard charts.
Oooh, has anyone given a listen to the new Whitesnake CD, Forevermore? The single, “Love Will Set You Free” is simply infectious. As for the new Journey CD, Eclipse? Eh, I can take it or leave it. I mean, I’m really not as big a fan since Steve Perry left a few years ago.
I am still looking forward to the new Van Halen record this fall though. There’s sure been a lot of buzz about it on their Facebook fan page since David Lee Roth came back. I can’t wait to see if Eddie still has those guitar skills. If only this were 1987, it sure would be a great time to be a music fan. For me anyway.
But alas, here we are in the middle of 2011, and although everything I’ve said about those bands above is true (they all have already or will have new studio albums and tours this year) I bet 75% of the fans they had back in their hey day do not even know it.
To them, as to everyone else who are fans of the synthesized robotic voiced artists, the bands they once loved and adored a quarter century ago broke up years ago and the members are now active AARP recipients.
And if you really want to get that old album you wore out on the turntable signed, well you might just find them at a convention signing autographs and taking pictures. The ones former childhood stars and “B” movie actors also attend. The same artists, whom you couldn’t get near when their music ruled the air, will now even have lunch with you (if you’re buying of course).
Truth is, by the way today’s music business works, that’s probably the way it should be. These bands, who once dominated the charts, are still releasing quality product but no one is listening. Sadly, some of the songs on these albums, which would have been sure-fire chart toppers twenty-five years ago, won’t even get airplay.
I already know what you’re thinking: Get over it. Times have changed and so has music. And you may be right. I just might be turning into something I always said my parents were when it came to music, an old fuddy duddy. I really miss seeing my music on store shelves and being talked about.
But I think Mom and Dad would agree with me on something else: a lot of the songs that are popular on radio right now sound exactly the same. Today’s pop/rock music is driven primarily by the same old beat and tired cliché’ lyrics.
Meanwhile, bands like the ones I’ve mentioned are finding no outlet for their new music and are relegated to signing exclusive deals with Walmart or foreign record companies to peddle them while they embark on tours (most times in groups of two or three together) playing their hits just to stay relevant.
One of these record companies, Frontiers Records, seems to have landed the motherload of these now “classic” rock bands. If you look at their artist catalogue, it reads like something you’d see on the program from Live Aid in 1985.
Although I am saddened to no longer see their records on the shelves, it only reinforces the fact that these artists are still in it for the music. There’s really no need for them to try and put out new material that will sell nowhere near what their old records did back in the day.
I’m just glad they continue to do it for fans like me who appreciate everything they’ve accomplished.
Article first published as Is Anyone Listening To “New” Music? on Technorati.