Having sold darn-near 90 million records (let that sink in for just a second; 90 million!!!) as a member of Journey, you could forgive Neal Schon should he decide to never pick up a guitar again.
Thankfully, Schon - who is long overdue for his rightful spot in the Rock-N-Roll Hall of Fame - doesn't seem content to just lay around on the beach all day and let his royalty checks pile up.
He's heavily involved in the reunion of the original Santana Band (circa 1972), along with Carlos Santana, Michael Shrive, Mike Carabello and Gregg Rolie.
To tide music lovers over until the album that collective is working on hits the street, Schon has bestowed an all-instrumental double-disc -- his ninth and 10th solo releases - appropriately titled Vortex, upon us.
Hold on to your hats, but Vortex may just be the straw that stirs the drink for the rest of Schon's already-amazing career.
Where to begin?
How about with a couple of Schon's old sparring partners -- drummer Steve Smith (ex-Journey) and keyboardist Jan Hammer (Mahavishnu Orchestra) -- making appearances on Vortex? Both of them have forgotten more about jazz fusion than most could ever remember and they fit right in on Schon's grand scheme for Vortex like a hand inside a glove ... brilliantly.
Instrumental albums can be a tricky proposition and they have a tendency to sink under their own weight, with one composition blending into the next without ever distinguishing itself as an individual idea capable of standing on its own.
But even though Vortex clocks in at 18 tracks, that malaise never rears its ugly head once. That's a real testament to Schon the composer.
There's plenty of fretboard fireworks -- as should be expected -- on Vortex, but all the bombastic licks and all the hyper-speed runs that Schon pulls off really seem to fit into the frameworks of the songs and are not there just for the sake of showing-off. In my opinion, Schon has never received his just due as an amazing rhythm guitarist and he more than proves he's one of the best on Vortex. And then there's his always-nimble lead work; fast, fiery, jazzy and down-right rocking ... all present and accounted for on this one.
Not to be shuffled aside is the contributions that keyboardist Igor Len makes on the album. Especially ear-catching is the beautiful ballad "Eternal Love" which casts the spotlight solely on Len's warm and alluring acoustic piano.
Vortex runs the gamut of musical emotion and styles - world music, jazz, rock -- and if you close your eyes, chances are it will sweep you up into the eye of the cyclone and transport you to another world.
And that's a journey well worth taking.