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'So U'
(Frontiers Records)
Release Date: 16th May 2014

Gary 'Rockulus' Clarke

Rockulus Maximus

neal schon

This is one of those curiosities that come up from time to time. Three established and respected musicians collaborate on an album which allows each member to showcase their virtuosity.

Those individuals are Neal Schön known for being the core of AOR kings Journey; Marco Mendoza, known for his work with Black Star Riders, Whitesnake, Thin Lizzy and Ted Nugent amongst others plus Deen Castronovo, the drummer for Journey. Castronovo has also backed Ozzy Osbourne, Paul Rodgers and Steve Vai along with an impressive back catalogue of work with several other bands/projects.

Neal Schön stated in a press release: "This is a great new record that features all three of us – Deen, Marco and myself – sharing lead vocals. Enjoy!"

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It's not so much the point of all three taking on the mantle of vocalist throughout the album, but their chemistry when united in their common musical goal which is the ultimate focus. They do an honourable job here as 'Take A Ride' swaggers out of the gates with a groove that provokes the body to move.

The title track is an example of true wonder reaching out in length to an impressive nine minutes and fifty seconds. Beginning like a soulful crooning song, it shifts gears and blossoms in to a real journey of progression. I'm sitting there and thinking this isn't as bad as I feared.

Then track three ('Exotica') warns me that these are musicians and this could well fall in to the realm of self-indulgence which is what my gut was saying before I played the album. The drumming is relentless and impressive as this jazz rock "instru-Mental" impresses the musically-savvy amongst us.

Stevie Salas Concorde springs to mind when I crank up 'On My Way'; upbeat with an urgent delivery of funk complete with hooks and some tasty harmony vocals. 'What You Want' works well for similar reasons although there's less funk mixed in. On the opposite side of the coin from their up tempo material you also get a sweeping ballad in the shape of 'Love Finds A Way' which finds a subtle backdoor to the memory and grips tight. Overblown - most certainly; classic – not quite.

'Serenity' does the business before we are confronted with 'Shelter' which opens with a united vocal harmony before the instrumentation kicks in maintaining the flow started by its predecessors. The final track is the second instrumental on 'So U' although in comparison to 'Exotica', this is the sort of composition where you dim the lights and stretch and unwind.

I'll be honest and tell you I was wary of my ears being assaulted by a collection of self-indulgent and extraordinary performances that would blow the minds of any passing musicians but leave fans of songs feeling cold and unwanted.

Thankfully, 'So U' offers up mostly tracks that you can feel and digest apart from 'Exotica' and 'Big Ocean', which aren't necessarily bad, just a little tedious if you want something as a fan of singers and songs. Highlights like the title track, 'On My Way' and to a point 'Love Finds A Way' pushed me away from being too critical.

Take A Ride
So U
What You Want
Love Finds A Way
On My Way
Big Ocean




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