(Real Title Unknown)
With his first noncollaborative solo album ""Late Nite" to be released next week and another album by his new superstar rock band in the can, guitarist Neal Schon looks back from a different perspective on his work with multiplatinum rockers Journey. ""With this solo record, I can lay at rest with myself," he said. ""I don't care if it sells 10 copies. This was something I had to do for myself and it is an honest thing." Schon said he didn't feel good about the last five years with Journey, including the group's last two albums. ""This may be cutting down my own stuff, but this is years later. We wrote some good stuff and Journey definitely had its day in court, but that's about it."
Schon, who launched his career 20 years ago as a teenage guitarist with the original Santana band, rode to the top of the charts on a succession of Journey albums and tours with packed stadiums in the early '80s. Under trying circumstances three years ago, he did one final Journey album produced by vocalist Steve Perry. ""I hated Perry so much that I was going on binges," Schon said. ""I'd come to the studio after having stayed up all night, and he'd look at me and say, "I can see you're not going to be good for anything.' Then I'd cut my solo on the first take. He has no respect for anyone he works with and that was pretty hard for me to deal with. Now I'm finally out of a cage...not just trying to fit into some situation." Beginning as an all instrumental, blues-oriented work, ""Late Nite" evolved into a diverse showcase of his guitar styles and vocals. ""I used to be real insecure about my singing," he said. ""But now I like it. I sound like me."
But right now, Schon is mainly interested in his Columbia Records solo album. (He had two previous collaborations, with fusion synthesizer expert Jan Hammer of ""Miami Vice" fame and one ill-conceived live album with Van Halen vocalist Sammy Hagar.) A video has been shot and Schon departs next week for a radio station promotional tour. He worked with former Journey drummer Steve Smith, axed by Perry from the final album, and Weather Report drummer Omar Hakim, one of 50 drummers who tried out for Smith's chair but was deemed inadequate by Perry.
""This is the first record I've ever made where I'm really happy about my guitar playing," Schon said. ""I think I captured the true emotion of these tracks instead of sitting in the studio and trying to get something to sound perfect."
With a new wife, a 7-month-old baby and what he sees as a new lease on his professional life, Schon talks like a man glad to have walked away from the wreckage of Journey, claiming greater satisfaction from playing a 12-bar solo on the Michael Boltin hit last year of ""Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay" than from all the Journey million-sellers.
""Where have I been?" he said. ""I guess I haven't been being myself. There is not one blues solo in all my playing in Journey, and I've been playing blues since I was 12 years old. What I'm doing now is honest, not stuff that has been contrived or thought about too much. Those days are way over for me."
Copyright 1989 The San Francisco Chronicle