All-in-all, Journey released more than a dozen albums. And though personnel changes abounded, Neal remained the driving force (and only constant member). During the band’s hiatus (about 10 years between ’87 and ’96), Schon continued to pursue the solo projects that he had begun previously (his first two were with Mahavishnu alum Jan Hammer).

In addition, he joined three other bands: 1) Bad English, with Jonathan Cainand other Baby’s band-mates Ricky Phillips (bass) and John Waite (vocals); 2) Hardline, with Bad English band-mate Deen Castronovo on drums; and 3) Abraxas Pool, which reunited nearly the entire original Santana band, the two exceptions being Schon on guitar and Alphonso Johnson on bass. While Bad English had some radio hits, Schon’s playing wasn’t the driving force as it had been in Journey, and the band fizzled even before their second album was released.

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Besides numerous other solo projects, he has also collaborated with vocalist Sammy Hagar(Montrose, Van Halen, etc.) and Paul Rodgers (Bad Company, The Firm). Another recent band is Soul SirkUS, with ex-Yngwie Malmsteen vocalist Jeff Scott Soto. With all these musical situations, Schon’s playing is still melodic and compelling, but never has he achieved the laser focus and melodic prowess that he does with Journey.

Unlike the gear minimalism that Santana practices, Schon is definitely an equipment aficionado. His live rig (by reputation, one of the largest out there, second only to Dave “The Edge” Evans’ setup with U2) is enormous, including more than 8 guitars, 8 amps, and lots of effects, from Echoplexes to VHT Valvulators.

Journey in the new millenium

Once it became obvious that Steve Perry would not commit to re-forming with his band-mates, Schon, Cain, and Vallory pulled in Hardline drummer Castronovo and put Journey back together — first with singer Steve Agieri (1998 – 2006), then Jeff Scott Soto. And while both did a creditable job of recreating the unique tones of Steve Perry, it wasn’t until 2007 that Schon found a viable replacement.

Surfing the Web one day, Schon ran across some YouTube videos of an unknown singer from the Philippines named Arnel Pineda doing covers of Boston, Foreigner, and, yes, Journey. Impressed by what he heard, Neal contacted Arnel through one of Arnel’s friends — only to have the singer shrug it off as a hoax (he didn’t believe it was really Schon).

Luckily, Pineda’s friend beseeched him to take it seriously, which led to Pineda auditioning for the band — an audition which he passed with flying colors. While no one voice sounds exactly like the other, Pineda carries the classic Journey melodies with passion and power. The band continues to tour to this day.

Yet another hit album

In 2008, Neal, Arnel, and the gang released Revelations. The album hit #5 on the Billboard 200 chart, and was certified Platinum within 6 months of its release. It includes 11 classic songs (re-recorded with the current lineup), as well as 11 new songs. The band now includes even stronger harmonies (drummer Castronovo has a powerful high tenor range), and more instrumental variety (Cain often picks up the guitar, enhancing the band’s edgy, rock sound).

Neal Schon continues to create smoothly melodious, blues rock-inspired guitar parts. While the band will probably never achieve the multi-platinum album sales of their heyday (due as much to the fragmentation of the music industry as anything else), Journey continue to be one of the best touring — and best-loved overall — bands in the world.

Go To: Neal Schon: Santana, Journey guitarist