About 15 years ago Jan Hammer began causing a stir with his Balkan-flavored jazz piano stylings. Somewhere along the road since then he underwent an artistic conversion, and following a fiery baptism with the Mahavishnu Orchestra he was born again as a purebred rock and roller. On this album, his second duo collaboration with guitarist Neal Schon of Journey, Hammer betrays only the slightest trace of his jazz roots. Instead, he immerses himself in the mammoth dimensions of stadium rock with a fervor and instinctive understanding of the style that could easily bring a coliseum full of Foreigner fans to their feet. Though Schon's overdriven guitar dominates this disc, Hammer gives it a deeper level of expression with his array of synthesizer settings. When doubling Schon's riffs or chords, Hammer favors cold crystalline colors. His solos are miniature gems, remarkable for their restraint within the album's power rock context. Usually you can pick Hammer's lines out from the wall of six-string distortion, especially when he adds a hard edge to his tone, or resurrects the woody textures he favored with Mahavishnu and on his own early solo projects. But there are moments when his chameleon-like command of guitar phrasing on the synthesizer blurs the edges between his and Schon's licks. He evokes electric violin sounds in his fills on "So Hot," and nails down a harmonica patch just about perfectly in "Peace Of Mind." Young keyboardists can learn a lot from an album like this about how the slightest nuances in keyboard phrasing and synthesizer programming can shoot new life into rock music without compromising its integrity. Columbia, FC-38428.   –Bob Doerschuk


Buffalo Evening News


The Powerhouse Partnership of Neal Schon and Jan Hammer

By Dale Anderson
News Critic

   JOURNEY FANS may pay little attention to it once Frontiers, the latest album from the San Francisco superstars, hits the stores. Nevertheless, Journey's guitarist, Neal Schon, has developed a most intriguing collaboration with Czech-born jazz-rock keyboardist Jan Hammer.
   The latest fruit of  their partnership is Here to Stay (Columbia 38428), an album of such force and forthrightness that it should pique the interest no matter what one thinks of Journey.
   Having probed each other's potential in last year's introductory Untold Passion album, Schon and Hammer zero in what they do best. The outcome is superior to what either of them do separately.
   No homogenized licks from Schon here. He propels Hammer's hard-edged moods with the kind of  lyrical overdrive that'll make people remember he once played with Santana. Hammer, meanwhile, in his quest to build better basic rock, gives Schon the substance and the schematics to work with, then wisely holds back most of the time and lets his newfound playmate wail.
   The opening "No More Lies" demonstrates just how incendiary their approach can be. The phrases of the chorus flare out. The guitar cuts the synthesized backdrop into perfect pieces of kindling. It burns like a house afire. When Hammer takes the upper hand in the brittle blockish "(You Think You're) So Hot" and "Long Time," you understand why he gave up jazz.
  The Schon-Hammer pairing is proof of the adage that if at first you don't succeed, try, try again. 

Friday, January 28, 1983