For Neal Schon, his newly announced solo album Vortex has the feel of a homecoming. It's not just that Schon recorded the project at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, where he's been working since Journey completed Escape there in '81. He's also collaborating again with Steve Smith, the drummer from that multiplatinum smash, as well as keyboardist Jan Hammer – with whom Schon recorded two side projects in 1981-82.

You can sample an advance cut from the loose, improvisational Vortex, courtesy of Billboard, above. "El Matador" is part of Schon's third solo release since 2012, a period in which Journey has focused on touring. He's also spearheading a reunion with Santana, the guitarist's pre-Journey band. Schon credits a newfound lease on life for sparking this surge of creativity.

"I feel more aware and alive now than I've ever been," he says in pre-release materials. "Part of that is the sobriety I've had for the last seven years. I’ve also evolved as a person and a player though understanding the value of being in the moment – letting things happen and not thinking too much. There's an old blues saying: ‘If you’re thinkin,’ you’re stinkin’.’ When you stop thinking and just play from the heart, you discover your own voice. That’s the real thing, and that’s what Vortex is about for me."

Schon served as producer and bassist on the double-disc Vortex, which saw its release date moved back to June 23. Keyboardist Igor Len is also featured, as he was on 2012's The Calling. "Igor and Jan complement each other, and me, beautifully," Schon says. So does Fantasy Studios, where he has become a stalwart presence. "It’s my home away from home," Schon adds. "I spend so much time there that they’ve given me my own locker."

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