It’s Journey’s first studio album in eleven years, and for longtime fans it’s well overdue too, but there is a catch..
Written by: gdmonline
LABEL: BMG (USA), Frontiers (Europe)
SERIAL: 538803492, FRCD 1237
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
LINEUP: Neal Schon – guitars, keyboards, backing vocals, production * Jonathan Cain – keyboards, guitars, backing vocals * Arnel Pineda – lead vocals * Randy Jackson – bass, backing vocals * Narada Michael Walden – drums, percussion, keyboards, backing vocals, production
Additional Musicians: Jason Derlatka – backing vocals * Deen Castronovo – lead and backing vocals (#8)
TRACK LISTING: 01 Together We Run * 02 Don’t Give Up On Us * 03 Still Believe In Love * 04 You Got The Best Of Me * 05 Live To Love Again * 06 The Way We Used To Be * 07 Come Away With Me * 08 After Glow * 09 Let It Rain * 10 Holdin On * 11 All Day And All Night * 12 Don’t Go * 13 United We Stand * 14 Life Rolls On * 15 Beautiful As You Are
With all the uncertainty going on in the media about Journey right now, some of you might be wondering if there is any value covering them anymore. For some, they might not be that interesting anyway, but intriguing? Definitely yes. A bit like a soap opera. I could have said the same thing after their disappointing 2011 effort ‘Ecilpse’, so as far as I’m concerned, nothing has really changed in eleven years.
The big hoopla for ‘Freedom’ came midway through 2021 after the PR release. Schon, Cain and Pineda would be joined by industry vets in Randy Jackson and Narada Michael Walden. Jackson had previously been involved with Journey during the ‘Raised On Radio’ era while Walden is a world class drummer, solo artist and a respected producer. Their inclusions though (for me) was still rather surprising.
The album was preceded by a couple of smaller EP and single releases, used to gauge listener and industry media feedback during early 2022. The band also went out on tour with Toto between February and May to road test a couple of the new songs, the official release date of ‘Freedom’ followed later being July 8, 2022, their fifteenth studio album. At 1 hour and 13 minutes, it’s a hefty listen, in fact it’s the longest Journey album to date (excluding compilations).
‘Together We Run’ is a promising opener displaying an air of familiarity in terms of the song structure and overall arrangement. ‘Don’t Give Up On Us’ borrows somewhat from ‘Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)’, that much is obvious, with the synth intro and brooding verses taking us back to 1983, but that bright chorus is very catchy. ‘Still Believe In Love’ drifts on a bed of melancholy and operates in slow mode mostly.
Unlike the energetic ‘You Got The Best Of Me’ which Neal borrowed from the ‘Departure’ era according to comments when the song was released as a single. I think it would make a great live track too. Journey have been known for their tearjerker ballads over the years and ‘Live To Love Again’ fits the bill this time around. I tolerate it because Journey are one of the best bands for writing well crafted rock ballads.
‘The Way We Used To Be’ has a modern sound but it doesn’t grab me like the previous songs so far. ‘Come Away With Me’ sees the band getting down and earthy reminding me of rivals The Storm and their track ‘In The Raw’. A very lively number. ‘After Glow’ is notable for how Arnel models his vocal on Steve Perry‘s familiar expressions. Deen Castronovo also runs point on backing vocals for this one.
‘Let It Rain’ captures Journey in a groovy mood, a modern and darker tone prevails. Not quite sure about this effort. I’d say the same about ‘Holdin On’ which is a coarse rocker. The band are letting off steam but this sounds a bit rough and ready. ‘All Day And All Night’ continues the all out rock assault, there’s no subtlety involved, and by this stage the album is losing its shape. Something is required to bring things back on an even keel.
‘Don’t Go’ is a good attempt at levelling things up, as this is the sound most listeners would associate with Journey. Other than the hackneyed title, ‘United We Stand’ tries hard to appeal but only gets a minimal pass mark. ‘Life Rolls On’ is a good example of Journey doing the ebb/flow thing with some success, though they’ve done better songs in a similar vein over the decades. Journey sign off with the ballad ‘Beautiful As You Are’, will it be remembered in the same class as their previous classic ballad hits? Probably not, it’ll get lost in the shuffle of time unfortunately.
After giving this set the once over, I can say that there are a few too many fillers. Five by my count. Sure, the COVID Lockdowns enabled the personnel to commit a decent amount of time to songwriting but somehow the final result did not much the effort. For me, the first half of the album was much stronger than the back half, the quality falling away quite alarmingly.
The album since its release has polarised many listeners. Some say it’s the best thing they’ve done in ages, while naysayers claim it’s not the real Journey anymore. I’ve got a foot in both camps. From where I’m listening, the album gets an average pass mark rating from me, but it pales next to 2008’s Revelation’. As for the real Journey, that label departed the band in 1996 sorry to say, after the departure of a certain singer.
Where they go from here can be determined by one factor, and it applies to all classic rock bands and artists out there on the touring circuit: MONEY. Certainly it won’t be about the music for some bands, though that will differ for others. Is the effort worth it? Also is the recent Cain vs Schon feud going to be the showstopper that ends Journey once and for all? Tune in to the Interwebs and watch this space.
Together We Run
You Got The Best Of Me
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