Album Review — Journey

Journey — Freedom

Journey has always been my favorite band. I remember my mom buying me “Raised on Radio” on vinyl and surprising me with it at my little league game. Ten years later I remember rushing to the record store to buy “Trial By Fire” on CD after the band reunited.

Like most Journey fans I have never embraced the post-Perry Journey. It’s just not the same. If they would have called the band something different I think I would have a better feeling about the band. But calling it Journey meant they had to live up to the standard that the band had set and that was impossible.

So I have decided to think of the band as a new band. When Steve Augeri was in the band I referred to them as AuJourney. I haven’t come up with a name for the Arnel version of the band yet but it is not Journey in my mind. This band’s roots are in Journey but this is not Journey.

But I was excited to hear the new album. I had mostly stayed away from listening to any of the singles other than the first one to make sure it was going to be decent. So as I started listening to the album it was mostly brand new to me.

So here it is, my first Journey album review. Of course it’s going to be track by track, and much like the album itself, it’s going to be long. So buckle up.

Together We Run — I don’t think it’s possible to listen to this record without it at least conjuring up thoughts of previous Journey songs. Much like Episode VII of Star Wars plays off the nostalgia of the original trilogy, “Freedom” has that same effect on me. This is their version of “Don’t Stop Believing”. Opening with a piano riff and slowly building to a monster chorus. Comparing any song to maybe the best melodic rock song of all time isn’t fair but I really like this track. I’m not sure it’s the best song to open a record but neither was “Don’t Stop” so no complaints here. A great start.

Don’t Give Up On Us — We can some more nostalgia, this time it’s even more clear. “Don’t Give Up On Us” doesn’t hide it’s close relation to another Journey classic, “Separate Ways”. The guitar riff is very similar as is the opening keyboard part. It’s not a clone but it’s as close as you would want to get to the original. That being said, I also really like this one. Much like “Separate Ways”, it rocks and I like Pineda’s vocals here a lot.

Still Believe In Love — The first ballad and it’s a bit of a letdown. In my mind Steve Perry was the best there ever was. But his ability to spin a ballad has never been equalled. This one just falls short. It just doesn’t have the magic that I have come to expect from Journey ballads. Neal Schon does have some nice guitar work here but not enough to save this one.

You Got The Best Of Me — Just when I doubt where the album is headed I get hit over the head with this rocker. In the Journey catalogue, this one most resembles “Be Good To Yourself”. It’s upbeat and positive and it rocks. Neal Schon has his hands all over this record. He has taken his band back and it is very guitar heavy. This is probably my favorite non-Perry Journey track that I’ve heard.

Live to Love Again — Another ballad that is slightly better than the first one up until about the 3 1/2 minute mark. At that point the song takes a turn into this refrain where the song takes off. I wish the whole track had this same feel to it but the last part of the song saves it.

The Way We Used To Be — This is the first single I heard and I liked it the first time I heard it. Nothing has changed for me as I still like this one. It’s got a little more groove to it which I imagine has a lot to do with Randy Jackson on bass. It sounds like Journey but it doesn’t sound like a specific song which I like.

Come Away With Me — Hello Neal Schon. Maybe the heaviest guitar riffing since “Dead or Alive”. I can say with some certainty that this isn’t something we’d be hearing if Steve Perry was still in the band. This is a heavy bluesy track that Arnel doesn’t have to worry about how Steve would have sung this. I like that the band took on a song like this.

After Glow — The biggest surprise to me when I heard this was that Deen Castronovo takes a lead vocal. I didn’t realize he was on the record at all. I had heard that Narada Michael Walden was playing drums on the record so I assumed Deen wasn’t involved. But here he is singing lead. I wonder if this came from one of Deen’s projects? Either way, I like it and I’m glad to hear Deen get another lead vocal with Journey.

Let It Rain — Another bluesy track that doesn’t really sound like anything I’ve heard from the band. I think this is Arnel singing but I can’t say for sure as he sounds so different singing this kind of song. It almost sounds like something from the first Bad English record. Another interesting twist that I like.

Holdin On — This one sounds like “Homemade Love” off of Departure which is one of the band’s most rocking songs. Arnel’s vocals remind of Steve’s from the Frontiers era with a little rasp. I love that the band has written some of their heaviest stuff in years. I fully expected a bunch of ballads but this record is heavy.

All Day And All Night — Another track with a cool groove from the start and another one that doesn’t remind me of anything that the band has done. Another heavy track with a bluesy feel. On a side note, I’m not a huge fan of the production of the record. It sounds too muddy to me.

Don’t Go — Right from the start this one grabs you with its melodic hooks. Journey basically created this melodic rock sound that has influenced so many bands and it’s great to hear the masters so us how it’s done. A contender for best track on the record.

United We Stand — Like most of the country, the band has had some divisions in the band over politics and I have to think this track deals with that issue. Another track that doesn’t really remind me of anything in their catalogue but still sounds like Journey.

Life Rolls On — This one sounds like it should end the record. Did I say that this record is long? Because it is. But I don’t really feel a lull. This one reminds me of “Precious Time” in that it sounds like a slower track and then it kicks in. I love that some of these songs remind me of lesser known older tracks. I would love to see the band do a tour with a bunch of new songs and then some of the older, lesser known tracks. I wonder if Neal playing the older stuff in his Journey tribute inspired some of these new tracks?

Beautiful As You Are — The actual album closer starts as an acoustic ballad but has one more surprise in store for us. About 90 seconds in it takes a turn and sounds like something off of Escape. This one checks in at over seven minutes which is appropriate given the album’s length. It also ends on a high note as they call on the band’s most significant era to close things out.

I mentioned Star Wars earlier and I think it’s a good comparison. This album is heavy on nostalgia but there are new elements as well. Many of the players are different but they take their cues from the original band and in the end we get a wonderful tribute as well as some pleasant surprises.

For the first time since Steve Perry left the band has gotten it right. There have been some very good moments but this is the best record from the post-Perry era. There are times when I feel like a kid listening to a new Journey record and there are times when this sounds like a new band. But the Schon/Cain combination has come through and written some great tracks.

This band will never be Journey to me and I’m finally OK with that. I’m not sure what this band is to me but I do know that I like it.

95 out of 100

Track Listing

1. Together We Run *
2. Don’t Give Up on Us *
3. Still Believe in Love
4. You Got the Best of Me *
5. Live to Love Again
6. The Way We Used to Be *
7. Come Away With Me
8. After Glow *
9. Let it Rain
10. Holdin On *
11. All Day All Night
12. Don’t Go *
13. United We Stand
14. Life Rolls On *
15. Beautiful as You Are *

*Best Songs

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