Oh, so much background. But as of right now, Journey may need Freedom from that background. Long ago background of an AOR band so successful in the early/mid-’80s, released ‘Don’t Stop Believin’, whose singer left and struggled through with another in a period forgotten by many. But which produced one of their best albums, ‘Generations’ whilst ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ was still being sung.
Then the discovery of a young vocalist online in a Journey covers band who sounded just like that singer in their pomp, Steve Perry. Followed by a superb ‘Revelation’ and harder-to-enjoy ‘Eclipse’. And ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ is still in its pomp.
And then more recent background with most of the band (sans mainstay guitarist Neal Schon) being shown around the White House and meeting President Trump. Neal didn’t seem to enjoy and an apparent recent coup attempt by two members of the band led to court time and the two people no longer being in the band.
Journey? New Album? Freedom?
Yep. But don’t exhale yet. No one expected a new album.
But it’s here.
And it’s good.
It’s 11 years since the last album ‘Eclipse’ and we have Narada Michael Walden on drums for the first time and Randy Jackson back on bass for the first time since ‘Raised On Radio’ in 1986.
It’s a monumental event for fans, of which there are so many and after such success, trouble and time that add to the worry about quality. If this ain’t that good, there probably won’t be another one along next year.
What’s So Good About It?
Freedom manages to hit all the marks we’d like.
It sounds big and rounded, as a band with such an important legacy.
They make the mid-paced AOR sound so classy and ready to be sung over and over.
There are Schoncentric Rock tracks here.
The third of those statements is a massive issue for some fans, including me, as sometimes this side of the band has been suppressed in favor of Big Ballads.
There are 15 tracks here. That’s a lot. But it isn’t an issue here, it just gives room for more great music – that can’t be said about many albums and a feature of Freedom is that the tracks with more guitar crunch are gathered at the back end of the album.
Tracks like ‘All Day And All Night’ with its troublesome bass, stabbing riff, and Southern Rock-sounding six-string solo. Or ‘Holdin’ On’ which has a feeling which takes us back to when AOR ruled the airwaves in the mid-’80s and Arnel Pineda’s soaring vocals joust with a huge guitar workout.
And The More Immediate Tracks?
Well, there are lots of those. Up first the almost Yacht Rock feel to ‘Together We Run’, then there’s the energetic chorus of twinkling ‘You Got The Best Of Me’, brooding beast ‘Let It Rain’ with a big organ, and seemingly simple sweetness of ‘Life Rolls On’.
These all sound assured, memorable, and rather now – no dinner party or heritage circuit for these songs.
Don’t Forget The Ballads
How could I? Journey does them so well, if you want mawkish, they deliver, if you want pumped up, they’ve got those too.
Just lend an ear to the gently harmonized ‘Still Believe In Love’ or busy one moment, simple the next ‘Don’t Go’ and there’s a lovely Soul touch to slowie ‘After Glow’, with its rangy but friendly Schon solo.
Hard to decide, but it might be a slapfight between that big, twisting riffed ‘Come Away With Me’ and the arena-pleasing ballad ‘Beautiful As You Are’ which allows itself time to wrap us in musical certainly with a touch of loveliness and then ends the album with tumbling drums.
Why Freedom Is So Good
This is Journey accepting all sides of themselves. They produced great music. They produce great music. That music will be compared to the music they produced.
So, why not produce music which sounds like it did and music which sounds absolutely now?
That latter is easier when the charts are full of 1980s Pop and 80’s AOR is a strong sound too. But Freedom shows assurance and an imperious quality that is hard to dislike. These are the scions of AOR, certainly Messrs Schon and keyboard maestro Jonathan Cain in this current lineup, so why shouldn’t they show it? Cryptic Rock was right to describe Freedom as;
‘A synchronicity of the past and present…’
And that ‘new’ singer? Angelina Pineda has the quality of Steve Perry to make some people sigh with delight, but he connects with these songs and makes them his, as Planet Music agreed;
‘Lead vocalist Arnel Pineda still has the Steve Perry-isms down to a tee, yet remains more than simply a faceless clone.’
And although Loudersound does make the point that, for them, the album stumbles in the early going, eventually it’s worthy of this headline;
‘Journey’s Freedom: a succession of songs that are the stuff of legend.’
And that’s part of the beauty of Journey, where you sit is where you stand – there are those who love the ‘Stone In Love’ type rockers from 1982’s breakout album ‘Escape’, and there are others who will love the AOR goodness and some who concentrate on the big ballads.
Journey are a lot of things to a lot of people. With Freedom, they might have just pleased them all.