Journey remains forever housed in the 1980s with most recognizable songs that still air over classic rock radio. Soaring vocals coupled with a near set-in-stone tone that fully defines the band, Journey continues to tour their hits in arenas across the country.
But for the purist, Journey ended decades ago.
Indeed, Journey has experienced a round robin of band members during their near 50 year existence as only guitarist Neal Schon remains of the original 1973 line-up while Jonathan Cain on keyboards certainly belongs in any type of “classic line-up” contributing to all those 80s hits. Steve Perry, the voice behind those songs on radio, left in the late 90s seemingly ending the band’s run. That is until Journey found a vocal doppelganger to Perry in Arnel Pineda putting him behind the mic in 2007 where he has remained ever since fronting three albums.
The current lineup of Journey boasts four long term members with drummer Deen Castronovo on board for nearly 20 years. Newcomers Jason Derlatka has helped out on keyboards and vocals since 2020, and Todd Jenson on bass arrived last year replacing original bassist Ross Valory, who wad fired in 2020 after an alleged coup to take over the band.
So with somewhat little fanfare (it has been 11 years since Eclipse), Journey released their 15th album Freedom last week (July 8), 36 years in the making. Well, sort of. The original title for the band’s 1986 album Raised on Radio was Freedom until Perry changed it.
I’ve seen Journey twice. Once as headliner the other as co-headliner. Both shows were ordinary with little magic. My initial take of Freedom offered the same impression. A few songs drew me in but after a while I tuned out and walked away uninterested. However, upon a second go-round and more concentrated effort I found the album not only enjoyable, sans one song, but a lengthy well-crafted record filled with tracks that sounded like Journey and many that didn’t.
The Journey we most recognize leans on the softer side of rock music, something the band doesn’t stray from on Freedom. But much of the album comprises heavier rock with cunning guitar solos and a slight tone of aggression one not privy to recent Journey releases might find unexpected.
Freedom opens with two sure-fire hits (if this was 1982 not 2022) in “Together We Run” and the familiar sounding “Don’t Give Up On Us” before hitting a landmine in “Still Believe In Love.” It’s dumb. Skip it. But afterwards enjoy a seamless blend of Journey rock, hard rock and even tracks bordering on, if not, embracing alternative rock.
No shortage of ballads, of course. None rise to the level of “Open Arms” or “Faithfully” but “After Glow” with lead vocals sung by Castronovo reigns supreme on this album though don’t dismiss the sappy “Live to Love Again” and “United We Stand.”
Journey embraces the past on “Come Away With Me” mixing in a great 70s rock sound with modern tones while fully taking on today’s alternative rock for “The Way It Use To Be” a song Switchfoot could have released and the harder-edged Foo Fighters sounding “Let It Rain.” The well-paced “Don’t Go” could very well be 36 years in the making thanks to the straight-up Journey sound that hearkens back to that decade as does the equally strong but more modernized “You Got the Best of Me.”
“Holdin On” keeps Schon blitzin and busy on this rocker and Randy Jackson (yes, of American Idol fame who plays bass on the album) comes out of the shadows for “All Day and All Night” which delivers one of many highlights on the album. (Jackson left the band prior to the release of Freedom and last played on, coincidentally, Raised on Radio.) Another deep album gem with Schon hitting the chords hard for “Life Goes On” and Journey concludes their 15 song, hour and 13 minute long album with “Beautiful As You Are” not only the longest cut on the record but the band’s longest song ever recorded coming in more than seven minutes. Lots happening for this one which might take a few listens to figure out.
Schon rips throughout the album dialing in melodic solos and doubling on rhythm proving age just a number at 68. He hardly lacks for any creative juices and not only leads (yes on guitar but i.e. fully in command) most of the tracks but provides a strong hard rock backbone that lays the foundation for the album.
If Freedom was the debut album of a new band many likened to Journey, a la Greta Van Fleet to Led Zeppelin, the album just might journey to the top of the charts. Journey unfortunately suffers from being Journey holding on to a primary fanbase who slow-danced to their hits at prom 40 years ago. But Journey is more than just that Journey.
And Freedom proves it, as Journey seems intent, perhaps, on taking a departure from the past in order to take a look into the future.
Journey Freedom Songs:
- Together We Run
- Don’t Give Up
- Still Believe in Love
- You Got the Best of Me
- Live to Love Again
- The Way We Used to Be
- Come Away With Me
- After Glow
- Let It Rain
- Holdin On
- All Day and All Night
- Don’t Go
- United We Stand
- Life Rolls On
- Beautiful As You Are