Album review for Journey Freedom

Album Review: Journey – Freedom

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.

Grade: A-

Journey Freedom Songs:

  1. Together We Run
  2. Don’t Give Up
  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 and All Night
  12. Don’t Go
  13. United We Stand
  14. Life Rolls On
  15. Beautiful As You Are

19 thoughts on “Album Review: Journey – Freedom

  1. Good review dude. I have this in my Apple library so I will get around to it at some point. The preacher on keyboards always looks miserable on stage, why is that? lol Schon is a great guitarist and the album that Neal did with Hagar HSAS is killer same with the Hardline debut that had Deen, Todd and Neal in the band. That also was a stellar slab of hard rock.
    The fact that you said they are looking towards the future instead of the past is interesting….

    1. I am a big fan of Journey from 1975-1977. The first three albums, before the arrival of Steve Perry and Jonathan Cain.

  2. I’ve heard this one but haven’t been moved by it as I haven’t enjoyed really anything they’ve done in years. I’d go see them live as Arnel is awesome, but I don’t think the songs are as good as they were. Glad you liked though.

    1. well darn. sorry to hear. It did get better and better with each listen. Schon really rocks throughout. thanks for reading!

  3. For my taste, Journey’s best moments are the intersection of the “old Journey” (1975-1978) with the “new Journey (1978-1982), when Perry and Cain add flavour to the less pop oriented original band.
    Bit by bit Journey became “Steve Perry and the Journeys” band.

  4. Had to listen to “Freedom” three times before my ears and brain would give it a fair shot. It’s a pretty good effort because of who was brought in on this project, Nirada, Jackson with the legendary Bob Clearmountain engineering.

    Still sounds like Journey, but some things are interestingly different on this.

    Arnel’s vocals are great. Seems to have totally lost his Filipino inflection. His styling/phrasing on this material is kick-ass.

    Schon has always been an under-rated player. In my opinion, in his later years, he can’t seem to play a single note without following with a blistering run(s). I liked the way he played in the early to mid seventies…still blazing, but without always treading on the same territory. He is still my favorite guitarist.

    The production on Freedom sounds more expensive than on previous past efforts.

    Backing vocals and the way those vocals are arranged sound excitingly lush. The engineers did a great job in not making the material sound harsh.

    Gentlemen, you have to understand, Journey is current enjoying great success. Recently they have been booked on major TV events.

    They are making “MONEY”. Do you really expect they would choose to reinvent themselves right now?

    They have an evergreen music catalog and are currently booked into 2024. A few years ago they were worried demand, but everything has broken the right way for them. R&RHOF. Sopranos using DSB a few years ago and now that song has reached Diamond sales status.

    For the last few years they have gathered important momentum. It’s not the time to release an experimental record or go totally against type.

    When attempting to re-establish the band after Perry’s departure, they went through some very…humbling…tough times. In Dallas one night Cain told me that when they were restarting with Augeri they couldn’t even get booked…anywhere.

    Without Perry they were considered a dead band.

    They have returned to better days and are enjoying a new found “Freedom”.

    Matt G. – Mexia, Texas

    1. well I think I’ll just copy and paste this over my review! great thoughts, thanks for sharing! and reading.

  5. It took me a few spins to get accustomed to his new Journey album (cd). Two things– I have to disagree about the mix-it’s pretty muddy,unfortunately. Takes away from the overall enjoyment level,unless you don’t consider such things as important ( I do). The other issue is that they could’ve shortened this puppy up just a bit– you mentioned Still Believe In Love– hands down a skippable track! and for whatever reason- the rockier/70’s sounding tracks are all mixed so poorly,they sound like demos..ugh! In that regard…Let It Rain could get the boot,too. You’d have a substantially more solid affair with 13 tracks (the 2 mentioned MAYBE could be bonus tracks so–easier to skip/leave off when listening to the rest of it). and more manageable for fans to get into. A bit of a shuffle on the overall tracklisting wouldn’t hurt either. I’d open the set with # 4– You Got The Best Of Me.. most classic Perry-esque tune on offer. In any event–Journey face the same bugbear that every band treading the ‘classic rock’ vibe do all these long years ‘post-grunge’….the industry considers them ‘irrelevant’. In days of yore–rock radio gave melodic rock the support needed to help them gain success. Once grunge hit way back in 1990…melodic rock was dead in the water with zero support and it’s been that way ever since. So– if a band like Journey can’t top the charts with new music…. no band in the genre can get much notice. Sad state of affairs but..true. What they don’t consider tho– is all these heritage acts still touring and drawing crowds (some VERY well,in fact) are still adored by lots of older fans as well as some newer. Doesn’t seem so irrelevant now,does it?! So the non support for new music (radio) is a pretty huge travesty in the music scene. And it ain’t gonna change anytime soon. Sad…very sad.

    1. Oh yeah. Grunge and modern rock became the trendy thing. ( rock ) Bands tracing back to the 60’s and 70’s don’t have much place for new songs to get airplay on traditional brick and mortar radio stations. They’ll keep playing the old hits but getting new stuff on the playlist does not happen.

      It’s a mystery how the recordings that were settled on ended up like this. Did the band listen to the product before the go-ahead was given? Even my untrained ears can perceive that there isn’t a level of crispness that should be expected.

      Yeah, some of the songs could maybe be better if they were by a minute.

      I don’t mind that they have so many songs. It doesn’t seem they’re charging drastically more for having two/three/four more songs than a usual size.

      1. I agree,Drew– nice they kept the price at a normal amount. I’m atempting to reconfigure the tracklisting to suit me a bit better. Pretty sure that still Believe In Love and Let It Rain have to go,tho. bTW–thanks for the review,guy. Cheers, T

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