REVIEW: Journey – Eclipse (2011 Japanese import)

JOURNEY – Eclipse (2011 Japanese import)

You gotta give ’em credit for trying. Three (!) singers since Steve Perry left, and Journey still refuse to patch it up or pack it in. Arnel Pineda is still the singer, back here for his second Journey album, and now contributing songwriting to the mix.

ECLIPSE_0003Otherwise, Eclipse (stylized as ECL1PS3 on the cover art) is heavily dominated by Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain, and you can tell that this is Neal’s album. Upon playing Eclipse, you will be inundated by colossal Schon riff after colossal Schon riff. This is backed by some dramatic synth by Cain. It’s a much heavier Journey album than any in recent memory. It’s a good mix, and producer Kevin Shirley captured it. I’ve been skeptical in the past when Journey puts out a new album and says, “This is us being heavier.” Stuff like the Red 5 EP…they were just underwhelming and were missing the soul of Journey.

I would argue that the soul of Journey belongs to Steve Perry, but Arnel Pineda turns in a stunning performance this time. Not that he didn’t last time, but this time it sounds less like he’s trying to be Steve Perry. This time it sounds like he’s more himself, and it’s better that way. Incredible set of pipes on this man by the way.

As long time fans know, Journey did three albums before Steve Perry joined the band. These albums had their roots in more instrumental, progressive rock.  One or two of the guitar passages on Eclipse sound a like stuff from those first three albums. It’s fleeting but it’s there.

Fave track: “Edge of the Moment”.

Most Journey-esque song: “City Of Hope”. (It even calls out an older Journey song title called “Message Of Love”.)

Meanwhile, the fine “She’s A Mystery” (co-written by Pineda) is a great little epic acoustic/electric song with some sweet Schon overtones that sound like gulls flying overhead. It captures the vibe of the more atmospheric material from Trial By Fire that I liked so much.

The extra thick case of the Japanese CD, can't replace it if you break it!

The extra thick case of the Japanese CD, can’t replace it if you break it!

The Japanese bonus track is a live cut of “Don’t Stop Believin'”, from the DVD Live In Manila.  No live album was ever made of that live concert, so this is a CD exclusive.   The Japanese CD also comes in an extra wide case, housing a lenticular cover insert.  Very similar to the recent “3D” Kiss Monster cover.

The thing about Journey albums of late is memorability. Your brain says “this is a good song, it has a melody I like,” but a day later you can’t remember how the song went. Eclipse is also like that.  All the songs are strong, melodic workman-like Journey songs.   They just seem to lack whatever it was about the classics that made them stick in the head.  Maybe I need to listen to it more, but I rarely have the craving to do so, when I can spend the time with Trial By Fire.

3/5 stars

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16 comments

        1. Damn! I had no idea. It just sounded right to me!

          I remember back in 1988, I was watching Eddie Van Halen being interviewed out the OU812 album. My mom was interested in Van Halen so she checked it out with me.

          Eddie said, “Who cares if you didn’t do it modernly, or whatever? If it sounds good it is good. It doesn’t matter how you got that sound.”

          My mom said “Pfft. Modernly isn’t even a word.”

          So I challenged her on it, and Eddie was right…it’s a word!

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  1. I liked this album a lot when it came out, but your final paragraph pretty much sums up why it’ll never be essential. I like Arnel Pineda’s voice a lot…that Live In Manila video is fantastic…and Schon is on fire throughout this album, but no particular song stood out for me (I probably played it 2-3 times and then placed it on the shelf). Then again, those early Journey albums were more about instrumental prowess than catchy songs and this one sort of continues that tradition. I’ll certainly play it more in the future than Raised On Radio or Trial By Fire. 3/5 is a perfect rating. Great review.

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    1. I don’t have Live in Manila, but I do have the live DVD that came with their last album. Arnel has the charisma, people like him, and the band can still play.

      I’ve been into the live album Captured lately.

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      1. I got Captured when it came out & loved it. I was only a big Journey fan for a few years, between Departure & Eclipse. I was hugely disappointed in Frontiers and have only liked them sporadically since then. I don’t own the Live in Manila DVD but it’s been on TV here numerous times and I always have to watch at least some of it.

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        1. Believe it or not I didn’t discover Journey until 1998. I’d known of them and their hits and that Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain were in the band and all that. I just wasn’t interested at all, or so I thought. It wasn’t that I studiously avoided them, it was that I just didn’t care.

          Then I heard the tune with Steve Augeri on the Armageddon soundtrack, and decided to check out the Greatest Hits CD. Loved it, first listen, BAM. Bought that. Bought the box set Time3 a few weeks later. And that box set kept me going for a long time. It is really excellent.

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        2. Yeah, in some ways they’re an underrated band. Sure, they’ve had tons of hits but radio & pop culture has boiled them down to 6-7 songs (like most “classic” bands) which only showcases some of their talents. I seem to recall that you’re a few years younger than me, which might explain why they slipped under your radar for so long. When they started conquering the world (circa Departure with “Any Way You Want It”) I was about 12-13, and then Escape came out when I was 15. Had I been that age when Raised On Radio came out I wouldn’t have cared. It’s all about timing. I have to agree that the original Greatest Hits (which I had on LP before replacing it with a 2-CD compilation) was perfectly compiled.

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        3. Yeah I’m a bit younger, and I wasn’t into music at all when Journey were big. So much of my early years were influenced by my friends on the street, and none of them had any Journey. They were all solidly into Motley Crue, Iron Maiden, and Kiss. And in general we hated ballads. I knew nothing of any rock music outside that world. I had heard OF the Police but never heard their music.

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  2. I bought the regular version of this for my old boss (he’s a huge Journey fan) at our local corporate whore Wally World for $5. Never got to hear it, though, I left it in the shrink wrap to give to him. He was thrilled, said he really liked it, didn’t mind the new guy’s voice at all and to see them live, there were points that were just as good as the old days. So there you go.

    I only have the one Journey album (which you gave me) so I appreciate the review. I wouldn’t know from all the different permutations otherwise.

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  3. I agree on most of your review, but I’d beg to differ on a few points. I guess it’s indivdual, but the memorability thing… well, on both this album and on “Revelations”, i could more or less take a look at one song title and start humming the thing on the spot, so I actually think the Pineda-fronted albums are up their with their classics, with maybe “Escape” as the exception. However, a great review as always.
    Here is my review of the album:
    http://etainmentnewsreviews.wordpress.com/aor/aor-reviews-2011/journey-eclipse/

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    1. You have some great points Jon. I think with later Journey, my opinion can change listen to listen. In fact when I first reviewed this a year or two ago I gave it 4/5 stars. This time I felt like it was a 3. Maybe I should do a follow up review for this and some others like Kiss Unmasked, which I trashed perhaps unfairly.

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