REVIEW: Journey – Revelation (2008 2CD/DVD edition, import with bonus track)

JOURNEY – Revelation (2008 Nomota)

It’s funny to surf the reviews on Amazon for this CD. “Super and Awesome” says one. “Best Journey album since Escape” says another. (Really? Better than Frontiers?)

OK, cutting through the glowing fanboy reviews, let’s be dispassionate here. Journey hasn’t truly sounded like Journey since Steve Smith and Steve Perry left for good in the late 90’s. In my unassuming personal view, Trial By Fire from 1997 was the best Journey album since the glory days. They tried to replace Steve Perry with a clone singer named Steve Augeri on three releases (Arrival, Red 1, Generations) and the result was a generic band that sounded like (guess what) a Journey tribute band. The fact that the smooth-as-butter Steve Smith was gone didn’t help.

REVELATION_0006

Journey did what I thought was a really smart move afterwards. They brought in the brilliant veteran Jeff Scott Soto to sing, and there are some pretty awesome bootlegs out there of Journey with Soto singing. Soto was no Steve Perry, but a unique singer in his own right, loved by his own legion of fans for his powerful voice. But he was no replicant; no duplicate.  The band actually fired him to bring in someone more Perry-like.

That person is Arnel Pineda, who has an incredible set of pipes. I mean this guy can sing! Unfortunately, Pineda’s been singing Journey pretty much his whole life. He’s a Perry clone. He’s Perry-lite. He’s an imitator. And you can tell. He lacks the character, the grit, the personality, the soul, and the experience of Steve Perry.

Also, let’s not forget that Steve Perry was one of the major Journey songwriters, and without him Neil Schon and Jonathan Cain are left to their own devices. The soul is still gone, the heart of Journey is still ripped out. Revelation is no comeback album. It’s another Journey-lite album, it sounds like the best Journey tribute band in the world, but still…just a tribute band.

Having said that, it’s not bad. It’s not a comeback, it’s more of the same. There are good songs here – “Never Walk Away” being the strongest. “Like A Sunshower” is a nice, generic ballad. “The Journey (Revelation)” is the most adventurous tune here, an instrumental where Schon gets to show his stuff, shredding and classing up the place several notches. The rest of the tunes are just nice. Pleasant Journey-esque ditties where you can tell Cain and Schon were saying, “Let’s write a Journey rocker,” or “Let’s write a Journey ballad”.

The album is roughly half new songs, half old. The second disc is entirely re-records with Arnel singing classic Journey tunes. It’s nice but certainly no replacement for Greatest Hits. It’s great that they tackled “Stone In Love” and “Be Good To Yourself” on here. The rest are the hits, and you know ’em and love ’em already so I won’t talk about them too much. Except to say, this is where you notice first and foremost that Steve Perry is missing. The nuances are not here, rendering this disc nothing more than a novelty.

There are two other re-records, both (oddly enough) from the Augeri era. One is the Japan-only “The Place in Your Heart” which I don’t have so I can’t comment on it. The other, which is on all versions of the CD, is “Faith In The Heartland”, one of the better songs from Generations. I’m guessing they did these two re-records because nobody heard Generations. “Faith In The Heartland” is probably better on Generations, sung by the guy who actually wrote it, Steve Augeri.

There is also a great bonus track on the Mexican edition: great song, loaded with atmosphere, called “Let It Take You Back”. It’s about nostalgia, ironically, but I can relate and it’s a great tune backed by a strong riff. One of the best tunes on the album. Track it down, you won’t be sorry.

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The Walmart exclusive edition has a really good DVD: live (in Vegas) performances with Arnel singing. “Mother, Father” shows that Arnel can sing. Man, can he sing! I think Journey at this point are a stronger band live than in the studio. Live, Arnel has more character and you’re just in awe of the man’s pipes. This is a good DVD. And for free, it’s worth the price of admission.

So there you have it. Ignore the fanboys and let’s be unbiased here. This isn’t the Journey comeback we hoped for. It’s just another medium-rare Journey album. Until Perry comes back (and let’s face it, he has to one day) and records an album as great and progressive as Trial By Fire, this is a tired band spinnin’ tires.

3/5 stars

DVD:

  1. “Sky Light”
  2. “Any Way You Want It”
  3. “Wheel in the Sky”
  4. “Lights”
  5. “After All These Years”
  6. “Never Walk Away”
  7. “Open Arms (Prelude)”
  8. “Open Arms”
  9. “Mother, Father”
  10. “Wildest Dream”
  11. “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)”
  12. “Faithfully”
  13. “Don’t Stop Believin'”
  14. “Be Good to Yourself”

66 comments

    1. Yup — I believe he was singing Journey classics with Eels, if I recall. And I think Geoff was just talking about Eels on his site a few weeks back — top E artists maybe?

      Anyway — Deen Castronovo was seen in the same city at the same time as Steve Perry fueling rumours that a reunion is in the works.

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      1. I think it was Open Arms I heard him do. It sounded rough but then it was a poor quality vid and he’s not sang on stage for… just about forever! I’ll let him off ;-)

        Did Deen play on Trial By Fire? I think I’d be more excited for a Steve Perry solo album, personally. I realise I might be in the minority there!

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        1. No that was the mighty Steve Smith on Trial By Fire, who I can’t imagine coming back to Journey (too bad).

          Steve Perry’s voice is a lot rougher. But who cares? That’s life. Journey should embrace the change rather than trying to re-live the past with these young soundalike singers.

          In the Journey book, their manager predicted that a Journey singer can only last 2 albums before he blows out his voice completely. He was right with Steve Augeri.

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        2. Augeri ended up getting caught miming didn’t he? Felt bad for that guy.

          Yeah I don’t care about rough voices. It’s how the singer/band adapts that matters to me. I think maybe Open Arms was a bad choice in that regard but I can see a rougher voice working if they adapt to it in terms of the musical style. I think that’s why I’d be more excited for a Perry solo. I could see him doing something more appropriate for his voice.

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        3. Yup that’s right. Augeri had “health problems” and was miming and that’s when they brought it Jeff Scott Soto. If they had made an album with Jeff, that would have been interesting.

          I’m into a Perry solo album as long as it’s not ALL ballads.

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        4. Yup that’s the one. The members of Journey don’t spill any dirt. Herbie Herbert spills it all. That man hates Steve Perry with a PASSION.

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        5. The stuff he did with Yngwie was great. He’s just got a great voice. I wish they had done an album with him. It could have been something new and interesting.

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        6. I also found it interesting that Augeri’s second album as singer of Journey was also the Journey album where they decided that all five guys would sing lead on their own songs.

          FYI Castronovo had the best voice of those five.

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        7. Do you know how Jeff found out that he was fired? It was at Sweden Rock Festival where he was playing with Talisman and some dude from REO Speedwagon went up to Jeff and said “Sorry, dude, about that whole Journey thing”. Jeff looked like a big question mark. SO he called up Neal, who didn’t answer and 10 seconds later, Journey’s manager called him up and confirmed that he was out. Proffesional, huh?

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        8. THAT BLOWS. That’s too bad. The guy came in when they needed a singer and they fire him like that? Somebody from REO knew about it first? That sucks.

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        9. Also, If you’re a Jeff Scott Soto – fan and haven’t heard Talisman, you have some big checking out to do. Best band Jeff’s ever been in. I can also recommend W.E.T., Soto’s latest project.

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        10. Do you use Dropbox, Mike? If so, I could hook you up with some cool music if you’d like to check stuff out.

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      2. I did review Eels recently – didn’t realize Perry had hit the road with them! Castronovo was the uncredited drummer on a Hole album I looked at last week, small world.

        HMO &/or Mike – have either of you read Chuck Klosterman’s essay about a ‘Triumph Cruise’ (featuring REO Speedwagon, Journey and Styx though curiously not Triumph, opportunity missed!) ?

        He had a similar take on the mid 2000s version of Journey – a shadow of their former selves. And I have you folks to thank, in another essay he was defending a bunch of late 80s hard rock & metal albums that thanks to your blogs, I was familiar with most of what he was talking about!

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        1. Yes sir, apparently Steve Perry and Mr. E from Eels are friends, and he ended up singing several songs with them a few weeks ago. The videos indicate Perry’s voice is a lot rougher, but man he still HAS it!

          I have only read one Klosterman book to be honest with you. It was Fargo Rock City, and it made me so mad and jealous because he had written the book that I wished I wrote. I took a lot of inspiration from him. I hope some of that comes out in the Record Store Tales. He and Popoff are my two main influences for this blog.

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    1. All their covers have always been great.

      I think if someday soon Journey do a career-spanning greatest hits or box set, a few of these songs should be on there. As an album to play front to back, it’s not a home run.

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    1. HAHAHAHA…oh man :)

      I remember one day my mom called me up. “Mike, there’s a new show out that you will just love. It’s called Glee and it’s all about music.”

      AHHHHHH oh man I almost yelled at my mom that day :)

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  1. Excellent review, Mike. I agree with pretty much everything you wrote, although your description of Steve Smith as “smooth-as-butter” had me scratching my head. I always thought one of the things that made his contributions to Journey’s music so special was his off-kilter drumming. The little cymbal accents he added, and unexpected syncopation, made some songs stand out more than they would have with another drummer behind the kit. There’s no doubt that the band has never been the same without him (and Perry, of course) but they’ve done some very good music in recent years. Your 3/5 rating confirms that.

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    1. Well Rich I totally agree with your assessment of Steve Smith. The little cymbal accents particularly. It’s hard to choose the right words when you are describing music! But I hear a smoothness in his groove that I like using that word to describe. He’s just a phenomenal drummer.

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  2. “It sounds like the best Journey tribute band in the world, but still…just a tribute band.” Nailed it Mike, good call. I’ve followed these guys ever since Neil Schon and Greg Rolie split from Santana, through all their incarnations (one year even managed to see Steve Smith perform with Jean-Luc Ponty outdoors at Pine Knob, MI, and then see him with Journey there later in the fall) I’ve gritted my teeth through all the bad choices in replacements (Randy f’n JACKSON?) as they careened off course towards Adult-Lite Contemporary blandness. There’s been some great songs, and amazing world-wide success, but they’re just going through the motions now. Like you say, much better live.

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      1. Would be very interested to hear, but I doubt it could come close to the fire of “Ain’t Got Nobody To Depend On” or “Jungle Strut”(Schon’s best work with them) ‘Course, Carlos has lost a lot of his ooomph too.
        I had assumed Rolie’s voice was blown, he sounded so rough on second Journey album, and quit soon after.

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        1. Rolie started the band with Carlos, played on first three albums. The classic “Rock” Santana songs (and all belong on classic hammond organ playlists too) – Evil Ways, Black Magic Woman, Oye Como Va, You Just Don’t Care, Ain’t Got Nobody To Depend On, Hope You’re Feelin’ Better, Icanjustkeepgoingalldayifsomeonedoesntstopme…..
          Tom Coster replaced Rolie and Santana became more jazzy.

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    1. Randy Jackson, dawg. Although he never recorded with them he did do the Raised on Radio tour, and photos of the band from that period look really weird!

      I think the only thing that can keep Journey from feeling like they’re going through the motions is the return of Steve Perry. It’s not just his voice, but his songwriting. It’s so critical to that sound.

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      1. I think if they could get Perry AND Rolie together, the songwriting would improve, they could spell each other on lead voc, and the HARMONIES?!!! DAWG!!Not to mention (my personal fetish) Rolie’s hammond organ grinding away all the pop gloss.

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        1. If that ever happened they’d have to be a two-keyboard band because I believe Jon Cain is now one of the core members (contractually speaking).

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  3. On an airplane flight I saw the documentary about how Pineda came to be in Journey, appropriately called Don’t Stop Believin’. A good documentary, at least for an airplane flight. You’ve probably heard the story how, after having almost given up (What is this? Genesis tried out a huge number of singers after Gabriel had left, only to go with Collins; the Scorpions also tried out about 140 guitarists after Uli Roth had left before going with Matthias Jabs, who had been taking private lessons in mathematics from Francis Buchholz.) they found Pineda on YouTube and sent him an email “How would you like to sing with the real Journey”?

    There is a meet-and-greet scene when some bloke introduces himself as “the guy who replaced Peter Cetera in Chicago”. :-)

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    1. The story of Arnel Pineda is a great story. I have absolutely nothing bad to say about him at all. He has a marvelous voice. It’s not his fault he’s not the original lead singer of Journey!

      (And yes I know Rolie sang lead before him, and Fleischman too, but let’s not nit-pick!)

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        1. I saw that almost immediately after seeing “The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen” and when the original singer whips off his wig….. It’s DR JEKYLL! Moihahaha
          I was waitin for him to turn into Hyde and tear the studio apart :D

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  4. Very well done, I like Journey – I only have a couple, you gave me some and I bought one from a bin for $5. From the sounds of it, Trial By Fire would be one to get. I hope Perry comes back eventually, but only if he can nail it and do it up right.

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  5. Naaa no Perry means No Journey. I picked this up at Walmart as well when it was released as it was right at the til upon checkout (sweet marketing move)
    Change For The Better is a great track…rest of it pass…don’t know why but for me I always go back to the live Houston 81 show or Captured when I need a Journey fix.
    The second disc of recordings is just plain goofy in my book why do it with a Perry Impersonater??
    Now that I ripped on it tons of people bought and good for em but even for me Trial By Fire missed the boat as well for me and man I think every year since 1982 I always hear Schon going on about how heavy of a guitar rock album the next Journey album is gonna be?? U serious dude the only heavy guitar action I heard from him was the HSAS and Hardline debut..geez us I’m just a grumpy ol Journey Fuck!!
    Ha
    When Perry cruises back..let me know!

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    1. Deke sounds like you need to have a coffee this morning dude!

      Hey BTW Aaron’s been trying to get a hold of you via email. He has something to send you I think.

      I wanna hear Schon and Hagar do some more stuff together. Sammy brings out the rock in him.

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  6. Hahaha…..just forward Aaron my email and I can send him the info there
    Thanks!
    Yeah that HSAS album with Top Of The Rock,Missing You,were cracking good songs !

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  7. Hahaha….A Little Kind Of Magic???
    Sammy and Friends I never got around to getting either…..
    Just remember at the time (1984) being pumped about HSAS as I has seen Hagar on his VOA tour and it was a great show so when he announced HSAS I was In……too bad it never took off . I also recall reading at the time that all the songs on the album were recorded live but they took off the audience for some reason and called it there studio album,don’t know if that one is true but….

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  8. I remember when Jeff was fired. I thought they were a bunch of idiots to fire him because as you said, he sounds nothing like Perry and he would have given the band a whole new identety. And I guess that was where it fell apart. They didn’t want a new identety, they wanted to sound like they always did. When it comes to the albums with Steve Augeri, I don’t think it was the fact that Augeri had a Perry-like voice that the albums failed, those albums were good, but forgettable and they would have been forgettable even with Perry at the mike. Augeri was a killer singer and he made one really good album with his band Tall Stories prior to Journey.
    In the end, I think that it was a good thing that they chose Pineda. I have changed my mind on that one as the two albums with him, this and Eclipse, are really bloody great. Pineda has since this album come out of his shell and on Eclipse he doesn’t sound that much like Perry anymore.
    To say that this album is their best since Escape is stretching it a bit (lot), but it’s their best since Raised On Radio. Trial By Fire was good, but much too long and that one is a bit forgettable as well, I think. It was with this album that Journey got back to writing killer songs again.
    About a reunion with Perry, I think it’s pretty unlikely that it will ever happen and I really hope it never does. As a singer, Pineda is superior to Perry today and I doubt that Perry can reach those notes on full scale tour today. Also, I saw them live at Sweden Rock in 2008 and they were just f**king fantastic and Pineda really had grown a pair and looked like was born on a stage fronting a band.

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    1. You know, I totally agree that Arnel is a great stage performer. I may not think much of the albums they have made with him, but I have nothing bad to say about Arnel really. The fans have embraced him and that has given Journey new life.

      And you know I LOVE Trial By Fire. I seem to be alone on that one. I think it’s their best album, honestly.

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      1. Trial By Fire is weird for me because everytime I play it I’m in awe, but 10 minutes later I have forgotten the songs. I couldn’t hum one melody from that album right now. But I really dig it whenever I put it on.

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        1. For me, I played that album in-store so damn much…I made several employees SICK OF JOURNEY…sick of Steve Perry’s every “woah-oh-oh-oh”. But I don’t care :)

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        2. Haha. Awesome!! But… how do you get sick of Steve Perry??? Impossible…

          Btw, I’m still waiting for your review of Out Of This World…

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        3. Working on it! Sometimes I get writer’s block for certain albums you know. Like “how the fuck am I gonna review this?” Sometimes it’s just a matter of sitting down, listening, and fucking writing! Other times I have to fight past the mental block. Out of This World is an album with its weaknesses, but that album was so damned important to me as a kid. It’s really special to me. It took a long time to like.

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