journey

REVIEW: Journey – Freedom (2022, Japanese bonus track)

JOURNEY – Freedom (2022 Japan, Ward Records)

Last month we gave Journey’s new album Freedom a glowing review.  We also did an excellent episode of Tim’s Vinyl Confessions to discuss the new album.  Though many were sceptical, Tim and I agreed more or less on the entire album.  We were both pleasantly surprised at its quality.  What was missing was the Japanese bonus 16th track.  Neither of us got a hold of it…until now.

The bonus track, exclusive to Japan, is a Jon Cain penned track called “Hard To Let It Go”.  If you are predicting the song is a ballad…you would be correct.

Spoiler:  Tim’s comment upon hearing “Hard To Let It Go” was “I can see why the Journey track didn’t make the album…so-so.”

Below you can read the full Journey Freedom review, now including bonus track.


What a…well, Journey…it has been!  First drummer Deen Castronovo was fired for…reasons we won’t get into.  Steve Smith was brought back to replace him, until both Smith and bassist Ross Valory were fired for attempted takeover of the band?  One way or another they ended up with Randy Jackson and Narada Michael Walden forming a lethal new rhythm section.  Also added was second keyboardist Jason Derlatka.  Now Deen is back and the album they created together, Freedom, is a special one compared to all the other post-Perry records.  Musically, Freedom is the strongest lineup since the classic era. With Narada on songwriting, there is a clear uptick in memorable material. 16 songs, and a more satisfying listen than the last three or four Journey studio albums.  Freedom actually feels like a three sided album, with five songs per side (plus the bonus track).  Listen with that in mind and see if you agree.

1. “Together We Run” – Classic 80s sound with a catchy Jon Cain piano opening. Awesome chorus. The “Woah Woah Woah” part is excellent.  Top it with a classic Schon solo. Arnel  Pineda sounds more soulful than before. 5/5

2. “Don’t Give Up On Us” – This is the “Separate Ways” ripoff.  Tell me you can’t hear it.  It’s slowed down a tad, but similar. Good tune though! 4/5

3. “Still Believe in Love” – The first ballad.  Narada’s really nailing that soul vibe on drums. Really soft/romantic but good. 4/5

4. “You Got the Best of Me” – Second single. Solid Journey style hard rocker. Narada nails this vibe too in a style reminiscent of Steve Smith. Chorus is stellar. 5/5

5. “Live to Love Again” – Jonathan Cain solo writing credit. A bit corny but not more so than other Journey ballads or Bon Jovi for that matter. 3/5

6. “The Way We Used To Be” – First single, so long ago! Darker, more ominous Journey, but absolutely killer. Takes a while to sink it. Works better on the album than as a single. Powerful, with great chorus. 5/5

7. “Come Away With Me” – Uncharacteristic hard rock groover. Randy Jackson for the win. Do I hear an homage to the first album on this one? Relentless song! 5/5

8. “After Glow” – Ballad #3. At least each ballad is different from one another, which is necessary on an album like this. Deen Castronovo on lead vocals. Very Steve Perry circa Trial By Fire. 3.5/5

9. “Let It Rain” – Woah! Completely different. Funk courtesy of Mr. Randy Jackson on bass. Solid unexpected funky groove going on here. Schon is mental! 4/5

10. “Holdin’ On” – Randy’s first co-write. Very much an homage to the first three progressive Journey albums. Time signature is nuts. 4/5

11. “All Day, All Night” – Randy Jackson is MVP for his bass pulse on this soulful, funky groove. Wicked song, An album highlight. Schon just punctuates the air with some chords while the bass carries the verses. Arnel in top voice on the screamin’ outro. 5/5

12. “Don’t Go” – Arnel’s first co-write. Like early 80’s Bon Jovi with an uplifting power chorus. 5/5

13. “United We Stand” – No quite a ballad, but a midtempo tune. Lyrics could be interpreted as about the division in the US. Not a highlight, just kinda sits there. 3/5

14. “Life Rolls On” – A song about aging and rolling with the changes. Begins as a ballad and transforms into a rocker. Nice organ on here by Jon Cain. 4/5

15. “Beautiful As You Are” – Album closing ballad/rocker. Lovely acoustic closer. Understated and perfect until it goes rocker at the end. Arnel in top voice hitting the high notes. Homage to classic Journey at the end – “Anytime”? Walden kicking absolutely ass on the outro. 5/5

16. “Hard To Let It Go” – Ballads can work very well as bonus tracks; an added “coda” to a track listing.  “Hard To Let It Go” takes a few listens to like.  If it were in the main tracklist, it would fade into the background in the wake of better songs.  Slow, deliberate, with an excellent speedy bluesy solo by Neal.  (Steve Perry did call Neal Schon one of the best blues players in the world on the Captured live album.)  Really though, the song is B-side quality compared to the rest of Freedom.  It stands out a little more thanks to its positioning as the last song. 3/5

Freedom is the first Journey since Trial By Fire that really intrigues you enough to go in for multiple listens.  This lineup has it all and though health issues have gotten in they way of Randy and Narada touring, the album is a moment frozen in time when Journey had these two awesome veterans in the engine room.

4.5/5 stars

Sunday Screening: Tim’s Vinyl Confessions – Tim and Mike discuss Freedom by Journey

Tim Durling approached me about doing this Journey show…six months ago?  A year?  Two years?  We have been waiting for this Journey album a long time, and a rocky ride it has been.  Does this album live up to the hype?  Tim and I are remarkably alligned on the new Journey album Freedom.  Dig in.

My text review of Journey Freedom can be found by clicking here.

REVIEW: Journey – Freedom (2022)

JOURNEY – Freedom (2022)

What a…well, Journey…it has been!  First drummer Deen Castronovo was fired for…reasons we won’t get into.  Steve Smith was brought back to replace him, until both Smith and bassist Ross Valory were fired for attempted takeover of the band?  One way or another they ended up with Randy Jackson and Narada Michael Walden forming a lethal new rhythm section.  Also added was second keyboardist Jason Derlatka.  Now Deen is back and the album they created together, Freedom, is a special one compared to all the other post-Perry records.

This review is a little different.  It is based off notes I made for an episode of Tim’s Vinyl Confessions.  As such the format is a little different.  Tim also provided all the photos!


Musically, Freedom is the strongest lineup since the classic Steve Perry era. With Narada on songwriting, there is a clear uptick in memorable material. 15 songs and a more satisfying listen than the last three or four Journey studio albums.  Freedom actually feels like a three sided album, with five songs per side.  Listen with that in mind and see if you agree.

1. “Together We Run” – Classic 80s sound with a catchy Jon Cain piano opening. Awesome chorus. The “Woah Woah Woah” part is excellent.  Top it with a classic Schon solo. Arnel  Pineda sounds more soulful than before. 5/5

2. “Don’t Give Up On Us” – This is the “Separate Ways” ripoff.  Tell me you can’t hear it.  It’s slowed down a tad, but similar. Good tune though! 4/5

3. “Still Believe in Love” – The first ballad.  Narada’s really nailing that soul vibe on drums. Really soft/romantic but good. 4/5

4. “You Got the Best of Me” – Second single. Solid Journey style hard rocker. Narada nails this vibe too in a style reminiscent of Steve Smith. Chorus is stellar. 5/5

5. “Live to Love Again” – Jonathan Cain solo writing credit. A bit corny but not more so than other Journey ballads or Bon Jovi for that matter. 3/5

6. “The Way We Used To Be” – First single, so long ago! Darker, more ominous Journey, but absolutely killer. Takes a while to sink it. Works better on the album than as a single. Powerful, with great chorus. 5/5

7. “Come Away With Me” – Uncharacteristic hard rock groover. Randy Jackson for the win. Do I hear an homage to the first album on this one? Relentless song! 5/5

8. “After Glow” – Ballad #3. At least each ballad is different from one another, which is necessary on an album like this. Deen Castronovo on lead vocals. Very Steve Perry circa Trial By Fire. 3.5/5

9. “Let It Rain” – Woah! Completely different. Funk courtesy of Mr. Randy Jackson on bass. Solid unexpected funky groove going on here. Schon is mental! 4/5

10. “Holdin’ On” – Randy’s first co-write. Very much an homage to the first three progressive Journey albums. Time signature is nuts. 4/5

11. “All Day, All Night” – Randy Jackson is MVP for his bass pulse on this soulful, funky groove. Wicked song, An album highlight. Schon just punctuates the air with some chords while the bass carries the verses. Arnel in top voice on the screamin’ outro. 5/5

12. “Don’t Go” – Arnel’s first co-write. Like early 80’s Bon Jovi with an uplifting power chorus. 5/5

13. “United We Stand” – No quite a ballad, but a midtempo tune. Lyrics could be interpreted as about the division in the US. Not a highlight, just kinda sits there. 3/5

14. “Life Rolls On” – A song about aging and rolling with the changes. Begins as a ballad and transforms into a rocker. Nice organ on here by Jon Cain. 4/5

15. “Beautiful As You Are” – album closing ballad/rocker. Lovely acoustic closer. Understated and perfect until it goes rocker at the end. Arnel in top voice hitting the high notes. Homage to classic Journey at the end – “Anytime”? Walden kicking absolutely ass on the outro. 5/5

There is also a Japanese bonus track called “Hard to Let It Go” that we will check out at a later time.

Freedom is the first Journey since Trial By Fire that really intrigues you enough to go in for multiple listens.  This lineup has it all and though health issues have gotten in they way of Randy and Narada touring, the album is a moment frozen in time when Journey had these two awesome veterans in the engine room.

4.5/5 stars

“You Got the Best of Me” by Journey on the Sunday Song Spotlight

Journey is back!  Their new album Freedom will be out this summer (July 8) and one of the new tunes, “You Got the Best of Me”, is pure hot summer fun.  Built for the car, so hit the highway with the windows down.

It’s unclear who played on everything as yet.  Narada Michael Walden played some drums, as did Deen Castronovo.  There are two keyboard players in Journey now (Jason Derlatka and Jonathan Cain), and though Randy Jackson played bass on the album, he’s no longer in the band.  We know that Neal Schon sounds Halen-wailin’ on that stuttery main riff.  Arnel Pineda is strong as ever, the longest-lasting Journey singer ever, now surpassing Steve Perry himself in tenure.

“You Got the Best of Me” isn’t overly heavy, but is the kind of hard rocker that the band is known for.  The keyboard accents soften it up a bit, and you can clearly hear two keyboard parts simultaneously.  The star of the song is really Arnel Pineda, who delivers the endless hooks.

Sunday Screening: Stranger Things 4 trailer featuring the music of Journey

Those of us addicted to the Netflix original series Stranger Things generally agree:  the soundtracks kick ass.  Taking place in the 1980s, the series is nostalgia-heavy.  Intentionally evoking classic 80s Steven and Stephen (Spielberg & King), the series has pulled the right strings.  Season 4 appears to be no different, with that haunting version of “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” by Journey taking center stage.

The song is not just a cool tune for the show, but important to the themes of this season.  Our characters are indeed worlds apart, separated for the first time.

Joining the cast this year is the original Freddie Krueger, Robert England himself.  According to creators the Duffer brothers, this is the classic horror season of the show.  Expect that Nightmare on Elm Street vibe.

Tim’s Vinyl Confessions Ep. 353: Journey Talk with Mike LeBrain

I did another taping with Tim Durling on early Saturday morning, my favourite time on my favourite day.  The subject:  a band that just announced the title and tracklisting of their new album Freedom:  Journey!

It’s been a crazy time for Journey, with plenty of lineup upheaval and uncertainty. Tim and I address all this while going through our favourite Journey rarities from the catalogue. We discuss every Journey lead singer: Greg Rolie, Robert Fleischmann, Steve Perry, Steve Augeri, Jeff Scott Soto, and Arnel Pineda. Enjoy this chat as we gear up for the next chapter of Journey!

“Remember Me” by Journey on the Sunday Song Spotlight

It was a little shocking when Steve Perry left Journey in 1997 after a very brief reunion. Even more shocking was his swift replacement by Steve Augeri of the little-known Tall Stories. It did not take long for them to release new music with the fresh-faced singer. “Remember Me” came in the summer of ’98 on the back of the hit movie soundtrack for Armageddon.

The new track sounded exactly like Journey!  A little bit harder than much of the recent Trial By Fire music.  Notably (and noticeably), “Remember Me” also features their new drummer, Deen Castronovo.  The lead singer change was the bigger news of course, but with Augeri, Journey cut a hot first track.  The classic Journey hard rock anthem sound was recaptured.

“Remember Me” begins with the chyme of an acoustic guitar but soon bursts into life with the rest of the band.  Jonathan Cain’s tinkling keyboards create a melodic undertone, but Augeri is front and center of the track.  He can hit the notes with the right amount of power, and fooled a few people into thinking he actually was Steve Perry!  Not a bad debut.

 

Remember me
Find myself all alone
In darkness without you
Now I can’t turn away
From what I must do
You know I’d give my life for you
More than words can say
I’ve shown you how to love someone
I know you’ll find a way
Say goodbye
Close your eyes
Remember me
Walk away
The sun remains
Remember me
I’ll live on somewhere in your heart
You must believe
Remember me
No way I can change my mind
I don’t have the answers
If you could see through my eyes
You’d let go of your fears
And though I have to leave you now
With the thought of each other
I miss your touch
You call my name
I am with you forever
Say goodbye
Close your eyes
Remember me
Walk away
The sun remains
Remember me
With the change we can’t explain
Remember me
I’ll live on somewhere in your heart
You must believe
Remember me
You know I’d give my life for you
More than words can say
I showed you how to love someone
I know you’ll find a way
Say goodbye
Close your eyes
Remember me
Walk away
The sun remains
Remember me
Be there to watch over you
Remember me
Feel I’m gone
My heart lives on
Remember me
Don’t you think of this as the end
I’ll come into your dreams
Remember me
Close your eyes…
Say goodbye…
Remember me
Say you will

Happy Birthday Steve Perry, from Tim’s Vinyl Confessions

Thank you Tim Durling for asking me to sit with you on this special Steve Perry episode of Tim’s Vinyl Confessions!

Happy birthday Steve Perry!

REVIEW: Journey – Greatest Hits (1988, 2008)

JOURNEY – Greatest Hits (Originally 1988, 2008 expanded reissue)

It’s OK if your first album by anybody was a “greatest hits” of some sort.  Over 15 million people bought Journey’s Greatest Hits in the US alone, and you can be guaranteed that several of those millions were buying Journey for the first time.  Hundreds of thousands more copies still sell annually.  This has to be considered one of the most successful hits compilations by a rock band.

Even if you were a Journey diehard back in 1988, you still wanted Greatest Hits.  It had two huge Journey hits from movie soundtracks:  “Only the Young” (Vision Quest) and “Ask the Lonely” (Two of a Kind).  These songs were not meant to be obscurities; both were slated for the Frontiers album.  These are two awesome songs with insanely catchy choruses, one a rocker and one a soft burner.  Two gigantic peaks of the Jonathan Cain era of Journey, who co-wrote both songs.

“Don’t Stop Believin'” doesn’t need any additional commentary, except this:  listen to the drums.  That’s Steve Smith, the wizard of tempo.  There is a reason that Smith can often be found filed in the Jazz section.  Listen to his creative hits, cymbal work, and timing.  Yet not a lot of snare.  Same with “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)”.  This is not typical rock drumming, and this is something that his replacements have had to recreate as faithfully as they could.

Greatest Hits ignores the first three Journey albums (pre-Steve Perry), and justifiably so.  Those first three progressive rock albums, as fascinating as they are, bore no hits.  “To Play Some Music” peaked at #138.  The earliest tracks are the radio staples “Lights” and “Wheel in the Sky” from 1978’s Infinity.  Incidentally these are the only tracks without Steve Smith, featuring his predecessor Aynsley Dunbar.

In 2008, Sony a series of budget-priced reissues including Journey’s Greatest Hits.  This version has one additional bonus track from Journey’s reunion album Trial By Fire from 1996.  This is a fantastic album, but the ballad chosen (“When You Love a Woman”) tips the album too far on the scales to ballads.

Through all the hits you know, and maybe a couple you don’t (“Girl Can’t Help It”? “Send Her My Love”?) you will get a clear picture of some of Journey’s facets.  But only some.  Little of their instrumental wizardry, which continued into the Steve Perry era with songs like “Dixie Highway”.  You also will not hear many hard edged moments, like “Stone in Love”.  You will however get a taste of Steve Perry’s soul, and the excellent hooks that he concocted with Neal Schon and Jon Cain.  You will absorb some awesome Schon tone.  On the later tracks, like “I’ll Be Alright Without You” and “Be Good To Yourself”, you will hear the slickness and groove of Raised on Radio.  But there are so many more key Journey tracks, as good if not better than these.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Minoru Niihara – One (1989)

MINORU NIIHARA – One (1989 Triad)

Original Loudness vocalist Minoru Niihara was let go in 1988 so they could have a stab at a success with an American singer.  While they went their way (and did not cross over onto the charts as they hoped), Niihara recorded his first solo album appropriately titled One.  He worked at Cherokee studios in Hollywood, where there must have been a lot of rock stars hanging out.  The credits on One include:  Mark Slaughter, Reb Beach, Doug Aldrich, the rhythm section from Journey (Steve Smith and Ross Valory), Kal Swan, David Glen Eisley, and the Tower of Power horns!

That being said, you might expect a straightforward hard rock album right out of 1989 like so many you remember from that year.  You’d be partly right.  However the lyrics are mostly in Japanese, and while the intent might have been to make a straight-ahead commercial rock record, it goes a bit sideways on some tracks.

It sounds like some of the same opening sounds as on Alice Cooper’s Trash album (also 1989) are used on first instrumental “Overture”.  Then it goes soft rock, with guitar strings tinkling like a fragile piece of glass, backed by heavenly keyboards.  In a jarring shift, the first proper song “Let’s Get Together” doesn’t meld well with this intro.  It also sounds a bit out of time, a relic from a couple years prior.  But Minoru is on top of it.  “Let’s get together! Have fun tonight!” goes the boppin’ English chorus, with plenty of the expected thick backing vocals from the Hollywood cast and crew.  Although it already sounded dated for 1989, “Let’s Get Together” is a fun track clearly aiming for a party concert vibe.  Not bad — production is clunky, and there are a couple key changes that sound off, but it’s otherwise a fun song that does what it’s there to do.

American rock vibes dominate “Stand Up to the Danger”, sounding a bit like “Loud and Clear” by Autograph.  That could be Reb Beach just rippin’ it up on the solo, but the track is very standard for the genre.  A neat ballad follows, the Journey-like…ahem…it’s a case of a language barrier, I’m sure, but the song is called “Come Over Me”.  Very much like a Journey ballad, and it’s probably Valory and Smith on bass and drums respectively.  Maxine and Julia Waters on backing vocals.

A cool 80s bass groove sets the tone on “I Can’t Wait”.  This mid-tempo car-cruiser is an album highlight, and a track worth getting in your ears.  Great solo too (Doug?).  Coincidentally, Minoru’s replacement in Loudness was a fellow named Mike Vescera, and he later recorded a different song called “I Can’t Wait” with Yngwie J. Malmsteen.  One of Minbru’s weaknesses (and it probably comes down to English as a second language) is a reliance on cliche song titles.  “I Can’t Wait”, “Stayin’ Alive”, “Dynamite”, and “Fool For You” are all song titles you’ve heard before.

Speaking of “Dynamite”, the next track on the disc — it’s a little more unique.  With a bluesy opening, it soon lets loose with a blast of saxophone.  The chorus is full-on pop.  A little clunky in construction and production, but different and still cool.

A soft keyboard ballad called “You Can Do It” sits right in the middle of the album.  Even though vinyl, and  especially cassettes were big in 1989, One only saw release on CD.  No “side one” or “side two” with this album.  Once more the ballad would sound appropriate on a Steve Perry album, and the guitar solo is really smooth.  Good song; Minoru’s style of singing is a bit overblown for a soulful ballad, but you can certainly tell he loves singing this way.

“Bluest Sky” is cool, acoustic and stripped back but “Stayin’ Alive” really scorches.  It’s the closest thing to classic Loudness.  It is the only clearly heavy metal track on the album.  Probably Reb Beach ripping up his fretboard and whammy bar on the solo.  Definitely Mark Slaughter on the chorus.  The horn section returns on “Fool For You”, but Minoru’s over-the-top singing does not suit the funky metal stylings.  He does well on “Too Long Away to Reach”, a little more restrained.  But it is the third ballad that really does sound like Journey.  So much that you’d assume it was Neal Schon on guitar.

Finally Minoru closes his solo debut on one more ballad, “I’ll Never Hide My Love Again”.  This time it’s a big power ballad with a massive chorus, and because it’s dramatically different from the earlier ballads, it works.  Definite vibes of King Kobra’s “Dancing With Desire” (1985).

See what I mean when I say that One sounds dated already even for 1989?  That doesn’t make it bad, but not all pieces fit.  There are some obtrusive keyboard overdubs, some of the ingredients just don’t mix.  While Minoru is a fine vocalist, and he gives 110% here, some of the songs sound like they would work better if he laid back a bit.  Then again, that could be the language barrier; the words he is singing might be totally appropriate to his vocal output.  Everything in music is subjective anyway.  Regardless of interpretation, Minoru Niihara’s effort is no less than his whole heart, and you have to give credit for that.

3/5 stars