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.