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Journey-Eclipseby Jeb Wright - Classic Rock Revisted
June 29, 2011
For those old enough to remember, Journey was a band long before songs like "Faithfully," "Open Arms" and "Be Good to Yourself." The band actually started out as a jazzy, prog type rock band before morphing into the great, '70's melodic hard rock band that featured newcomer Steve Perry on vocals.
Starting with Escape, Journey took to the softer side of things and become a worldwide musical force that mixed Perry's pomp, guitarist Neal Schon's flair and new keyboard player Jonathan Cain's pop savvy songwriting. Since Perry's departure, Journey has been through a few singers and struggled to create a great classic rock album. They have come close, and even sold a lot of records but they have failed to make a solid musical statement, start to finish. With Eclipse, they have returned as a true band and not just a pop tour de force going through the motions. Dare I say it? Journey has new life and is rocking hard.
The band has received praise for stretching out of the box and going in a new direction, yet to my ears this is just Journey being Journey. They have taken all of the past, put it in a blender and made music that has bits and pieces of all eras and incarnations of the band, leaning on the heavy guitar oriented 1970's version of the band. To the dismay of the fans that swoon and sway to the sugar and sweet ballads, and benign pop songs, this one has nothing that can be described as sticky sweet. Instead Journey delivers a bombastic guitar oriented album. In other words, there is no lighter waving and making out with your girlfriend on this album. Well, almost none, the song "Tantra" will get the lighers out and might just get you a kiss.
Songs like "City of Hope," which is the best Journey song written since Escape, will have people rocking out, and sporting a wide toothed grin, as Neal Schon plays his arse off. "Edge of the Moment" is another grand musical statement. The album closes with "Venus" which is nothing more than Neal Schon banging out killer riff after riff and solo after solo. Neal jams out on this instrumental, kicking it out with precision, speed and dexterity not seen since that cool ass riff at the beginning of "Don't Stop Believing."
Top 40 Journey fans beware, however, as this is not the hook laden, melodic guitar fest you fell in love with when you bought Frontiers. The pop hooks are subtle, the melody is often smashed in the skull by a killer guitar solo, and there is not even a lot of piano playing in the forefront. That said, the album is not devoid of hooks nor melody; it is there, its just not obvious. This is a very musical album. One can't deny the classic melody in "Resonate" or "She's a Mystery." Even the rhythmic guitar leads in "City of Hope" and "Edge of the Moment" are a reflection of classic Journey.
Vocalist Anrel Pineda gets huge kudos as he gives a strong performance from beginning to end. He finds the melodies within each song, which is harder to do with complex music than it is with bubble gum. Some songs don't lend themselves easily to the classic Journey sound but Arnel finds the right tone on each track. Jonathan Cain gets a high five for taking a backseat on this one and allowing the song to call out for what is needed. The rhythm section of Deen Castronovo and Ross Valory drive the songs where they need to go as Schon, as stated, delivers big from beginning to end.
While this is not what one would have expected from Journey, it is the most adventurous, creative and powerful album they have made sans Perry. While it harkens back to Departure, Evolution and Infinity, it also contains elements of the other eras of the band. If anything is lost it is the fluff and cheese that made the band a lot of money but also garnered them a lot of critical crapola.
I, for one, am happy to hear Journey pushing themselves, musically, on Eclipse. As Neal Schon promised on the Journey website when the band recorded this album, "This one rocks." Yes indeed, I couldn't have said it better myself.
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