|a l b u m r e v i e w s|
Produced by: Kevin Shirley
Released: OCT 25 Japan / Website
Relative: Trial By Fire, Raised On Radio
Where does one possibly start to review this record? The delays, the Napster issue, and the new line up - it makes for a good story. To ensure this review comes in under 10,000 words, I will skip the recent history lesson and get straight to the facts.|
Journey needed a new lead singer. Of the several options on offer to them - all fantastic vocalists in their own right - the guys decided upon one of the lesser known candidates.
Steve Augeri (of Tall Stories and Tyketto's second line up) was the man and he has proven himself as more than a capable replacement for Steve Perry on the last 2 summer US tours.
Now he has just finished recording his first ever Journey record. I can safely say that the guys could not have picked a more brilliant nor a more suitable vocalist for the job.
Steve Augeri has more than made up for the loss of Perry and in some ways has added new life to the band with his awesome vocals.
In places you could swear that it was Perry himself singing, the comparison is that close.|
But Augeri is no clone. He is his own man and on other tracks he places his own vocal stamp on proceedings, sounding like a seriously world class veteran of many Journey records. Quite honestly, there is no way you can tell this is his first record with the band. The months of touring previously have gelled these guys, with new drummer Deen Castronovo also, into a formidable line up.
So to the record. This is a far better record than Trial By Fire. The production is so much cleaner, with the every man on the record given room to breathe. Every instrument and chord change is audible and at no stage does the record become over produced like it's predecessor. Full credit to Kevin Shirley for producing and mixing a wonderfully arranged record that is seemingly stripped back without sounding like there is anything missing.
I think it is the best produced Journey record ever. It is also a lot cleaner and sharper than the debut Steve Augeri track Remember Me, featured on the Armageddon soundtrack.
Now amongst all this adulation, there are some negatives still. While I say the record is better than Trial By Fire and after sereral weeks of solid listening, I regard it as one of my favourtite Journey record's ever - it could have still been better still.
The biggest problem I can see is that for 18 months we were promised an album that would rock and an album that we could compare to Escape and Frontiers. This has had fan anticipation at a high and while this album does rock in places, it would be more comfortable sitting along side Raised On Radio and Trial By Fire than the rockier predecessors.
It does rock in places, but nowhere near what was implied and that will have repercussions with many fans.
The second half of the album is still too weighed down with ballads and down tempo tracks. As good as these songs are, they balance of the album could have been improved with the simple addition of a couple of extra rockers and the removal of maybe one ballad.
Then there is this Japanese version's bonus track!
To Be Alive Again is precisely what I am referring to - a pure class rocker, but right at the end of the album. Adding it is a fabulous move, but it's lost at the end of the record. It would have been better to add it, and maybe 1 other rocker after track 10 - when you have just had 3 slow to mid tempo'd tracks and about to get another 3.
14 tracks for the Japan version is awesome. Missing this track of the worldwide release would be criminal! Once again, just like Trial By Fire, the Japanese version will be the preferred one.
So, to the tracks:
Higher Place (Written by Neal Schon, Jack Blades)
Song of the year. No doubt. If you were trying to introduce a friend to AOR by playing a song that summed everything you loved about this music to them, then this would be the track I played.
That tight production highlights a pumping bass line introducing the song to a brooding vocal in the verse, soaring to an explosion of guitar, piano and harmony vocals. A delight to listen to and simply put, I will be listening to this song in ten years time without tiring if it a bit.
I love the bridge after the second chorus that leads to the guitar solo. Awesome vocals Mr Augeri and some fabulous shredding in the last minute of the song from Schon.
All The Way (Taylor Rhodes, Jonathan Cain, Neal Schon, Steve Augeri)
A classic Journey ballad. Much in the vein of the first single off Trial By Fire, this track follows all the necessary rules of the lighter-in-the-air power ballad. A predictable first single as it has universal appeal. One of my favorite Journey ballads nevertheless.
Signs Of Life (Jonathan Cain, Elizabeth Cain, Neal Schon)
A killer track that takes us back to the feel of Raised On Radio. This is a pure FM radio summer hit. Jon Cain's piano gets particular attention in this track that compares to I'll Be Alright Without You, Be Good To Yourself or Suzanne, in the tempo and smooth multi layered harmonies of the uplifting chorus. Yet another classic taste of pure AOR and a highlight of the album. Neal Schon's solo matches some of his most memorable melodic work. Can you spot the riff from an old classic?
All The Things (Neal Schon, Jonathan Cain, Andre Pessis)
This track is Neal Schon's time to shine. This is only a mid tempo track, but is one of the heaviest, dirtiest and moodiest Journey tracks ever. The guitar is mixed down in the verse, but comes alive in the verse but is grungy throughout. Augeri does his best gritty vocal and the rhythm section pounds away. This reminds me of Neal's work in Hardline and is the heaviest I have heard him play since that album. Loved By You (Jonathan Cain, Kim Tribble, Tammy Hyler)
Is the second ballad of the album. This one is more a middle of the road piano ballad, rather than the big power type. A very Perry-ish and soulful vocal from Augeri sets the tone and Jon's piano is accompanied by some acoustic guitar and orchestral moments. Neal adds some Late Nite style soft electric also. Not a bad track, but could have been one of the tracks left off.
Livin' To Do (Neal Schon, Matt Schon, Jonathan Cain, Kim Tribble)
Another ballad here, but a 6 minute plus pure blues ballad, adding to the variety on offer. The album could have done with a return to a more uptempo track at this point, but this track remains a killer.
Any Journey fans that have bought any Of Neal Schon's solo work will recognize this guitar sound. You would have heard it on his Late Nite album, and his work with Australia's Jimmy Barnes. An awesome power filled blues ballad with plenty of guitar work.
I Got A Reason (Neal Schon, Jonathan Cain, Jack Blades)
Does what I was looking for - lifts the tempo back again by lifting things back into arena rock mode. This is a pretty straight ahead uptempo rocker that will please everyone.
With Your Love (Jonathan Cain, Elizabeth Cain, Neal Schon)
Back to another ballad, this one is a real sentimental song, with beautiful lyrics and back towards the ballad style of the Trial By Fire album, like When I Think Of You.
Lifetime Of Dreams (Neal Schon, Jonathan Cain, Kim Tribble)
Is a perfect ballad. This is another big sentimental ballad but with a little extra kick. Running it back to back with the last ballad slows the tempo of the album down again, but I don't want to take anything away from this ballad. The chorus is a pure AOR anthem and will be a popular live track I am sure. The last minute of it features some great Neal Schon soloing and Jon Cain piano work.
Live And Breathe (Steve Augeri, Neal Schon, Jonathan Cain)
Is a soft track again, but a little different. It's not a ballad as such, but a soft moody pop rocker.
Ross Valory's bass is all over the track, it has a very cool feel to it. The chorus sees a more prominent guitar lick which really is quite heavy, just toned down to match the song. Check out the additional lead break after the chorus to give the song extra punch.
Kiss Me Softly (Neal Schon, Jack Blades, Steve Augeri)
This is one of the most original and different Journey tracks of all time. Despite it being another slowish track, this will be acclaimed I am sure. A moody piano intro, a soft raspy Augeri vocal and a chorus that suits the track so much. The thing I love and find extraordinary is the complex but seemingly spacious instrumental break after the chorus. There's a mix of Schon's guitar, Cain's piano/keyboards and a rhythm section that adds so much ambience. A product of the guys releasing records for Higher Octave I'm sure.
I'm Not That Way (Neal Schon, Jonathan Cain, Steve Augeri, Kim Tribble)
We really could use a rocker here, but it's not to be. Nevertheless, this is another smooth ass track, in the simple pop ballad vein of It's Just The Rain from Trial By Fire. I like the chorus a lot, it highlights Augeri's smoother more soulful side.
We Will Meet Again (Neal Schon, Steve Augeri, Kim Tribble)
This is another killer track that could have been even better had it not been surrounded by slower tracks. This is a farewell track for most listeners and ends the album beautifully. Augeri holds a real vocal power and he uses his voice well here.
The Deen Castronovo drum track gives the song real power and Neal's guitar is again rough and heavy, just mixed right into the background. In fact, besides the vocals, the drums are the next most prominent instrument in the mix. Makes for a good sound. Neal's acoustic work latter in the track is also cool.
To Be Alive Again
Is the Japanese bonus track and just rocks! What a sensational song. Why is this not on the US version for crying out loud? It's not to late to add it guys, just drop a slower track for the US release and call that the Japanese bonus track and there you go. This is another classic Journey AOR pop rock anthem, filled with a positive and happy sentiment and equal mix guitar and piano. The last 90 seconds features a wonderful piano guitar dueling solos
Before I finish the review - let me say that it is not too late guys! This is a release for only one country and while it seems like it will be exported in wide numbers all over the globe, due to some unfortunate release timing, there is still a worldwide release to come.
It is not to late to re-arrange the album, add To Be Alive Again and drop another slower track, add maybe another rocker and the absolute perfect release could be possible.
And while you are at it, add Remember Me as a hidden bonus track! I know there are contractual obligations to keep some track exclusive to soundtracks they were recorded for, but seriously, that track deserves to be coupled with these fine songs and hiding it will at least make it look like it's an added bonus!
|PRODUCTION: 100%||SONGS: 93%||VIBE: 85%||ATTITUDE: 90%||ESSENTIAL FOR: All Journey fans and classic AOR lovers.|
RECENT DISCOGRAPHY:Escape . Frontiers . Raised On Radio . Greatest Hits . Time 3 . Trial By Fire . Greatest Hits Live . Arrival