Journey - Freedom,
What with the number of challenges this band have been going through over the years, from line-up changes through to legal battles, I had long given up on expecting a new album from Journey, yet here we are with first new studio release since 2011’s ‘Eclipse’. Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain are of course still there, while singer Arnel Pineda has been in the band for 15 years now. On top of that, ex-drummer Deen Castronovo was invited back to sing lead on one track, bassist Randy Jackson (who played on played on the superb ‘Raised On Radio’) also returned while Narada Michael Walden was invited in on drums. Narada and Randy have both since left, with Deen fully back on drums and bassist Todd Jensen and additional keyboard player Jason Derlatka are now in the band, but neither of them were involved with this.
While Journey are probably always going to be best thought of by many for their ballads, for me it is when Neal is allowed to let rip that this band shines, and in that respect this album is a beaut. It is uncanny at just how much like Steve Perry Arnel is, while Neal and Jonathan have pulled together the songwriting magic which has come to life on so many of their releases, both in Journey and outside. This is Neal’s album in that the guitar shines, while the drums are also a force to be reckoned with, meaning that this has much in similarity with what I think of as their last truly great release, ‘Raised On Radio’. Yes there are ballads, it could not be a modern Journey album without one, but there are also plenty of places where Neal lets his fingers show that even though he is in his late Sixties he has lost none of his speed or musicality. Remember, in many ways Neal was a prodigy in that he joined Santana when he was just 17 years old and formed Journey before he was 20! 2023 sees the 50th Anniversary of the band, and one can only hope for a substantive world tour as music like this deserves to be heard in the live arena and I want to experience it!
The cover art immediately made me think of ‘Evolution’ and ‘Infinity’, the two classic albums from the late Seventies which really set them apart from the pack in terms of melodic rock, and while this can never be viewed in the same manner as the world has changed and we have all got a lot older, in many ways this is fitting as if you love those releases (and who doesn’t?) then this album is very much for you.