Buff Review Show- Total Eclipse, Not By Half
Thought a Bonnie Tyler reference seemed apt there… Anyway, here’s Journey!
Journey- “Eclipse” Review
I was quite honestly born in the wrong decade totruly enjoy Journey.As previously stated, the peak of music in my youth was Blue (Dabba Dee Dabba Di) by Eiffel 65, so it is up to those around me to often educate me in the music I missed from “back in the day”. I’ve gone back and listened to the catalogues of some bands that I like from more modern times (Elbow most recently), but Journey would never have crossed my mind to go back at research of my own accord.
So with an impending concert date in Manchester with Journey (and Foreigner, and Styx;by the way what a gig!) I went back and listened to a selection of the vast library of albums, and got a good few listens of new record, ‘Eclipse’, before venturing up North to the MEN Arena.
Okay, I’ll give as brief as history as possible on the current line-up of the band, because going into the history of some Eastern European countries would take less time than this lot. Journey is an American rock band formed in the early 70s, from former members of Santana. To say the band has gone through a few changes in its lifetime is an understatement. There have been some seventeen different members of the band over the years, some coming and going, coming again, going again and so forth. Many have played through all different instruments and vocal levels for the band.
The strongest commercial period was probably from the late 70s through to 1987, when they temporarily disbanded. They later regrouped with a five-a-side football squad of lead singers over the course of the past decade or so, finally settling upon Arnel Pineda in 2008 after discovering the Philippines-born singer on Youtube singing various rock ballads from the greats, including themselves, Foreigner and Survivor.
The album ‘Revelations’ swiftly followed Arnel’s arrival in 2008, a 2-disc album, 10 new tracks (plus a couple of covers) and a Greatest Hits disc with all tracks re-recorded with Arnel at the helm. ‘Revelations’ was widely known, and advertised, as being typically Journey. With a new line-up and new energy, the group had to establish Arnel and his sound first with Journey’s previous, and long-standing, fans, as well as newcomers to the band. Revelations was well received by most, and brought the band back into the fray.
When it came time for their latest album, ‘Eclipse’, to be released, Journey had already had a publicity boost- with ‘Don’t Stop Believin’’ being used in Glee and, prior to that, The Sopranos, on top of Family Guy and anybody with a working larynx, the band had the stage set before them to really do what they wanted with the new record, and just create a full-on rock album, something Neal Schon has been threatening/promising to do for about five or six albums now (or at least since “Raised for Radio” was released, way back in 1986). This, however, hasn’t always been so with the end product, returning to the previously occupied Former Republic of Balladland.
Finally, though, it seems they have been able to deliver exactly what they’ve been promising for fifteen years now. Mostly.
‘City of Hope’ is the big rock opener the album needed, full of beautiful melodies and a chorus that sticks in your head, and finishes with a huge guitar solo from Schon, which then leads on to ‘Edge of the Moment’. Two songs into a Journey album and not a sign of cheesy 80’s-ness, a pleasant surprise for fans aplenty. In fact many fans have had, in a positive light, that this is the most un-Journey-esque album the group have released. Not to mention the highly surprising ‘Chain of Love’, a personal favourite of mine from both the album and the concert, a smooth blend of Arnel’s tones (more reminiscent of former lead singer Steve Perry than in any other song I’ve heard), some soft piano tinkling before hitting into some massive riffs on the album. This song went down an absolute storm at the concert and is another early favourite alongside the opener.
A few songs further down the line, and more familiar traits of Journey begin to appear on the record. ‘Tantra’ is a ballad of years past, or it sounds like it should be, but was another song that went down incredibly well live last week at the gig. And with epic ballads comes softer, simpler rock songs, along the likes of ‘Someone’, and ‘Resonate’, which treads a fine line between the heavier and softer sides of Journey’s rock coin, with yet another huge performance from Arnel. Some of the notes this guy can hit are ridiculous, something myself and about twenty thousand other people agreed upon at the live concert. Arnel certainly seems to have had an effect on the lyrics, the content is still that age-old theme of love when it comes to the lyrics for most of ‘Eclipse’, but there are different viewpoints and a uniqueness to parts of the album unfamiliar from post-break-up Journey records.
And as we get closer to the album’s slightly underwhelming climax, the guitar riffs get bigger, the pop-rock fluency from Journey’s past becomes more apparent, and, despite the slightly elongated ending to ‘Human Feel’ which goes from uber-strong drumming to catchy choruses with the flick of a pick, it is almost as if the album just decides it is tired and just wants to curl up in a ball for the final gasps. It isn’t weak, it’s just not living up to the rest of the much-promised ‘Eclipse’ that had come before it. Instrumental finale ‘Venus’ continues on from the end of ‘To Whom it may Concern’ and it’s a shame that these two parts weren’t left as one long nine minute number to end the album on, preceded by ‘Someone’, the most typically Journey song of the whole piece.
This is the first Journey album I have listened to all the way through, and then on repeat, on my iPod. I might not go back and listen to the entire catalogue, but Revelations has been coming onto my playlist a few times, and I am tempted to give ‘Frontiers’ a proper listen to at some point, but what was displayed at the gig and what has been produced on this record can only spell good things for Journey’s futre. They’ve got a lot of touring to do, and maybe we’ll see what other artistic influence Arnel can have on his third album with the band.