Journey – Eclipse

If they’ve heard more than one song, the general public only know Journey for their radio-friendly power ballads. But rock fans have always been aware of the other side of the band; the classy hard-rock outfit capable of filling quite major venues with their high energy live shows. In their eighties heyday there was sometimes a tension between these two aspects of their music. Interviews suggested the record company constantly demanding more ballads while at least some of the band wanted to rock out rather more. With less commercial pressure nowadays to be radio-friendly, this, like many of their recent albums, shows more of the hard rock Journey rather than the commercial power-ballad Journey.

After regrouping a few years back they’re now on their third singer since Steve Perry’s retirement. Following from Steve Augeri, forced out with vocal problems trying to reach Perry’s high notes, and Jeff Scott Soto, who never quite sounded right, comes Arnel Pineda. On his second studio album with the band he still sounds close enough to Steve Perry to make it sound like Journey, but on this disk he has enough of an identity of his own to be more than a mere clone.

From the opening guitar barrage of “City of Hope”, it’s clear that the songs on this disk are written more for live performance rather than for daytime radio airplay.  The following “Edge of the Moment” is in a similar vein, the sort of genre-defining hard-edged highly melodic AOR that Journey have made their own. There’s room for plenty of Neil Schon’s shredding jazz-metal guitar with songs typically stretching for five or six minutes, but they don’t neglect the stadium-friendly big choruses either. Other highlights are the Zeppelinesque “Chain of Love”, and “Human Feel” with the African-style drums and Hammond backed riff. The last three tracks are pure gold;  the epic power-ballad in “To Whom It May Concern”, the quintessential Journey pop-rock of “Someone” and finally the monstrous instrumental “Venus”.

The album’s by no means without it’s flaws. Jonathan Cain’s keys take too much of a back seat at times, and the album could have done with a bit more light and shade. And like too many albums it’s just a little overlong, and could have done with losing some filler towards the middle of the album. The mediocre “She’s a Mystery” in particular really shouldn’t have made the cut.

This album might leave some Glee or X-Factor fans disappointed, but reality TV viewers aren’t exactly Journey’s core audience. The is really an album for fans of melodic hard rock. While it doesn’t quite reach the standard of 80s classics like “Escape” and especially “Frontiers”, this album shows Journey are still as much a force to be reckoned in the studio as they are live, with a quarter of a century after their commercial peak. 

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7 Responses to Journey – Eclipse

  1. BeastiePsy says:

    Totally agree for the most part. You don’t like “She’s A Mystery”? Really? I think that one’s rather good. And anything that makes Glee fans unhappy has to be a good thing… I would gleefully set fire to every pitiful outpouring that the programme is responsible for.
    Largely due to the proliferation of Classic Rock Presents offshoot magazines (more to come I’m reliably informed) we’re lead to believe that AOR is big news again. I was a huge fan of AOR in the 80′s, but like most people I drifted away, keeping a casual eye on the genre, when the scene became stale at the tail end of that decade. Whereas the reawakening of Prog is wholly justified, due to fresh and exciting sounds and ideas, listening to what CR Presents AOR suggests are the top new AOR bands (Houston, WET, Two Fires etc) just shows that AOR hasn’t moved on at all. These new bands are largely just reheats of the same old melodies & riffs and add little to the genre’s legacy. This is all put into very sharp relief when Journey can put out an album like ‘Eclipse’ which, whilst not exactly rewriting the rulebook, at least shows that they can blow the supposed new breed out of the water. I’m very much looking forward to seeing them again in Manchester next week, and I truly hope (but won’t hold my breath) that they play lots of new songs and tracks from Infinity to Departure, just to annoy all of those sat waiting for that one (admittedly classic) song.

  2. Tim Hall says:

    Interesting comment re: AOR vs. Prog there.

    Prog often gets falsely accused of being a deeply conservative genre because of the attitude taken by a small but vocal minority of fans. AOR, even at it’s best, depends on sticking to a relatively narrow template by comparison.

    Telling that one of the biggest AOR fans I know is also a big Country and Western fan.

  3. JBoyzRnRHOF says:

    I don’t want Journey to have airplay alongside pop artist like Bieber or GaGa. I rather have them exclusively live. If aired must be on rock stations only. As good as Steve Perry is, I do believe his voice and aura is more of a balladeer (w/c is so good) which is keeping Journey from Rock n Roll Hall of Fame. Glad Arnel put more depth and grit. I’m sure a lot of Hard Rock fans out there especially in Europe will be thrilled with this new album.

  4. Tim Hall says:

    Why shouldn’t they get airplay (not that they will)? People need to know there’s more music out there than Beiber and Gaga.

  5. It’s amazing how fans of melodic rock often use the same phrases and words to describe ‘Eclipse’ :) Here’s my review:

    I give this album a 4 out of 5. It’s simply, too good!

  6. Jason says:

    She’s A Mystery is a great song! Neal Schon is quickly becoming underratedas his playing mimics that of Satriani and Vai, he has quietly assumed the role of guitar god without anyone noticing :) Anyway, this cd is mildly progressive and is a breath of fresh air :)

  7. Gary says:

    I would just like to say ( regarding Journey ) they have now got a nice fresh young guy who has to slog his guts out to keep Journey touring. Going back to Jeff Scott Soto, he was hired at the last minute so that Journey could do the tour with Def Leppard.. although that was great for Jeff at the time, he wouldn’t have lasted with them as it would have been far to restricting to him as he has his own following and own ideas for making albums. So when Journey told him he was fired, that was the best thing they could have done. I always liked Steve Perry for what he put into the band, he was just so wonderful, it’s just a shame that he is no longer with the band, suffice to say, everyone who has joined Journey since *have* to sing at this high level to keep Journey satisfied… it’s too much of a hard job, something that I would imagine is very draining indeed, and whoever stays lead singer with Journey, they will soon be totally worn out, so I doubt very much if this new lead singer will last very long, but Journey will get their moneys worth out of him before he breaks.