Archive for June 9, 2008

Journey – Revelation (2008, self-released)

(NOTE – Album released as a Wal-Mart only exclusive)

CD 1

  1. Never Walk Away
  2. Like A Sunshower
  3. Change For The Better
  4. Wildest Dream
  5. Faith In The Heartland
  6. After All These Years
  7. Where Did I Lose Your Love
  8. What I Needed
  9. What It Takes To Win
  10. Turn Down the World Tonight
  11. The Journey (Walk Away)

CD 2

  1. Only The Young
  2. Don’t Stop Believin’
  3. Wheel In The Sky
  4. Faithfully
  5. Any Way You Want It
  6. Who’s Crying Now
  7. Separate Ways
  8. Lights
  9. Open Arms
  10. Be Good To Yourself
  11. Stone In Love

DVD – Live In Concert from Las Vegas, NV (14 song setlist)

Band Lineup:
Arnel Pineda – Lead Vocals
Neal Schon – All Guitars & Backing Vocals
Jonathan Cain – Keyboards & Backing Vocals
Ross Valory – Bass & Backing Vocals
Deen Castronovo – Drums, Percussion & Vocals

Producer on CD 1: Kevin Shirley 
Producers on CD 2: Kevin Shirley, Neal Schon & Jonathan Cain

Total Time (CD 1) = 56:27
Total Time (CD 2) = 48:44
DVD - (Region 1, NTSC, Running Time = N/A )

Journey official website
Journey MySpace page

If you’ve been following Journey at all in the last couple of years you’ll have heard about a band in turmoil and a band only concerned with the nostalgia of playing the hits. Flashback to 2001 and Journey made a welcome comeback with former Tall Stories singer Steve Augeri and a new album titled ARRIVAL. Critics and fans embraced the band and their new singer who coincidentally sounded similar to their former microphone maestro Steve Perry. Augeri helped return Journey back to respectability with a solid performance on ARRIVAL and on tour through 2004 but, in 2005 with the release of another new record, GENERATIONS, rumors began to fly about vocal problems. A scandal involving backing tapes being used live on the 2006 tour surfaced and, when it was obvious he couldn’t continue, Augeri left and was replaced by Jeff Scott Soto, a long time friend of Neal Schon. I saw the tour stop in Mansfield, MA and the band with Soto was tight and powerful but the band parted ways with JSS when the tour was over at the end of 2006. More rumors flew that a reunion with Steve Perry was on the horizon, another hinted at Augeri coming back, and finally that the band was over. News surfaced as the new year turned that Journey were looking at singers who performed in Journey tribute acts. Almost immeadiately the band’s fans started spreading whispers of greatest hits tours and the end of original material but Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain surprised everyone when they hired Filipino singer Arnel Pineda and released a new single, ‘Never Walk Away’, this past February. Now we finally have the new album REVELATION.

REVELATION is an independent release by the band and distributed exclusively by Wal-Mart, this arrangement guarantees Journey’s new album to be well-stocked in all of the retail giant’s stores across the U.S. Journey has followed other Classic Rock legends like The Eagles and REO Speedwagon in this type of arrangement and has also followed their example by giving the average fan more music for their hard earned dollar with a 2 CD package with a bonus live DVD for under $15 (I picked mine up the day of release for $11.88).

The first song, and first single, from REVELATION is ‘Never Walk Away’ a melodic guitar rock song that sounds similar to the singles ‘Higher Place’ and ‘To Be Alive Again’ from the Augeri-led ARRIVAL. Those two single were a blend of classic Journey with a little more modern flourishes and ‘Never Walk Away’ follows the same formula with Pineda sounding like a stronger version of Augeri, who sounded like Perry…..you get the idea. Journey usually gets labelled as lite Rock, or a ballad band, so to start the album off with a guitar oriented song is a solid move. The band moves into familiar territory with ‘Like A Sunshower’ which sounds a lot like the classic hit ‘Lights’. It’s a piano based song with a subdued guitar and big backing vocals but it’s really a spotlight performance for Arnel because it’s really his voice that drives the song. If this were the old days, ‘Like A Sunshower’ would easily be Top Ten!

‘Change For The Better’ is a song that could have easily been the lead single with it’s melodic guitar and pure hook of a chorus. There’s a little of everything here: Schon’s melodic power chords, Jon Cain’s keyboards enhancing the sound, and Deen Castronovo’s drums breaking though and providing serious beat. Arnel’s vocals are soaring and powerful hitting all the highs and providing a youthful energy to the track. The momentum stays high with another uptempo Rock song in ‘Wildest Dreams’, another Schon & Castronovo showcase with great guitars and pounding skins. The end of the song has some impressive solos from Neal Schon, that force you to remember that this guy can flat out play and he is one of the best there is, and some cool piano fills from Jonathan Cain as sort of an answer to the guitar. It almost has a jam session feel at the end.

‘Faith In The Heartland’ is a re-make of the lead song off GENERATIONS (2005). It’s a very melodic song that’s a bit softer but not a ballad or mid-tempo number, it’s like quiet AOR if there’s such a thing. I wonder if the guys were short on material or they just weren’t that impressed with the GENERATIONS performance of former lead singer Steve Augeri. I’ve compared both versions and I’d say that Arnel sounds like Augeri only just a bit stronger. Maybe that has to do with the excellent harmonies at the chorus provided by Jon Cain and especially Deen Castronovo. ‘After All These Years’ is the second ballad on the album and it’s another piano based song with very subtle guitar lines and some powerful drum fills. This is another showcase for Mr. Pineda to show off his vocal ability and prove that he can handle Journey’s different styles, a great performance!. I like ‘Where Did I Lose Your Love’ and I would slot it with ‘Faith In The Heartland’ as a softer Rock song but not a ballad. The song starts with a keyboard/drum intro and picks up a clean Schon riff to complement Arnel’s best Steve Perry interpretation on the record. This sounds like FRONTIERS and RAISED ON RADIO era Journey with the prominent keyboard/piano during the chorus and some grand backing harmonies. It’s a big sounding song with some serious highs being reached by Arnel and a great ending guitar solo moving back into the the beginning of the song with the keyboard/drum showcase to finish it off.

The third ballad on REVELATION is ‘What I Needed’ and, even though it’s a solid ballad with the trademark Journey sound, I’m not getting into it. I think the song is a victim of where it’s slotted in the track order because ‘After All These Years’ was two songs previous. Things pick up again with ‘What It Takes To Win’ and it’s another solid rocker in the same style of ‘Where Did I Lose Your Love’ but Arnel has more muscle in his delivery giving him a different edge than the previous songs. ‘Turn Down The World Tonight’ is the fourth ballad on REVELATION and it is a very good piano based song with an underlying electric guitar and subtle bass work from Ross Valory who, by the way, plays perfectly within each song with Deen Castronovo to complete a solid rhythm section. The thing about Ross is the man isn’t flashy in his playing but he is consistent and steady and he builds a solid bass foundation with Deen’s drumming. Last song of the album is an instrumental titled ‘The Journey (Revelation)’ and it’s basically a piece for each member to stretch their wings a bit and let loose. There are some interesting exotic sounds in this one but, for me, I use the <skip> button.

The second disc is a bonus collection of the band’s biggest hits re-recorded by the band with Arnel on vocals. There really isn’t much difference between the originals and these re-makes except for the obvious vocals and a few little insturmental bits here and there. Basically this is Arnel’s showcase to show to the fans and critics that he can handle the big hits without fail. He does a very good Steve Perry and performs extremely well. I really enjoyed his performance on ‘Stone In Love’, my favorite Journey song of all-time.

I haven’t had a chance to watch the DVD yet but when I do I will update this review but it’s another cool addition to the package from the band to give the ultimate value for everyone’s hard earned dollars.

Bottom Line:
I will go on record to say that Journey have successfully released on of the best Rock albums of 2008, don’t be surprised if you see REVELATION make the Top 10 in my year end list. Every song is well performed, each member or the band an expert at his instrument and everyone contributing to the great harmonies on the backing tracks. The songs all fit the AOR/Melodic Rock standard of great harmonies, beautiful melodies, rockin’ guitar, and soaring vocals. The spotlight is firmly set on Arnel Pineda to see if he can deliver and he does! There is always going to be controversy among Journey fans as to who is the better man at the mic and I’m sure Perry purists will point out that Pineda isn’t as powerful as Perry was in his prime. That’s fine, my ears tell me that Arnel has a very similar sounding voice but he does a great job on both discs to give all the songs his own unique trademark. The album has a superb production job by Kevin Shirley proving again that he is one of the best in the business. For a band that was rumored to be focusing on “playing the hits”, Journey has defied the rumors and created one hell of an album!

Favorite original songs: ‘Never Walk Away’, ‘Like A Sunshower’, ‘Change For The Better’, ‘Wildest Dream’, & ‘Where Did I Lose Your Love’

Favorite re-made originals: ‘Stone In Love’, ‘Only The Young’, ‘Lights’, ‘Separate Ways’