Columbia Reissues


Long-term relationships are about as rare as encountering a unicorn, glimpsing the Loch Ness Monster, or discovering socks that mysteriously vanish in the dryer. Yet Journey has been able to maintain a relationship for not a handful of years, but three decades. With not one person, but millions. It’s an enduring love affair between the band and their fans; the musical equivalent of Hepburn and Tracy. What keeps this relationship from following in the tracks of so many tabloid tragedies? Trust: Fans can trust that Journey will always deliver quality music. Communication: Music that eloquently, expertly and ardently speaks the language of passion, sorrow, redemption, loneliness — the language of the human condition. Love: Obviously, it’s mutual.

And consistent. On the reissues of Captured (1981), Frontiers (1983), Raised On Radio (1986) and Trial By Fire (1996), some of the players changed, but the songs remained the same: top-notch. With Captured, Journey’s first live album, the music is more like cubic zirconium than a genuine diamond, but that doesn’t diminish its value. It’s exciting to hear slightly roughened and ramped-up renditions of songs like “Where Were You” and “Wheel in the Sky,” whose studio versions are more refined. And, while some singers’ weaknesses are laid bare in a live setting, Steve Perry’s pipes pack just as much of a solid punch as they do in the studio. The disc’s only shortcoming is that it was recorded in a number of locations, and at times, the songs have complete studio-like fade-outs and fade-ins that distract from the experience of vicariously reliving a live concert.

Frontiers, Raised On Radio and Trial By Fire all illustrate interesting panoramas from Journey’s musical travels. When Journey originated, that route took them through progressive rock and jazz terrain; after Steve Perry took the microphone, it veered off into pop. Although some critics panned Journey nanoseconds after Perry joined because his pop influence dominated the band, it is quality pop because it’s culled from the members’ rich and diverse musical influences and backgrounds. Those backgrounds paint Frontiers with a variety of shadings: everything from the prog-rock tinged “Rubicon” and the gritty sass of “Back Talk” to the radio-ready “Separate Ways” and trademark, anthemic ballad, “Faithfully.”

Frontiers is generally harder and edgier than Raised On Radio, which was produced by Perry, and which survived the exit of founding member/bassist Ross Valory and drummer Steve Smith after only three of its songs had been recorded. Guitarist Neil Schon, keyboardist Jonathan Cain and Perry replaced them, picked up the pieces, and ended up with a winning album, boasting cuts like “Girl Can’t Help It,” “Be Good to Yourself” and “Suzanne.” Schon, Perry, Cain, Valory and Smith reunited for what would be their last album together, Trial By Fire, a tour de force along the more progressive lines of Frontiers, with the grandiose “Message of Love” and “One More Time,” as well as the ripping guitar work and pulsating rhythm of “Castles Burning.”

The Journey that began with a single step has indeed come a thousand miles. And then some.

~ Merryl Lentz

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