Journey – Eclipse (2011, independent release)
- City Of Hope
- Edge Of The Moment
- Chain Of Love
- Anything Is Possible
- She’s A Mystery
- Human Feel
- To Whom It May Concern
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
Producers: Kevin Shirley, Neal Schon & Jonathan Cain
Total Time = 1:06:26
Journey marked their third comeback with a new singer in Arnel Pineda, and a great album with REVELATION, in 2008 and achieved both critical and commercial success that had been missing since TRIAL BY FIRE (1996). Credit the critical acclaim to the band getting down to business and writing well written, catchy, melodic songs and Arnel dazzling everyone with his superb Steve Perry styled vocals on record and on tour. The commercial success came through a great business deal with retail giant Wal-Mart to exclusively release REVELATION (including a DVD and re-recorded hits package) and get the band their first platinum record in over a decade. Band leaders Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain are superb musicians, as well as knowledgeable businessmen, so it’s no surprise that they hit big with the REVELATION album and tour. That was then and this is 2011 and Journey, and specifically Pineda, have to prove that this REVELATION wasn’t a fluke and that Journey has the talent and drive to continue well into the future. That proof comes with their new album, and another Wal-Mart exclusive, ECLIPSE.
As I do with many reviews I write, I have to tell you that I’ve been a fan of Journey for a long time, at least since 1981’s ESCAPE, so I’ve grown up with the band and heard all the big hits and all the albums countless times. REVELATION was one of my favorite albums of 2008 so I was really psyched up for the new record’s release especially when I read all the press that this was going to be a heavier album, a true Rock record. Neal Schon has always been one of my favorite guitarists and I’ve always thought that he doesn’t get the credit he deserves because Journey is sometimes seen as a Pop band or a ballad band, take a listen to his solo material (ELECTRIC WORLD from 1997 is awesome!), his work with HSAS, Bad English, Hardline or Soul Sirkus and you’ll hear some great riffs and solos along with more melodic, blues and jazz elements. A Journey album with more guitar? Sign me up! I drove to Wal-Mart the day of release to buy it and I don’t shop at Wal-Mart on principle! At first glance, ECLIPSE doesn’t give off the “Wow!” factor in terms of packaging especially when compared to the deluxe, three disc, brightly colored digibook that was REVELATION, ECLPISE is a darker album cover and the packaging is a simple slim digipak with a four page booklet. So they value factor isn’t there as far as bonuses (no extra discs) but the price was definitely low ($10) and the music is the whole point of an album.
Starting off ECLIPSE is the melodic and upbeat ‘City Of Hope’ that sounds like a typical Journey rocker and could have easily come off ARRIVAL (2001) and the guitar driven ‘Edge Of The Moment’ that sounds like late ’70s/early ’80s Journey from EVOLUTION (1979) or DEPARTURE (1980). Right away you notice that both songs are guitar oriented with thick riffs and heavier solos compared to the usual Journey fare but the underlying detail is that Jonathan Cain’s keyboards are not as up front in the mix. One of the reasons that Journey sometimes gets a reputation for being too “lite” is because the keyboards so up front in the overall sound, immeadiately you hear the guitar driving the songs and the keys a compliment. The other thing I hear right away is that Arnel Pineda is adding his own flair to the vocals rather than straight up copy the classic Steve Perry sound. Back on REVELATION it was obvious that Pineda could do a solid Perry imitation, listen to that second disc of re-recordings and it’s pretty spot on, but on these first two songs you can hear an edge. Of course, I write those words and there’s a keyboard intro to ‘Chain Of Love’ and Pineda’s voice soars and sounds just like Perry’s on the album’s first ballad ‘Tantra’. ‘Chain Of Love’ is a heavy mid-tempo track that gives off a dark moody feeling that is the direct opposite of typical Journey, a song full of chunky riffs that sound so thick that it may throw some people off. ‘Tantra’ is your typical Journey ballad that starts out slow with Cain’s piano leading the way and Pineda crooning like Perry but then Schon kicks the guitar in and the entire band comes together to deliver one of the most powerful songs on the album. Say what you want about straight up Rock songs, sometimes a power ballad can be as heavy, as rocking, and as powerful, that’s ‘Chain Of Love’. The first four songs on this new album are great with plenty of sonic changes and a focus on Schon’s guitar…..if the rest of the record is as good then Journey has another winner on it’s hands.
‘Anything Is Possible’ is a mid-tempo AOR number that easily recalls Steve Perry/RAISED ON RADIO era Journey and it’s definitely one of my favorite tracks on the record, very catchy and clean as far as the sound goes. I like Cain’s underlying piano and the guitar solos are a pleasure to hear but it’s Arnel’s showcase and he sounds like a seasoned veteran of the AOR ranks. ‘Resonate’ is a darker song that takes time to build and it follows a similar pattern to ‘Anything Is Possible’ as it builds to the chorus. Again, another guitar driven track that really gives off this dark tone but the contrast to the beauty of the singing is what makes it, and the entire record, work well. I like the acoustic intro to ‘She’s A Mystery’ and it just builds into one of the best songs on the album! About halfway through, the band dismisses the acoustic balladry and goes for it with a powerful full band electric swagger…..that’s a pretty good way to describe ECLIPSE: “balladry with an electric swagger”. ‘Human Feel’ has this tribal drum intro from Deen Castronovo and a cool Hammond Organ from Jonathan Cain to compliment another heavy handed riff from Schon. It kind of reminds me of ‘Ball Of Confusion’ from The Temptations in some parts with a bit of that Motown swing underneath but once Arnel sings, it sounds like straight Rock. The guitar solo is powerful but so effortless…..the hallmark of a guitar great! The rocking tempo continues with ‘Ritual’ and it’s the kind of upbeat song that was a staple of previous records post-Perry, it could use some bigger background harmonies to give it that extra punch but it’s solid.
‘To Whom It May Concern’ is another proper ballad that adds a little more Jonathan Cain in the way of piano, keyboard and orchestration. While it’s not a bad song at all, I feel a bit of a disconnect. Maybe that’s because the power of ECLIPSE is in Neal’s guitar? Arnel is the star of the show here with another great vocal but I could go for a little more harmony to make the song sound bigger. More uptempo AOR with ‘Someone’ and it’s sounds like a traditional Journey rocker and could have easily been a hold over from REVELATION. It’s got that sing-a-long hook that makes it worth the wait but I wish they had placed it more up front in the tracklisting. It’s a “happy” kind of classic Journey track and contrasts well with the darker parts of the record. Ending the album is the instrumental ‘Venus’ that uses parts of ‘To Whom It May Concern’ and is a band showcase minus Mr. Pineda…..it’s cool but not my thing from Journey.
Journey is Journey so you know what you’re going to get when you spin a Journey record: uptempo/upbeat AOR and Melodic Rock with a few ballads and top musicianship. For most fans, that’s enough but Journey music is such a part of American culture that fans always expect the best. For my money, the REVELATION album from a few years ago fit that bill easily and ECLIPSE falls a little short of my expectations when comparing the two. I’m not saying that ECLIPSE is a bad record, quite the contrary, I think it’s one of the best of the year but the darker tone/feel of the album has thrown me a little. That’s a good thing though because it shows a vibrant and creative band not willing to compromise and to continue to grow. The more I play ECLIPSE, the more I like it and the more I enjoy it. What I like most is that this is a guitar record. There are many times when the name Journey makes you think of keyboard heavy rockers and piano ballads but ECLIPSE is a Neal Schon showcase with some of the coolest riffs and solos I’ve heard on a melodic rock record. The rest of the band is as solid as ever and Arnel Pineda has turned in another outstanding vocal performance. The songs are well written and the sound is crystal clear thatnks to producer Kevin Shirley. Definitely a recommended album…..just give it a few spins so you can really get into it.
‘City Of Hope’, ‘Edge Of The Moment’, ‘Chain Of Love’, ‘She’s A Mystery’, ‘Someone’