This 2022 comes to us from the Melodic Rock Olympus “Freedom”, the latest work by JOURNEY that leaves us with mixed feelings
We are faced with one of those works that risk fighting against their expectations. “Freedom” is the first album of new JOURNEY material to be released in eleven years, since 2011’s Eclipse, and in addition to longtime keyboardist and main lyricist Jonathan Cain and vocalist Arnel Pineda, an additional member was recruited: bassist extraordinaire Randy Jackson, who had played on Journey’s 1986 album “Raised on Radio”.
Reviewing work by a historic band like Journey is always a challenge that you embark on knowing that you’re going to get slapped in the face no matter what you say, but let’s try to be as “objective” as possible. Let’s get down to business! Let’s go track by track:
“Together We Run” serves as the opening of the album, and it’s a task taken very seriously by doing it little by little so that our bodies become aware of what is coming our way. Instrumentally, Narada Michael Walden’s drums are especially striking, full of changes, rolls, and cymbal games that give the track a lot of atmospheres. Very good sensations to start with.
In “Don’t Give Up On Us” it is inevitable to think of “Separate Ways” at the beginning of the song. Perhaps this does a disservice because we all know that comparisons are odious. Even so, when we overcome this comparative eagerness we find ourselves with a mid-tempo full of embellishments, with a solo that scratches the progressive and a chorus that can easily get stuck in our heads.
“Still Believe in Love” is the first ballad on the album. Atmospheric, heavy on backing vocals, keyboards, and a pinching, steady guitar that takes center stage at different points in the song.
Wake up to “You Got The Best Of Me” and you get the good vibes of “Any Way You Want It” and the groove of “Keep On Running”…. Stop moving your feet, and chant the chorus if you can. Not for nothing did Neal Schon say about this cut:
“I wanted a kind of punky interpretation of ‘Any Way You Want It. I don’t normally go around saying I’m going for something like that, but it just came to me, as it did with ‘Wheel in the Sky’ years ago. It just flew out of my mouth.
“Live to Love Again” brings the beats back down to ‘ballad’ level, but much more in the vein of a classic power ballad than the aforementioned “Still Believe in Love”. It’s like the soundtrack of an eighties movie when the handsome guy leaves in his black muscle car in the rain in the streets of Chicago (ok, maybe I’ve gone a bit crazy here, but it’s a great song).
“The Way We Used To Be” starts better than it ends. It’s got a funky rhythm, and playful guitars, but the song is a bit flat for the expectations it creates from the very first moment.
We get a little bit more hardcore with “Come Away With Me”, which we could call the “road” track of the album. Hard-hitting riffs, pounding rhythm, defiant lyrics, and vocals are a little more rugged than the rest of the album.
The album has its space reserved for Castronovo. In “After Glow” it is he who takes the vocals in a cut made to his measure but with a somewhat flat structure that is altered in the more instrumental moments.
“Let It Rain” is a track more for the enjoyment of musicians than the general public. We can find all kinds of instrumental fiddling in a somewhat repetitive cut.
“Holding On” is a pretty cool rock song with a rather more aggressive Pineda, but as happens on several tracks in this middle section of the album, it lacks something more to finish it off.
“All Day and All Night” takes up again the path of the songs with hooks, sounding fresher and cooler.
“Don’t Go” makes us take our butts out of our seats for good. The eighties sound from start to finish accompanies us throughout a song that will easily get you hooked, and that you will be chanting for hours. A clear example is that sometimes less is more.
We stay in the sounds of the 80s with “United We Stand” but without achieving the effect of the previous track. Either way, it’s exciting and despite its 13th position on the album, I wouldn’t mark it as “filler”.
“Life Rolls on” isn’t all bad, but as with other parts of the album, I feel they are stretching the gum of certain songs too much, with very long beginnings, bland instrumental phases, and very repetitive endings.
The album ends with an 8-minute song called “Beautiful As You Are”. It’s a very cool song with a lot of elements to enjoy and if they had had a chorus with more hooks it would be a real hit.
As you can see, what we said in the title is literal. “Freedom” is an album that offers us great songs, but at the same time we find many “almost good” songs and I sincerely believe that with a little more production, with some of those heads that are out there retouching the compositions of the bands, we could have gotten much more juice out of this album.