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Journey: Freedom

Freedom is the 15th studio album from American rock legends Journey and comes eleven years after their last release Eclipse. Much has changed in that period; both founding bassist Ross Vallory and longtime drummer Steve Smith are gone, replaced on this new album by drum virtuoso/producer Narada Michael Walden and returning bassist Randy Jackson (from the Raised on Radio era), joining founding member/guitarist Neal Schon, singer Arnel Pineda, keyboard player Jonathan Caine, and Jason Derlatka on keyboards/backing vocals, with former drummer Deen Castronovo singing lead vocals on one track. But wait, since the album's release, the band has announced that Walden & Jackson are not part of the touring line-up going forward, with Castronovo back in the drum chair and Todd Jensen on bass, so the changes continue.

Back to Freedom, which was produced by Walden, it's Journey up to their old tricks once again, the album featuring 15 new songs that include a fair share of anthemic rockers, hard rock, and of course ballads. Walden has done some interesting and different things behind the boards on this one, which many have commented on, some for and some against, but to these ears, the production works on part of the album and doesn't on others. Across the board, the backing vocals generally sound whispered and weak, which is strange for a Journey album, though Arnel's lead vocals on most tracks are strong and powerful, especially on the ballads and the mellower tracks, where his fully allowed to shine, as on "Still Believe in Love" and "The Way We Used to Be", but he also sizzles on radio-friendly anthems like "Together We Run", "Don't Give Up on Us" and "You Got the Best of Me", all filled with memorable hooks and tight instrumentation from the band. It's on the heavier numbers where Walden seems to have added some effects to Pineda's voice, and he sounds drowned out by Schon's guitar, as on the snarling "Come Away With Me", the metallic blues rock of "Let It Rain", and the killer "Holdin' On", all three great rip-snortin' hard rock tracks from the band with hot Schon guitar but Arnel seems to be buried in the mix. Caine also, at times, seems lacking in the mix...on some songs, there's that trademark piano or organ; on others, his synth tones are weak and sound like video game effects. It's kind of hit or miss from track to track. Walden's drums are excellent throughout, so on the drum front, things are quite good, and while Deen doesn't play any drums here, his vocals on "After Glow" are excellent.

Other highlights include the memorable "United We Stand" and the lengthy, atmospheric "Beautiful As You Are". Honestly, there aren't any clunkers here, all the songs contain catchy hooks and melodies, the playing is top-notch as you would expect, but there are some nitpicky elements of the production that stick out like a sore thumb. Still, I'd expect a few of these would sound right at home in a two-hour Journey live set, so that carries a lot of weight in my book. Freedom is a fun, enjoyable set of new songs from Journey, and let's hope it's not another 11 years for more.

Track Listing
1. "Together We Run" Narada Michael WaldenRachel EfronRandy JacksonJonathan CainNeal Schon 4:49
2. "Don't Give Up on Us" SchonCainWalden 5:23
3. "Still Believe in Love" SchonCainWalden 5:16
4. "You Got the Best of Me" SchonCainWalden 5:33
5. "Live to Love Again" Cain 5:30
6. "The Way We Used to Be" SchonCainWalden 3:35
7. "Come Away with Me" SchonCainWalden 4:02
8. "After Glow" SchonCainWalden 5:22
9. "Let It Rain" SchonCainWalden 4:40
10. "Holdin' On" SchonCainJacksonWalden 3:14
11. "All Day, All Night" SchonCainWalden 3:38
12. "Don't Go" Arnel PinedaSchonWalden 4:58
13. "United We Stand" SchonCainWaldenJackson 5:05
14. "Life Rolls On" SchonCain 4:57
15. "Beautiful as You Are" SchonCainWalden 7:10
Total length: 73:12

Added: July 29th 2022
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Band Facebook Page
Hits: 229
Language: english

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