CD Review: Journey, “Eclipse”

This is not Escape. This is not Frontiers. This is certainly not Raised on Radio, nor is it the new material in the Revelation package. If you’re looking for carbon copies of those prior touchstones and do not wish to open your ears, head, and heart to something new, you’ll be disappointed in the new Journey record. Just move on. Go see them live this summer—you’ll get “Separate Ways” and “Don’t Stop Believin’” and “Open Arms,” no problem.

Eclipse, for better or worse, is none of those things. Yes, it is a denser, fuller, busier record. Most of the songs clock in at over six minutes. That’s a good thing. Yes, Neal Schon and his guitar armada have a more pronounced presence on the album, and Jon Cain has stepped back to assume a secondary instrumental role, yet one that is so important—the keyboard flourishes and piano arpeggios join the layered guitars to form a full-on attack that is miles removed from the accepted pop moves of the late Perry period. Eclipse is a perfect storm of ambition and commercial concerns, an album of dreaming and drive, and it stands as some of the finest work anyone involved with it has produced.

If you’re expecting 1981, 1983, or even 2008, you’ll likely be disappointed. This is a whole different animal; this animal sounds similar to the one you remember, but it’s bigger, broader, and has a really bad attitude. The album kicks off with “City of Hope,” an anthem that ranks among their best in the last 25 years. The first words uttered on the record are a nearly perfect abstract of our life and times:

People waiting from some kind of sign from above
Lost in the shadows of doubt, need a message of love
Nothing is certain in uncertain times
Hard to see beyond the greed and the crime
Where the faithful refuse to give up
Hopeless and hungry survive just enough
They’ll just smile through it all
They’re all blessed from above

Arnel Pineda’s voice soars—and I mean soars—with strength and range and power; call me a melodic rock heretic, but in 2011, I’ll take him over Perry any day of the week and three times on Tuesday. His awesome voice would be naked to the world, though, without Neal Schon’s perfect web of guitars; indeed, Schon’s status as riffmaster is absolutely unchallenged. You just have to sit back and let this one wash over you.

One thing you notice the first trip or two through Eclipse is the fact that there aren’t as many hooks as you’d expect from a Journey record, but the melodies are unmistakable. Take “Chain of Love,” with its ethereal beginning—all dancing keyboard figure and atmospheric guitar effects. A thick wall of guitars suddenly imposes itself, and the song opens up wide (love that “Chain chain chain chain of love chorus—very Atlantic Aretha of the Journey boys). By the second chorus, you realize you might be hearing a new classic, if there were radio outlets available to play this stuff.

Schon’s aggressive streak marks the record. A song like “Edge of the Moment” is assertive, forceful, and uncompromising in its heavy riffage and driving pulse, yet its lyrical center—that of a relationship at a critical moment—focuses the song, the theme offering a welcome contrast to the sonic attack. Likewise, “She’s a Mystery” contains multiple sections and melodies, forming a multi-part suite that makes best use of both Pineda’s vocal range and the ridiculously cool onslaught of Neal Schons that contribute guitar to the track.

Precedents also abound. “Ritual” is, lyrically, closely hewn to the “Be Good to Yourself” cloth, with a chorus reminiscent of Revelation‘s “Never Walk Away.” “Someone” is the most obvious pop move on the record, with music that mirrors many other Journey mid-tempo explorations, and lyrics that display vulnerability in its most tragic guises. The hope of redemption blasts through in the chorus:

Once you let someone love you
You find an open door
A place in your heart you’ve never been before
Believe it’s never too late
Someone to set you free
Once you let someone love you

Yes, there is fear of commitment, fear of wasting time, fear of taking the leap of faith required to fall truly in love—we’ve all felt it. Only by fighting through those issues can we find love, love that both has that initial impact and the long-term effect that makes us whole.

The spiritual concerns that flow through the record come through cleanly in “Tantra.” Simply stated, “Tantra” is a motherfucker—six and a half minutes of multi-layered melodic rock goodness. A track of epic proportions, you can grasp its scope in the long first verse:

One light shining bright
It’s made from many colors
Just like every ocean’s made
From many drops of rain
One soul takes many shapes
To make of the human race
One fire
Many lives share the same sun everyday
Old beliefs let us down
Many roads lead to heaven
One love, many faiths all share a world in search of grace
Across the universe
The same force that moves the earth’s in my heart
Makes me whole
Wash my doubt and fear away

The track is thick with guitars, and Schon’s solo toward the end is so melodic, so in tune with the epic nature of the song—as a work for guitar, the song is as breathtaking as anything he’s done in the last thirty years.

Yes, there are low points (“Venus,” for one, is completely unnecessary)—anything this purposeful is bound to fall short in spots. Over the breadth of the album, though, Eclipse is a remarkable achievement for a band as long in the tooth as Journey. What it does, though, is provide a window of insight as to where they proceed from here, and that path is one of ambition and brilliance. Arnel Pineda has unquestionably breathed new life into this classic rock warhorse, and inspired the older gentlemen around him to greater heights of eloquence and virtuosity.

Long may they reign.




  • DJW

    Rob Smith
    Your review of the new journey album “Eclipse” is more sense, coherent, logical and base on creativity of the band, unlike Dw Dunphy of popdose acted as if like Steve’s boyfriend.

    Dave

  • EightE1

    Don’t diss my friend in my presence, please.  We listened to the same record for roughly the same amount of time, and heard different things.  Happens all the time. 

  • Anonymous

    Great review, Rob. As someone who’s not a huge Journey fan but can tolerate them in small doses, you basically appealed to my open-minded sense of adventure. “City of Hope” backs up your words. I might have to listen to the rest of the record now! Also, re: hooks – I love ‘em as much as the next pop fan, but seriously, too much can rot your teeth. Nothing wrong at all with steering away from hooks every so often. Variety, texture, ebb and flow. I love it when artists embrace their art and do things with it that defy expectations, and more so when the results justify that defiance.

  • DJW

     I wasn’t dissing your friend personally. I was just questioning his own review if how valid it is, trustworthy and relevant to music. His own review went all good but I just felt Dunphy is wearing Steve Perry’s thong. Sorry for the rant, I don’t want you too not talking to each other.

  • EightE1

    Thanks, Michael.  “City of Hope” hooked me, but the whole album’s a keeper. I think your “adventure” will be well rewarded. Thanks for the comment.

  • Fufu

    I like Arnel and was holding out hope for this album, but it’s really bad. Dated production, hook free songs, tons of guitar wanking, and whoever mixed this thing should have their earns incarcerated.

  • Matt

    Finally had a chance to listen to this and it’s solid…measures up with Revelation, which means that Journey has now given the fans two rockin’ albums in a row after they bitched for years about all of the ballads. Sure, there are still ballads, but the latest/greatest version of Journey appears to have transitioned back to being a rock band, just like they used to be in the good ol days.

  • EightE1

    I disagree with you, Fufu, but thanks for the comment.

  • EightE1

    I hear you. Sure, there’s no three-and-a-half-minute “single” (whatever that means anymore), but what’s there is so strong, I never missed it.  This one hit me where I live, and I’m just as surprised as I am pleased.

    Thanks for the comment, pal.

  • http://www.grayflannelsuit.net/ Chris Holmes

    I love the smell of fanboy indignation in the morning.

  • BW

    Spot on review of a GREAT new album.

  • Daiho

    It’s unfair to suggest that if you like the Journey sound and style, and that if you don’t like this album, then you are being unfair and close-minded.  I listen to a lot of different kinds of music, including Journey.  I didn’t like Eclipse because, as you rightly note, it doesn’t have any memorable hooks.  Nor to my mind any memorable melodies.  Like it or not, that is what Journey does and does well, but what they don’t do well here.  A lot effort obviously went to Eclipse and it sounds very good.  It’s simply not something I want to listen to more than once, maybe twice.  I expect none of the music from Eclipse will be on future Best Of compilations.  That doesn’t make it bad.  Just makes it not Journey.  

  • EightE1

    Oh, but it is Journey; the melodies, musicianship, and overall sound are unmistakably Journey.  And yes, they do hooks very well, but if you’re looking for hooks on this record, you’re going to be disappointed (as, apparently, you were).  It’s not that they haven’t done hooks well; it’s that they haven’t done them at all.  Didn’t even try.  It’s a different slant on their sound and songwriting, and if the listener is willing to suspend his/her preconceptions and goes along with the new slant, he/she is gonna have a blast—I’ve listened to little else for the last four or five days.  If you’re looking to hear radio-ready ballads and midtempo rock songs , though, like I said, it ain’t Escape or Frontiers.  My introduction was a warning, not an insult.

    Thanks for your comment, Daiho.

  • kugmonimo

    I became a fan of journey when arnel came in…i listened to all of journeys album from the beginning..and i was loving it…and read all the comparing shit to…..that was my first time to see and hear OLD people whining..yes we get it that steve is irreplaceable but old people you need to move on..you dont have that life to live in this earth..enjoy while your ear can still hear…lol …revelation was made..i know they made that album to prove that arnel can really sing and have that wide vocal range…i wasn’t impressed that much…..then this album came out..BLOWN AWAY…yes, theres not much of hooks but the opening song city of hope surely will catch your ear…the melody of that song is simply genius….and yes theres a lot of schons guitar wanking but its still finger licking good though… if you are a journey fan for a long91378753827528x time ago and find this album “noisy” then you must be old..don’t bother to comment and whine…you are already old…thats why you love the old albums of journey because you were young back then….don’t bother to comment or reply….lol

    you need to go to your bed now and drink meds and prepare your bed pans…

    journey is back, arnel still rocks the mic, thank GOD that music evolves

  • Jason

    Liars this Album  is  as much of a mess as Metallica’s St. Anger is. Nothing works well on this. Arnels voice is just out of place on this, no passion, just dull. Music is good but messy un balanced. And  I am a Journey fan.

  • EightE1

    “Liars” is a little harsh, but whatever. “St. Anger” had all kinds of problems; I don’t hear the correlation.  Thanks, anyway, for your comment.

  • td62

    Wish there were more liberal, open-minded beings that would say, “Hey, this band is letting loose! It refuses to be tied up with the usual norm that defines them. Now that’s progress!” Hats off to your review!

  • td62

    Wish there were more liberal, open-minded beings that would say, “Hey, this band is letting loose! It refuses to be tied up with the usual norm that defines them. Now that’s progress!” Hats off to your review!

  • DragonessRocks

    Eclipse is a work of pure genius! So glad they took this risk and didn’t settle on the typical Journey sound. Don’t get me wrong, a true blue Journey fan can really hear the Journey signature sound there.. they just added some “steroids” to it and something else i couldn’t quite put a finger on. So much creativity at work here. The result is just WOW! There’s no track i skip (and im a picky customer!) because each song is AMAZING! I practically grew up listening to Journey. IMO this has to be their most addictive album ever!

  • DragonessRocks

    lol

  • DragonessRocks

    Amen to that!

  • DragonessRocks

    Lol! Ouch! Hey I’m old (though not THAT old) but I’ve moved on. I love this newly evolved Journey and i can see that the new generation does too. Glad that Journey’s fan base has spanned generations and continents.

  • DragonessRocks

    Seems like Eclipse is a classic you-either-love-it-or-hate-it case. 

  • td62

    Amen to that, too!

  • EightE1

    Apparently, yeah. But I kinda expected that — the band has a rabid core fanbase that has a built-in litmus test (Steve Perry vs. Augeri/Soto/Pineda) that puts many fans on one side or another of a long-running debate. We’re used to arguing. :^)  I love the back-and-forth, though. Makes for interesting conversations.

  • Daiho

    Actually, I like all three vocalists.   The problem for me is that the band is like a favorite Italian restaurant that is now trying to convince me to enjoy their take on Chinese.  It’s not that they are incapable cooks, or that their Chinese is bad, but that I come to them for Italian.  

  • Daiho

    Guess what?  Journey wouldn’t be around today if it weren’t for all the old farts who supported them over the years until you decided to show up,  Have some respect for the elders – and enjoy the music.

  • EightE1

    Niiiiiiiice analogy! Though I don’t think of them as Italian cooks making Chinese food; it’s more like Italian cooks who are really good at Tuscan cuisine suddenly going Neapolitan — the flavor profile is different, but the overall skill and personality of the chef is still very much present. I happen to like their carne pizzaiola; you prefer their scottigila. 

    Food analogies are awesome. Thanks, Daiho.

  • EightE1

    Niiiiiiiice analogy! Though I don’t think of them as Italian cooks making Chinese food; it’s more like Italian cooks who are really good at Tuscan cuisine suddenly going Neapolitan — the flavor profile is different, but the overall skill and personality of the chef is still very much present. I happen to like their carne pizzaiola; you prefer their scottigila. 

    Food analogies are awesome. Thanks, Daiho.

  • Keiron

    I just turned 46, but me-thinks am 64. This album makes me young again since I can very well relate to kugmonimo’s review. Please don’t count out the oldies all… we just have some prejudices. ‘Tis all. Congratulations to Journey and to all their fans OLD and NEW!!!

  • Voyage

    Eclipse – the evolution of Journey . . . the band has evolved and survived the changing times . . . this is strategy, a strategy to survive. and, about the songs, all thumbs up on all the tracks. I’m a Journey fan since the 80′s, and I say that Eclipse maybe something new in style and flavor, but still it is definitely Journey. Fans out there – Old and New – grab a copy of Eclipse and listen to it with your musical ears and surely you’ll enjoy. Listen with an open mind… enjoy Eclipse…. and Rob, that’s what I call a “Review” – lyrics, musicianship, the whole package…. all considered. Thanks.

  • John inman

    Thanks for your AWESOME review =) Only thing I’d slight;y disagree with is that of “hooks”. I hear PLENTY of them. Just not as many POP hooks as people are used to =) That opinion stated, I think you have the most ACCURATE review here I’ve seen yet! I esp. LOVE what u said in regards to “Perry in 2011″ hahahaha. I LOVE Perry, but I’m a singer/musician myself, therefor I have no DENIAL on the state of where he is vocally these days (haha).

  • Lanimar3417

    I am a girl and I love the new rockier Journey album. It is something new to the ears. Of course they should not make doubles of the old songs. I love Resonate the first time I heard it and that’s in one of their concerts in a latin country via youtube. Obviously in this album you can’t feel the Steve Perry soul. Its all Arnel Pineda. Its a harder, faster Journey. I have heard some complain but I really don’t care. I am sure the youngsters will love it. Specially the magic of Neal Schon’s guitar. I just wish they make a music video of one of the songs in the album. One thing I notice though, this album Eclipse has a spirit. Feel it.

  • Lanimar3417

    I am a girl and I love the new rockier Journey album. It is something new to the ears. Of course they should not make doubles of the old songs. I love Resonate the first time I heard it and that’s in one of their concerts in a latin country via youtube. Obviously in this album you can’t feel the Steve Perry soul. Its all Arnel Pineda. Its a harder, faster Journey. I have heard some complain but I really don’t care. I am sure the youngsters will love it. Specially the magic of Neal Schon’s guitar. I just wish they make a music video of one of the songs in the album. One thing I notice though, this album Eclipse has a spirit. Feel it.

  • Krockster44

    Gees – you are rude! Perhaps you need to be paddled real good by some of your elders, so you can learn some manners.  Obviously you are a young shit, as the younger generation has never learned manners. The downfall of any society is precluded by the rudeness and ignorance of the younger generation.  Be sure to have your diaper changed before you go to bed.

  • Krockster44

    Eclipse is definitely not about the “new voice” of journey – Arnel Pineda. It is a Schon-fest, a tribute to his ego. 

  • Krockster44

    Eclipse is definitely not about the “new voice” of journey – Arnel Pineda. It is a Schon-fest, a tribute to his ego. 

  • Mr. Middle

    Wonderful new collection of music from probably my most favorite band during my youth. Arnel fills in well for Steve Perry regardless how some trash him. The music is wonderfully written and performed. In today’s world there are very little talented bands out there but Journey can always be counted on.

  • Mr. Middle

    Wonderful new collection of music from probably my most favorite band during my youth. Arnel fills in well for Steve Perry regardless how some trash him. The music is wonderfully written and performed. In today’s world there are very little talented bands out there but Journey can always be counted on.

  • MithunOnThe.Net

    I agree with this review because my review went more or less along the same lines as well! You can check out an Indian Journey fan’s review here: http://mithunonthe.net/2011/06/14/journey-eclipse-album-mp3-review-the-return-of-melodic-rock/

    ‘Revelation’ was a good comeback of sorts for Journey. ‘Eclipse’ is without a doubt a much, much better album. Easily one of their best! LOVE “Edge of the Moment” “Chian of Love” “Tantra” “Resonate” and Human Feel”

  • Houlgrave0

    I’m kind of on the fence about Eclipse really: at first I was a tad annoyed that my ears so keen for a sharp hook didn’t find too many of them. On the other hand though, I listen to a lot of progressive rock and jazz-related music, so I’m used to finding sense in dynamics and texture where others might not hear anything of substance.

    See though, I know good AOR when I hear it, and this is definitely not AOR. Plenty of young fresh bands over the last few years are taking up the mantle where groups such as Journey and Toto dropped it (Work Of Art, Lionville, W.E.T., etc.), however, so I don’t think too many people’s complaints about that are warranted: even if Journey isn’t doing great hooky 80′s oriented stuff anymore, there are plenty of bands out there who are.

    Anyway, the situation with Eclipse reminds me of another favorite 80′s group of mine, Strangeways, who attempted a comeback last year with their 2010 album  Perfect World….and, just like Journey, decided to go in a different direction than their classic sound. I didn’t like the end result too much, but I appreciated the fact that they were doing what they wanted.

    For me, Eclipse is a much better record than anyone had a right to expect. It tries to reconcile Journey’s early experimental days with their Perry-esque material and comes off as quite memorable.

    For the part of me demanding hooks and pop-sensibility however…Work Of Art are almost done with their new album. :D

  • Mike Watson

    I dislike the lyrics on this record as compared to their last effort.  What the hell happened to them? It sounds like they turned to some weird religion after the last album.  Tantra…. are you kidding me. What crap.  Then they have lines about evil tycoons and landlords.  It just sounds like left wing nut job music to me and that is unfortunate because their last album was really good.  If the lyrics were different, I think that I would probably enjoy Eclipse, but for now I just feel dirty after listening to it.     

  • a fan

    Excellent review…I would also call out Resonate as an excellent song that connects to both old school Journey and the Eclipse melodic guitar god Journey. Also agree this is the best album of new Journey material at least since 2001′s Arrival (which was hit and miss for me) and probably since Frontiers. I don’t find “Venus” to be useless…I just found it to be misused. It is in essence a coda to “To Whom It May Concern,” and perhaps gives a glimpse of how live the boys might turn it into a completely awesome jam session. However, placing what I find to be the weakest song on the album, “Someone,” between the two really ruins the effect for me. Either “TWIMC” and “Venus” should be back to back, or place “TWIMC” as the first song, sort of to open the Book of Eclipse, then use “Venus” as the end to close the book. Edge of the Moment is definitely one of the best new rock songs I’ve heard in a long while.

  • a fan

    Excellent review…I would also call out Resonate as an excellent song that connects to both old school Journey and the Eclipse melodic guitar god Journey. Also agree this is the best album of new Journey material at least since 2001′s Arrival (which was hit and miss for me) and probably since Frontiers. I don’t find “Venus” to be useless…I just found it to be misused. It is in essence a coda to “To Whom It May Concern,” and perhaps gives a glimpse of how live the boys might turn it into a completely awesome jam session. However, placing what I find to be the weakest song on the album, “Someone,” between the two really ruins the effect for me. Either “TWIMC” and “Venus” should be back to back, or place “TWIMC” as the first song, sort of to open the Book of Eclipse, then use “Venus” as the end to close the book. Edge of the Moment is definitely one of the best new rock songs I’ve heard in a long while.

  • a fan

    Excellent review…I would also call out Resonate as an excellent song that connects to both old school Journey and the Eclipse melodic guitar god Journey. Also agree this is the best album of new Journey material at least since 2001′s Arrival (which was hit and miss for me) and probably since Frontiers. I don’t find “Venus” to be useless…I just found it to be misused. It is in essence a coda to “To Whom It May Concern,” and perhaps gives a glimpse of how live the boys might turn it into a completely awesome jam session. However, placing what I find to be the weakest song on the album, “Someone,” between the two really ruins the effect for me. Either “TWIMC” and “Venus” should be back to back, or place “TWIMC” as the first song, sort of to open the Book of Eclipse, then use “Venus” as the end to close the book. Edge of the Moment is definitely one of the best new rock songs I’ve heard in a long while.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_3KOCJHV4NTLBSRRRHIZO7WISK4 Anonymous

    1) Most of the reviews I’ve read by mainstream writers have been negative. 2) Most written by arena-rock reviewers have been positive. 3) The hardcore fans have been defending the crap out of it. Personally, the album didn’t grab me, and I’m a moderate late-bloomer fan (I’ve seen them live with Augeri and Arnel but not Perry). But what this all says to me is that this album just isn’t very entertaining unless you’re a manic fan of Journey or arena-rock to begin with. I did actually listen to the whole thing (I forced myself to – which speaks volumes) and it just never seemed to go anywhere. There were very few catchy hooks and the lyrics were generic at best. It wasn’t terrible, but with so much new (and old) good music out there to listen to, it had better kick ass or get out of the way and make room for something that does. And mind you, I enjoyed Revelation quite a bit, even though its best songs were all re-writes of older material (I’m looking at you “Sunshower”).