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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Journey

Greatest Hits 2

Review by Gary Hill

Journey is kind of a paradox. On the one hand, they’ve got a lot of die-hard fans who love them for their big hits. Still, they lost a lot of fans when they entered their “hit” faze. Many people think of Journey as just a pop band who couldn’t do any music with substance. That’s just not true.

Journey started out as a spin off of Santana’s band. So, they had real rock roots. Their music was capable of working between hard rock and balladic sounds while still maintaining an accessible nature. That’s not always such an easy trick to pull off. Sure, they did get into some schmaltzier hits later, but don’t a lot bands fall into that trap? It wound up defining them in the eyes of a lot of music lovers, and that wasn’t a good thing.

This set can go a long way to reminding the casual listener of what was great about Journey. Sure, there are a couple of the songs that were part of the problem represented here, but overall, this is a quality set that really works. It’s sure to be all great for hardcore Journey fans, but they probably already have all the music here. For the rest of us, it serves as way of reconnecting with all the band’s varied sounds.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Stone In Love

This hit comes from the more hard rocking side of Journey and for that reason it holds up better than some of the more ‘80s styled tunes.

After The Fall
Here we get a song that doesn’t hold up as well. It definitely has that 1980s sound. This seems like it was written with the pop sensibilities of the time in mind. The problem is, that sound doesn’t really hold up that well in retrospect. Still, the vocal arrangement is strong. The guitar solo is tasty, too.
Chain Reaction
Another hard rocking tune, this has a real wall of sound vocal approach. It’s a strong cut, but feels a bit over-produced. Still, it’s a step up from the previous number.
The Party's Over (Hopelessly In Love)
This is definitely cut from the cloth labeled “generic Journey.” It’s OK, but certainly not the strongest work the band ever did.
Escape
A more hard rocking tune, this feels like Journey being Journey rather than searching for an obvious hit. It’s got some interesting twists and turns in the arrangement, but overall sticks pretty true to a hard rock Journey sound.
Still They Ride
Just because it’s an arena ballad, that doesn’t mean it’s a weak track. This is a powerful tune because it feels genuine. Of course, the incredible vocal performance doesn’t hurt either. It’s another winner.
Good Morning Girl
While it’s a safe bet that the hardcore Journey fans will love this ballad, those more rock oriented casual fans probably find the string heavy arrangement to be incredibly sappy and indicative of the type of thing that put Journey over the top into the schmaltzy department at times. Steve Perry’s performance is strong (of course), but it feels more like a Perry solo piece than a Journey song.
Stay Awhile
As a stark contrast, this is how the love ballad (even with some strings added) can work from Journey. It still feels like a rock song and it still feels like a group performance. Yes, the strings do border on “over the top” at times, but the band members all seem to be putting in a real performance, and that off-sets it quite a bit. This isn’t the strongest tune Journey ever did, but it’s definitely a step up from the previous one.
Suzanne
From the opening sounds it’s obvious that this song is a blatant 1980s number. It feels like it could have come from any number of hit machines during that decade and is not a shining moment for Journey. Then again, the vocal performance is strong and there are some cool guitar bits. It’s sure to please the hardcore Journey fanatics, while leaving many more casual fans hitting the “skip” button.
Feeling That Way
Anyone looking for proof that hit songs can also be strong musically need search no further than this tune. It might well be the best song Journey ever did. It has a fairly complex musical arrangement that includes both mellow and harder rocking sounds. It feels authentic and real and everyone puts in great showings. And, it’s fun and entertaining. It doesn’t get much better than this.
Anytime
This song followed “Feeling That Way” in its original sequence. I don’t think I’ve ever heard either song without the other as radio usually played them back to back. They really work well in that context, too. This is another that is classic Journey. The vocal arrangement, from the opening section without instruments, through the end works very well. The guitar based song structure is a great combination of 1970s rock and bluesy textures. It’s got “classic rock” written all over it because it helped to define that term.
Walks Like A Lady
Even when this was released it had a bit of a retro sound. That said, the bluesy jam (with old school keyboard sounds) works really well. It’s cool how the guitar doesn’t just play chords during the verses. It’s another strong tune that shows just why Journey originally earned a lot of rock fans.
Little Girl
The argument could be made that the arrangement on the mellower sections of this cut are over the top. Frankly, I think it works. This is a great tune that combines an extremely evocative and emotional ballad section early with a more rocking version of itself later. Sure, it tugs at your heart strings, but it’s also a great tune. There’s a killer hard edged guitar solo section later in the piece, too. We also get a tasty blues harmonica bit on the outro.
Just The Same Way
This hard rocking, but also quite catchy, tune is a Journey classic for sure. It’s also one of the stronger tunes on this set.
Patiently
Here we have another classic example of how a love song that’s also a ballad can be strong. This cut works really well because it feels genuine. Yes, it’s mostly mellow, but there is a lot of emotion packed into it.
When I Think Of You
At times this piece feels a bit like an AOR contrived hit, but there’s enough genuine mellow rock built into it to make it work. It’s not as strong as a lot of the stuff, but the vocal performance really sells it.
Mother, Father (Live)
As the parenthetical on the title indicates, this rocker was recorded live and it really shows all the things that made Journey great.
 
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