Welcome to another “Album by Album Challenge.” For those that are new here, the “Album by Album Challenge” is where I take a band’s entire discography and listen to every album in order of release from front to back. With my unforgiving and well-aged ear, I call it how I hear it. In some cases, I find that what I once thought was good is actually pretty crappy and sometimes crap manages to age into something pretty kick ass. And in some cases, face melting is still just good ol’ face melting.
This time around I tackled the discography of the legendary Journey. Ok, I know what you’re thinking. You’re probably thinking, “But Brainfart, Journey isn’t metal.” Well, this might be true but let me say this. Journey is a band with a long, vast history and a catalog of albums/songs that are held in high regard within the metal community. Everyone from Exodus drummer Tom Hunting to legendary Iron Maiden bassist Steve Harris has sung the praises of this band so I figured why the fuck not?
Keep in mind, when going into this challenge I knew next to nothing about Journey. My best friend James had been trying to turn me onto them for years so I finally caved and decided that if I was going to do it, I was going to do it right and start at the beginning and work my way through to the now. This is a two parter and part one will cover the self-titled debut on through the obscure Dream, After Dream album.
Release Date: April 1, 1975
The Good: Of a Lifetime, In the Morning Day, Kohoutek, To Play Some Music, Topaz, In My Lonely Feeling/Conversations, Mystery Mountain
If you would’ve played this for me back in the day and said, “Dude, this is Journey” I would’ve never believed you for a million years. Being that these cats were pretty much Santana without Carlos Santana, this album really has that kind of Santana feel. The song “Topaz” pretty much could be a Phish song and I mean that as a compliment as I can hear their influence on Phish. I just love that this album has so many layers and with each song it’s like you’re peeling it back to discover another.
The songs are just fucking fantastic. “In My Lonely Feeling/Conversations” just may be one of the greatest fucking songs I have ever heard and Gregg Rolie just slays on this song . From the depths of prog with “Kohoutek” to the radio friendly jam of “The Play Some Music”, Journey really created a real classic piece of magic. Hearing this band like this makes it hard for me to even fathom why they would need to change or how they will change and evolve to the band they eventually became. It’s like night and day but all I can say is that this album is fucking epic from start to finish.
Look Into the Future
Release Date: January, 1976
The Good: On a Saturday Night, It’s All Too Much, She Makes Me (Feel Alright), You’re On Your Own, Look Into the Future, Midnight Dreamer, I’m Gonna Leave You
So this is definitely the album where the transition began. For some reason, I assumed that this evolution to a radio rock band would be a bit more gradual but this album totally takes Journey into a more radio friendly kind of sound without completely disregarding their style. This album reminds me of the shift in sound that is evident from Captain Beyond’s debut album to the follow up Sufficiently Breathless. It’s not a bad transition to be honest but it’s a transition nonetheless.
The first 2 or 3 songs of this album show just how Journey was stepping forward towards being a more song oriented rock band but still managing to maintain the sound and vibe that they set out with on their debut album. While this is the case, you also end up with songs like the absolutely mind-blowing title track (which was so fucking badass I had to jam it three times), “Midnight Dreamer” and “I’m Gonna Leave You.” These three songs really embodied more of that “jammy” kind of sound while still managing to be accessible to a rock audience. This album, while not quite as spectacular as the debut is still a really solid album that is full of win. I can’t wait to dive into this one again.
Release Date: February, 1977
The Good: Spaceman, People, Here We Are, Hustler, Nickle and Dime, Karma
The Indifferent: I Would Find You, Next,
Ok, so Next. First off, funny title for an album. Second, Journey must have been listening to a lot of Beatles or something because these songs have a serious Beatles flair to them. “Spaceman”, “People”, “Here We Are” all pretty much sound like they could be Beatles songs. This isn’t a bad thing at all but it just kind of caught me by surprise as to how different this stuff sounds from the previous albums. I think I was expecting more of a transition into their more radio friendly stuff but it’s like instead of moving that way they stepped to the left for just a bit.
Just when I think I know where this album is going they come flying out with “Hustler.” At first I didn’t know what to make of this song but goddamn what an epic facemelter. The title track just didn’t seem to do much for me and this was the song that a few people told me would blow me away. Can we also talk about how “Nickel and Dime” is pretty much Rush’s “Tom Sawyer”? I mean, almost to a fucking “t.” I was astounded to hear this. Things that make you go “hm” fo sho! All in all, this is a good album but it wasn’t one that blew my mind like the previous two. This is one of those albums that I would own as a completest but I would be totally find with not hearing it again as well.
Release Date: January 20, 1978
The Good: Lights, Feeling That Way, Anytime, Patiently, Wheel in the Sky, Something to Hide, Winds of March, Can Do, Opened the Door
The Indifferent: La Do Da,
Talk about bold. The first song on Infinity features the “new guy” (Steve Perry) on vocals. Gregg Rolie was still in the band at this point. I wonder what he was thinking. Anyways, all that to be said, that song is fucking amazing but I just don’t feel like it makes a great opening song. “Feeling That Way” is a fucking spectacular song that features both Rolie and Perry on vox and I feel like this would’ve made a much better opening song. Can we also take a moment to address the fact that “Wheel in the Sky” is a fucking amazing song? I could listen to that one on repeat.
This is without a doubt the transition album for Journey not only with Perry on vocals but the overall writing and performances seem to be setting the band on course to being the Journey that the world would come to embrace and love. What I love so much about this album is that while they are venturing into more radio friendly waters, they are still maintaining a lot of their more “proggy” influences which you can totally hear in “Winds of March.” All in all, Infinity is a fucking amazing record and one that that wears many masks. It’s such a great listen and a really versatile album. My only complaint is that it could’ve been sequenced better to create more of a flow. I will totally be revisiting this one without a doubt.
Release Date: April 5, 1979
The Good: Majestic, Too Late, Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin’, City of the Angels, When You’re Alone, Sweet and Simple, Lovin’ You is Easy, Just the Same Way, Daydream, Lady Luck
This album just completely blew my fucking face off. Matter of fact, in all honesty, I have to say that this is my favorite Journey album to date. Right off the bat, “Too Late” just put a lump in my throat so fucking big and just connecting with those lyrics had me tearing up a bit. I can’t get over what a powerful fucking song it was. After that one I had to listen to it again. I also have to note that when I heard “Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin’” that I found myself really liking this song a lot. That song and “Sweet and Simple” I just loved because I could hear Perry and Co. paying homage to the great Motown sound. “Sweet and Simple” very well could’ve been a Sam Cooke song and I loved that they found a way on both songs to show that influence and tip their hats.
The rest of the album is just song after song an absolute masterpiece. This is definitely a deep cut album and I’m very pleasantly surprised by the complete absence of fluff. It’s funny how I thought at one time “Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin’” was fluff but hearing it in this context totally changed my mind. Also, “Daydream” and “Lady Luck” just may be two of the greatest album closers of all time. Those two songs back to back alone are worth owning this album. This album was such a surprise for me and I enjoyed the fuck out of it so much that I give it a 2nd listen. Yeah, it’s that good and this is one that even the most casual Journey fan would find to be an outstanding album.
Release Date: March 23, 1980
The Good: Someday Soon, People and Places, Precious Time, I’m Crying, Good Morning Girl, Stay Awhile,
The Indifferent: Any Way You Want It, Walks Like a Lady, Where Were You, Line of Fire, Homemade Love
Ok, so I don’t know if it’s that Evolution was such a great fucking album and hard to follow or what but this album just really didn’t do much for me. Those first two songs (Any Way You Want It and Walks Like A Lady) are just two of the lamest fucking songs and just started to put me in a foul mood. “Someday Soon” and “People and Places” quickly lifted me out of that funk though. Those two songs are really great but they just didn’t floor me like the songs from Evolution. “Where Were You” is easily one of the most annoying songs I’ve ever heard. Where was I? I was in the bathroom because I couldn’t take any more of that song.
The two best songs on this album are “Good Morning Girl” and “Stay Awhile” and I have to say that those two songs stuck out like sore thumbs on this album. They were so fucking good while being surrounded by songs that were “good” and just flat out “meh.” This album as a whole did nothing for me but “Good Morning Girl” and “Stay Awhile” in my opinion are worthy of at least being put into a playlist just so they’re not passed up. This album was a total let down for me coming off the heels of Evolution. Maybe that album was just TOO fucking good? Who knows but this one just kind of felt like a dud for me.
Dream, after Dream
Release Date: December 10, 1980
The Good: Destiny, Snow Theme, Sandcastles, A Few Coins, Moon Theme, When Love Has Gone, Festival Dance,
So this was a really interesting album. While not really credited as a “studio album”, I was told by James that this was one not to be skipped. Boy, am I ever fucking glad I listened to him. Dream, After Dream is a Journey album in the truest sense of the word but it’s actually the soundtrack to the Japanese film Yume, Yume No Ato. This album reminds me a bit of how Pink Floyd did the soundtrack for the “The Zabriskie Point” in that it’s a fine mix of songs and small, bit instrumentals.
What I love so much about this album is that coming right off the heels of the arena rock sounds of the Departure album, Journey went way back into their progressive roots to pull out some really amazing, complex instrumentals in addition to amazing songs with vocals as well. “Destiny” literally took my breath away as we see, once again, just what a monumental progressive vocalist Steve Perry was while “Snow Theme” is a gorgeous instrumental composed by bassist Ross Vallory. I cannot speak any more highly of this album other than to say that it is a really amazing listening experience. I do feel that it gets lost in the shuffle among the other Journey albums but on its own it’s an album that I feel even the biggest of Journey haters could sink into and give much deserved props to.
STAY TUNED FOR PART II COMING SOON!