Journey – Freedom

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11 long years of waiting! This is the biggest gap between studio albums by Journey and needless to say that we were all eagerly waiting for what Schon, Cain and the rest of the boys had in store for us. I guess it goes almost without saying that Journey is a different beast since Perry’s departure. Everybody knows that…including Neal Schon. But what can you do really? So, instead of wishing hopelessly for Perry’s return, let’s see if Journey’s “Freedom” is a hit or miss album…

Let me say, right from the start, that this is an absolutely great and surprising record! “Why “surprising”?”, one might ask. You see this is easily the best Journey record since “Arrival”! Much better than anything that the band delivered with Pineda behind the mic (including the commendable “Revelation” record). Getting back to “Freedom”, I’d say that this is an AOR masterpiece. Simple as that. A record that honors the band’s illustrious legacy which at the same time curves new path as odd as this might sound. In addition, I strongly believe that this is the most experimental Journey record…and that’s a good thing. The two persons responsible for that is drummer-extraordinaire Narada Michael Walden and of course guitarist Neal Schon who came up with some of his best, catchy yet always characteristic guitar licks, melodies and solos. In fact, some of them remind a little bit of the pre-Perry era. But the overall AOR aesthetic of “Freedom” brings back memories of the “Raised on Radio” and “Trial By Fire” era as there are clearly a few R&B elements in there. I guess bassist Randy Jackson had a lot to do with that.

It would be a mishap if we didn’t point out Arnel Pineda’s huge contribution. I am of the opinion that on this album sings with a lot more attitude and seems that he eventually found his own steps. Great job! As for Jonathan Cain, he’s spotless both from a compositional and performance standpoint. All in all, “Freedom” is one of the best AOR albums ever released. Gene Simmons used to say that the big boys will show how it’s done. Well, Journey perfectly showed how the big boys do it…and we couldn’t be happier about it! Thank you, boys…we needed a record like this!

Highlight: “Freedom” was the initial title for “Raised On Radio” before being changed by Steve Perry. It was Herbie Herbert’s idea…