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Journey - Journey CD (album) cover




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3.39 | 152 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
4 stars After Santana's ultimate artiste success, two members of Carlos' band left and tried to go their own way, and this loss probably affected Santana forever. If then-teenager Neil Schon was part of the adventure, everyone had an eye on him since his brilliant appearance on Santana's third album, where he shone as precocious prodigy and his early-Journey performance was to prove the good everyone had predicted him. But more importantly Gregg Rollie was pretty well Santana's heart and also a good part of its soul: not only was Rollie an excellent singer, but his keyboard abilities (mainly on the Hammond organ, but piano as well >> check Treat on the debut album) were almost equal to Carlos' virtuosity on his axe. The two musicians met up mainstay bassist Ross Valory and a temporary drummer, later hooking up with rhythm guitarist George Tickner, before finding the excellent Ainsley Dunbar, freshly leaving Frank Zappa's ship, most notably after stand-out albums like Jaka Jawaka and Grand Wazoo. Dunbar's inclusion in the group is probably what gave Journey its power and unique sound, and propelled the group to an excellent debut album. Instrumentally they were a very strong band, which easily allowed them to record three instrumental tracks from the seven on the album. They found refuge in CBS's label (Santana's label as well), who placed high hopes in the band, hoping to duplicate Santana's sales, dwindling a bit after the duo's departure and the first three albums. Released in early 75 with a fun lunar mountain photo montage and cosmonaut clothes artwork, this album provided encouraging sales for any band, but not for their label.

Opening up on the fantastic and dramatic Of A Lifetime, the quintet roars like very few could. Propelled by Dunbar's incredibly powerful drumming and Rollie's excellent Hammond and Synth underlining the whole shebam, Schon's awesome guitar hovers over clear skies, soaring like an eagle, ready to pounce on its prey, your emotions. Rollie's voice is incredibly suave and fits the music so excellently that you'd almost forget the incredible finale where Dunbar pulls some of the best-placed drum rolls ever in rock's history. By contrast, Rollie and Valory's In The Morning Day and Play Some Music can only sound a bit tame instrumentally-speaking, obviously being rocking tracks aiming for AOR - FM airplay, with the former probably being a single that didn't find it's way. Kohoutek is a superb instrumental that takes a bit of time to expand, crescendoing to a climax, then stopping to restart, this time with Schon adding his guitar interventions and once they've climaxed again, the song really takes off for a good 4 minutes of heated exchanges from all parties concerned, before dropping to a halt and re-crescendoing, but this time to end it. The instrumental Tickner-penned Topaz follows a similar path to Kohoutek, but this time it's slightly jazzier ala Mahavishnu Orchestra

Among the three shorter tracks, Rollie's Lonely Feeling is indeed the better one, but it's linked by Valory's instrumental track Conversation, showing that indeed even him could participate to the group's instrumental prowess. The closing Mystery Mountains (obviously aiming at the sleeve artwork) starts as a pure rocker, with Tickner and Schon's crunchy riff providing the multi-vitamin

It's very difficult to describe accurately Journey's music, as I wouldn't call it jazz-rock, even if jazz is indeed one of its influences, but it's definitely not very Santana-esque, even if Rollie's voice does induce the thought into your mind. Losing Tickner after this album, the group will stay as a quartet and produce a fairly similar-sounding album, even if it's clear that they'd heard CBS's wish for a chart- breaking single. It's definitely not symphonic rock in either its US or UK versions and it doesn't particularly sound American either, even if early and epic Kansas are not that far away. Just excellent art rock that only waits for those not familiar to it to discover this sensational album.

Sean Trane | 4/5 |


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