The Most Important Thing That Happened Yesterday

Yes, that’s right, Journey released a new album. What, something else happened too? Curious.

This is the first album with Journey’s new lead singer, Arnel Pineda, who comes off as an enthusiastic Steve Perry mini-me. It features a CD of 11 new songs, a CD of 11 of the band’s Perry-era hits re-recorded with Pineda on vocals, and a DVD of the band’s first US concert with Pineda on the mic. All for $11.98! Only at Wal-Mart! Hey, the Eagles showed you can get away with this. Also, let’s face it, Journey’s primary demographic isn’t shopping at Nordstrom these days.

How is it? Well, the CD of new songs is sufficiently Journeyesque to make most fans happy; the opening single “Never Walk Away” is a revisit of “Be Good to Yourself” and the rest of the album likewise shows that the band knows which side its bread is buttered on (i.e., Journey’s hit era, circa 1981 – 1986). And I suspect the ballad “After All These Years” will be a lite-hits station staple this year. It’s solid, although none of the songs here reach the heights of, say, the tracks off of Journey’s Greatest Hits CD. But then, that CD got to filter through six albums worth of material, so maybe that’s not a fair comparison.

However, it does draw attention to the fact that the secret sauce to Journey’s magic era was not Steve Perry, but Perry and Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain playing off each other in the band and in the songwriting; Schon and Cain without Perry get 80% to “Classic Journey”-ness, but you notice the missing 20%. That said, it’s definitely a better album than either of the Steve Augeri-era albums, in which the band seemed conflicted about what the hell they were doing. They’re not conflicted anymore, which should make fans happy.

As for the album redoing the band’s greatest hits with Pineda on vocals: Well, it sounds like the best Journey cover band ever, it does. I understand why the band felt like they needed to do this, but it’s still vaguely disconcerting.

This isn’t the fault of Pineda, however. Pineda was hired because he sounds so much like golden-era Steve Perry that it’s actually spooky; given that Perry’s never coming back to the band (really, that bridge has been burned, Perry partisans, get over it) this is as good as it’s ever going to get, and it’s pretty darn good. It’s pretty clear that Pineda knows why he’s there; the dude was doing Journey covers in Filipino bar bands when Schon discovered him on YouTube (no, really), so he gets his job and just seems damn happy to be doing it. Good for him; I hope he enjoys himself. In reality, in terms of sound, the real missing link between Journey’s apex and its current era is not Pineda but drummer Deen Castronovo, whose playing lacks the punchy, differentiated resonance of Steve Smith’s. You can recognize Smith’s rock drumming from ten mies out; Castronovo’s, not so much.

To be sure, if you’re one of those people who always hated Journey with every fiber of your being because of their stadium-filling Album Oriented Rock stylings, you’ll still hate them here, and perhaps even more so, because they persist in not perishing in some horrible tour bus incident (hopefully involving REO Speedwagon’s tour bus as well). But, you know, look: Journey is Journey. At this point, complaining about the band’s prom-friendly ballads and mom-safe anthems is kind of stupid, isn’t it? You can’t fight it. Don’t listen to ‘em if you don’t want to. At the end of the day, what you want to know is: how much does the band sound like itself? The answer: This time around, a lot.

never walk away.mp3 – Journey

40 thoughts on “The Most Important Thing That Happened Yesterday

  1. Wikipedia tells me nothing, here: what is the source of the acrimony? Not that I’m a Journey fan or anything (other than hearing during their ubiquitous success in the early 80s, not unlike Loverboy).

    Also: I had no idea so much turnover occurred within the band. I always assumed Perry was the only one who wandered off, not that they were hiring and firing constantly. YIKES.

  2. WizarDru:

    The band went through lots of members, actually. The only constant through every incarnation is Neal Schon.

    As for the issue with Perry: Part of the problem was after Trial By Fire in 1996, Perry required hip surgery to tour and was apparently reluctant to have it; finally the band said “later” to him and hired Steve Augeri.

  3. I can’t say that I ever hated Journey. I just was never much of a fan. Any Way You Want It was about it. I did think they got marginally better when Jonathan Cain, he of The Babies(yeah!) fame, joined the band.

  4. Brett L:

    No, because I’m a professional critic! And as we all know, pro critics are never nerds.

  5. Eh, he can hit most of the notes, but he ain’t no Steve Perry. Though that’s probably a good thing now, as I’m guessing Steve’s vocal chops have fallen off in recent years as he’s aged.

    I will concede that he sounds a heck of a lot better than the karaoke singer that Boston got to replace the late Brad Delp.

  6. Just listened to that clip, and DAMN, but the new lead singer is Perry-esque! I mean…DAMN!

    I’ll actually have to hit Wal*Mart for this. It’ll give me a good excuse to pick up Wal*Mart’s cheap Crystal Light knockoff. Mmm…fake Journey and fake fruit punch…all at once!

  7. How does anyone come off as Steve Perry mini-me?

    He had to be a front man else he would have disappeared behind the drum kit.

    But I get your meaning, however I disagree on a fine point. It’s not Journey. It’s still Genesis when the drummer starts singing but if you bring in a whole new guy who’s changing the creative mix then it’s some new band. The new guy singing with the former bandmates of Michael Hutchins do not make it INXS but a passable impression of the band. A tribute band with weak moral fibre.

  8. Kell Brown:

    “It’s not Journey. It’s still Genesis when the drummer starts singing but if you bring in a whole new guy who’s changing the creative mix then it’s some new band.”

    Ironically, I’m watching the DVD, and the drummer Deen Castronovo is singing “Mother, Father” and doing a more-than-credible job.

    Otherwise: Eh. This overprivileges the singer, I think. A lot depends on the composition of the band. AC/DC was still AC/DC when they had to make their swtich. I agree the Pinel-era Journey is not the Perry-era Journey, but it’s still Journey, particularly if they’re still making new music.

    And in any event, I don’t begrudge the members of Journey for wanting to soldier on. They have mortgages and kids and so on. That’s a small detail that often eludes people who wonder why their favorite band doesn’t just hang it up after someone critical leaves.

  9. ‘S okay. The chord progressions DO sound like “Be Good To Yourself” which, to me, is lesser Journey anyway. I liked them more as a rock band, less as a synth band. And ditto on the drumming. HUGE difference there. The new guy sounds a bit like Steve Perry when he goes into his higher register but otherwise, he’s just sorta aping.

    It creeps me out a bit that they covered real Journey, and makes me want to listen to Captured. Which is a good thing.

    If you haven’t seen the Journey “Behind the Music,” find it. It’s hilarious. Steve Perry is a bitter, bitter man. I saw him several months ago, maybe a year now, at a CPK. Awesome. And without Steve Perry, I can’t claim that near-my-hometown connection, either, unless the new guy’s from Hanford.

  10. It’s not that I don’t understand why these guys are doing it and maybe it’s just that other bands have been luckier as far as which member of the band they’ve lost and how key that was to their success or appeal (to me and the rest of the audience) after a replacement.

    AD/DC is a good pickup. I’ve always preferred Brian Johnson who wasn’t the original front man.

    There seems to be something sacred about the original lineup of a band (or the band when it became successful). It does seem odd to hold a rock band up to a such a high standard.

  11. “Ballads?” That seems an odd choice of words for the undifferentiated, high-volume noise of the Journey songs I remember. Well, I suppose it’s all considered soft rock, these days, anyway. De gustibus and all that.

    Wiz, pretty much every band is in constant shuffle. Ego problems and creative differences tend to result in greater turnover than you see in any fast-food restaurant. Often, the rearrangements are disastrous but, sometimes they produce that odd string of pearls. Wiki a few of your favorite musicians, sometime. It’s likely to horrify and amaze you.

  12. Journey was my brother’s favorite band, so of course I hated them and I still quickly change stations when a Journey song comes on. Despite that, I know the words to pretty much all of their hits and sometimes find myself singing along if I don’t have control of whatever device the song is emanating from. God, I hate it when that happens!

    p.s. Cheap Trick rules! Still the original lineup, still making the occasional great album (Rockford from a couple years ago), and still great live.

  13. Just so that I’m clear…according to Kell Brown (#16), after Pete Best was replaced by Ringo Starr, it was no longer the Beatles?

    The new Journey material sounds to me like a really good Journey cover band. For some reason, it just doesn’t work for me visually, either. And, I must admit to having been a little soured on the whole project. Jeff Scott Soto, Journey’s previous singer, is a friend of a friend, so I’ve been privy to a (very) little of the behind-the-scenes workings of the band. The bloom has left that rose for me.

  14. If some guys with the legal right to the name “Journey” want to get together and make cd, that’s fine.

    That they then decide to only sell it though Walmart … that isn’t fine. Screw them and the Eagles.

  15. OK, I guess someone has to say it. This is chick rock, you know that, right, John? Lots of balads, plenty of almost edgy guitar work that never quite gets there, sentimental lyrics, all processed in production to a fine, easily digestable mush. And, jeez, Walmart exclusive? That alone guarantees I’ll never buy this album. It’s a good thing you write kickass books to make up for your taste in music, Scalzi.

  16. There’s a video on YouTube

    with this new guy…it’s not Steve but it’s close.

    Bummer that it’s Wal-Mart only – I’d like to order it for the shop.:/

  17. It’s like you read my mind: “they persist in not perishing in some horrible tour bus incident (hopefully involving REO Speedwagon’s tour bus as well). ”

    After Greg Rolie left, the band went so far into formula pop hell that they could never again be taken seriously as musicians. That’s another mystery, because each member was incredibly talented, but together they put together such crap. They only thing more mysterious is how two separate rockers like Van Halen and Sammy Hagar could be so great on theri own, and so crappy together.

    Only someone who was in high school between 1978 and 1986 can understand just how great the divide between fans and disdaining non-fans was. I broke up with a hot blonde with a hotter Camaro just because she liked Journey, the relationship was doomed to fail from the start, especially when she took my ZZ Top cassette out of the tape deck because she wanted to hear, “Faithfully”.
    REO has a very similar niche in music history. I’d pay money to see both bands tour buses collide in a fiery crash.

  18. Journey wasn’t always chick-rock and power ballads. Their first couple of releases were pretty much hard rock. I’m thinking of “Wheel in the Sky” and “Seperate Ways” , the latter of which is still covered by metal bands to great effect (Andre Matos has a great version).

    Speaking of bands that totally change when they change vocalists, there’s Black Sabbath, which is totally a different band whether Ozzy, Dio, or Peter Martin is singing.

  19. Speaking of great moments in replacement singer history, this week’s Scene Magazine (clevescene.com) has a cover story on what’s happening with Tim “Ripper” Owens. He’s the guy who went from fronting a Judas Priest cover band to replacing Rob Halford in the “real” group. Of course, when Rob decided to come back, they kicked him to the curb like a flaming bag of heavy metal dog poop.

  20. Anyone else feel like most of the new Journey disc came out of the notebook marked, “Stuff for that Bad English Album that never got made”.

    I after giving it a listen that’s my impression, that musically it sounds a heck of a lot more like Bad English than Journey. Given that difference in the line-up of the two bands is practically indistinguishable that makes alot of sense I suppose.

    My other impression is disappointment with the recorded material on the second disc. It lacks the punch of the original recordings. The drumming is clipped, by the current drummer Deen has never really done it for me. The Guitar and Bass work sounds like they tried to put a modernized spin on the old material, which given that its the original artists sort of lets me down.

  21. The other thing I forget to mention. It saddens me to think that Perry is probably making money off this release since he has writing credits on the older material. He dumped the band, and doesn’t deserve $.01.

  22. @#34 Haplo Peart
    If you were a songwriter, you wouldn’t feel this way. Songwriting at the level of Journey, whether you respect the songs or not, is a profession quite separate from being a rock star. It’s a business asset, both to the band and to the composer and lyricist.

    You may have an emotional response to the fact that Steve Perry left the band for whatever reason, but, if he wrote or co-wrote any songs on any album by anybody, he deserves to be paid, unless, of course, he sold the rights…..

  23. BTW, I was in a major label band in 1980-82, and I absolutely loathed Journey at the time. When I look at the video with the new guy referenced in post #29, I see a really pro band playing and singing really well. Although Journey defined “corporate rock,” by 1980, they also defined success.

    The reason I hated them at the time was that I knew they made the decision to make corporate rock for the money, and they systematically built the band to do it, (although Greg Rollie certainly didn’t want to) and they did it perfectly. Our band came from the stupid perspective that what we did was art, and the record company was just in the way (even though they gave us a large sum of money). We sold 48k units.

    REO is from my neck of the woods. They were a bar band that got big, and the singer was the primary reason. He was very identifiable on the radio. They totally sucked hard, serving up one cheap rock cliche after another until the smoke bombs at the end of the show sent all the musicians in the crowd home to take a shower to get rid of the smell. Their showstopper was never a hit, “Ridin’ the Storm Out.”

    REO had no idea how to duplicate their success with In Hi Fidelity (I think that’s right). The next album bombed pretty badly, and they went right on downhill from there. They made money, but they didn’t build an A-list career.

    There’s really no comparison between REO and Journey. They were a C- level band with a couple of big hits, and an A+ level band with a career.

  24. Wow… we have similar opinions on some things after all… The only thing I disagree with is the thing about Deen Catronovo’s drums. The problem wasn’t his drums, it was in the mix/production.

    The proof? Listen to the version of “Faith in the Heartland” from the “Generations” album… er… CD (is my age showing?) to the version of “Faith in the Heartland” from the “Revelation” CD.

    I think they either recorded Revelation using analog equipment or they mixed it to sound like a reasonable facsimile of an analog recording.

    Also… have you watched the DVD? Deen is quite the vocalist.

    -Obama ’08

    P.S.
    I shop at Nordstrums.

  25. Bullshit:

    As it happens, I have Generations, so I’ll go and take another listen to Deen’s drums. His problem, as with the problem of the various lead singers, is that he’s got such a distinctive sound to live up to.

    And yes, on the DVD I was quite impressed with his delivery of “Mother, Father.” Which is in itself one of my favorite Journey “deep cuts.”

  26. Hello,…that nice album.the picture are very great
    what kind music are?New age,metal,transe,meditative,
    rock,i dont no/some on realy creat,very nice! Im
    Portuguese,and my preferençe musick it´s new age like
    some album´s than i know and meditative reiki!!!
    One of this days,iff i found,i bye this album,nice to found
    travell musichan arrond the planet,i found that one : )
    22/11/2008.17h00m =) Zabarbone

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