For historic purposes, it is interesting to see what they said about the first Journey-album, and here it is for you to digest. It has to be said that the Journey reviewed here in no way resembles the Journey that came later. Mr. “Headache”, AKA Neal Schon, made a fine career for himself with Journey and as a solo artist, but this shows you how music journalists can miss the target completely when judging someone. The brouhaha was there for a reason when it came to the talents of Mr. Schon.
Journey – “Journey”
By Andrew Simmons
How San Francisco`s newest golden boys fall into exactly the same traps after six months that Santana managed to avoid for six years viz: self-indulgence.
Comparisons with Santana are inevitable given the presence of Gregg Rolie on vocals (he played Keyboards on Santana`s early albums) and Neal Schon`s guitar. Schon and Rolie abetted by Aynsley Dunbar on drums have roped in on bass and rhythm respectively, two Bay area stalwarts Ross Valory and George Tickner.
The result is a bland, straightahead progressive rock sound that veers between heavy rock thrashing and more lightly textured, jazz-flavoured muzak. And for this Gregg Rolie must shoulder a large part of the blame.
Rolie has a hand in writing all but one of the eight tracks, he takes all the lead vocals and his keyboard playing is mixed to the fore throughout. It`s another case of a minor talent being given full rein and producing only lameness.
The album opener “Of a Lifetime” sums up all that`s worst in this band. Basically the idea is to take a simple riff (melody is too grand a word here) and play it to death for six minutes. Rolie has an inherently weak voice which is dolled up with double tracking and reverb and then not helped by being placed well back in the mix. Consequently his lyrics are rendered indiscernible and his intonation and expression ratings reduced to practically zero.
After the vocals are through, 20-year-old guitar hero Neal Schon comes howling in like a manic hyena spitting out insanely high guitar runs at top speed. Rolie then pulls out all the stops on various keyboards and eventually the band returns to the original riff, plods on for a couple more verses and fades away. “Kohoutek” – from the Comet – is another overlong instrumental excursion.
The second side is a little better. There`s “To Play Some Music”, a good stomper, and “Topaz”, which although written by George Tickner is the cut that comes closest to Santana.
It`s full of shimmering organ chords, floating guitar notes and splashing cymbals, and there`s a neat juxtaposition of light and flowing jazz progressions with some scorching heavy rock. Aynsley Dunbar copes deftly with the time changes and even Neal Schon restrains himself enough to allow a little delicacy into his playing.
Quite frankly I don`t understand all the brouhaha over Mr. Schon. Almost every solo of his is an exercise in horrendously high-pitched wailing. He`s very fast and certainly furious but the lack of melodic content and variation in his playing is a crippling restriction. Ultimately he gets to be a headache to listen to.
Very much on the plus side is Aynsley Dunbar. Although his drum sound is akin to soggy cardboard he is a powerful spur to the band. There`s an engaging will-he/won`t-he make it quality to his fills as he goes rolling and tumbling around his kit.
Bassist Ross Valory does a good job keeping up with him. George Tickner the rhythm guitarist is only intermittently audible, content as he is with playing back-up chords the whole time.
All in all, for a band which has credentials as impressive as the Golden Gate Bridge, this is a sadly flawed debut album.
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This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Can, Phil Spector, Elton John, Greenslade, Beach Boys, Elvin Jones, Bad Company, Alan Stivell, Uriah Heep, Jackie Wilson, Fairport Convention.
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