Review Summary: A very good and promising debut and, ironically, is absolutely NOTHING like the Perry-era Journey.
Anyone who knows and likes Journey must know that this is not the usual Journey. The way Gregg Rolie started the band was not what people had in mind. Yet this is SO much better than Steve Perry's work with the band. Here, the band showcases more skill and seems to craft better songs. Plus, this is where Neal Schon really gets to show his musical virtuosity and fusion background. Here's the line-up:
Gregg Rolie: Keyboards/Vocals
Neal Schon: Lead Guitar
George Tickner: Rhythm Guitar
Ross Valory: Bass
Prairie Prince: Drums (Ansley Dunbar is still better)
Since this band's next two albums seem to gain some steam, this one is often overlooked. However, this is probably the best album they've created. Plus, in fact, this album has a lot of the blueprints for their next recordings. This one balances the fine line between fusion and pop/rock.
The first song is Once in a Lifetime, and you just know this is nothing like Journey's peak albums. It's very interesting because you'd expect their first song of their first album would kick off things in an energetic, fast sort of way. It doesn't. It is actually a dark, jazzy, sprawling, and slow 7-minute track that serves as a sort of preparation for everything on the dark road ahead. It is definitely a great start. In the Morning Day starts out sounding like a progressive Elton John song, with a catchy, poppy paino chorus and all. However, it then turns into a fast improv piece for the second half of the song. It has a lot of memorable moments overall.
Then there's Kohoutek. Wow. Such a great instrumental track. This is another 7-minute track, but so much better than Once in a Lifetime. It starts out with a light piano part, and it's just a bit unnerving. However, it builds up and gets pretty intense, especially for a Journey song. This song is considerably jazzier than most of the songs on here, only beaten by Topaz. After the slower sections, it then picks up the pace, and Neal Schon's distorted guitar work takes the cake here. Afterwards, there's a massive and undeniably amazing improv solo between Schon and Rolie as they're switching off between each other. Meanwhile, Prince keeps a good, steady pace in the back, and so do the rest of rhythm section. Then the song fades away and goes back to the light piano part to close the song.
Then all of the intensity finally lets up with the next track, To Play Some Music. This song could have been a pretty good fit with one of Steve Perry's Journey albums, particularly Infinity. This one is just a calmer, more laid back song about happy thoughts and playing music. It's also a solid track. Topaz goes right back into the intensity again, yet, like Kohoutek, doesn't go head-on. It still stays calm to begin with. However, when it starts getting faster, it's a crazy yet amazing jazz piece. A lot of the track feels like one big improv solo. Also, as I mentioned, it is definitely the jazziest song here. This could've been on a Brand X album if they wanted it to, although Prairie Prince isn't nearly as good as Phil Colins when it comes to drumming.
My Lonely Feeling sadly didn't measure up to my expectations. While it's an ok song, it actually lacks some feeling, despite the title. The improv part doesn't help too much, either. It's already been heard quite enough on this album, apparently with Kohoutek and Topaz. Luckily, Mystery Mountain helps redeem a bit of this with a solid ending to the album. It seems to add all of the elements of the previous songs and melds them, while also having it's own sense of energy. It's a great way to end the album with flavor and feeling.
While this isn't the most essential recording to come by, it's rare to have a band begin this well. While most arena rock bands didn't make very good debut albums, this band remains an exception. This is recommended for either fans of fusion, or people interested in knowing what Journey originally were until Steve Perry screwed them over. Very nice debut for a now well known band. So then, this one deserves a solid 4/5 or 8/10.