Review Summary: This album continues Journey's "departure" into the mainstream.
By now, Journey have been making albums for 5 years. Steve Perry came in as of late and started moving the band toward a more commercial direction. Some were fine with the change, and yet some weren't (including Ansley Dunbar who left after Journey's fourth album, Infinity, and Gregg Rolie who would leave after this one to pursue his solo music). Neal Schon and Ross Valory must really love the smell of commercial success, because this is possibly the weakest album in Journey's discography next to Escape, due to uninteresting/boring vocals from Steve Perry and bland soloing and guitar-noodling from Neal Schon (who really should be treating the music in a better fashion due to his reputation from Santana).
The album starts with an energetic number called "Any Way You Want it," a vocal-driven track that shows that Journey has completely left their prog days behind. In fact, the only songs that have mild traces of prog on this album are: the standout "People and Places," a moderately good ballad that showcases some solid songwriting and emotional vocals, and Someday Soon, the last song by Journey to have Gregg Rolie leading with his vocals. Another standout is the song "Precious Time," featuring the harmonica, courtesy of Gregg Rolie. However, Steve Perry's writing is quite lackluster with this one.
You can say that about many of these songs, though. While the instrumentation is nice, what the members do with it is far from great. To say the least, you can tell Gregg Rolie doesn't have much to contribute to the record, and neither does Ross Valory. It's pretty much all Schon and Perry in this album. This would be a good thing if Steve Perry's lyrics were better. All imagination is replaced with accessibility, and the sappy lyrics make someone musically-inclined wince at times. A perfect example is the bluesy "Walks Like a Lady." With Steve Perry repeating the lines, "Walks Like a Lady, she cries like a little girl," lyrical variety is basically lost and old subjects are repeated/recycled, leaving the attention to be taken away from the album.
To sum things up, this album is a nice gesture to no-brainer, accessible AOR music, but for the people who want to actually think about and analyze what they are listening to, this won't do much for you. With the likes of Escape coming up next, this album continues Journey's "departure" into the mainstream.
Journey is (or was):
Steve Perry: Vocals
Gregg Rolie: Keyboards, Harmonica
Neal Schon: Lead/Rhythm Guitar
Ross Valory: Bass
Steve Smith: Drums