Review Summary: An okay album, but nothing more than your average AOR rock.
This is truly a sad point in time for musical quality, yet with more favor in accessibility. Most prog is being left for dead while arena rock is coming into play. Journey is actually no exception; while their first three albums encompassed jazz/fusion/prog, Steve Perry soon came into the band in the search for a new and better vocalist. Infinity was the result, and while it was a good album, it had almost nothing to compare with pre-Perry work in terms of quality. So here we are, at Journey's fifth release, and the second with Steve Perry.
As with Infinity, Steve Perry's voice now plays a crucial in the band. Gregg Rolie still sings on a few tracks, but ultimately it's Steve Perry's reign here. His songwriting is also a main point, swapping the grandiose, epic lyrics of the earlier days with more accessible love balladry. Steve Perry's vocal range is considerably higher than Gregg Rolie's, with the delicate "Sweet and Simple" being a fine example. As mentioned, Gregg Rolie still does vocals on certain points of the album, such as "Just the Same Way," which had proven to be one of the more hard-rocking songs on here, recalling back to the earlier days of the band.
A big change that occurred for this album was the departure of Ansley Dunbar as he was looking for a more progressive direction in his music. This called for former Montrose drummer Steve Smith to be the new drummer. While he's not as skilled as Ansley Dunbar, he still has a good jazz/fusion background in his career, making him a suitable replacement. The problem is that although he is a solid drummer, the fact that the genre is AOR makes him do little more than a solid drumbeat throughout a song.
As for the songs, this album is a bit of a mixed bag: "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin,'" one of the band's biggest hits, starts out at a good, bluesy pace. Steve Perry's verses have the nice emotion that he is known to possess. However, as the song keeps going, it gets slightly repetitive, especially around the ending when they keep repeating the same line over and over again. However, this is pretty typical of arena rock. A shining moment on this album is definitely "Daydream," having more interesting lyrics than the typical sappy love writing of Perry's. The song is also a bit more on the progressive side, specifically on the chorus, along with being the longest track on the album clocking in at 4:42.
Surprisingly, the hard-rockers aren't too bad on this album. "City of the Angels" for instance is a nice track that, of course, talks about L.A. It's harmonies are well-delivered and very Queen-like, thanks to Roy Thomas Baker's solid production work. "Just the Same Way" is another solid song with excellent vocals and keyboard work by Gregg Rolie and a good response-like effect from Perry. Overall, it's another good song.
However, where the band seems to falter is on the ballads. While Steve Perry always possesses great emotion in the songs, the lyrics can be quite enough to turn one off. They're not awful lyrics, but simply not engaging enough, and the album's score suffers considerably as a result. Take the aforementioned "Sweet and Simple" for instance. The vocals are nice and Steve Perry has a great range on the track, but hearing the same "Gotta keep it simple" constantly can get continuously boring after multiple listens. AOR songs are supposed to be relatively exciting, but, as was said, these types of lyrics aren't engaging or heartfelt enough for ballads.
This is basically another AOR rock album by a sellout band. It's just such a shame because Journey used to be so good with Gregg Rolie leading the band. Now, they aim simply for money more than talent. Overall, this is an okay album, but nothing more than your average AOR rock.