Journey (1975)


 
1. Of a Lifetime 2. In the Morning Day 3. Kohoutek 4. To Play Some Music 5. Topaz 6. In My Lonely Feeling/Conversations 7. Mystery Mountain

 

Journey is a perfect example of one of those bands that, once they "made" it and became popular, ended up sounding nothing...and I mean nothing like they did when they originally started. You could even make the reasonable argument that the transition wasn't even a smooth one (musicwise), but that's getting way ahead of the story.

The pioneers of this band were guitarist Neal Schon (the only member to stay with this band for its entire duration) and keyboardist Greg Rolie. Ironically, these two were in the late sixties supergroup Santana when they met, so they were definitely no strangers to success, and they were in search of a new project. They met up with drumming sensation Ansley Dunbar and bassist Ross Valory, along with a rhythm guitar player in George Tickner, and they set out to form a heavy rock, jazz-fused band.

Let's say the music sounds more (although not a lot like) Santana than the superstar group that exploded in the 1980s. The music here is definitely an acquired taste and one shouldn't feel guilty if they flat out don't like anything here. This is music that was fashionable in the early to mid seventies (although it never sold a lot of records) and the audience (I'm sure) was mostly drugged out ex-hippies from the band's hometown of San Francisco.

This is mostly a musical band, with the singing and lyrics placed very low on the priority list. It's no surprise that two of the best songs, Kohoutek and Topaz are, in fact, instrumentals. It almost seems as though the band would have preferred this for the whole album, but realized that they needed someone to at least try to do a half-assed job singing. Those duties, in the pre Steve Perry era, usually fell to keyboardist Greg Rollie. He does o.k., but there's nothing about him that's distinguishable. That's o.k. since, as mentioned, no one was really listening to the singing anyway.

And musically, these guys were a very good, very tight band. All members handled their instruments quite well and gelled perfectly throughout. Almost half the songs are over six minutes in length to make room for all the interplay and jamming between members, and I'd bet my house that when you saw these guys live back in the day that it would take them a full twenty minutes to go through many of these numbers. They were musicians that simply loved to play.

The album is never really boring either. Although this music style quickly went out of vogue, there's quite a bit of variety here. They never quite sound like Santana, but you could easily feel the influences about the material. The lead off track (that's possibly the best thing here) sounds a lot, believe it or not, like mid seventies' Pink Floyd.

Of their three "early" albums, this one is definitely the best. They would grow to sound a bit repetitive, and when audiences aren't really lining up to buy your records in the first place, that can be dangerous. They were having fun doing what they were doing, and the record is a solid piece of craftsmanship. You just need an open mind, and don't even think about the hit making machine that you know as Journey that dominated the airwaves a decade later.

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