Friday, August 26, 2016

Journey 7: Frontiers

Now that they were huge, Journey was able to keep the lineup intact for two albums in a row, but where could they go after their Escape? Frontiers isn’t the obvious answer, nor is the skydiving photo session, but that’s what they did, balancing their now-patented power ballads with their loudest guitars (and huskiest voices) yet.
The first synthesizer notes will immediately bring to mind the unintentional comedy of the “Separate Ways” video, that wonderful showcase of method acting, tight close-ups, and way-too-earnest air guitaring, keyboarding and drumming, all seemingly taking place behind a Home Depot, as if the woman in question had nowhere else to walk. “Send Her My Love” is one of the secrets here, even though it was a single, and another one of those songs that immediately reduces a sensitive teenage boy to absolute mush. Following that, “Chain Reaction” is loud and annoying, a slap in the face. “After The Fall” is a little better, at least easier to sway to, but not as big a hit as “Faithfully”, which is probably being played at a wedding somewhere right now. (And the impetus for yet another unintentionally hilarious video, including lots of setup shots of bone-tired musicians Out On The Road, and chronicling Steve Perry’s battle versus his mustache. We can thank this video for Jon Bob Jovi’s “Wanted Dead Or Alive”.) We should also mention that Jonathan Cain, who wrote the song for his then-wife, hasn’t been married to her since the Reagan administration. Not to worry, she went on to invest in implants that kept her in Skinemax movies for the duration of the century.
Side one sports four of the album’s singles, so side two often gets short shrift. Speaking of secrets, “Edge Of The Blade” doesn’t seem to get any love anywhere, besides having a terrific riff and a great overall performance. “Troubled Child” provides some welcome dynamics, if not the same drama of “Mother, Father”, but “Back Talk” is just a pile of noise, based around one of Steve Smith’s less inspired drum parts. The title track is a little more complicated, but overstays its welcome with the poor decision of delayed, repeating vocals. Thankfully, “Rubicon” is a good showcase for everybody, and a strong closer.
While it’s hardly a controversy on the level of the rejigged Blood On The Tracks or Infidels albums, Frontiers is notable today for the songs that were left off. “Only The Young” and “Ask The Lonely” were originally in the track sequence but pulled (replaced by “Back Talk” and “Troubled Child”). Both would surface down the road as soundtrack contributions, and become worthy inclusions on key Journey compilations as fan favorites. Both are on the CD you can buy today, along with a couple of other songs of the period, but the question remains: where would those tracks have fit on the original LP? Both have such a big sound that having them stuck back to back in the middle of side two, where the replacements resided, makes no sense. We haven’t settled on a sequence we like, simply because we much prefer “Troubled Child” to “Chain Reaction”, which isn’t part of the equation. But if you want to reprogram the modern CD for a better overall album, skip right from “Send Her My Love” to “After The Fall”, which would have “Edge Of The Blade” ending side one. Start side two with “Only The Young”, and follow “Troubled Child” with “Ask The Lonely”. (In other words: 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 11, 7, 12, 9, 10. You’re welcome.)

Journey Frontiers (1983)—
2006 CD reissue: same as 1983, plus 4 extra tracks

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