Love It or Hate It, Journey went down a whole new path with the release of ‘Frontiers’. After the incredible success of the album, ‘Escape’, the ballad became King for Journey. Some feel it was the start of the downfall, others think it is the pinnacle of their success. I think it is a little of both.
With the success of ‘Escape’, Journey was catapulted into the stratosphere of popularity. They were one of the biggest bands in the world. Steve Perry had the most recognizable voices on the radio and probably one of the absolute best voices on the radio at the time…if not ever. The man could sing. But for some reason I still hadn’t bought a Journey album. When I heard their second single of their latest album, ‘Frontiers’, I finally bought my first Journey album. The single was for “Faithfully”.
There is so much to love about this album and there is so much to pick on the band for about this album. Let’s start with the picking on piece first as it is the most fun. Oh, where to begin…
Let’s start with the album cover…I picture of a futuristic, robotic looking head or maybe a futuristic, human head. Not sure I get it, but I know it has to do with the name of the album, ‘Frontiers’ as I think the band was saying they were reaching into a new frontier. The amazing artwork from the previous albums was no more. The whole continuity between all the other album covers was gone…and is sadly missed.
There was a web page I found with an interview of Jim Welch by Scott Sullivan of the Journey www page. Jim Welch worked on the album designs for Journey. Here is what he said when he was asked about the design and concept of the Journey album covers.
Think of the Star Wars stories. There is a constant theme throughout. I always felt that Journey’s music was transcendent. It took you to a higher level, if you wanted it to. It was also connected to the elements. The band had a style and grace that weaves through every record. We used the Scarab, the Mobeus strip, circular forms, wings and nature. Frontiers was a subtle shift. Mouse and Kelley were not involved with that cover. My vision for Frontiers was based on “tunnels” and the relativity of time and motion. Light stays the same, but time bends. It was Einstein theories for artist interpretation. The alien in Frontiers wasn’t really an alien at all, he was a connection to a higher level of listening to Journey. We called him “Elmo”. For the Frontiers tour, Jonathan Cain wrote, and the band used “Elmo’s theme” to open the show.
But when you flip over the album cover, you get them sky diving in those silly sky diving outfits. Awful.
Oh, let’s not forget the horrible band member shots taken with these same outfits that is on the album sleeve…embarrassing in my book. Their creative director should be fired.
Really, really gawd awful!!
What next…the video game!! The band actually had a video game based on the album where you had to reunite the band with their instruments. Ohh…sounds like fun…no, not really. Check out this Youtube video of the game. I think I played it once out in the arcade.
Okay, that is enough negative for now. I will pick on a couple other things later. So let’s talk about what the band did get right. That is easy. It is the music. And the music is all that really matters anyway.
The album only reached #2 on the Billboard charts which is really surprising to me. They had four Top 40 singles off the album yet they were unable to hit #1. They had a 5th single, but it was only released in Japan in case you were wondering.
- “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)”
- “Send Her My Love”
- “Chain Reaction”
- “After the Fall”
The first song “Separate Ways (World’s Apart)” was also the first single. I figured they would start off with a ballad after the success of “Open Arms”, but they went with an upbeat rocker. The song was great and reached #8 on the Hot 100. The opening keyboard is instantly recognizable and the overall tempo made for a great opening track. The problem with the song wasn’t actually the song, but it was that horrendous music video. The concept was outright horrible. They band pretended to play imaginary instruments and looked so stupid doing it. Thanks goodness they didn’t repeat that with their other videos. It has to be one of the worst videos ever made.
The second track is one of my personal favorites, “Send Her My Love”. This was their fourth single and the first of many ballads on the album. The song only went as high as #23 on the charts as I am sure radio was starting to tire of the ballads at this point. I like mainly because Steve Perry sounds incredible as usual. After Journey left, one of the many singers they had was Jeff Scott Soto. He had done a cover of this song and was so amazing, I am sure it was what helped him get the job. Sadly, they never put out an album with Soto as singer. He only sang on the tour as they had to replace Steve Augeri.
“Chain Reaction” was the third track and another rocker. This is the first of many with Neal Schon assisting on the writing. For me, this was one of the better songs on the album and could have easily been a single. It did, however, do well on rock radio stations.
The third single and fourth track was “After the Fall”. The song did okay on the charts reaching #23 on the charts, but for me it really lacked any heart. It was too bland for my liking and I find myself skipping it when I listen to the album. So I will skip writing much about it.
The song that finally sold me on buying a Journey album was “Faithfully”. The sad ballad about life on the road and away from your loved ones had such a beautiful sentiment mixed with those amazing vocals what was not to love about this song. Jonathan Cain was the sole writer of this masterpiece. The song only hit #12 on the charts and I have no idea how this didn’t got to #1. The video for the song matched perfectly the songs theme. It was one of those videos where the video actually enhanced the song. It was a perfect match.
- “Edge of the Blade”
- “Troubled Child”
- “Back Talk”
The flip side of the album didn’t have any singles which doesn’t mean this side isn’t worth listening to it. At times, I like it better than the first. If you want great deep cuts off an album, this is the side to give a listen. “Edge of the Blade” kicks it off in style with another rocker. The guitar sound to start of is unique and then kicks in with some pounding drums. It is this type of song that I think Journey really excels. Neal Schon is so great at what he does and it shines on this one throughout. I also like that he has his hands in most of the songwriting on this side. He was lacking on the front.
Another personal favorite of mine is “Troubled Child”. Jonathan Cain’s starts off beautifully with another great keyboard opening. The song is another ballad but more on the power ballad side. The chorus is a little heavier and Steve Perry hangs on to a note that seems to last forever. It is stunning.
“Back Talk” brings a tribal drum beat to the opening and Steve gives a more edgy vocal performance. The follow suit with rocker, ballad, and another rocker formula again here. There is also more great guitar work by Schon. The funny thing is I never liked this song when I listened to it back in the 80’s as it was too different. Now, that is exactly why I like it. It is funny how tastes change over time.
An interesting note about “Troubled Child” and “Back Talk”, they were last minute replacements on the album. The two songs that were scrapped, but later released were “Only the Young” off the Vision Quest Soundtrack and “Ask the Lonely” off the Two of A Kind Soundtrack. They were later added to the album for the 2006 Remastering of the album. Some would say those two songs were better than what they used, but that is purely a matter of opinion.
The title track, “Frontiers” is not one of my favorites. I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it either. It does have a catchy chorus and Steve kills it on that part, but the rest leaves me wanting more. It seems a little disconnected at times. I do like how the song ends with Steve’s vocals.
The final song is another one I think is great, “Rubicon”. Neal Schon kicks it off with a nice guitar riff. It is a simple song, not much to it, but Steve Perry proves one more time why he was the king. When you are done with this side, you realize that Journey is definitely more than their singles. It was because of this side that I would venture back and explore all of their earlier releases to see what hidden gems I could fine…and there are many.
If you want the lyrics, the album sleeve kindling gives you those even though I found them a little hard to read due to the yellow color of the font and the almost pinkish background. See what you think (I know you can’t read it as it is too small in the picture, but you hopefully see what I mean).
And there we have another “My First Time” experience. I don’t think there are too many shortcomings with the album and it is one I still listen to even after 31 years of having it. And I am sure I will continue to enjoy it for years to come. I hope you enjoyed my ramblings.