NEAL SCHON – Journey Through Time (Album Review)

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So color me skeptical. That’s what I thought when I first heard about the Neal Schon album. I mean, face it: a gathering of current and former Journey-men, playing a big set of that band’s songs, from each and every era. And it is in a 3 CD/DVD digi-pack package.

To me, it screamed “money grab.” I was wrong. “Journey Through Time” is great, no question about it. The performances are outstanding. The music selections are wonderful and provide several surprises. I’ve listened to this over and over, and it sounds better with each hearing. Schon has certainly put out something that people SHOULD want to buy. It’s that good.

The first four cuts are from early Journey, the pre-Perry period. “Kohoutek” is a great example of the early sound.  There are flashes that remind one of Santana (more on that later), but the spacey prog-jazz flourishes are signature, early Journey. This was a very interesting band, one popular with the college crowd of the time (including me). Schon and Rolie get a chance to shine on this one, and they do so with flair. But the truth of the matter is this: only a few fans got this at the time it came out. As a result, their record company (which shall not be named) almost dropped them. But it gave them one more chance, demanding that Journey go more commercial and hire a second lead singer (which led to the membership of Steve Perry). 

Kohoutek” blends into “Daydream,” one of the first songs featuring the aforementioned Mr. Perry.  It’s a bridge from the past into the next phase of Journey, the one that leads them to becoming the top arena rock ensemble of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Of course, Perry is not on this album. But Deen Castronovo — not just a superb drummer — takes over the lead vocals. The resemblance is uncanny, including the signature “whoa whoas” that Perry threw into so many songs. This version of “Daydream,” also has a wonderful bass solo from Marco Mendoza

One of the shockers of this album — or any that might try it — is that Schon and company wait until the 8th cut to enter the realm of greatest hits. “Feelin’ That Way” allows Rolie a chance to power-ballad a bit, and then that segues into “Anytime” (with Castronovo assuming lead vocals). On the studio album, this was the song pairing that really started Journey on the road to the big-time. And this is where the Schon group could fall short — say, playing a little slower or in a different key to accommodate aging vocalists, or just failing to energize the proceedings. None of that is noticeable here. The songs are vibrant and alive, powerful, and melodic — just as they were 45 years ago on the album “Infinity”. You’ll want sing along; I did (and do).

“Journey Through Time” Artwork

And that’s true of all the hits performed on “Journey Through Time”, including “Lights”, “Separate Ways”, “Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin’”, et al — and wrapping up with the biggest of the big, “Don’t Stop Believin’”

But here’s another surprise.  Sprinkled throughout the rest of the music: deep cuts from the past (“Mother Father”), returns to those first three prog-jazz albums (songs like “Nickel and Dime”, “Hustler”, etc.), and nods to the latter-day band, the one that stopped having hits but continued to record and perform (“Trial By Fire”). If you’re a dedicated fan and have all the albums, you’ll probably recognize all of these. If not, the breadth of your Journey knowledge and appreciation is about to increase by several hundred percent.

What links all these songs, all these eras, is the great musicianship and songwriting skills. Those things never really flagged, through feast and famine. Journey was a band that had chops and showed them. And that point is reinforced in “Journey Through Time.”

But if this album is full of surprises, the last two cuts take it up a notch or three. Schon and Gregg Rolie go back to a time before Journey, to their roots in the early Santana. The great “Black Magic Woman” retains its initial slinkiness before firing into the fast and heavy instrumental section. No, Schon wasn’t on the original recording (or at Woodstock), but he shows flashes of Carlos Santana himself in laying down a blazing guitar. And Rolie’s voice and keyboards are still smooth and spectacular in painting the tale. That then gives way to “Oye Como Va”, a toe-tapping concert fave that allows for audience sing-along (even if they’re not sure what the words mean). 

I found myself a bit breathless after all the proceedings, and I can only imagine that the live audiences on this tour were in the same condition when all was said and done.

“Journey Through Time” is called a Neal Schon album, and that’s all well and good. He still plays a superb guitar, more than 50 years on. But this is an outstanding journey through Journey’s impressive catalog. If you have doubts, like I did, prepare to make a 180-degree turn. This is a fantastic release. And I won’t stop believin’ it.

Released By: Frontier Records
Release Date: May 19th, 2023
Genre:  AOR Rock / Prog-Rock

  Band Members:

  • Neal Schon / Guitar
  • Greg Rolie / Keyboards, Vocals
  • Marco Mendoza / Bass
  • Deen Castronovo / Drums, Vocals
  • John Varn / Keyboards, Vocals

“Journey Through Time” track listing:

1. I’m Gonna Leave You
2. Look Into The Future
3. Kohoutek
4. Daydream
5. La Do La
6. Line Of Fire
7. Walk’s Like A Lady
8. Feelin’ That Way
9. Anytime
10. Lights
11. Still They Ride
12. Separate Ways
13. Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’
14. Wheel In The Sky
15. Patiently (Medley)
16. Trial By Fire (Medley)
17. Stay Awhile (Medley)
18. Mystery Mountain
19. Of A Lifetime
20. Just The Same Way
21. Lovin’ You Is Easy
22. Lady Luck
23. You’re On Your Own
24. Hustler
25. Nickle And Dime
26. People
27. Mother Father
28. Any Way You Want It
29. Don’t Stop Believin’
30. Black Magic Woman
31. Oye Como Va

Pre-order “Journey Through Time” HERE.

9.0 Excellent

Neal Schon and former members of Journey take a journey through time, covering the band’s catalog with verve and enthusiasm — and variety — that put a lot of younger bands to shame. This one will surprise a lot of people who have placed Journey over the hill

  • Songwriting 9
  • Musicianship 9.5
  • Originality 8.5
  • Production 9
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