Journey – Eclipse (2011, Nomota LLC)
1. “City of Hope” … 6:02
2. “Edge of the Moment” … 5:27
3. “Chain of Love” … 6:10
4. “Tantra” … 6:27
5. “Anything Is Possible” … 5:21
6. “Resonate” … 5:11
7. “She’s A Mystery” … 6:41
8. “Human Feel” … 6:44
9. “Ritual” … 4:57
10. “To Whom It May Concern” … 5:15
11. “Someone” … 4:35
12. “Venus” … 3:34
Arnel Pineda – Lead Vocals
Neal Schon – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Ross Valory – Bass, Backing Vocals
Deen Castronovo – Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals
Jonathan Cain –Keyboards, Guitar, Backing Vocals
Producer: Kevin Shirley with Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain
(And now for a really long review…)
After the incredible success of Revelation as a Wal-Mart exclusive in the United States, it was a no-brainer for Journey to ink a new deal with the world’s largest retailer for Eclipse (in other markets the album was released on the Frontiers Records label), their 15th studio album. Despite not having two extra discs to help boost sales like Revelation did, Eclipse still debuted at a very respectable #13 on the Billboard charts with 21,000 copies sold.
With that said, THIS is a Journey I could really grow to love! Obviously the band has delivered many classic radio staples over the years and the “hits” I have never had a problem with but for the longest time I could not fall in love with any of the band’s albums no matter who the singer was (and let’s be honest, no matter your preference, the vocalists have always delivered even when songwriting maybe did not). Sure, Journey’s albums have been “good” or even “very good” to my ears but there’s always been a certain wimp factor to AOR/melodic rock. A band like Journey has always been especially disappointing to me because Neal Schon has always seemed so content to rein in his guitar playing so that Jonathon Cain can deliver another keyboard-drenched ballad. Schon could’ve been a true guitar hero.
Well, I don’t know how it happened. I guess after the success of Revelation, the band finally decided to take somewhat of a chance because I’m happy to say the guitars are all over this album and Schon is standing center stage on this release. The keyboards have taken a backseat (as much of a backseat that they’re ever going to take in this band). Neal is dropping solos and inspired riffs all throughout the album but don’t get it twisted — this is not a “guitar” album as I have read other reviews state. Yes, Journey is rocking harder than they have in YEARS but it’s still Journey and you’re still gonna get some sticky sweet ‘n’ pleasant AOR sap in your ears after listening to this one.
It’s really the first half of the album that is most impressive. “City of Hope” is a good selection to open the album. It is a larger than life uplifting melodic rock song. “Edge of the Moment” is all Schon and is one of the album’s best songs. “Chain of Love” starts off with the keyboards but then kicks into a nice heavy guitar riff that reminds me of Led Zeppelin. “Tantra” is the album’s only true ballad and quite frankly, it’s a powerful and majestic one at that, almost sounds like something I’d expect to hear from Trans-Siberian Orchestra. “Anything Is Possible” is next and it’s acceptable but nothing essential, just the standard positive AOR message.
Halfway through the album is Eclipse‘s crown jewel: “Resonate”. Just a fantastic piece of work, very catchy, the chorus will stay in your head for days and it’s on par with the band’s classic material. I had see a live performance of this song on YouTube month’s before the album’s release. I loved the song then and I still love it now. Next up is “She’s A Mystery” which is a bit laid back sounding for Journey I think and does’t really go anywhere until closer to the end where it turns into a hard rocking number with Schon going mad on guitar. Too bad the first five minutes or so of the song weren’t like this.
Oh well, we’re saved by “Human Feel” which has a really cool tribal drum beat to it and more good riffs. My second favorite song off the album. Just a really fun song, I could see this going over really well live. “Ritual” is a high energy number but yet still a bit bland. Along with “To Whom It May Concern” you can pretty much count it as filler. “Someone” is a step in the right direction, pure upbeat AOR but still good. The album closes on a high note with the instrumental “Venus”. Yet another showcase for Neal Schon.
After all this time of talking about Schon firing up the guitars for this album, I should also point out that on his second Journey album, Arnel is starting to come into his own. On Revelation, he seemed like he was trying to sound like Steve Perry. He wasn’t doing a bad job of it but it’s nice to hear him now using his “real” singing voice in the band.
This is a must buy for AOR fans and anyone with even the slightest interest in melodic rock should definitely give this album a listen. The old masters are back and sounding as vital as ever and re-energized. Hopefully Journey will continue down this more hard rockin’ road… or at the very least I hope Neal gets inspired to give us a blistering solo album some day.
I was expecting a few good tracks and for this album to be a decent casual listen but it’s shaping up to be one of 2011’s best releases.
Highlights: “City of Hope”, “Edge of the Moment”, “Chain of Love”, “Tantra”, “Resonate”, “Human Feel”, “Venus”
Marvelous 3 – Hey! Album (1998, Elektra Records)
1. “You’re So Yesterday” .. 3:56
2. “Freak of the Week” … 3:20
3. “Until You See” … 4:20
4. “Write It On Your Hand” … 3:23
5. “Let Me Go” … 3:21
6. Every Monday” … 3:06
7. “Indie Queen” … 4:52
8. “#27” … 2:51
9. “Mrs. Jackson” … 3:33
10. “Over Your Head” … 3:40
11. “Vampires In Love” … 4:01
12. “Lemonade” … 6:42
Butch Walker – Vocals, Guitar
Jayce Fincher – Bass
Doug Mitchell (aka – Mitch “Slug” McLee) – Drums
Producer: Butch Walker & Jim Ebert
The second album (first major label release) from the short-lived but fantastic power pop/rock group Marvelous 3. It was the only album to produce a hit single (“Freak of the Week”). I knew nothing about this band or album or “Freak of the Week” until I picked up ReadySexGo two years later but when I backtracked and bought this album, I ended up loving it almost as much as I love ReadySexGo.
Released in October of ’98, the album was actually self-released in early ’98 but then Elektra signed the band and the album was remixed and a few songs were dropped/added. “Cold As Hell” was on the original version of the album and later found its way onto ReadySexGo.
I don’t really know what to tell you if you can’t get into this album. Marvelous 3 is one of the catchiest bands of all time. Every song is a sing-along, whether it’s bombastic anthems like “Freak of the Week” and “You’re So Yesterday” or melancholy moments like “Until You See” and “Let Me Go”. Butch is a great vocalist and great lyricist. I’ve always loved the sense of humor, wordplay, self-deprecation and teenage emotions that come through in his lyrics. Sample from “Vampires In Love”: And now you know that I suck at this/and you suck at it too/And now we’re nothing more than/vampires in love
How this band never went on to sell millions of albums I’ll never know. Butch went on to become a successful songwriter/producer but he’s gone on a totally different path as a solo act, which is a shame. Anyone that’s a fan of power pop should love this album.
Highlights: “You’re So Yesterday”, “Freak Of The Week”, “Until You See”, “Write It On Your Hand”, “Let Me Go”, “Every Monday”, “Indie Queen”
40Ft. Ringo – Funny Thing (2003, Atenzia Records)
1. “Anyway”… 2:41
2. “Wired” … 3:31
3. “Inside Your Head” … 2:38
4. “Big Fat Smile” … 3:25
5. “Origami Mommy” … 4:26
6. “Book Of Virtues” … 3:52
7. “Be My Fix” …
8. “A Freak Like You” … 3:01
9. “Unbroken” … 3:14
10. “Miss You Blue” … 4:00
11. “Anti-Zero” … 3:15
12. “Fanatic” … 3:25
13. “Tough” … 3:07
Steve Brown – Vocals, Guitar
Maz – Guitar
P.J. Farley – Bass
Brian Gabriel – Drums
Producer: Steve Brown & P.J. Farley
Early last decade, I had a great affinity for modern power pop/hard rock music. I loved the music that was being put out by Marvelous 3, Tsar, American Hi-Fi, Zebrahead and 40Ft. Ringo. I’ve been familiar with most of this album for nearly 8 years now (I think most of it “leaked” much earlier than the album’s release) but it was only recently I finally snatched up a used copy on Amazon.com for only a few bucks.
Much like Marvelous 3, 40Ft. Ringo has a hair metal connection — both Steve Brown and P.J. Farley are members of New Jersey hair rockers Trixter. I’m not too familiar with Trixter’s work, they came along as the scene was dying and never got glowing reviews so I haven’t bothered to sample much other than their singles.
As for this album, it’s an infectious rock & power pop album complete with a bit of the punk pop sound that was popular about the time this album was released (Blink-182, SR-71, Eve 6… Why all the numbers ?!?). There’s so many great radio-ready songs on this album. While this is an indie release that I’m sure had an extremely limited marketing budget, I’m also certain the fact that half the band was from a “hair band” didn’t help them at all. It’s sad but that’s just the way mainstream entertainment industry operates.
It’s great to finally have this album in my collection as I hadn’t heard these songs in years and still remembered most of them!
Highlights: “Anyway”, “Inside Your Head”, “Big Fat Smile”, “Origami Mommy”, “Book Of Virtues”, “Be My Fix”, “Anti-Zero”, “Tough”
Alexx Calise – In Avanti (2010, self-released)
1. “Anything Goes” … 3:37
2. “Break Me” … 3:37
3. “Cry” … 3:12
4. “Get Used To It” … 3:36
5. “Good Enough (The Dirty South Mix)” … 3:09
6. “My Song (Version 2.0)” … 3:09
7. “Out of Sight” … 3:34
8. “Saying Goodbye” … 3:37
9. “See You Again” … 4:30
Last year I reviewed Alexx Calise’s 2007 release Morning Pill. It was a good collection of radio-ready rock and pop and In Avanti is more of the same. Actually, I’m enjoying In Avanti a lot more Morning Pill, it’s just a stronger record that speaks volumes of Ms. Calise’s growth as a singer, musician and songwriter and is full of hooks and melodies that keep me coming back for more. I said in the past that Alexx was at her best when rocking out and luckily that’s what she does throughout most of this release. The album only slows down a bit for the ballads “Cry”, “Out of Sight” and “See You Again” but they are all well done, so it’s not a problem.
There’s really no reason this album shouldn’t gain Alexx even more attention. The album is made up of songs that are what I like to call “hard rock pop”. The songs are heavy enough to be considered rock songs and get on modern rock radio but they also have slick electronica dance beats that would make them sound right at home on the pop stations. It’s quite a balancing act that Alexx has mastered. My favorite tracks would have to be “Anything Goes” which was a great choice to open the album and go full throttle right from the start and “Out of Sight”, which reminds me of Evanescence.
Oh and if you’ve listened to Morning Pill and think “My Song (Version 2.0)” seems familiar, you’re right. It is an updated version of “My Song”. Often times when an artist revisits and updates past songs, it doesn’t work but his version is an improvement, it’s a powerful club rocker.
At nine songs, Alexx Calise does not wear out her welcome and leaves you wanting more. I wish more albums would be this lean! She is becoming quite the accomplished singer just as capable to sound pretty over dance & pop beats as she is to let her voice soar over crunching guitars. Anyone who doesn’t mind a modern sound and enjoys melodic hard rock should find this an enjoyable listen.
Highlights: “Anything Goes”, “Cry”, “Get Used To It”, “Good Enough (The Dirty South Mix)”, “My Song (Version 2.0)”, “Out of Sight”
Bon Jovi – Keep the Faith (1992, Mercury Records)
1. “I Believe” … 5:58
2. “Keep the Faith” … 5:46
3. “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead” … 4:43
4. “In These Arms” … 5:19
5. “Bed of Roses” … 6:34
6. “If I Was Your Mother” … 4:27
7. “Dry County” … 9:52
8. “Woman in Love” … 3:48
9. “Fear” … 3:06
10. “I Want You” … 5:46
11. “Blame it on the Love of Rock and Roll” … 4:24
12. “Little Bit of Soul” … 5:44
Jon Bon Jovi – Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals, Guitar, Percussion
Richie Sambora – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Alec John Such – Bass, Backing Vocals
Tico Torres – Drums, Percussion
David Bryan – Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Producer: Bob “Let’s Not” Rock
Four years after the band peaked with New Jersey, here comes the slide into mediocrity (which would be fully explored in the 2000s). This album is a mixed bag (the first half is good, most of the rest is filler), but it signaled a somber, more mature sound that would be taken even further with These Days from 1995. In general, Keep the Faith shows the band’s decision to rock a little less and age into an adult contemporary rock act.
Filler starts popping up with “If I Was Your Mother”, but the excellent & epic “Dry County” (Bon Jovi going the Springsteen/Mellencamp route) and “I Want You” (a power ballad that would sound right at home on Slippery When Wet or New Jersey) and worth skipping too. Outside of those two songs, the second half of this album features some of my least favorite Bon Jovi songs.
The odd thing is, the album overall shows the band getting softer and slower, but “If I Was Your Mother” and “Fear” are two of the heaviest songs the band has ever done. Perhaps they were trying to compensate for the rest of the album?
Highlights: “I Believe”, “Keep the Faith”, “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead”, “In These Arms”, “Bed of Roses”, “Dry County”, “I Want You”
Bon Jovi – Have a Nice Day (2005, Island Records)
1. “Have a Nice Day” … 3:49
2. “I Want to Be Loved” … 3:49
3. “Welcome to Wherever You Are” … 3:47
4. “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” … 4:40
5. “Last Man Standing” … 4:37
6. “Bells of Freedom” … 4:55
7. “Wildflower” … 4:13
8. “Last Cigarette” … 3:38
9. “I Am” … 3:53
10. “Complicated” … 3:37
11. “Novocaine” … 4:49
12. “Story of My Life” … 4:08
13. “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” [Duet Version] … 3:50
Jon Bon Jovi – Lead Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Backing Vocals
Richie Sambora – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Tico Torres – Drums, Percussion
David Bryan – Piano, Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Hugh McDonald – Bass, Backing Vocals
Jennifer Nettles – Lead Vocals (“Who Says You Can’t Go Home” [Duet Version])
Dan Huff – Bouzouki, Mandolin
Johathan Yudkin – Fiddle, Mandolin
Dan Dugmore – Steel Guitar
Produced by: Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, John Shanks, Dan Huff, Rick Parashar
I absolutely did NOT like this album when it was released and it quickly was thrown in with the rest of my collection and forgotten. There’s a few songs on here I like, but this album is Bon Jovi’s full-blown descent into mediocrity, soccer mom rock and the land of no hooks. The signs were starting to show on Bounce that the band was becoming content to just be bland, but it’s even more apparent here.
Unfortunately, the album spawned the big crossover hit “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” featuring country music group Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles. Whether you’re listening to the duet version or not, they’re both pretty country sounding and neither one is good. Sure, if this song was a blip on the Bon Jovi radar, that’s one thing, but I said it was an unfortunate hit because it “inspired” (meaning Jon & Richie saw dollar signs) the band to follow up this album with the Nashville-flavored Lost Highway.
“Last Man Standing” is probably the closest song resembling the band’s harder rocking heyday and a version of it was included on the band’s 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can’t Be Wrong box set. The song was originally meant to be included as one of two new songs on the band’s This Left Feels Right acoustic album where they covered some of their own greatest hits.
Even long time collaborator Desmond Child could help this album much. He co-wrote “Bells of Freedom” with Jon & Richie (and was executive producer of the album) but the magic just wasn’t there this time.
Highlights: “Have a Nice Day”, “I Want to Be Loved”, “Last Man Standing”, “Complicated”