Ford or Chevy. Coke or Pepsi. Beatles or the Stones. These are brands who enjoy strong – if not rabidly loyal – followings. For almost thirty years, we’ve even seen intense debates about intra-brand and intra-band changes. Remember when Coca-Cola tinkered with their formula to come up with New Coke which, after a consumer uprising, led to the re-establishment of Classic Coke? In music, we’ve witnessed strong debates about replacements for key members of popular bands. Rodgers for Freddie Mercury. Sammy Hagar for David Lee Roth. Dio or Osborne.
In February of 2008, another fierce debate was ignited with Journey fans when Arnel Pineda debuted as the bands replacement for Steve Perry. Arguments have been passionate for and against this move by the boys in the band. Many Boomerocity readers have shared their very strong opinions with me regarding Pineda as the Journey front man.
For the record, I am a huge Steve Perry fan and believe that there is no one who can ever take away from the band’s legacy that he was integral part of as it was being created. That said, I believe that Arnel is the best, most logical choice as a Perry replacement if there is never going to be a Perry/Journey reunion. And since there is no evidence that there will ever be a reunion, Journey fans either need to suck it up and continue to enjoy the band or just wear out their collection of pre-Pineda CD’s.
I will say this: Journey’s Eclipse just may very well start a long running debate about Journey similar to the New Coke debate. Eclipse is a dang good album. I love it. A lot. However, there is no doubt that the hit making Journey formula has definitely been tinkered with and time will tell if fans like “New Journey” or demand “Classic Journey”. Journey’s last album, Revelation, kept the formula intact and provided a sonic stage for Pineda to prove himself on. Eclipse will prove to be an evolutionary step in the changing sound of the band.
As keyboardist said in his interview with Boomerocity (here), “It’s definitely a departure from what we’ve done before. It’s more like a concept record. I think Arnel shines. He sounds great. It’s probably one of Neal’s best albums.” I would have to agree on all counts. The lyrics are as sophisticated in their structure as they are tantric in their content. Neal Schon’s guitar work is as prodigious as ever – solidifying his postion as one of rock’s best guitar slingers.
Ten of the twelve cuts on the disc are masterfully written by Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain. My personal favorites out of those ten are:
Edge of the Moment is fresh, different and unique with strong hints of the “Classic Journey” for kicks. I’m sure that if the band is including this rocker in their tour set list, it will have the crowd immediately on their feet. Pineda’s vocals are bang-on and Schon’s guitar is sizzling hot.
Tantra features Jonathan Cain’s superb piano intro as it lays a solid foundation for this most philosophical tune on the CD as Pineda dang near channeled Steve Perry – especially on the soaring high notes. You can almost sense a “Send Her My Love” under current in this song.
Human Feel laments the lack of true interaction between people as we’re “caught in a sea of e-frustration, overloaded with way too much information”. The message concludes by telling us, “What I’m needing right now is human feel, can’t substitute love and passion with too much choice there’s no satisfaction . . .” – I stopped myself from e-mailing my friends to tell them about and opted to call instead, such is the power of the message of this song.
To Whom It May Concern is a prayer to what I would categorize as being the Athenian “unknown god” for peace, harmony and paradise “in my lifetime”. You can envision audiences swaying in unison with their Bic’s flicked and Arnel belts out the prayer and Neal lights up his guitar strings in a sizzling crescendo.
Venus closes out Eclipse with some of the most frenetic yet precise guitar work you will ever hear. The rapturous performance will leave the listener happily exhausted while pressing the repeat button to hear it yet again.
Eclipse is a great album. You’ll want to own it because you will definitely enjoy the heck out of it. And you die-hard Perry fans may want to set aside your die-hard bias against Arnel Pineda because this guy is here to stay and is blazing his own musical trail with Journey while recognizing and honoring the legacy of Steve Perry. Besides, it’s a dang good album. You’ll love it!