Columbia, 1975

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Say the name “Journey,” and people will immediately think of “Don't Stop Believin',” “Faithfully” and the Escape album. Some might even remember the video game (which was kind of fun, albeit frustrating as hell at times), and some might even remember the absolutely crappy version that was released for the Atari 2600 all those years ago.

But, if you name songs like “Kohoutek” to self-professed Journey fans, more than likely they'll say “Gesundheit” instead of acknowledging it as a track from Journey's self-titled debut from 1975. In truth, a lot of people aren't aware of the first few albums (read: pre-Steve Perry) in Journey's history... and, in the case of this one, they ain't missing a whole lot.

Admittedly, this was an album where the band was still discovering themselves and their musical direction (which would, after this one, not include guitarist George Tickner), and while some have declared this disc to be more “progressive rock,” I don't quite see it that way. Yes, three of the songs clock in at over six minutes (though none pass the seven-minute mark), but at no time does it sound like the solos are being included just to highlight one's musical ability to the point of becoming overblown. But it my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 is unfocused, featuring performances and songwriting that, to use a phrase of another institution that issued its birth cries around this time, was simply not ready for prime time.

Gregg Rolie – coming off a stint with Santana – is not the strongest lead vocalist one could want, but he seems to hold his own on the five songs featuring vocals, while guitarist Neil Schon is able to come up with some tasty, if maybe a little bit restrained at times, licks to brighten things up. The lead-off track, “Of A Lifetime,” dares to suggest great things to come for the band – a song that, admittedly, takes more than one listen to really appreciate, but a good first step for the band.

Unfortunately, that first step leads right into a musical chasm that Journey fights to climb out of for the remainder of the disc. “In The Morning Day” is insipid, with uninspired playing and forgettable lyrics, while “Kohoutek” – one of two instrumentals on the disc – simply flames out and never develops into anything remotely interesting or resembling something musical. (The other instrumental, “Topaz,” is marginally better, but still dull to listen to.) By the time the listener gets to the track “To Play Some Music,” one wonders whether it was worth taking Journey down off the shelves to listen to.

There is, however, improvement at the tail end of the album. “In My Lonely Feeling” is a much better effort (though still a tad weak), while “Mystery Mountain” is a strong ending to the album. Still, it's a case of too little, too late.

It's not that Journey is a bad disc – indeed, it contains some very enjoyable songs, comprising close to half the album. It's just that it features a band that, for the most part, doesn't yet know what they want to be when they grow up... there's no real musical direction that one feels the band is completely settled on. And this might be the cardinal sin of the disc... had the band taken a little more time to discover where they wanted to go musically, this could have been a great disc. (Indeed, their sophomore effort, Look Into The Future, showed this improvement, as I noted in my review a long time ago.)

The old saying is that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and Journey was the first step for the band of the same name (sorry, it gets tiring typing “Journey” repeatedly in the same sentence). If only the first step hadn't been a faltering one.

Rating: C

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