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Journey - 1996 Trial By Fire

ARTIST: Journey
ALBUM: Trial By Fire
LABEL: Columbia
SERIAL: COL 485264 2
YEAR: 1996
CD REISSUE: 2006, Sony (Japan), MHCP-1174


LINEUP: Steve Perry - vocals * Neal Schon - guitars * Jonathan Cain - keyboards, guitars * Ross Valory - bass * Steve Smith - drum

TRACK LISTING: 01 Message Of Love * 02 One More * 03 When You Love A Woman * 04 If He Should Break Your Heart * 05 Forever In Blue * 06 Castles Burning * 07 Don't Be Down On Me Baby * 08 Still She Cries * 09 Colors Of The Spirit * 10 When I Think Of You * 11 Easy To Fall * 12 Can't Tame The Lion * 13 It's Just The Rain * 14 Trial By Fire


I recall vividly the hyperbole surrounding the release of Journey's first and only studio album release for the 90's decade. It was seen as a repairing of relationships, a release of musical energy that only this group of kindred souls could deliver. Despite the early prog years, one could say (in fact most AORsters will say), that this is the definitive Journey line-up. Ten years had passed since the band's previous studio effort 'Raised On Radio', but even then, the sourness left behind after that album was not enough to turn away the rhythm section of Ross Valory and Steve Smith, both discarded back in 1985 due to that age old adage 'musical differences' - but who return here leaving behind any hint of acrimony. If any of you have since seen the VH1 special on Journey from a few years ago, it was apparent that Steve Perry was leading the show and admittedly said that a few mistakes were made along the way during the production of 'Raised On Radio'. Not so with 'Trial By Fire'. A full cohesive band situation was returned once again for their adoring public. The only major change to the band was their Management, with Herbie Herbert being dropped in favour of Irving Azoff - something instigated by Perry still not comfortable with the managerial arrangements of the past. With Cain back from Bad English and a couple of solo albums, Schon back from Bad English, Hardline and an acoustic solo album, plus Perry flying on the back of his excellent 'For The Love Of Strange Medicine' album, all looked good for a fresh start.

The Songs
With high expectation, 'Trial By Fire' was released during November 1996. Typically, the album did very well in the Billboard charts - as was to be expected. The video for 'When You Love A Woman' did the rounds and put the band back into the public spotlight. Many critics and reviewers complained that there were too many ballads on the album. That maybe the case, but they are offset by some songs that cut up with a harder edge. None more so than the opener 'Message Of Love', which seems to carry on from Perry's '..Strange Medicine' material. Continuing into a darker realm is 'One More', a slice of rock with mystical and prophetic leanings, quite different to Journey's previous stuff. The following brace of songs are signature Journey. The aforementioned 'When You Love A Woman' - a piano based but emotive ballad where both Perry and Cain do their stuff. My favourite pairing are the AOR oriented 'If He Should Break Your Heart' and 'Forever In Blue' - both showcasing the long missed Ross Valory and his strong pulsing lines. The band get down and dirty on 'Castles Burning' - a Neal Schon blues-based blast. 'Don't Be Down On Me Baby' is a soaring ballad with a slight hint of blues and R&B, but the next track 'Still She Cries' is simply beautiful - with melodies that only Perry and Cain can conjure up. 'Colors Of The Spirit' despite the Toto like African rhythms, borders on progressive rock, whereas 'When I Think Of You' is another pearler of a ballad - perhaps going so far as to say - it's one of my favourites ever. It segues nicely into the singalong mid paced 'Easy To Fall' - the chorus so hummable and singable. 'Can't Tame The Lion' ensures the album doesn't wimper out completely, a guitar fuelled energy burst, but the last two tracks soften the listener; 'It's Just The Rain' a mid-paced affair while the title track 'Trial By Fire' is another of those emotion soaked efforts that defy belief. Schon's guitarwork brings back recent reminders of his wonderful 'Beyond The Thunder' solo album from the year previous.

In Summary
'Trial By Fire' was an album that was well overdue, and to some extent, satisfied the desire of Journey fans worldwide. By Christmas 1996 everyone was satiated - musically speaking. As history would show, the band would not go on to tour on the back of this album - despite everyone being ready, with the exception of Steve Perry. While preparing for the tour, Perry suffered a serious hip injury whilst in Hawaii, which curtailed any notion of touring. The rest of Journey were left in limbo, the album consequently suffering in the sales department due to the proposed tour being left in the can. A few years later, the rest of the band decided to continue on with Journey without Perry - and by decades end, had enlisted former Tall Stories and Tyketto vocalist Steve Augeri to take over the vocal role. Steve Smith had decided also to drop out, preferring to focus on his burgeoning jazz career and his own band Vital Information - his place being taken by Schon's bandmate in Bad English and Hardline - Deen Castronovo. A new chapter for the 21st century has since been written.. you can read about that elsewhere on G-DAZE.

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#1 | Eric on July 13 2008 13:03:55
A mixed bag, but 'If He Should Break Your Heart' is the best tune here. Perry's shenanigan's after the CD's release were so disappointing...
#2 | melodiapositiva on April 18 2016 19:32:59
still she cries is one of the most beautiful ballads ever! and the rest of the soft songs are better than the harder ones.
#3 | AOR Lee on April 19 2016 05:57:55
I'll never forget the electric charge that ran through me when I first heard about this album's impending release. At a Sony Music pre Christmas promo evening where they showcased upcoming key releases for radio and music retail people (this was at Di Mauro's restaurant in Port Elizabeth). This cover came up on the screen and Message Of Love blasted through the sound system, I must have punched the roof! . I played it in the much missed Abbey Road cd store several times and it never failed to sell, to people who knew Journey and to those who didn't, even some teenagers (remember this was grunge era). The review pretty much sums up the magic going on here, and it's true what they say ... nothing in the world takes you back to a time and place (and people you knew) like music. Stunning album
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