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Journey - 1983 Frontiers

ARTIST: Journey
ALBUM: Frontiers
SERIAL: QC 38504
YEAR: 1983
CD REISSUE: 1990, CBS, CK-38504


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

TRACK LISTING: 01 Separate Ways (Worlds Apart) * 02 Send Her My Love * 03 Chain Reaction * 04 After The Fall * 05 Faithfully * 06 Edge Of The Blade * 07 Troubled Child * 08 Back Talk * 09 Frontiers * 10 Rubicon


I've shied away from reviewing this in the past in the fear of being unable to do such an obvious classic justice. There comes a time when such doubts must be cast aside however and the impossible attempted! The addition of Jonathan Cain was certainly the turning point for Journey, his sublime keyboard touches and more commercial writing standpoint a key factor in catapulting 1981's 'Escape' into the multi platinum stratosphere. Summarising that album is pointless here, regarded by many as the definitive AOR effort, but for myself and many others, this was Journey's AOR peak, eclipsing even 'Escape' and matching the best of Michael Bolton. It was another massive hit, reaching the top five on both sides of the Atlantic, with three top twenty singles. Journey's ability to balance ballads and straight rockers was in full view here, erasing notions they were fluffy AOR punsters capable only of inciting lighter waving!

The Songs
'Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)' is known by all, a chart success still played to death on classic rock radio today. It sums up Journey's whole stance, dominating synth notes, wildly dramatic melody lines and Perry's lyrics about lost love. Other bands made material of equal quality, but that this was a top ten hit and pure AOR, its appeal is timeless. 'Send Her My Love' has always reminded me of Shooting Star's 'Burning', taking the same ballad route with similar musical ingredients and melody notes, although both are valid classics. 'Chain Reaction' is heavy enough to warrant metal status, with Schon's power to the forefront. When you consider Saxon in 1983 were attempting sub AOR with tracks like 'Nightmare' and still considered heavy metal, then why not Journey? Journey's combining of melody and heaviness was superior by acres. The shift to quieter mode is enforced again with 'After The Fall', the vocal harmonies taking effect. Given the smash hit that was 'Open Arms' Journey tried it again with 'Faithfully', a Cain ultra ballad that almost matched its predecessor, the tale of love on the road a touching listen two decades later. Believe me, light rock stations in the US will never let you forget it!

If the lyrics of 'Faithfully' were heartfelt then its the opposite for 'Edge Of The Blade'. Words reading 'contracts and lawyers....champagne downtown....I've always been fair with you..' indicating Perry's life to be in some turmoil as was the case. Supreme songwriting. In a musical sense the final two minutes give new meaning to melody as Schon goes on a blaze of glory, wielding a host of guitar fills and harmonies nearly untouched by anyone in AOR history. 'Troubled Child' is the only unessential cut, never developing into anything memorable, humdrum AOR perhaps too dour. 'Back Talk' takes the process of 'Chain Reaction' a step further, a scathing vocal delivery from Perry set to a backdrop of titanic riffs with no keyboards noticeable. When they move at speed its heavier than Maiden for 1983, on a Who like scale. I favour the progressive elements of the title track, where the keyboards overpower the guitars this time, so satisfyingly, Cain the master of building ever shifting tempos and soundscapes. 'Rubicon' isn't dissimilar, a positive life reaffirming anthem, with a pounding chorus that allows all to shine equally.

In Summary
There are an abundance of perfect AOR albums but few as well known as 'Frontiers'. It's AOR taken to heights few could match and even into the 21st century probably never will. Journey themselves will never even come this close again, their last three albums all paling in comparison, especially 'Arrival', which suggested Steve Augeri to be a competent Steve Perry imitator if nothing else. Even at this late stage I'd like to see Perry give it one last shot, considering how accomplished he was on 1996's 'Trial By Fire'. Regardless 'Frontiers' is one of the greatest albums ever made, not just in AOR by any genre. Those are words I've been waiting to write for years.

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#1 | sabace on June 22 2008 15:55:08
journeys lps are never less than excellent and this is no exception although not hitting the heights of say departure & escape
#2 | DEMONAOR on July 03 2008 16:23:59
Great Albumguns
#3 | dangerzone on September 11 2011 16:26:08
Listening to this just reinforces how much of a calamity 'Eclipse' is.
#4 | trillion1999 on October 17 2011 20:24:42
My favorite Perry-Journey-album so far.I have not heard Infinity or Trial By Fire yet.I remember every track from this one.Troubled Child for me is very memorable but then my bias once more must be because of the lyrics.rolleyes
#5 | melodiapositiva on May 01 2012 09:48:23
extraordinary lp except back talk, that one is a filler.
#6 | AOR Lee on May 06 2012 19:23:35
Agree, back talk is rubbish but the remainder is incredible
#7 | dangerzone on May 07 2012 05:25:25
Is 'Back Talk' too heavy for you guys?
#8 | jeffrey343 on December 01 2013 21:02:21
To me, this is definitely an album of highs and lows. "Separate Ways" has been simply one of my favorite songs since I heard it for the first time on a boombox in my high school band room in early 1983. "Back Talk" is one of the very few songs in my collection that I've rated only 1 of 5 stars (not that it is too heavy, but rather that it is totally void of melody). I consider the hits from this album to be great songs, but I'm not too enamored with most of the rest of them.
#9 | super80boy on February 16 2014 17:21:38
It's interesting how Side One has all four of the charting singles, and 'Chain Reaction' could have easily been another. The slower ballads seem to have stuck with me through the years. Thanks for a great review.
#10 | melodiapositiva on January 30 2018 18:06:57
Frontiers is a classic indeed ,but not a perfect album at all .Chain reaction is a mediocre song and back talk is awful .The rest of the songs are from great to very good.
But Even on Escape happens the same with 2 or 3 fillers on side b .Maybe Raised on radio is the more complete of their albums ,and that one is Pure aor . I always felt Journey were much better on the softer tracks .
#11 | gdazegod on January 30 2018 21:42:37
Yeah, not a fan of Back Talk either. Love everything else though.
#12 | dangerzone on January 30 2018 22:47:03
I made a comment about the disdain for 'Back Talk' six years ago and I still don't know why it's disliked. Describing 'Chain Reaction' as mediocre is a head scratcher too. I know it's simply an opinion, but come on ...
#13 | gdazegod on January 30 2018 23:09:47
I like Side Two because of it's heavier and darker sound/tone. Chain Reaction, Troubled Child, Edge Of The Blade, and Rubicon. Same with some of the stuff off Escape, like Lay It Down and the title-track. Supreme stuff.
#14 | Nick C on February 01 2018 00:57:03
I have to agree about Backtalk, I like the song, I like the kind of venom and angst within. I actually prefer it when Journey "rock out", to the ballads. To that extent I'd have to say Raised on Radio for all it's AOR smoothness is one of my least favourite albums by the band ... I do like the album, especially the title track and the uplifting / anthemic "Be Good to Yourself"...but it's certainly the one I play the least out of all their Steve Perry fronted albums.

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