Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment
World-renowned rock band Journey released its brand new live recording this week. The recording, Escape & Frontiers Live in Japan, was released Friday through Eagle Rock Entertainment. While not the group’s first live recording ever – the group’s most recent live recording, Live in Houston 1981: The Escape Tour, was released in 2005 through Columbia Records – it is still a piece that audiences and the band’s more devoted fans alike will appreciate. That is due in no small part to the recording’s set list, which will be discussed shortly. The band’s performance of said set list is just as important to discuss as the set list itself, and will be addressed a little later on. The companion booklet included with the set plays its own integral part to the recording’s overall presentation. Together with the recording’s set list and the band’s performance thereof, the whole of the set becomes an early candidate for any critic’s list of the year’s top new live recordings.
Veteran rock band Journey’s latest live recording Escape & Frontiers Live in Japan is an offering that classic rock fans and Journey’s more devout fans alike will appreciate. That is due in no small part to the recording’s set list. An expansive two-hour-plus concert, the set list covers two of the band’s most well-known and beloved albums – Escape and Frontiers. The concert, originally recorded in 2017 at the famed Budokan in Japan, covers both albums in full. What’s more, the band performs each album in its original sequence from start to end in the exact same order as their original presentations. The band wastes little time between the songs, filling time with pointless chatter. Rather, the band collectively does its talking through its music. That is not to say that the band’s members don’t talk at all between songs. There are moments in which each member of the band offers some commentary, sharing stories of songs’ creation. However, those moments are limited in their frequency. That limit makes the noted all the more special, and at the same time, the rest of the concert just as enjoyable for audiences. With all of this in mind, the set list proves to be an integral portion of this recording’s presentation. It is just one of the most important of the recording’s whole. The band’s performance of the set list is important in its own right to the recording’s presentation.
The band’s performance is important to address in the bigger picture of the recording because it is so engaging and entertaining throughout the show. Lead guitarist Neal Schon shows time and again with his work, why he is such a respected musician. From his work on the soaring show opener that is ‘Don’t Stop Believin’’ to his more subtle performance in ‘Who’s Crying Now’ to the driving riffs of ‘Chain Reaction’ and more, Schon shows that he is still at the top of his game even so many decades after first picking up a guitar. Drummer Steve Smith’s timing in each song is impeccable. His fills, his control of his drum kit and stamina are just as impressive. Drummers will note his stamina and creative performance is due to obvious classical training. He uses his wrists instead of his arms to play. He also uses plenty of rudiments throughout each song, utilizing every inch of his kit. At no point does he ever show any sign of drained energy, nor does he lose any ability to keep the songs interesting in his own right. Again, here is a clear example of the band’s talents throughout the show. Keyboardist/guitarist and bassist Jonathan Cain and Ross Valory help maintain each song’s foundation in their own way, too, giving just as much positive energy as their band mates. Front man Arnel Pineda, while maybe not as tall as his band mates, proves big things can and do come in small packages. He delivers a nonstop powerhouse vocal performance, displaying time and again, an impressive control over his voice. That includes not just in terms of dynamics, but also his ability to properly convey the feeling of each song. When His vocal prowess is coupled with the talents of his band mates, all of which have been noted here, the whole of the band’s performance becomes a spectacle that shows how a live concert is done right. As noted in the recording’s companion booklet, which itself will be discussed shortly, there is no pyro in this show. There are no giant video screens behind the band. There are no special effects other than lighting. That puts the full attention on the band, and the band makes the most of that attention in every song. That less is more approach makes the band’s performance more than enough reason for audiences to watch this show. It will be two hours-plus well-spent.
The band’s performance in whole gives audiences more than enough to appreciate in this recording. It would be unfair, of course, to ignore the work of those behind the cameras, lenses and computers in the production and post. It is thanks to those individuals’ efforts, that the energy of that performance is heightened even more for home viewers. The timing of the shots, the shots’ angles and the sound are top quality. Given, Eagle Rock Entertainment would not release a recording whose production values are any less. It is the standard for which Eagle Rock has come to be known. Even with that in mind, it would be wrong it ignore the part of those who captured the band’s performance and prepared it for its presentation. Those individuals did just as much to make this show enjoyable for audiences as the band itself.
Having noted the set list featured in this recording and the band’s performance thereof, it is obvious that the recording offers plenty of appeal. They are only a portion of what makes the recording another positive offering from Journey and Eagle Rock Entertainment. The recording’s companion booklet adds its own share of interest to the recording’s whole. As already noted, the recording’s booklet notes the simplicity of the show’s stage setup. There’s no pyro, no giant video screens behind the band, no other special effects. There are some steel structures behind the band, but they are really more cosmetic than anything else. They don’t really serve any other purpose than to add to the stage’s look. The liner notes, crafted by journalist Matt Wardlaw, gives audiences insight into the importance of Escape and Frontiers, noting that the two albums collectively spawned eight Top 40 singles and sold no less than 20 million copies worldwide. The liner notes also note that Journey’s 2017 Budokan performance was not the first time the band performed at the famed venue. The full story on that will be left for audiences to discover on their own. There is even a mention about Smith’s technical prowess by Valory included in the liner notes, going back to the previous discussion on Smith’s talents. If that is not enough for audiences, Wardlaw cites Pineda as he talks about his nerves before going on stage with his band mates because of his own lifelong view of the Budokan. Everything noted here is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg that is the liner notes in the recording’s companion booklet. Between these notes and many others featured in the booklet, audiences get a rich, thorough setup on the concert before they ever take in the concert. At the same time, the notes give an equally rich examination of the albums performed in whole in the concert. In other words, the liner notes offer audiences just as much appeal as the concert contained in the two CDs and one DVD/BD (One set is 2 CD/DVD and the other 2 CD/BD) that make up the recording’s packaging. When that concert is considered alongside the liner notes, the whole becomes a presentation that classic rock and Journey fans alike will appreciate.
Escape & Frontiers Live in Japan is a strong new offering from veteran rock band Journey. The recording presents the band as a unit that is still going strong decades after its formation. It also gives longtime fans a full performance of two of the band’s most iconic albums in exactly the same sequence as their presentation in those noted albums. The liner notes featured in the recording’s companion booklet put the finishing touch to the recording’s presentation. Each item is important in its own right to the whole of this recording. All things considered, they make Escape & Frontiers Live in Japan a work that proves itself worthy of a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s top new live recordings. It is available now. More information on the recording is available online now along with all of Journey’s latest news and more at:
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