After Journey's moderately successful "Frontiers" album of 1983, the band mutually agreed to call it quits to pursue their own interests. Frontman Steve Perry had tepid receptions of his solo works which never quite captured the Journey spirit. It seemed as though a mistake had been made, but the band members all vowed they would never return. With the dawn of 1986, Perry, guitarist Neal Schon and keyboardist Jonathan Cain broke the vows and put together the "Raised On Radio" disc which despite producing some entertaining music, was criticized at just "not being Journey." This prompted another break-up and a virtual disappearance of the band members.
Flash forward to 1996. Rumors began to fly of a new Journey project, and fans were cautiously optimistic. One thing going for the band this time however, was the return of all members who helped create 1981's smash success "Escape." Perry, Schon and Cain return along with bassist Ross Valory and drummer Steve Smith. Ten years is a big lay off for any band, and that is plenty of time to lose a casual fan base. Die-hard fans remained true and eagerly anticipated this next release, and the first indicators are that it was worth the wait.
Journey has always had a lethal combination of spirited lyrics sung in a bare-bones honest fashion by Perry, while Schon's guitar influenced by blues, folk and Jimi Hendrix lead the way in a rocking fashion. Cain has never been a slacker himself as one of the finest keyboardists of his type. But now with the re-addition of Valory and Smith, a certain chemistry has apparently returned bringing "Trial By Fire" a new look and sound for the band while remaining true to some of the Journey trademarks of the past which made them so popular.
This is a typical Journey effort in the sense of the types of music contained on the disc. There are solid rockers, thoughtful ballads and rock anthems which Journey has done so well in the past. But this album by no means is a rehash of old Journey sounds and themes. Ten years is a long time to work on music and get it right, and although I know this project wasn't worked upon in that span of time, it is evident the band has grown up a bit while growing closer to one another. Sheer maturity and an uncanny sense of virility is evident here. This group which once could be considered a "kiddie band" has grown in so many facets, that they now rank up with some of the the greatest multi-element bands. Look for this latest release to do well, but don't have hopes for a long term prognosis. Although things look to be going well now, this is a band which still seems to want to go it's own ways. Schon is best playing the blues in dank clubs and jamming with legends like B.B. King. Cain is happiest when performing as a studio musician. I have no idea what the future hold for Perry. But if the spirit of Journey is held on to, there is little these band-members cannot do.