Journey Albums, Ranked From Worst To Best
Over nearly four decades, Journey has been through its share of incarnations — some of them respected but low-selling, some of them best-sellers that were critically ignored. Despite it all, co-founder Neal Schon has soldiered on.
He started Journey in the mid-’70s as a fusion-focused group alongside fellow Santana product Gregg Rolie, but it was only after Steve Perry joined that they began building a platinum-selling legacy. The more pop-leaning Jonathan Cain then replaced Rolie, helping launch Journey into superstar status during the ’80s.
Alas, Perry later began an on-again, off-again relationship with the band — much to the chagrin of all the new fans Journey had made in the meantime. After their final late ’90s split, Schon and Cain went through two other frontmen before settling on current singer Arnel Pineda. He has since helped Journey rebuild its commercial fortunes, leading them to two Top 15 releases along the way.
But which one bests them all? We’re counting down Journey albums, from Worst to Best.
A band that was constantly having to answer the "Where's Perry" question didn't do itself any favors by releasing an album in which every band member -- even founding bassist Ross Valory -- was handed the mic. Why they just didn't stick with frontman Steve Augeri (who led them on the minor hit 'Faith in the Heartland') and drummer Deen Castronovo (who did a very credible job on vocals for 'A Better Life' and 'Never Too Late')? We'll never know. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is Journey's worst charting U.S. album ever.
Arnel Pineda was similarly hampered on his first-ever album with Journey when he was asked to re-do a whopping 12 previously recorded songs, including the Augeri-sung 'Faith in the Heartland.' Though a dynamic performer with a powerful voice, there had to be a better introduction than having him attempt wall-to-wall radio favorites like 'Faithfully.' Stick with the new songs on this platinum seller, notably 'Never Walk Away' and 'After All These Years' -- tracks that neatly echo Journey's '80s-era arena ballad sound. The latter, in fact, was a Top 10 hit on the adult contemporary charts.
'Trial by Fire' (1996)
This was supposed to represent a dramatic comeback for the sales-king 'Escape' / 'Frontiers'-era edition of the band. Certainly there was an audience for that, as the Grammy-nominated No. 12 power ballad 'When You Love a Woman' showed. But Perry's long-awaited return didn't spark much more creatively, as this often lifeless platinum-selling project plods through a loose concept about spirituality. When a bad hip kept the Perry from touring, the whole enterprise crashed to the ground. He hasn't recorded since.
It certainly didn't help that Augeri sounded so much like Perry, or even that his first name was Steve. Still, the band needed someone who could manage the old songs in concert, and do something credible enough in the studio. 'Arrival,' Augeri's debut, was often much more than that. Songs like 'All the Way,' in particular, illustrated how this new edition could uphold the Journey brand. The prog-rockish 'Higher Place,' meanwhile, was a gutsy move. Nevertheless, 'Arrival' would become Journey's first album not to at least go gold since 1977's similarly underrated 'Next.'
Neal Schon and Gregg Rolie hoped to return to their former Santana band's initial blend of upbeat, energetic free-form rock -- and with this self-titled introduction, they succeeded. Ferocious workouts like 'Of a Lifetime' and 'Kahoutek,' along with the album-closing 'Mystery Mountain,' remained concert and fan favorites well into the '70s, while 'Topaz' delves deeper into their bluesy roots. Only 'To Play Some Music' showed the commercial bent they'd eventually take, however, and disappointing sales followed.
This is the album that Schon has probably been wanting to make for years, a detonation of guitar fury like nothing we’ve heard from him since the days of his spaceman 'fro. And, initially at least, fans seemed to respond, sending 'Eclipse' to a No. 13 debut. The album quickly faded, however, likely because it lacked enough of the signature ballads that pushed Journey to outsized fame in the '80s. That said, there was a notable sense of third-act abandon here that had been missing from some other post-Perry efforts. Journey showed it could still summon the furious energy of its earliest recordings, well into its third decade.
Unfortunately overlooked because its No. 85 finish finally sparked a search for a true frontman, 'Next' deftly blended in a new guitar-hero attitude. In fact, there's almost a metal feel to songs like 'Hustler,' as Journey toughened up its by-then-established fusion-based formula. 'Spaceman' hints once again at the pop sensibilities that would send Journey hurtling to the top of the charts. But, at this point, management had become impatient for a hit. Journey briefly added Robert Fleischman, who arrived shortly after this release and even received co-writing credit on three songs for Journey’s subsequent album -- and then came Steve Perry.
'Raised on Radio' (1986)
Journey had, by this point, been winnowed down to a three-piece lineup of Cain, Perry and Schon -- something that kept the songwriting core in tact, but also gave 'Raised on Radio' this uncomfortably slick sessions-player sheen. A huge tour, their final with Steve Perry, helped the project to two million in sales. There were four Top 20 singles, too. But, in the end, 'Raised on Radio' sounded too much like Perry's similarly constructed 1984 solo effort 'Street Talk.' It was clear that the end was near. Journey wouldn't record again for a decade.
'Look into the Future' (1976)
The best effort from the pre-Perry lineup featuring Gregg Rolie and Neal Schon out front, 'Look into the Future' finds Journey sounding slightly less proggy while retaining its jam-band-ish sense of adventure. The eight-minute title track is the longest song they've ever recorded, and they close things out with the titanic 'I'm Gonna Leave You,' but those are the exceptions rather than the rule. Elsewhere, Journey approaches things with a far more concise, approachable sensibility. There's even a cover of 'It's All Too Much,' from the Beatles' 'Yellow Submarine' soundtrack.
A six-times platinum hit with four Top 40 hits, 'Frontiers' might have placed higher on this list if they'd built on the strength of rockers like 'Separate Ways' and the layered pop gems 'After the Fall' and 'Send Her My Love.' Instead, however, a deflating second side followed. It certainly could have used the injection of 'Only the Young' -- which only showed up later on the 'Vision Quest' soundtrack, for some reason. And try as they might, 'Faithfully' remains a pale imitation of the majestic ache surrounding 'Open Arms.'
At the time, this three million-selling Roy Thomas Baker-produced smash represented the best Journey had ever done, and it included the first Top 20 hit in 'Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin,'" to boot. Elsewhere, 'Just the Same Way' found Perry and Rolie blending voices once more, creating a memorable fission that was frankly missing in their biggest-selling era to come. 'Too Late' and 'Do You Recall,' written by Perry with Schon and Rolie respectively, are delicately conveyed moments, while 'City of the Angels' holds a suitably anthemic sweep.
The final studio effort featuring Gregg Rolie, 'Departure' leapt into action with radio hits 'Any Way You Want It' and 'Walks Like a Lady' before settling into a mature mix of tracks that balanced the elegance of 'Good Morning' and 'Stay Awhile' with the ferocious stutter of 'Line of Fire.' The touchingly hopeful 'Someday Soon' also finds Rolie and Perry trading vocals for a final time. Like both of its predecessors, 'Departure' sold three million copies. The arrival, however, of Jonathan Cain created a new alchemy that would quickly dwarf those very respectable numbers.
As successful as Perry and Schon had been in their time together, the pop-smart Cain gave them another dimension -- one to the tune of nine million in sales for his debut 'Escape,' and counting. Journey went supernova with a quartet of Top 20 hits, including its deathless power ballad 'Open Arms' and the similarly age-defying anthem 'Don't Stop Believin'.' A deft combining of quiet ('Still they Ride'), mid-level ('Who's Crying Now') and full-on ('Stone in Love') tempos kept this album interesting, even as Journey became one of the most reliably profitable arena acts of the age. If some of it felt a little more blatant than what had come before, well, there was certainly no denying its sales punch.
Journey’s fourth release saw a wholesale shift in the way they operated, and that only begins with the addition of Steve Perry. With Baker installed as producer, the band began sharpening its craft in a fashion that launched 'Infinity' -- and Journey -- to multi-platinum status. There was a new sophistication, even on towering rockers like 'Winds of March' and 'Opened the Door.' The biggest hit here, 'Wheel in the Sky,' lays the foundation for everything to come, while 'Something to Hide' simply weeps with emotion. Then there was 'Feeling That Way' / 'Anytime,' and that honeyed blending of Perry and Rolie. It arrives for the first time like a bolt out of the blue. Along the way, Journey certainly released better-selling albums, but they never made a more complete one.