When it came time to stack the tracks for Journey's new album Freedom, the group turned to a proven predecessor.

"I used the Escape album to sort of model how we sequenced [Freedom]," the group's Jonathan Cain tells UCR, referring to the Diamond-certified 1981 album that marked his debut with the band and remains Journey's best-seller. Cain says he and guitarist Neal Schon, who co-produced Freedom with Narada Michael Walden, hashed the 15 songs into an order last December while in Las Vegas for Journey's Virgin Hotel residency, during "a morning well-spent" at a local recording studio.

Part of the challenge, Cain says, was Freedom's length — Journey's longest album ever at more than 73 minutes, with seven tracks that weigh in at more than five minutes. "I kinda wanted less songs on it," acknowledges Cain, who was working at home in Nashville while Schon and Walden recorded in California and Filipino frontman Arnel Pineda cut his vocals in Manila. "But in the end we haven’t made an album in 11 years, so why not? I like the idea of economy and less is more, but I'm like, 'Well, maybe the Journey fans will want this kind of volume.' It's almost two albums. It was a real test, 'How's it all gonna come together?'"

But even with that wealth of material, Escape — which was just 10 songs and nearly 43 minutes — provided a guide for the new album's ebb and flow.

"Our most successful album was Escape and we just recently received the Diamond for it, so I said, 'How did Escape unfold? How did it appear to the listener?' and went from there," Cain explains. "I figure, well, we're gonna start out with a piano, just like 'Don't Stop Believin'' [on Escape]. So 'Together We Run' [on Freedom], it pulls the listener in and it's a hopeful song, similar to 'Don't Stop Believin',' and then, 'What was the next song on Escape?' and we just went from there.

"So we did it like that and it proved to be quite successful," Cain continues. "I think how you present your music really matters, how do you take the listener from Point A to Point B — it really matters. And when you have an album of this magnitude, 15 songs, you want to keep them into it as long as you can, and you want to have a beginning and an end. I put myself as a Journey fan, first and foremost, when I sat there with Neal and we did [the sequence] together, and there it was."

Cain, who was Freedom's principal lyricist, says that sequencing is part of what he hopes gives the new album a familiar and even classic Journey flavor. "I think it goes back to some of the movies of Frontiers, Infinity, Escape," he says. "There's a little bit of those flavors in there, back to some familiar textures and melodies and concepts. The lyrics flowed beautifully for me; I don't think I was ever stuck for a second. It seemed like I had a lyric for everything [Schon and Walden] were doing. That's the sign of a band that has a real kind of instinct."

Journey has just started a short run of mostly make-up dates for postponed concerts from their arena tour earlier this year, including four more Vegas shows and a performance at the Football Hall of Fame induction on Aug. 6 in Canton, Ohio. The group is planning another North American tour for early 2023, while Cain — who released a new Christian album, Arise, in May — is also planning a Christmas EP for this fall.

Journey Albums Ranked

Journey have been through their share of incarnations over the past four decades.