Before Steve Perry joined Journey as lead singer and turned them into a pop metal sensation, the San Francisco band issued a trilogy of albums. Such discs bear slight resemblance to the sound that brought them mega-success. Because these efforts did not exactly set the airwaves ablaze, it’s no surprise not many folks are aware of their existence.
Released several months prior to Steve Perry’s arrival, Next (Columbia Records) is rife with compelling progressive rock designs. Although the band’s previous two albums, Journey and Into The Future possessed enjoyable moments, this disc easily rates as the best of the lot, as the fidelity is higher and the arrangements are more pronounced and direct.
Suggesting a cross between David Bowie and Emerson Lake and Palmer, “Spaceman” is formed of moody and haunting melodies then climaxes into a hard rocking blow out, while an instrumental, “Nickel And Dime” shows off Journey’s expertise for producing novel and ambitious tempos.
Shrieking and squealing with raw intensity, “Karma” explodes with fire and force, where the heavyweight properties of “Hustler” check in as another noteworthy cut in the collection.
Clearly inspired by the British art rock of the day, Next herds listeners through a sonic pasture of flashy hard rock dynamics, jazz fusion and even some slow burning blues. The guitars shred like mad, the keyboard work is grand and the rhythms and textures are challenging and accomplished.
Powerful and pleasantly pompous, Next is a classic of its genre.
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