Journey released this record, ‘Frontiers’, in 1983 at a time when they were unquestionably one of, if not the single most popular rock band in the world. Throughout the preceding years to this record’s release, they had begun to cultivate their meteoric rise to the top of the rock n’ roll ranks. This band, though popular, wasn’t without critical derision. Many prominent members in the world of music journalism saw them as little more than a cock-rocking frat boy band, which to be fair, is true. However, it would be extremely foolish to assume that there was no genuine ability lurking in this scene.
The opening track of the record is “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” and, right away, it becomes clear that this is going to shape up to being Journey’s heaviest record. There are metal tendencies scattered throughout most of this record and this opening track is no exception to this. This being an arena rock record, though, it isn’t without occasional strays into the territory of the love ballad. The first detour onto this trail is the following track, “Send Her My Love”, which is relatively harmless compared to many of its contemporaries on the radio from that time. Back to the action with the next track, “Chain Reaction”, another metallic cut from the band. Journey really came out swinging this time around and band members Neal Schon and Steve Perry prove more than capable of playing with the heavy hitters. Schon, of course, has always been capable of dangerously prohibited guitar solos (“Edge of the Blade”) and Perry is able to make his Sam Cooke-influenced voice more of a bark at times (“Back Talk”) than he ever has been willing to attempt in his previous outings with the band. This is definitely Journey at their most muscular and bombastic. However, the biggest fault of the record, and yes, it did turn out to be one of the band’s biggest hits, is the ballad “Faithfully”, which hits such a level of cheese and hokum that you have to, kind of, feel bad for the band. Clearly the market was crying for desperation (it was the ’80s after all).
So, the overall quality of this record deserves at least one thumb up. There is some really good stuff on this record and Journey wear the mantle of hard rock/metal very well. However, the addition of “Faithfully” is definitely a setback and the production on this record becomes a bit questionable from time to time, showing signs of the dismal production values that would be featured on their following record ‘Raised on Radio’ (which was not coincidentally their worst in the Perry-era). With all of that said, there are enough positive elements on this record to keep things from getting too far out of control. Simply put, this is a damn solid record that happens to feature some of the band’s absolute best material. There will be those who, seemingly on principle, will deny that this record contains anything of quality and although there is an understandable precedent set for this point of view, it’s far too cynical to be of 100% truth all the time. Journey are a good band, especially when they don’t fall for the silly demands of the radio rock culture surrounding them. Perhaps an offensive opinion, but it’s a true opinion just the same.