It’s been a long time coming since the release of “Eclipse”, which makes “Freedom” the first studio album in 11 years! Yeah you read it right! During the lockdown Neal Schon had the time to experiment with the keyboards and write down several music ideas that ended up on the new album. Moreover, this album marks the return of (old) bassist Randy Jackson (Richard Marx, Zebra, etc.), the coming of new drummer Narada Michael Walden (Neal Schon, Straship) and the participation of the old member Deen Castronovo on lead vocals on track “After Glow”.
The truth is that the promotion of the album, and some Neal’s interviews, have created great expectations to the old (and new) fans of the band. So, what do we get in return? Hmm, I’d honestly say a mixed bag of everything that Journey has done in the past. I’ve been following this band for decades and I was expecting something great, at least… but the truth is that I was kinda left empty-handed in a way. And I’m no referring to the Perry – Arnel issue at all. That’s an old story.
You see there some really good ideas and melodies here. The recordings should have been okay, I guess (read below to get that right), but apart from the music cohesiveness, this album seems to lack energy on the whole. Let alone the fact that it has 15 songs and it’s around 73 minutes. Too long for a Melodic Rock / AOR release. You can find some fillers that should have been out of the album, so as to reduce its length and made it more consistent. Personally, I really do not fancy the “poor man’s” “Separate Ways” rip-off “Don’t Give Up on Us”. A major mistake by Neal, that he should have kept this track hidden… or not even recorded it in the first place.
Apart from all the above, the big issue with “Freedom” is the final production and the mixing. The sound is muddy and muffled at large. The EQs are really low and all you hear is a noisy background. I could get that if this was a noise rock band, but not for a band like Journey which a clear and crispy production is the “alpha and the omega” so as to make the songs shine even more. This can be characterized as “demo production” at large and the guy who did the mixing and the mastering should quit his job right away. The same goes for those who gave the final okay so as to release this album with this production.
Overall, “Freedom” has its moments, “Still Believe in Love”, “Together We Run”, “Live to Love Again”, “The Way We Used to Be”, “After Glow” and “Beautiful as You Are”, but the poor production doesn’t help them to shine more. They have literally buried these great songs. “Freedom” needs to be remixed and remastered properly and to be re-released, so that this decent album not go by unnoticed.