First of all let's be clear about one thing: this isn't your fathers Journey- Eclipse is like nothing the band has done before; its daring, its unapologetic, it has an edge (and a really sharp one at that) while at the same time it has a unifying theme (you could call it a "Concept Album" if you wanted to) of positivity and spirituality both lyrically and musically which allows the album to become greater than the sum of its parts. In a nutshell, Eclipse is the single greatest rock album in years...maybe decades.
While some are calling this Neal Schon's album, and while it certainly is a guitar record, that is selling it short. This is a group effort no doubt about it-Jonathan Cain's lyrical contributions are clearly evident and his keyboards balance the compositions; Deen Castronovo must have gone through several drum sets (and gallons of Gatorade) because his drumming is vicious-Steve Smith he's not, but this is a hard rock record and he's perfect for it. And then there is Arnel Pineda....wow. That's it-wow. He had the range on Revalation that was clear, but he was a) raw, b) hesitant and c) singing too much like Steve Perry. On Eclipse several things are obvious: first the band clearly got him a vocal coach because his vocals are more polished and most if not all hints of his accent are gone (this is good thing for me...it was distracting), second he sounds stronger-there is more kick and depth...he has become a bona fide rock vocalist and third he has become his own man-and the result is mind blowing. Pineda uses his range often but he doesn't over use it and on many songs I'm more impressed with the power of the voice (especially in the mid ranges) than how high he can sing. Perhaps most importantly is that Pineda has developed his own character and tone so that at long last I can listen to a post-Steve Perry album and not think of Steve Perry.
This is both the most difficult and most gratifying aspect of Eclipse for me personally because I'm a Steve Perry loyalist but even I must finally admit something: there CAN and IS a Journey after Steve. This development is a welcome one for me because, as great as Perry was and is, Journey was always greater than the sum of its parts...but it continued to live in the shadow of one of those parts for three albums doing "Paint By Numbers Steve Perry Journey"-but minus Steve Perry. Not only does Eclipse immediately rocket to the top of the list of great Journey albums with Infinity, Frontiers and Trial By Fire, but in many regards, wait for it.......it eclipses them because it dares to be different, not only from the albums preceding it but from any other music being made today or in recent memory.
Eclipse is what you get when an immensely talent group of musicians are not hampered by the considerations of record labels, radio airplay or any concern about preconceived notions as to what music they should be making. Eclipse is one song after another of heavy hitting no compromises rock n' roll interweaved with messages of hope, growth and the positive and uplifting aspects of love....and its comprehensive about it: five of the songs exceed 5 minutes and another five exceed 6 minutes. Along the way Neal Schon firmly establishes his legacy as one of the greatest rock guitarists of all time; every song is, at some point or another, a wall of guitar work. There are not one or two solos per song....most have several and there isn't one line of guitar chords but rather multiple ones at once. This combined with how the songs shift pace and change direction so dynamically yet without seeming choppy is unbelievable. Just when you think you know where a track is going (based on what "standard" rock songs do and/or what Journey has done before) you are confronted with some mind blowing twist....I can't remember the last time I heard something so refreshingly creative and different.
I could spend pages going into each song-but not only would you not want to read that, it might spoil the fun. Suffice to say the first half of the album finds a way to "Resonate" a bit more with me than the second half (in fact the first 6 songs are pretty near perfection)-but saying that in no way is a knock on the second half...it's just a testament to how great this album is.
In a recent interview, Neal Schon said the album name "Eclipse" was chosen because an eclipse is something comes around only once in a great while which at first might just seem like overblown hyperbole by an artist about his work....until you actually hear the album. Not only that, I have to wonder how much of a message the name (and album cover which is very Escape-esqe with the scarab and stylized lettering....but the scarab is covering and overshadowing the sun entirely) is sending with regards to it being a re-invention of the band. Whatever the message is or isn't being sent with the title or cover, the real message being sent is with the music...as it should be.
Rarely am I surprised or pleased by music this much; musicians and the industry rarely like to take chances...maybe more so with established artists because you don't mess with success right? Journey should be commended for having the guts and creative vision not only to attempt an album such as this, but to pull it off so brilliantly. Over the top,melodic, powerful,emotional, bold, brilliant, intelligent, crazy, self-indulgent, passionate. All of the above and more make Eclipse a classic album. Journey or otherwise, this is a masterpiece of musical genius that will be instantly recognized as a classic, groundbreaking album.