Journey Attempts 'More Stadium Rock Record' With 'Eclipse'
A clear idea for Journey's new album, "Eclipse," led guitarist and co-founder Neal Schon to turn "downright belligerent" in the studio with his bandmates and co-producer Kevin Shirley.
"I went in with not only confidence but I was... hard-headed about making sure I made the record that I wanted to make," Schon tells Billboard.com about making "Eclipse," which debuted at No. 13 on the Billboard 200. "We fought. Kevin and I went around and around, and I went at it with Jon [Cain] until we got our heads together, and then things finally took their course. But I'm really glad that I just stuck with it, and I felt very strongly about the type of record I felt we should make.
"This was kind of a vision of my record, and I'm grateful to the band for finally letting me do one," he added.
"Eclipse," Journey's second studio album with Filipino lead singer Arnel Pineda, is marked by lengthy, hard-rocking songs that hearken back to the band's first three albums. Schon calls it "a more stadium rock record, like our 2011 version of (1983's) 'Frontiers,' maybe, a bit more progressive and not afraid to go in some areas we've never been." Nine of the 12 songs on the Wal-Mart/Sam's Club exclusive set weigh in at more than five minutes, and there's markedly more instrumental soloing than on 2008's "Revelation" and most other Journey albums.
"We have the greatest hits, and all of the newer records that we've made, we've written songs that sound like our greatest hits," Schon says. "I felt like there were a lot of grooves that were missing in our set, like funky rock grooves and stuff like that, and I just felt like writing for what I wanted to play on stage and what I felt would work. I felt like we didn't have enough rocky stuff in our set, so knowing that... brought me to the conclusion that we needed to make our record like we did."
Schon says Cain and Pineda also "went with" him on the album's lyrical content. "It's about love, faith, hope and spiritualism," he explains. "A lot of our other songs are about hope, but this one is just a bit more mystical, I feel. It's got a late '60s/early '70s kind of mystical vibe, which is one of my favorite eras, so I love it."
"Eclipse" comes out the same year that Journey's best-selling album, 1981's "Escape" -- and its hit "Don't Stop Believin'" -- turns 30. But while Schon calls it "my favorite record that we've ever done," he says the group would rather be making new music than necessarily commemorating its past. "I've seen what's been going on with some concerts and with some bands playing the whole record," he says. "Surely we could do that at some point, but it's not happening this year or next year because we're here to support our new record -- and play bits and pieces from 'Escape' and all of the other records, too. It's not just about the one."
Journey is currently on tour in Europe and returns to North America for a summer run that kicks off July 15 at the Rock USA festival in Oshkosh, Wisc., before beginning a run with Foreigner on July 21 in Sandy, Utah.
Schon, meanwhile, has also recorded a pair of solo albums -- an instrumental set with former Journey drummer Steve Smith and keyboardist Jan Hammer, and a power trio set on which he shares lead vocals with current Journey drummer Dean Castronovo and bassist Marco Mendoza. Titles and release dates are pending for both.