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Classic Rock News And Views
February 14, 2012
It’s hard to escape the sound of classic rock these days. Not that I want to. It’s not just us classic rock fans that still have respect for the sound of classic rock, however. We’ve heard various classic rock hits used through the years as soundtracks for television shows (think Sopranos) and for commercial advertising. Although one might expect these classic hits to fade into obscurity in favor of more contemporary sounds, the opposite appears to be true.
A new commercial for State Farm Insurance features Journey’s hit song “Any Way You Want It,” in order to promote the availability of the company when customers need to get in touch with them. Judging from the number of commercials I see on television, the insurance industry appears to be one of the most competitive industries out there. Therefore, one could presume that the big insurance companies are laying out the cash to hire the best ad agencies that money can buy.
Although I don’t see nearly as many commercials on television for casinos as I do for insurance companies, I think it’s safe to assume that most casinos can afford as much advertising as they care to buy. After, as well all know, the house always wins.
The classic rock group Queen is enjoying a little extra exposure these days thanks to a commercial for the Cosmopolitan Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. Much like the commercial for State Farm, the actors in the commercial begin by using song lyrics as part of their dialog. As the ad progresses the dialog morphs into a full-blown performance of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” albeit just enough to whet one’s appetite sufficiently and send Queen fans digging for that CD or MP3 file and cranking it up.
Although it’s hard for many classic rock fans like myself to believe, not everyone in the world has, at sometime in their life, heard “Bohemian Rhapsody.” There are bound to be more than a few young people, and perhaps some not-so-young people who never have. Those with an affinity for interesting music might become newly-minted Queen fans if their interest is piqued sufficiently.
Perhaps these are just the ruminations of an aging classic rock fan who is happy to see some of his old favorites getting some exposure to TV audiences, even if it is through commercials – televised interruptions which usually make me want to change the channel. As much as I dislike commercials, I am not beyond the ability to appreciate a clever ad which flies in the face of most TV advertising that appears to be produced by people that are under the impression that most of the television viewing audience is comprised of idiots.
In this particular case, the advertisement for the Cosmopolitan Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas is the clear winner for me, and I’m not even taking the bathing beauty at the bar into consideration before issuing that ruling. Using the lyrics of a song like “Bohemian Rhapsody” for the actor’s dialog is an immediate attention-grabber whether the viewer is a Queen fan or not. How could anyone not wonder what something like that was leading up to? This is one of those rare television commercials that I’d actually stick around to watch so I could find out what it was all about. If all commercials were that clever and featured music from classic rock bands I suppose I might actually stop complaining about them.
November 7, 2011
Spinning up Journey’s Greatest Hits Volume 2 CD for the first time provided for me an experience that was true to the band’s name. Listening to those hits took me on a musical journey back to the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Although the compilation includes tracks that were recorded between 1978 and 1996, it was those early songs like Stone In Love, Feeling That Way and Just the Same Way that really took me back to those Saturday nights sitting in my 1973 Chevrolet Laguna listening to the radio and hanging out with friends into the wee hours.
Of all the bands we listened to and loved during that time, I don’t feel as if I’m going too far out on a limb when I say that Journey’s share of airtime on rock radio probably outshined just about every other group. It’s not all that often I can put on a greatest hits album packed with seventeen songs and find each and every one of them instantly recognizable.
Even more impressive is the fact that I can look at the track listing from Journey’s Greatest Hits and realize that the same is true for that compilation. Although I was happy to listen to every Journey song that came on the radio during those days, I’m not sure I could have described myself as a bona fide fan since I don’t believe I ever purchased one of their albums and am certain I never attended any of their shows. I was never much of a concert guy, although I suspect my presence at a Journey show would have been a good bet if I was.
These days I believe I am justified when I consider myself a true Journey fan since I have acquired eight of their albums over the past decade or so, which has been increased to a total of nine with the arrival of this latest release.
The fact that this is a greatest hits album deprives me of the opportunity to opine about the songs themselves. I am, however, one who always seems to have something to say about engineering and sound quality. On that front I have no complaints. The mixes on my CD copy sound quite similar to the recordings I already had and are quite good for the most part. Perhaps I’d be considered unqualified to make that kind of judgment by vinyl aficionados since I find no fault with the sound quality I enjoy from a digital recording.
Speaking of vinyl, Journey’s Greatest Hits Volume 2 is also available on a gatefold double-vinyl edition which also includes an access code allowing the owner to download a digital copy of the re-mastered mix for vinyl. That move kind of makes my head hurt just a little bit, but maybe some vinyl devotees can muster the tolerance to endure the sound of a digital version while they are working on their computer or want to take the album on the go with them using one of those new-fangled iPods or portable MP3 players.
Leaving the not-so-thinly-veiled sarcasm aside, I actually think it’s pretty cool that a re-mastered vinyl version of this release is available for those who prefer that medium. Although I’m perfectly content listening to the digital version, I remain open to the idea that vinyl may indeed sound better in some way I don’t yet understand and would welcome the chance for someone with a capable set-up to convince me of that popular assertion some day.
Calling this a new release just doesn’t seem right despite the fact that technically, I suppose it is. What it represents to fans like me is a trip back in time that brings back a flood of memories of days (and nights) when I didn’t have to fret about forgetting my reading glasses at home, didn’t have to worry about hurting my back shoveling snow (ouch!) and couldn’t stop thinking about how those blue jeans fit on that girl from the other side of town who spent a few weeks hanging out with us. I believe she’s the reason I often mistakenly believe the title of Stone In Love is actually “Blue Jean Girl!”
November 29, 2010
Some might say that the title of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” track has proved prophetic. 29 years after the track was released, the song has topped the 3 million mark in paid downloads – the first song released prior to 2000 to do so!
Originally released in 1981 from the band’s Escape album, the song was popular but never dominated the top 40 charts.
Proving that music, like fashion, can be cyclical the song has developed a cult following in the 21st Century around the world. It re-entered the top 10 in the UK and achieved record downloads on iTunes (proving that music cds online are not just the domain of young artists!).
What has sparked this revival?
The commercial use of a song, or its inclusion on a soundtrack can be either its kiss of death or a fast track path to fame and success. Luckily for Journey, they fall into the latter category. The continual use of “Don’t Stop Believin’” in television shows and films has propelled it into anthem status. The song has been used in The Sopranos, numerous singing contests such as X-factor and American Idol, as well as films including The Wedding Singer and Shrek.
But it is the musical teen drama TV-series Glee, which covered the song in a series finale that is responsible for the song’s skyrocketing popularity. The popularity of the show’s cover helped the original Journey version of the song hit the 3 million mark, while sales of the Glee version have reached 1 billion, and created a significantly younger fan base for the group.
In a recent interview with the BBC, Journey guitarist Neal Schon expressed both his surprise and delight at the popularity of the song. “Every day, something new happens with it and it becomes bigger,” he said.
UK’s Classic Rock magazine also voted the song’s impressive comeback as their event of the year.
How does Schon explain the song’s revival?
“I think people have just looked to something different occasionally – to songs with great melodies, that have a message and a meaning – and I guess that’s where we’ve fitted in,” he says.
It seems that the troupe of high school misfits urging audiences to “hold on to that feeling” in the Glee finale has hit just the right chord and encouraged youngsters to buy rock music – even if it has been recycled!
Despite their delight at being back on top, the band is conscious of being known for only one song. To prove they’re no one-hit-wonders these aging rockers are hitting the road with Styx and Foreigner on a UK tour in June 2011 to showcase their new music. (Although we’re sure “Don’t Stop Believin’” will make it into the playlist!).
July 23, 2008
Currently on the road as part of a triple header classic rock tour, Journey’s new lead singer, Arnel Pineda, is reported to be easing into his new role quite nicely and becoming more comfortable onstage.
Journey keyboard player Jonathan Cain says Pineada has “found a good balance between movement and singing, working the crowd, interaction with the band, that sort of thing. And then also adjusting to up in the air, off the bus, on the bus, in the hotel room, getting sleep, eating healthy, the meet-and-greets–there’s a lot to get used to.”
Cain goes on to say that Pineda has a good set of habits developed already for life on the road and he sees Pineda as “the kind of guy you want.”
By this time it is well known to Journey fans that their new lead vocalist was discovered by Neal Schon while searching for singers on the popular video-sharing website, YouTube. Making a remarkable story even more remarkable, Pineda was half-way around the world, living in the Philippines.
Journey has been touring and making records for more than 30 years and has over 75,000,000 album sales to their credit. Although they may not be drawing crowds quite as large as they were back on the 1980′s, the group shows no signs of slowing down.
Journey’s current tour has them teamed up with two other legendary classic rock acts, Heart and Cheap Trick. It’s bound to be a show to warm the heart of many an aging rock fan, and is also attracting younger fans that have been finding out that the music from their parents’ generation can be pretty cool.
For more, check out Live Daily.
July 13, 2008
Journey drummer Dean Castronovo says he does not usually get to do interviews since the other members of the group usually want to do them, but Castronovo seems more than happy to have his say for a change, and does so in a recent interview with the Deseret News.
Not surprisingly, there’s much talk about the group’s new singer Arnel Pineda. Finding Pineda through the internet by viewing videos of his performances with his band in the Philippines convinced the band that he was the guy they were looking for, but at the same time, they worried a bit about how he might fit in with the rest of the band. When you fly someone you’ve never met half-way around the world for an audition, it is easy to understand those kinds of concerns.
It has all turned out just fine, reports Castronovo. Pineda “is is the most humble and nice person I have ever met,” he says.
Journey has surely had their share of changes where lead singers are concerned. After splitting with original lead singer Steve Perry, they group hired Steve Augeri, who was a good replacement for Perry, but ended up leaving the band after ten years. There was a brief stint with Jeff Scott Soto as frontman, with Castronovo sharing some of the vocal duties as well.
Castronovo also mentions his good friend and former Journey drummer, Steve Smith, and humbly reveals that he has copied Smith’s style, and often jokes with him about how he has “ripped him off.”
When Castronovo talks about his early influences, he mentions seeing KISS drummer Peter Criss and his massive drum kit. However, on at least on occasion Castronovo was in attendance when Rush was opening for KISS, and Castronovo was quite impressed with Neil Peart’s ability to actually play his entire massive kit. It’s kind of hard to imagine Rush opening for KISS, but I guess you have to start somewhere.
Speaking of Neil Peart, I recall reading not all that long ago on one of the many news updates on his site that he has great admiration for Steve Smith’s ability. That’s a compliment that must make any drummer feel pretty damn good.
Dean Castronovo sounds about as happy as anyone can possibly be with their job. “I don’t know of any other job I’d rather, or should I say, I can do. Life is good,” he says.
For more of the interview, check out the Deseret News.