1983 was a pretty important year in terms of my musical development. I had been interested in music for awhile, with the local AM radio station being my main source of pop/rock tunes. I turned 12 that summer and my big birthday gift was a record player. Not one of those kiddy type record players, but a real turntable! Either I had pestered my parents enough that they caved in, or perhaps they were just tired of me using their stereo (and scratching all their records). At any rate, I finally had my own turntable although I was seriously lacking in having any records to play on it. One Saturday morning my prayers were answered! Inside the newspaper that day was a flyer advertising an unbelievable offer…. you could get 13 records for a penny!!!!!! (including shipping I think in total it was $1.86).
(the famous Columbia House flyer circa 1983)
Needless to say, I thought this was possibly the best thing I had ever seen. I spent days convincing my mother to let me sign up and finally she said yes. I spent hours going through the flyer selecting my 13 albums (of which I actually still have half of them). One of the very first albums I selected was Journey’s “Frontiers”. I had seen the music video for “Separate Ways” on “America’s Top Ten w/ Casey Kasem” and had bought the 45 a few weeks earlier. Separate Ways had quickly become my favourite song and I wanted the whole album desperately. After what seemed like an eternity my package arrived from Columbia House and I finally had “Frontiers” in my hands.
“Frontiers” is my absolute favourite Journey album and the one I still enjoy listening to regularly today. I think Side One of the album probably ranks as one of the best Side One’s of any rock album out there. It’s perfectly sequenced in terms of song selection. What better to track to kick off a record than “Separate Ways”. Jonathan Cain’s now iconic keyboard riff starts us off and then Neal Schon’s amazing guitar kicks in. If you’re not already hooked by this point, Steve Perry’s mesmerizing voice grabs you and doesn’t let go. “Separate Ways” is one of those epic rock songs that is absolutely timeless. Still to this day every time I hear it my fingers go to the volume button and it gets cranked! “Separate Ways” hit #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 and stayed there for 6 weeks. It’s a shame the video wasn’t very good (it was Journey’s first concept video), although I don’t think it qualifies as one of the worst ever (as some people say).
The second track, “Send Her My Love” was the 4th single released from “Frontiers” and hit #23 on the Hot 100. It’s a beautifully crafted, epic ballad featuring Steve Perry’s heart felt vocal performance (you can almost feel the emotion he conveys) and a fantastic Neal Schon solo. The lyrics are so emotional and poignant, it’s a song that deeply conveys that feeling of lost love. The music video returned Journey to a more comfortable live performance which was captured on the Frontiers tour.
Coming out of “Send Her My Love”, it’s almost a bit of a shock to the system when the rocker “Chain Reaction” kicks in! I will admit I wasn’t initially a huge fan of this song back in 1983 (I usually skipped over it when I listened to the record) but it has really grown on me and I think it’s one of Journey’s more underrated rock songs. I think it fits in really well now with the other tracks on side one. Great vocals, a driving beat and of course the epic guitar work (there’s a great guitar outro to this track) are all hallmarks of this song. It wasn’t officially a single, but charted on rock radio and the band did another concept theme for the video (once again not the best music video).
The band released the next track on the album as the third single and “After The Fall” became my second favourite song on the record. A solid mid-tempo rocker, After The Fall hit #23 on the Hot 100 and also appeared in the Tom Cruise flick Risky Business. Another great vocal performance by Perry and one of their best choruses and vocal harmonies are key trademarks of this amazing song. Another killer guitar outro by Schon finishes and fades us out and ready to head into one of the best rock ballads of all time.
The last track on Side One of “Frontiers” stands as one of the absolute best rock ballads of all time. “Faithfully” starts with Jonathan Cain’s absolutely beautiful piano which sets the tone for Steve Perry’s breath taking and emotional vocals. No song better captures the feeling one has when you are missing that special someone than “Faithfully”. Jonathan Cain wrote the lyrics to convey just how difficult it was to be on the road while maintaining a relationship and family life, and Steve Perry’s performance puts you in Cain’s place, feeling that emotion and hardship. Neal Schon’s guitar adds a whole other level of emotion and angst to the song and you can certainly feel it come out as the guitar solo kicks in. Released as the second single from Frontiers, it hit #12 on the Hot 100 and the accompanying video featured the band on the road.
It’s funny, looking back now I think I rarely listened to Side Two of “Frontiers” when I first got it. Although the songs aren’t as strong as those on Side One, there are some great tracks including the rockers “Back Talk”, “Edge of the Blade” and “Rubicon”. The title track is an interesting experiment and worth a listen. Interesting to note that at the last minute, executives from Columbia decided to pull 2 tracks (Only the Young and Ask The Lonely) from the album and replace them with Back Talk and Troubled Child. Only the Young ended up on the Vision Quest soundtrack and actually became a hit for the band and one of my favourite Journey tracks.
As a special bonus, here’s my original 1983 Frontiers album that I got from Columbia House:
Considering I played the hell out of this record, it’s in surprisingly good shape! and yes, I did write my initials in black marker on the back cover…. oh silly child.