November 18, 1996 12:00 PM


Back in the 1970s and ’80s, technically proficient groups like Styx, Foreigner and REO Speedwagon ruled rock and roll. Then a new wave of punkers, led by Nirvana in the early ’90s, proved that relative amateurs could create more resonant music. In so doing, they helped render the old guard virtually obsolete. But now another of those rock dinosaurs, Journey, the San Francisco quintet that sold some 30 million albums before disbanding in 1986, returns with this, their first album of new material in a decade. Actually it’s new in name only. Aside from Trial’s understated title song and a reggae-tinged track not listed on the CD jacket, Journey’s songs sound the same as ever. Steve Perry’s soaring tenor kicks up an emotional storm on the bluesy ballad “Don’t Be Down on Me Baby,” just like in the old days. Intricate guitar riffs still abound on ready-made stadium rockers like “Message of Love” and “Castles Burning,” and nearly every chorus rings with sing-along harmonies. In short, nothing revolutionary or unpredictable. But then, had these fortysomethings embraced grunge, trip hop or some other new-fangled sound, it would have been as unbecoming as trying to squeeze into their old skintight hip-huggers. (Columbia)

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