By the time 1988's Gringo rolled around, Journey had all but called it a day (until their reunion a decade or so later) and Gregg Rolie was going in a decidedly different direction than his tenure in either Journey or Santana. As "The Hands of Time" immediately makes evident, Rolie was shooting for the top of the pop charts, falling somewhere between Daryl Hall's "Dreamtime" and Don Johnson's "Heartbeat" on the musical landscape. Things don't fare too much better with the Journey/Jonathan Cain-sounding "Don't Wanna Be Alone Tonight." If you squint your ears hard enough, you can almost hear Steve Perry harmonizing the melody line in the background. "Don't Want to Be Alone Tonight" would have been an outstanding single on Raised on Radio, had Rolie stuck around for the whirlwind second half of Journey's career. Frank Zappa alumni Arthur Barrow and Vinnie Colaiuta make guest appearances on "Talk Talk," and in the process completely forget the technicalities and complexities Zappa taught them on tour, adhering instead to a petrified forest of boom-bap drumbeats and overly glossed keyboard stabs. Guest appearances from Carlos Santana and Neal Schon liven things up a bit, but the rest of the disc stays pretty much on the straight and narrow of inoffensive pop songs. The production is quite dated, and Gringo may be of interest to die-hard Journey/Rolie fans only.
by Rob Theakston