Sometimes I buy remastered CDs because the sound of the original is already good, and I'm hoping to get something that is really fantastic. Journey: Infinity is not one of those cases. The sound quality of the original CD is crummy. There's tons of tape hiss, and a whole rice crispy bowl full of noise throughout. I was looking forward to having most of the problems with this generally unpleasant recording fixed.
There's a good reason for all of this. When this recording was done, Journey was not the hugely popular band (with corresponding huge recording budget) it would become but a few years later. No, back in 1978, you had a much rougher sound from the band then the super-slick (read expensive) production that would characterize 80's material like Escape. This was the transition album that the hits started rolling out from, with vocal parts by earlier lead Gregg Rolie recorded over with the new Steve Perry sound on top.
So, back to the question at hand, how did Sony do with this one? Unfortunately, not very well. The obnoxious tape hiss is still there, as loud and annoying as ever. They did at least manage to get a touch more treble extension out of the recording (there's a fair amount more detail to the cymbals on songs like Wheel in the Sky) without making the hiss worse. There's also more of the sound of the instrument strings portrayed on acoustic material; the opening guitar on Wheel in the Sky shows that off. All of the ugly crackling noises (most noticeable on the quiet parts of Feeling that Way) are scoured away. The bottom end goes down a bit deeper and hits slightly harder, which is welcome. I went back and forth between tracks on the two versions comparing vocals, and I couldn't find any verifiable improvement in that department anywhere; some things sounded just the slightest bit different, but there's certainly not an obvious difference.
Packaging is the usual for the SBM Legacy series. You get all the original liner notes along with an album sized fold-out copy of the cover art, and a regular jewel box (not the funky lift/lock style box you get with the gold CD releases from Mo-Fi or DCC).
Add it all up, and you get just the slightest bit of improvement. The removal of the crackling noises is the only thing I picked up immediately, everything else had to be checked carefully against the regular release to even be certain of the difference. If you took both of them away from me, I'd just buy a copy of the cheap version again. The remastered difference is there, but it's certainly not compelling in this case.
(Greg's Rock Remaster Reviews has just been updated for July, 1996)