The Popdose Guide to Journey
This story of Journey is about three men: Herbie Herbert, the visionary former manager of the band, Steve Perry, the enigmatic lead singer who helped take the band to great heights, and Neal Schon, the guitar virtuoso Herbert built the band around and who carries the Journey legacy into the 21st Century.
Herbert and Schon met in the early 70′s when the former was the road manager for the original Santana lineup, which included 15-year-old prodigy, Schon, and keyboardist, vocalist, Gregg Rolie. Fed up with the new direction Carlos Santana was taking his band, Herbert decided to form a new one around Schon and act as manager. Having bonded with Rolie, the lead singer of Santana who sang all of the band’s signature tunes, Herbert convinced him to come on board. With these two in place, Herbert recruited Ross Valory on bass (formerly of the Steve Miller Band); David Bowie vet, Ansley Dunbar, on drums, and George Tickner on guitar. Calling themselves Journey, they began touring the Bay area before landing a record deal with Columbia Records.
The self-titled first debut from Journey appeared in 1975 to little fanfare. The music on it is what you’d expect from a couple of guys who used to play in Santana: long, repetitive songs that build into extended jams. The lead off track, “Of A Lifetime,” “Kohoutek” and “In My Lonely Feeling/Conversations” are prime examples of the type of fusion music Journey created at that time. The latter is an example of Schon showing off his blues skills. On the mellower, more melodic “In the Morning Day,” Journey attempts to tap into something more heartfelt. Of course, you needed slow numbers to bring the fans down after whipping them into frenzy with ten minute solos. Journey’s first album introduces people to a band of astounding musicians capable of jumping from Latin influenced rock to blues to fusion. Unfortunately, the music is not all that astounding.
After a year spent touring opening for other bands, Tickner quit. On Journey’s second album, Look Into the Future, you hear the remaining members of the band beginning to gel as a unit. Several of the tracks, like “You’re On Your Own” and “I’m Gonna Leave You,” sound like they could have been on the first album (possibly because they were written at the same time), yet the band expands itself musically and in general, the songwriting is stronger. “Anyway” is a spacey track, something akin to early 70’s prog rock; their cover of George Harrison’s “It’s All Too Much” (a concert staple) is faithful to the original; and “She Makes Me Feel (Alright)” is an enjoyable rocker that must have really got even the ones who were too stoned to get back on their feet. The most interesting song is the title track. Beginning with a quiet Schon guitar melody, Rolie sings with conviction and doesn’t let his organ playing overpower the song. Sure, at 8:08 it gradually builds into another whaling jam, but the sense of melody and restraint foreshadows the type of music Journey would eventually record.
Next continues with the same sound of the first two albums. Although the songs were shortened in an attempt to make them more AOR friendly, this is the weakest of their early albums and sounds the most dated. “Spaceman”, “People”, and “Here We Are” all have that late 70’s California vibe that would make for easy listening on a Sunday afternoon. The synth heavy blues song, “I Would Find You” completes the laid back feel of side one. Their years on the road made it easy for Journey to transition from slow songs to rocking ones, and their playing on Side two is tight and boisterous. Selections like “Hustler”, “Nickel & Dime”, and the concert staple for years to come, “Next,” must have been great live in their day. Unfortunately, on record these tunes are unmemorable and the overall production is very muddled. It’s easy to understand why Next didn’t sell. While bands like Styx and Foreigner were selling records and embracing a more modern sound, Journey seemed trapped in the past.
After the first three albums failed to ignite enthusiasm from radio or the buying public, Columbia gave Journey an ultimatum: Get a lead singer and come up with some radio friendly songs, or find a new label. Initially, singer Robert Fleischman was hired to be the band’s new front man. He co-wrote some songs with Journey and briefly toured with them. However, Herbert kept getting a nagging feeling that Fleischman wasn’t going to be the man to help carry Journey to the next level. When the demo of an unsigned band came across his desk, he immediately heard what he was looking for in the voice of that band’s lead singer. Herbert secretly brought that singer to audition with the band while he had Fleischman otherwise occupied. Soon thereafter, despite the reservations of Schon and Rolie, Steve Perry became the new lead singer for Journey.
On Infinity, Perry’s impact is felt from the get go. The opening track is a little ditty called “Lights” and the blueprint for the new direction of Journey is laid out in the foundation of that song: Perry’s soaring tenor, perfect backup harmonies, the rhythm section keeping a steady reliable backbone and Schon tearing through a stirring guitar solo. The compositions are significantly shorter and the jam-laden style of their early efforts have been reined in. Perry would prove to be a strong counterpart to Schon, the riff master, and they immediately began writing songs together. Their first collaboration was the simple, beautiful ballad, “Patiently,” tacked on at the end of side one. Infinity included the band’s first hit single, “Wheel in the Sky,” as well as the Rolie one two punch “Feeling That Way” and “Anytime” (the second single from the record), which garnered serious airplay on AOR stations. Although Journey had transformed into the type of band that could compete with the big names, Infinity does contain a couple tracks to please to loyal fans. They include “La Do Da” and “Winds of March,” in which Rolie and Schon open up and display the talent for which they had gained a cult following. The success of Infinity should also be attributed to the decision to bring Roy Thomas Baker (who had worked with Queen) to produce the album. With plenty of overlays of guitars, vocals and effects, it was the most produced the band would sound for years to come.
Infinity also begins Journey’s long time association with artists Anton Kelly and Stanley Mouse, both recognized for their work with the Grateful Dead. This artistic duo would create covers for the next five albums, introducing the two key symbols of the Journey mythology: the scarab and the mobius “infinity” symbol. The artwork was beautiful, mysterious, and looked great on concert t-shirts and posters. This working relationship would last until the mid 80′s album, Raised on Radio.
After experiencing their first commercial success, Journey returned to the studio with Baker and recorded Evolution, but not before shuffling the polyrhythmic Dunbar in favor of former Montrose drummer, Steve Smith. With a jazz background and a measure of restraint, Smith proved to be a key addition to the band. Evolution comes off as less of an RTB production and something closer to what would become the signature Journey sound. The album opens with the Schon/Perry instrumental, “Majestic” and quickly segues into the underappreciated second single from the record, “Too Late”, a Perry composition he wrote to a friend slowly succumbing to drug addiction. It was track three that made Journey a household name in 1979. The simplistic “Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin,” with its sing-along chorus, became the band’s first major hit both in sales and on the radio. The popularity of that song alone helped Evolution go platinum. Side one is completed with a couple of rockers, “City of the Angels” and “When You’re Alone (It Ain’t Easy),” before wrapping things up with the slow rocker, “Sweet and Simple,” which uses beautiful vocal harmonies and Schon’s guitar soloing to the fade out. Side two has some generic, albeit, enjoyable rockers, but also contains Rolie’s “Just the Same Way,” which followed a similar song structure of “Anytime” from Infinity. Towards the end of the album, “Daydream” foreshadows the mellow, softer side of Perry (who co-wrote all but one song on the record) that would come to dominate his writing in later years. Overall, Evolution is a step forward for Journey and remains one of their best albums.
Journey turns a corner with 1980’s Departure. Working this time with Geoff Workman (the engineer behind their two Baker albums) and the band’s live sound engineer, Kevin Elson, Departure is one of Journey’s hardest rocking LP’s, and also one of their most diverse. Everyone knows “Anyway You Want It,” the song that kicks off the album. I wager to say that right now, somewhere in America, a radio station is playing this song. Several other songs rock the album hard, including concert staples “Where Were You” and “Line of Fire”. Yet, the band explores other genres throughout Departure. “Walks Like A Lady,” perhaps their most underrated single, is a nice blues number. On it, Schon holds back his typical pyrotechnics and reveals that with restraint he can be one of the most soulful guitarists alive. The entire band simple shines. Schon also has an elegant guitar instrumental (“Departure”) that precedes the quiet “Good Morning Girl”, in which Perry sings with a string section. It doesn’t sound as cheesy as you may think. Finally, there is the optimistic “Precious Time,” a song that highlights nearly each member of the band. Built around a nifty guitar riff and some killer harmonica playing by Rolie, it’s not the prototypical Journey song. There isn’t even a guitar solo. Like the rest of Departure, the song displays a band hitting their mark and on the verge of something big.
I include Journey’s 1981 double live LP, Captured, simply because it has one of the coolest album covers ever. The Mouse/Kelly team outdid themselves (until the next record). The songs on Captured are arranged sequentially to simulate the Journey concert experience. Side one opens with “Too Late” and Side four wraps things up with the string of hits that would have been the encores of any show from the early 80′s. There were two new songs on the record, in addition to the obligatory solo spots for Schon, Rolie, Valory and, of course, Smith- it wouldn’t be a live show without a drum solo and his solo on “La Do Da” is pretty awesome. The first of the new tracks is “Dixie Highway,” a bluesy rock song about, you guessed it, the Dixie Highway, that stretch of road that connects the Midwest with the Southern United States. The song is long and wears out its welcome after about two minutes (although, in concert, with about three beers and the second hand smoke from that dude sitting in front of you, it may not have seemed that way). The other new song, a studio recording, is “The Party’s Over (Hopelessly In Love).” This moderate hit from 1981 doesn’t feature Rolie, as he had already left the group.
After completing the Departure tour, Rolie decided he’d had enough of touring (and quite possibly, Perry’s ego). He handpicked his replacement knowing that Schon wanted to add another guitar to the group. The Babys had opened for Journey on their tour and Rolie watched from the wings most nights, noting that their keyboardist/guitarist seemed like a good fit. He passed the idea to Schon and Herbert and Jonathan Cain became the newest member of Journey. His contributions to the band would not only influence the direction of their music, but also help catapult them to the top of the music charts and make them the most popular band in the world.
In 1981, Escape was a monster. Everyone owned a copy . If you didn’t have your own scratched up LP, your older sibling did, or you knew someone who could copy it on to a cassette for you. Journey dominated radio, concert arenas (and eventually stadiums), and thanks to another killer Mouse album cover, merchandise up the whazoo. Perry and Cain share co-writing credits on every song, with Schon contributing to eight of the eleven songs. Cain’s poppier songwriting sensibilities helped Journey cross the threshold of rock super stardom and the hits poured off of the vinyl. “Don’t Stop Believin’,” “Who’s Crying Now” and the quintessential power ballad, “Open Arms,” are the best remembered, while the hard rocking “Stone In Love” became an AOR radio staple. “Still They Ride,” the fourth official single, is almost forgotten about. The band grooves along to Perry until Schon blasts off for one of his most emotional solos on record. But it’s not just the hits. Producers Mike Stone and Kevin Elson really capture what the band sounded like live and there isn’t a real miss on the record. The title track and “Lay It Down” are hard-edged anthems that open side two, followed by the goof, “Wanted Dead Or Alive.” The highlight of the second side is the epic, “Mother, Father,” which rises above pretentiousness and remains one of Journey’s crowning musical achievements. Everything clicked on Escape: The band, the songwriting, the production, and, yes, the marketing. The music endures, making Escape Journey’s best album.
The runaway success of Escape not only made Journey the most popular band in the world, but also one of the most reviled. Critics came out of the woodwork to criticize the music as superficial and corporate, as in, having been manufactured by executives to sell records. They also bitched that Journey recorded radio commercials for Budweiser and sold their likenesses to two video games. Somehow it was overlooked that Journey paid their dues on the road, building a fan base for ten years before finally achieving their massive success. Funny how when a critic’s darling like Bruce Springsteen follows a similar career path the artist is praised for being hard working and earning their success. And I don’t recall too many people complaining when The Who’s “final” tour in 1982 was sponsored by Schlitz Beer. This isn’t a knock on Springsteen or The Who, it’s a knock against the critics who thumb their noses at the general public.
Journey had reached the top of the summit. Sadly, whenever one reaches that peak, the only was to go is down, and the band began to slowly fall apart.
Public anticipation was high for Journey’s next album. Whatever they released was sure to be a blockbuster. Sadly, even though Frontiers had four more hits for the band, overall it’s cold and cynical, with little joy. One need only look at the ridiculous photo of the band parachuting toward us to see the state of affairs in Journey. Schon and Cain look pissed, Smith is bemused and Valory appears stoned. Meanwhile, Perry smiles smugly. Behind the scenes he had slowly gained more control of the band. As for the music, Frontiers falls into that category of the record label cramming all of the singles on side one, and letting side two provide the b-side material. Instead of going into the hits, let’s discuss the other songs. Side two opens with “Edge of the Blade”, a retread of “Escape” that deals with a broken relationship (most of the songs on Frontiers are bitter, like that). The song also mimics “Separate Ways,” with a drum break in the middle and Schon having an extended solo as the song fades out. “Troubled Child,” another song with dark subject matter, follows. This one is unusual in that it’s written in 6/8 time, attributable to Smith’s influence of constantly trying to branch out the group’s sound. “Back Talk” is a Bo Diddley type song that may have sounded cool in 1983, but now comes off as really forced and misogynistic. The title track is an odd piece of music co-written by Smith featuring another syncopated drum part. It’s apparently Perry’s commentary about how technology is affecting the human experience. Finally, the album closes out with the optimistic “Rubicon.” I’ve always been surprised that considering how cynical every song on Frontiers comes off, “Rubicon” wasn’t released as a single. It’s a straight-ahead rocker as radio friendly as “Separate Ways.”
Although not the phenomenon of its predecessor, Frontiers was still an unmitigated success. After the album’s release, Journey immediately began touring, reaping millions from the sales of concert tickets and tour merchandise. By the end of the tour the band was playing sold out stadiums, with fans watching all of the action on enormous video screens, another one of Herbert’s innovative ideas. Journey became the first band to use them on tour. Between 1983 and 1986 there would be no new Journey album. Schon recorded with Sammy Hagar on an LP that supposedly influenced Eddie Van Halen, Smith formed a jazz/fusion band, Vital Information, Cain did some producing, and Valory battled addiction and mounting losses from bad investments. As for Perry, he released his first solo album, Street Talk, which generated three top 40 hits, including the smash, “Oh Sherrie.” The success of that album gave him considerable leverage over Herbert and the band. When Journey regrouped to start their next album, Perry convinced Schon and Cain to fire Valory. Against Herbert’s wishes, the bass player was given his walking papers. Soon thereafter, Smith quit, bored with having to replicate the click tracks from Perry’s demo tapes. With just Perry, Schon and Cain calling themselves Journey, they finished their next album using studio vets like Larry Londin on drums and Randy Jackson on bass. The future American Idol judge would also become a touring member of Journey.
Raised on Radio is a slick, overproduced piece of gooey pop that is pretty much Street Talk: The Sequel, but with a better guitarist. While the album opens nicely with the single, “Girl Can’t Help It,” everything goes downhill from there. “Positive Touch” wants to be 60’s soul (saxophone included), but comes off like second rate Pointer Sisters. “Eyes of A Woman” tries to mysterious, but it drags on and on. And “Happy to Give”, a number that Perry and Cain labored over for months, is so overwrought and horrible, you’ll never forgive yourself for listening to it. The attempts to sound like classic Journey sound forced at best. “Be Good To Yourself,” a top 10 hit, is upbeat and positive, but feels disconnected. This may be because Schon wasn’t even at the recording sessions, choosing to lay down his guitar licks when called upon. The title track is a throwaway hodge podge (cursed with Cain’s clichéd keyboard sound). Finally, the obligatory power ballad, “Why Can’t This Night Go On Forever,” is “Faithfully” redux, with Smith’s drums thundering like cannons, but no emotion. The saving graces of Raised on Radio are two tracks that allowed Schon to display his versatility. “I’ll Be Alright Without You,” is a light, jazz/blues influenced song that became a moderate hit. Schon really puts warmth into the solo and the small in-betweens making the song better than it deserved to be. “Once You Love Somebody,” which could have fit on any R&B station of that period, contains some of the guitarist’s most inspired, pop work.
Journey toured behind Raised on Radio until the middle of 1987. At that point, Perry decided he was done with the band and walked away from one of the most successful acts of the 80′s. Although no official statement was made, Journey disbanded.
Herbert assembled Journey’s Greatest Hits in 1988, culling fifteen songs from all of the Perry fronted albums (a reissue tacked on a 16th). The album includes two tracks previously available only on soundtracks: the hit single “Only The Young,” from the 1985 Matthew Modine wrestling film, Vision Quest, and “Ask The Lonely,” pretty much the only redeeming thing of the terrible John Travolta/Olivia Newton John movie, Two of a Kind. Both songs were outtakes from the Frontiers sessions, inexplicably cut at the last minute. In the world of single album greatest hits compilations, this one is pretty flawless. Die hard fans may have qualms about what is missing, but to the general public there isn’t a miss on the record. Journey’s Greatest Hits has become one of the most successful albums of all time, earning diamond status in record sales. To this day, it remains a bestseller.
Former members of Journey worked together in various outfits throughout the late 80’s and early 90’s. Schon and Cain joined Bad English, a super group that included John Waite and Randy Phillips, Cain’s old band mates from The Babys, plus a relatively unknown drummer named Deen Castronovo. Bad English released two albums and had a couple of hit songs, including the smash power ballad, “When I See You Smile.” Rolie, Valory and Smith reunited with Herbert to form The Storm, a melodic rock band that scored a hit with “I’ve Got A Lot To Learn About Love.” Out front for the band were singer Kevin Chalfant and guitarist Josh Ramos. Chalfant’s vocals were so similar to Perry’s (and the guitar sounded so much like Schon) that if you didn’t know any better, it could have been Journey.
Journey dove into the burgeoning CD Box craze with Time 3. This three disc compilation is an excellent introduction to the band from the Bay Area, with tracks from every album (to that point) and about one CD’s worth of new or hard to find material. The music is sequenced in chronological order. However, that crafty Herbert decided to only include live versions of some of the band’s classic songs (taken from Captured). So if you wanted original versions of “Lights” or “Any Way you Want It,” you had to buy the original albums or the Greatest Hits. Among the outtakes is “For You,” a track sung by Robert Fleischman, a cover of Sam Cooke’s “Good Times,” and a nifty little song entitled “Natural Thing,” which wound up as the b-side to “Don’t Stop Believin’.” Also included are the songs “La Raza Del Sol,” a Spanish influenced number that features Valory’s running bass lines, “Only Solutions,” a throw away written for the original Tron soundtrack, as well as two outtakes from the Raised on Radio period that never had vocals recorded. Both “With A Tear” and “Into Your Arms” bear a strong resemblance to the Wave style of music Schon released as a solo artist. One of the standout songs is definitely “Little Girl,” originally found on an obscure Japanese soundtrack Journey recorded. The movie was 1980′s Dream After Dream and it consisted of mostly improvised instrumentals the band composed while watching the film. This song, one of just two with vocals recorded for that soundtrack, is one of Journey’s strongest. Building slowly, with a nice string arrangement, Perry and the rest of his band mates play with a lot of passion and has some of the band’s best melodies. The sound quality on Time 3 was nothing to write home about; none of the music was remastered. However, if you were like me and loved Journey music, you requested this box set for Christmas that year and listened to it religiously thinking that this was the last new music you would ever hear from Journey.
And you would have been wrong.
Late in 1993, singer Chalfant jammed with Cain and Schon at a roast for Herbert. This get together went so well that plans were made for Chalfant to record with a band that would include Schon, Smith, Valory, Cain and Rolie. Perry, who finally released his second solo record in 1994, must have caught wind of these rumors and shocked his former band mates by calling to say that he wanted to reform Journey to see if the magic was still there. Schon and company agreed to regroup. However, Perry had conditions: He only wanted the Escape lineup, and he wanted someone else to manage the band. Herbert decided he didn’t need the headache of Steve Perry anymore. For the sake of the Journey legacy, a band that he had created from scratch, Herbert stepped down as the band manager. Irving Azoff, uber manager of such bands like The Eagles and Van Halen, became the new manager and in 1995 Journey went into the studio as a complete band for the first time in over 10 years.
The reunion album starts off promising with “Message of Love.” Even though it’s basically “Separate Ways” written sideways, the song still captures the spirit and sound of the early 80’s Journey. The next track, “One More,” is even better. Despite some pretentious Perry voice over, the song rocks hard. It’s as if Schon, Perry and co. decided to make a statement that Journey could hold their own in the harder edged rock world of the mid-90’s. Be sure to listen for Smith’s stellar double pedal work and Valory’s invigorated bass playing throughout the song (in particularly during Schon’s kick ass solo). Schon, Valory and Smith really sound tight, like they’re having fun. “When You Love A Woman” completes the opening triptych with grace and elegance. Arguably Journey’s most mature ballad, it’s a fine piece of songwriting that deservedly received a Grammy nomination. Whereas those first three tracks sound like true collaborations between the five band members, eleven of the remaining thirteen songs come off as recycled, half-baked cast offs from previous, lesser efforts. “If He Should Break Your Heart,” “Forever In Blue” and “Still She Cries” reek of Perry’s lame solo records, while “Castle’s Burning” could have come from the last Bad English album. Meanwhile, “Colors of the Sprit,” with its African rhythms and pan flutes, is an attempt at sounding diverse that fails miserably. Trial by Fire nearly lifts itself out of mediocrity through Schon’s brilliance on the light jazz stylings he lends to “Easy To Fall.” The remaining rock song, “Can’t Tame The Lion,” hears the band come together again, finally free from the restraints of whoever was dictating the direction of the music, whether it was Perry or A & R guru, John Kalodner, the exec who oversaw the reunion album for Columbia. The remaining strong song is the title track, “Trial By Fire,” which echoes some of the better Journey ballads from back in the day. It almost makes you forget the rubbish that preceded it. Despite the number of sub-par selections, though, there was still enough good material to intermix with the classics if Journey had gone on tour to support the album.
Trial by Fire was a top 10 hit. Even after a decade’s absence, people still wanted to hear new Journey music. Tour plans were in the works when Perry suddenly had to bail. Depending on what camp you fall into (pro-Perry or against), Steve Perry either injured his hip while hiking, or never intended on touring in the first place. Whatever the truth is (only the band members know, and they’re legally bound to keep their mouths shut), Schon decided he had finally had enough. This was his band. It’s been formed around him. And now that the flame was reignited, he wasn’t ready to let it go out again, especially since there was a HUGE market for classic rock acts on the concert circuit. Much to the dismay of Perry and record executives, Schon hired former Tall Stories singer, Steve Augeri, as the new lead singer. His vocal resemblance to Perry suited the songs well, and he’s a heck of a nice guy to be around. Simultaneously, Smith opted out. Schon didn’t hesitate to bring in his old Bad English buddy, Deen Castronovo to handle the drums for the reborn Journey. Touring throughout 1998 and 1999, Journey was able to land a one record deal with their old label to put out new music.
Arrival is an amalgam of melodic rock from all over the 80’s. You get pieces of Journey, a little Night Ranger, Foreigner and even some Honeymoon Suite. Working again with producer Kevin Shirley (who also produced Trial by Fire), and still under the eye of Kalodner, the album features at least three solid Journey tracks. They are: the rocker “Higher Place” (co-written by Jack Blades of Night Ranger); “All The Way,” an excellent power ballad that could have slipped into any Bruckheimer action film; and a song that more closely resembles the Infinity era Journey called, “Livin’ To Do” (replete with an organ solo). The remainder of the CD suffers from cold production and generic songwriting making this more of a novelty CD than something you’d play alongside the classic stuff. “Signs Of Life” could be a Survivor song; “All The Things” has the bravura of bad Whitesnake; and the wimpy ballad “Loved By You” is something akin to Michael Bolton. But it’s not just the songwriting. Augeri’s vocals are passionless on many of the tracks and you can feel the tension between the band and Kalodner on the surface of the music. He wanted more ballads and Schon wanted to rock. Because of this, Arrival suffers greatly.
Although critics scoffed at the idea of another Journey record, Arrival was heavily bootlegged when the Japanese release (available months before the U.S. version) leaked to Napster. Instead of using the brouhaha surrounding the pirating of the record as an opportunity to get the music heard, Columbia sat on Arrival as the band recorded some alternate tracks. It didn’t matter, though, because Columbia doomed the fate of the album before it officially hit American shores.
Just as the record was set to be released, Columbia approved a VH1 Behind the Music episode on Journey. It was a HUGE success. Unfortunately, the whole show is basically a pro-Perry special, detailing his tormented youth and the pain after losing his mother during the recording of Raised on Radio (as if none of the other band members had suffered during that time). Perry also stated, “I never felt like I was a member of the band.” Cut to slack jawed reactions by every single member of Journey, including Herbert. Whether you believed him or not, the success of the Behind the Music special implied that people still believed that Steve Perry was the guiding force of Journey. Columbia saw this as a losing battle as long as Steve Augeri was singing for Journey. While Arrival struggled, the label released a heavily promoted second Journey compilation (part of their Essential series) and dropped the band from the label. Free from the restraints of a corporate parent, the new Journey carried on.
Well aware that the music industry had changed and that Journey’s money would now be made primarily on the road, the decision was made to put out this four song EP to sell at concerts and through the Journey website. It was a bad decision. Red 13 sounds exactly like what it is: a series of demos recorded in Cain’s home studio. While every song sounds like a band trying to modernize itself, each track is generic dribble. The closest thing to achieving anything memorable is the opening cut, “State of Grace,” which made its way into the concert set lists. Otherwise, avoid Red 13 altogether and move directly on to…
Fans raved that Generations was Journey’s best album since Escape. Hardly. The CD immediately gets points off for plagiarizing its cover from Captured, and the tracks are a mixed bag. For one thing, the album is too long (a common problem in the modern era). At thirteen tracks, two or three songs should have been cut to make for a stronger album, in particular the sappy ballads “Butterfly (She Flies Alone)” and “Believe,” two Augeri penned songs, and “Every Generation,” a rock anthem that Cain sings that is just plain awful. Still, the band is in fine form on “Faith In The Heartland” and “The Place In Your Heart,” which easily could have fit on any classic rock station. There is a sense of fun on Generations, as each band member gets a chance to sing lead on a song. Schon rips his voice and guitar into a rerecording of the song “Self Defense,” Valory has a great old time giving the song “Gone Crazy” a real ZZ Top boogie, and Castronovo does a fine job vocally on his two songs, including another one that would have been a hit in an earlier decade, “Never Too Late.” The band’s drummer and Augeri really formed a complimentary singing duo, especially true on the touching 9/11 tribute, “Beyond The Clouds.” On it, Augeri and Castronovo harmonize while Schon plays wonderful melodies. With Generations Augeri finally appeared comfortable as the lead singer of this band. Sadly, it was his last album with the band.
2005 marked the 30th anniversary of Journey. To celebrate, they received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Every member, past or present (even Fleischman) was invited to the ceremony. Steve Perry drew audible gasps when he arrived and gave a speech. His appearance alongside Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain fueled the ongoing rumors that the reclusive singer was going to rejoin the band. The fact that Augeri’s voice was showing wear and tear after eight years of constant touring didn’t help matters.
In 2006, while Journey toured with Def Leppard, there were whispers in the chat rooms that Augeri’s live performances were being augmented with recordings being piped through the speakers. Coupled with the fact that Castronovo began splitting the lead singing duties, it looked like Augeri’s days were numbered. He decided to leave the band during the tour to heal his voice. Veteran rock singer, Jeff Scott Soto, stepped in for the rest of the tour and when it was over, Augeri amicably left Journey. Initially, Soto was announced as the new lead singer. This lasted about a minute before Journey realized that Soto wasn’t what they wanted.
What’s a band leader to do when he has no lead singer? It’s the 21st Century, right? So why not go to the Internet and see what you can find? Schon began watching singers on YouTube and discovered amateur video of a Filipino band called The Zoo. The diminutive singer fronting the band had a spot on voice match to Perry, not just the range, but the texture that made Perry one of the best rock singers in the 80’s. After some soul searching, Schon decided to take a risk. He called the Philippines and invited Arnel Pineda to audition for the band in San Francisco. In a classic Horatio Alger story, Pineda found himself the newest member of one of the most popular bands in the world.
Revelation is a strong record in the traditional Journey mold: a combination of fast rockers mixed with several ballads. What you notice immediately is how easily Pineda slips into the role of the front man; he’s a natural. The soulfulness of his voice brings to mind Journey in their heyday and besides a few noticeable inflections in his voice (such as on “Never Walk Away”) you’d swear that it’s 1982 all over again. Of the rock songs, “Wildest Dream” and the excellent “Where Did I Lose Your Love” stand out. “After All These Years,” your standard power ballad, was released as a single and it shows Pineda’s emotional range. However, the bluesy “Like a Sunshower” is a better song and features some great guitar playing by Schon. Like all of the recent Journey albums, Revelation could use some trimming. The band really didn’t need to rerecord the Generations song, “Faith in the Heartland,” and “What I Needed” is a pretty weak slow song. Nevertheless, if Journey was out to prove that Pineda was not a gimmick and that they could still produce good music, they succeeded. The physical album (sold exclusively through Wal-Mart) was a package deal that included a CD of rerecorded Journey classics featuring Pineda on vocals, as well as a concert DVD. Both of these “bonus” discs, coupled with the band sounding as polished as ever, made clear that Journey was back and that they didn’t need Steve Perry.
Nearly thirty years after bringing a second guitarist into the Journey fold, Neal Schon finally got to record the hard rocking album he’s been hoping to make. Eclipse has a purposeful edge to it, and the international superstars appear totally focused on this, their fourteenth studio album. The song cycle on Eclipse has themes of spirituality and love, with a healthy dose of optimism. The opening songs, “City of Hope,” “Edge of the Moment” and “Chain of Love,” present a three headed monster attack of loud guitars, pounding drums and driving bass. Jonathan Cain’s keyboards are pushed to the background, virtually unheard. “Tantra” is the standout ballad, although it’s a little theatrical (perhaps the band was inspired by the Broadway smash, Rock of Ages). “Anything is Possible” is a gem of a midtempo rocker that has the warmth and mood of a great summer song. If only radio took chances on aging melodic rockers, you’d hear this one playing out of cars at the beaches and parks. “She’s a Mystery” is an interesting number as if begins like a new age slow song but quickly transforms into a head banger. To this day, Schon likes to morph a song into a frenzied jam, just like the Infinity and Evolution era. The claims have been tossed around for years, but Eclipse is definitely Journey’s best album since the early 80’s. Instead of trying to write “Journey music” the songwriters decided to just write good music. In doing so, they’ve come up with their best album in decades.
Like a Phoenix, or the Terminator, Journey continues to rise from the dead. This is now clearly Neal Schon’s band and together, with Jonathan Cain, they have been able to keep Journey moving forward. What makes Journey still popular is the passion they put into their best music. Like any great artist, this connects with their fans and helps to create new ones. Yeah, there’s the merchandise and the tours, but in the end, it’s the songs that the fans remember and it’s the songs that make them want to whip out their Bic lighters or cell phones. Journey was labeled as corporate rock, but their music has touched the lives of many, many people. That’s not something that can be manufactured in the boardroom.
Author’s Note: Special thanks to Dw. Dunphy for the beautiful banners he created for this post. A majority of this guide was written in 2006 as the “Idiot’s Guide to Journey” for the great Jefitoblog. Although the published content was lost when Jeff’s site crashed, I discovered an early draft on my computer. I did go back and revisit all of the albums and I also edited much of the original content (lucky for you). My opinions pretty much held from 2006.
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