In Defense of Journey Without Steve Perry
by Robert Mishou
I LOVE JOURNEY! ever since I bought the Escape album with my own money in 1981. I had heard their songs on the radio for years as a kid, but when I heard “Stone in Love” I knew two things: that I had to have this album and that Journey would become one of my favorite bands of all time. As it turns out, I was right. I bought everything that Journey put out after Escape, got a hold of everything before Escape, and bought all of the music the band put out as solo artists or with other musicians. I follow the band and it members on Twitter and I am eagerly anticipating seeing them perform on March 25 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Oh, wait, wait . . . that’s not Journey – Steve Perry is not with them.
If you follow guitarist Neal Schon on Twitter, you will understand what I am about to say. I am appalled at how many Journey “fans” ask Neal about Steve Perry. They ask and ask and ask. Neal replies (again, again, and again) patiently that the ball is in Perry’s court. If he wants to come back to the band, he will be welcomed back with open arms (see that, two Journey songs in one sentence).
Journey has been an excellent rock band since the release of their first album Journey in 1975. Album sales were not great, but they followed with Look into the Future (1976) and Next (1977). While each of these albums performed better than their predecessor, Journey was not a huge hit. With the Infinity album, things changed. The band added a vocalist, Steve Perry, and they took off. This album included classic rock hits “Wheel in the Sky” and “Lights.” The band started to hit the radio and the charts. They did not have any huge hits yet, but they were clearly on their way. Their next two albums Evolution and Departure would be Journey’s first top 20 albums and contain their first legitimate hits, “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’” and “Any Way You Want It.” They followed these albums with a string of top 4 albums: Escape (#1), Frontiers (#2), and Raised on Radio (#4). These albums contain such Journey classics as “Open Arms”, “Don’t Stop Believin’”, “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)”, and “Be Good to Yourself.”
As we all know, Raised on Radio would be their last release for ten years. The band fractured a bit; Steve Perry had some health issues, and . . . well, you know. Trial By Fire would be released in 1996, but it would be the band’s last album with Steve Perry on vocals. Yes, Perry has what many consider the best voice in rock. I love him and the songs he has with Journey – – but is it time we moved on. Journey is still an excellent rock band who has continued to produce fantastic albums and, more importantly, play live shows that live up to their legendary name and are packed with fans. I will not discuss the “Perry years” here; instead I will defend Journey as a band who deserves their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and should be supported as an all time great American rock band.
Let’s begin with plain old musicianship. It is impossible to define Journey as anything but a tight group of musicians who play as well as anyone out there. The present line up of Steve Smith (drums), Ross Vallory (bass), Jonathan Cain (keyboards), and Neal Schon (guitars) are just plain good. Let’s just isolate Schon. No one can deny that the riffs he plays with Journey are excellent! Need a reminder? Just pop in the song “Escape.” Need I say more? Do you still need more convincing? OK, let’s give a listen to Schon’s work outside of Journey. He has several solo albums: Late Night, Vortex, The Calling to name three (my personal favorite track is “I’ll Cover You” from the first album listed here). Schon also released two albums with keyboardist Jan Hammer, Untold Passion and Here to Stay (give “No More Lies” a listen). He was also a part of two groups: HSAS with Sammy Hagar (listen to “Missing You”) and Hardline’s first album Double Eclipse (listen to anything on this album). What all of these have in common is the presence of a virtuoso guitarist who can play any number of musical styles. Yes, Neal Schon can rock – and he does – but he can do so much more. Watch Schon play live, no matter what the songs are, is most assuredly worth the price of admission.
Great musicians keep releasing high quality albums, not matter who is singing. Since Steve Perry’s departure, Journey has released four original albums: Arrival (Steve Agueri on vocals), Generations (Steve Augeri on vocals), Revelation (Arnel Pineda on vocals), and Eclipse (Arnel Pineda on vocals). The last two of these albums with Pineda both reached the top 20 on the album charts. On these albums the band still sounds great! Solid rock music with some experimentation and some fusion of sounds. Several songs like “Never Walk Away” and “After All These Years”, and “Higher Place” are just plain ol’ classic Journey tracks. Are any of these albums Escape? No, of course not, but consider other bands and ask what their best album is. Are all of them great? Does U2 have another Joshua Tree? Does Bon Jovi have another Slippery When Wet? (OK, New Jersey is dang close). I think you get my point, Escape may be the pinnacle of Journey albums, but there is no reason to ignore what has been done since 1981. As much as I love Raised on Radio, it does not hold a candle to the brilliance of Escape.
Take musicianship and post-Perry albums, now add concert receipts. Journey still sells concert tickets. Vocalist Arnel Pineda clearly sounds quite a bit like Steve Perry, and perhaps this has helped ticket sales, who knows? Pineda’s story is amazing and he is a great vocalist. I would love to have Pineda’s talents; I would be on the road right now, belting out Journey classics – “Someday, love will find you, break those chains that bind you . . .”, but I digress. Simply put, the man can sing and he deserves the respect of all Journey fans. In fact, the entire band does.
I am no different than the rest of you Journey fans – I miss Steve Perry. I wish he was still with the band singing those classic tunes. I never had the chance to see Journey perform live with Perry, although I have several live cds and dvds. I know it is not the same. I would give anything to have Perry lead me (and the crowd) in the Na-Na-Na-Na-Na chorus of “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’”, but it is not going to happen. Instead of pining for this and tweeting Neal Schon endless and repetitive questions about Perry’s return, I chose to enjoy Journey for who they are, a legendary American rock band! I will continue to listen to all of the albums. I travel with my Journey Essentials collection and Time 3 and will continue to do so. I am thrilled that they finally received the Rock and Roll Hall of fame induction that they have deserved for years.
I will attend the Journey concert (with Asia opening for them) in a few weeks. I will sing all of the songs with Arnel. I will bounce my head to Ross’s bass. I will pump my first with Steve’s drums. And I will air guitar with Neal until my fingers bleed. Journey is Journey – appreciate them while we still have them.
Come back here in a few weeks for a review of their show.
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