This new Greatest Hits Vol. 2 is, in some ways, more interesting than Journey’s initial best-of compilation — if only because its songs haven’t necessarily become ear-wormingly familiar.
Perhaps the most potent examples are these twin 1978 gems from Infinity, Journey’s first project with Steve Perry. His appearance would immediately transform an interesting, if often unfocused jam band — co-led by Santana alums Gregg Rolie and Neal Schon — into a hit-making juggernaut. This album easily became the band’s biggest seller to date, as Journey moved toward a tighter focus on songcraft.
“When Steve Perry entered the band, I welcomed it,” Rolie told us, in an free-ranging interview. “I was spread pretty thin, playing three or four keyboards, harmonica and singing lead. I thought this would be good, and we started writing songs in a different way.”
“Feeling That Way” was actually a reworking of a pre-Perry instrumental called “Velvet Curtain,” which after earlier updates had at one time been scheduled for Journey’s third album, Next. Perry added a new chorus upon joining the band, and “Feeling That Way” was finally completed. The song is typically played with the subsequent “Anytime” on rock radio, as well as in concert performances — as heard on 1981′s Captured, the concert souvenir that became Rolie’s swansong with Journey.
“Anytime” charted at No. 83, becoming one of three (now shockingly minor) hits from Infinity — including “Lights” (No. 68) and “Wheel in the Sky” (No. 57). Yet, before it was over, the album — Journey’s last with original drummer Aynsley Dunbar before Steve Smith took over — went platinum an amazing three times. (Next, the band’s biggest earlier release, had only reached No. 85.) With the addition of Smith, Journey would tour its way to the cusp of megastardom — all the while recording three more studio albums with Rolie (Evolution, the Dream, After Dream movie soundtrack then Departure) and the live double-album Captured. Smith remained the group’s drummer through its arena-rock salad days after Rolie’s departure, finally leaving for good to focus on his jazz career in the mid-1990s.
“That incarnation had a particular sense of groove that was very deep — a deep pocket and a settled feel,” Smith told us, in a separate SER Sitdown. “Gregg Rolie particularly added to that, because he was essentially a Hammond B-3 player coming out of a blues tradition and background and, of course, he was a mainstay in the original Santana. He brought a nice groove sense to the group. Steve Perry had a great sense of time and feel, and he had the control to place his vocals exactly where he wanted them in relation to the groove. That is a rare quality. That particular incarnation of the band had a nice character that I really enjoyed.”
What leaps out, listening to the newly remastered version of “Feeling That Way/Anytime” on Greatest Hits Vol. 2, is the brilliant harmonic intertwining of Perry and Rolie — a lost treasure for a band that only had both lead singers for three years. It’s particularly noticeable on Infinity, thanks to the new addition of producer Roy Thomas Baker — already famous for his layered vocal approach on projects with Queen.
Still, participating in Baker’s intricate vocal constructions — each part was taped individually, by both singers, multiple times — proved to be a new, and sometimes frustrating, experience for the band, Rolie said. “When we recorded that, we did just the music, and we almost didn’t finish it,” Rolie told us. “Remember, we came to this having been a jam band. When we finished the music, we listened to all of the tracks, and it didn’t have the fire that we were used to. We had never spent too much time doing all of the vocals.”
Of course, by the time Baker finished adding in the singers’ tracks, something magical had happened: “As soon as the vocals were put in,” Rolie said, “the song came alive. I’m glad we didn’t can it!” An illustration of how much Rolie still thinks of “Anytime”: He included a new version of it on his latest solo release.
Over the years, Baker’s stacked-vocal style would become a trademark of the Journey sound, though after Rolie’s exit that often meant multi-tracking Perry’s voice — a far less organic approach that never matched these original moments of soaring harmonic brilliance. There’s no better example of where it all began, Greatest Hits Vol. 2 reminds, than “Feeling That Way/Anytime.”
Steve Perry participated in the remastering of Journey’s Greatest Hit’s Vol. 2, available today from Columbia-Legacy. The compilation, which spans singles and album tracks recorded between 1978-96, also includes “Patiently,” also from Infinity as well as tracks from 1979′s Roy Thomas Baker-produced Evolution (“Just The Same Way”); 1980′s Departure (“Walks Like A Lady,” “Good Morning Girl,” “Stay Awhile”); 1980′s Dream, After Dream (“Little Girl”); 1981′s Captured (“The Party’s Over [Hopelessly In Love])”; 1981′s Escape (“Still They Ride,” “Stone In Love,” “Mother, Father” and the title track); 1983′s Frontiers (“After The Fall,” “Chain Reaction”); 1986′s Raised On Radio (“Suzanne”); and 1996′s Trial By Fire (“When I Think Of You”).