'An opportunity to suck': Ex-Journey singer Steve Perry jokes about tentative comeback

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There’s still no new solo album from former Journey lead singer Steve Perry, though he confirms in a newly posted nationally syndicated radio interview that he’s slowly sorting through some 50 demo songs.

“About two years ago, I bought a laptop and loaded it up with Pro Tools; I decided I would give myself the opportunity to suck,” Perry says, laughing uproariously. “The reason I say that is because, there was so much that we accomplished as a group together, it’s a tough thing to live up to. I think it hangs over my head.”

Perry, lead singer of Journey during its platinum era from 1977–87 and then again from 1995–98, hasn’t released a solo album since 1994’s For the Love of Strange Medicine. He hasn’t been part of a complete studio recording since Journey’s 1981–85 lineup reconvened for Trial by Fire in 1996. Two years later, Perry issued a greatest hits solo project with five unreleased songs, and contributed two tracks to the film “Quest for Camelot.”

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Steve Perry on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame snubs his former band has endured: “I think that, honestly, Journey doesn’t need to be in the Hall of Fame.”]

By then, of course, hip problems forced him from the road — and Journey eventually replaced Perry with a series of frontmen, finding their greatest successes so far with current singer Arnel Pineda. More recently, Perry has overseen some Journey reissues, but has been no closer than that to a reunion with his former bandmates.

“I really did let it go; I walked away from it,” Perry recently told Joe Benson for the Off The Record program. “Since the band and I went our separate ways — not to be funny about it — in May of 1998, we’ve not really been communicating or doing anything together, except through channels when we worked on these projects — and that was a thrill. But that being said, I have done nothing since ’98. I had to let it completely go, and let them do what they want to do. I walked away.”

Part of Perry’s slow return to the business of songwriting has included the construction of a new recording studio inside his southern California home, as well, and that’s further delayed the timetable for new material.

Whatever happens, the 62-year-old isn’t going to rush things.

“I knew there was going to be times that I came across with some ideas that I liked, and some are going to really suck,” Perry says. “So I had to let myself have those moments, and I did. But I’ve come across some things that have been really great.”

Perry pauses, then says: “And some suck!,” laughing again.

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Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on Journey. Click through the titles for complete reviews …

SOMETHING ELSE! SNEAK PEEK: NEAL SCHON – THE CALLING (2012): Schon reunites with former Journey drummer Steve Smith, and they recapture much of the sound and feel of the band’s platinum era — mixing in arena-rattling tracks like “Carnival Jazz” and “Back Smash” with the soaring pop-balladry of “Six String Waltz” and “True Emotion.” “Blue Rainbow Sky” emerges from a Jimi Hendrix-style riff into something that sounds like a newly unearthed track from the Escape sessions. But there’s also a cool jazz-rock underpinning, something that allows Schon to explore further out along the edges of his craft in a way that his main band’s brand of mainstream rock almost never does anymore.

ONE TRACK MIND: JOURNEY, “FEELING THAT WAY/ ANYTIME” (1978; 2011 reissue): A new Greatest Hits Vol. 2 was, 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.

SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: FORMER JOURNEY DRUMMER STEVE SMITH: Smith is in the midst of a flurry of activity surrounding the 30th anniversary of his jazz group Vital Information. The first VI album appeared in 1983, even as his tenure with Journey reached its chart-topping zenith. Smith eventually left to pursue jazz, his first true love, and is commemorating that with the release of three albums over a two-year period. We just had to ask, though, since Smith played in both Journey eras: Which did he prefer, the Gregg Rolie or the Jonathan Cain editions?

JOURNEY – ECLIPSE (2011): In many ways, the initial cuts on Eclipse recall the wide-open heavy fusion of the the band’s original Gregg Rolie-era records, a period when guitarist Neal Schon pulled and stretched his muse. At the same time, singer Arnel Pineda possesses a second-act Steve Perry-sounding penchant for soaring expectancy. For age-old fans, that often makes this album the best of both worlds, a musically dense recording in the style of the band’s underrated 1977?s Next, and a loud one, but at the same time one that doesn’t completely abandon the visceral mainstream pop sensibilities that defined the band’s subsequent hitmaking period in the 1980s.

SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: GREGG ROLIE, FOUNDING MEMBER OF SANTANA AND JOURNEY: Gregg Rolie, a 1998 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, has learned a lot about himself since taking fame’s exit ramp to start a family almost 30 years ago. He’s put into perspective the work done as a founding member of Santana, a stint that saw Rolie co-produce the group’s first four albums beginning in 1969. The bluesy B-3 stylist then added to an overstuffed resume that already included an appearance at Woodstock, leaving with Neal Schon to launch Journey. There, he helped craft a series of 1970s recordings that set the stage for that band’s arena-rock supernova moment in the 1980s.

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