'The magic of music': An encouraging sign for Journey fans, as Steve Perry signs new deal

Another sign that Steve Perry may be readying his first solo project since leaving Journey in the 1990s comes with his signing of a new exclusive deal with the Universal Music Publishing Group.

The agreement, which focuses on countries outside of North America, covers everything Perry has written or co-written, either as a member of Journey or as a solo artist. That would include iconic hits like “Any Way You Want It,” “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin,’” “Open Arms,” “Who’s Crying Now,” “Foolish Heart,” and “Oh Sherrie.”

More interestingly, however, the publishing group’s chairman and CEO specifically mentions future plans for working with Perry on new songs, while Perry says he’s enthused that Universal still believes in “the magic of music.” Van Halen memorably inked a similar renewal with Warner Music in the run up to their reunion with David Lee Roth, and A Different Kind of Truth” arrived some 18 months later.

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Former bandmate Jonathan Cain opens up about Steve Perry's departure from Journey, saying: 'He was really fighting some serious health issues.']

Perry has been talking more openly about a return to music lately, confirming earlier this year that he was installing a new home studio and also that he had completed as many as 50 song demos. At the same time, however, Perry acknowledged the huge influence of his time with Journey, and said he had some trepidation about a comeback — since it amounted to a new “opportunity to suck.”

Perry served as lead singer and songwriter with Journey from 1977-87, its initial platinum era, and then returned again between 1995–98. But his most recent solo album predates that reunion, 1994′s For the Love of Strange Medicine. His last full-length studio effort was 1996′s Trial by Fire, recorded with the 1981-85 lineup of his old band.

After leaving Journey once more, he included five previously unreleased songs on a solo greatest hits compilation, and wrote two soundtrack songs for “Quest for Camelot.” Perry has since served as a producer on a series of Journey reissue projects, but the band has moved on with Arnel Pineda as its frontman.

“One of the greatest voices in the history of rock also wrote or co-wrote some of rocks greatest songs,” said Zach Horowitz, Chairman & CEO, Universal Music Publishing Group. “We couldn’t be prouder that he has chosen to bring those songs to UMPG. We look forward to working with him on both his iconic catalog and his new songs.”

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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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