For fans of this band at its radio-ready zenith, there simply can be no Journey without Steve Perry. Yet the truth of the matter is, it was started without him — and it’s continued on the same way since his departure in 1998.
In fact, Perry has officially been gone longer than he ever was actually in Journey, a stint that began in 1977. Of course the decade that followed his arrival would see the group sell roughly one gazillion records, permanently lodging his presence in most music fans’ minds eye when they think of Journey.
But what of the time since his too-early retirement from music? Journey saw two frontmen come and go — Steve Augeri (1998–2006) and Jeff Scott Soto (2006-07) — before settling in with current singer Arnel Pineda, a partnership that finally got the group back on track with Billboard.
But where to start for those who never made it past Perry’s last gasps with Journey on 1987′s Raised on Radio and 1996′s Trial by Fire? That’s where your trusty pals at SER come in, with a handful of recommended cuts from an often-overlooked period …
“HIGHER PLACE,” (ARRIVAL, 2001): After an intriguingly episodic opening statement, Steve Augeri steps into Perry’s oversized shoes — sounding enough like him to carry the well-constructed verse before this Neal Schon/Jack Blades composition finds its own voice in a chorus that’s pleasantly free of imitative ticks. A finely attenuated return to the verse then gives the song a taut sense of expectation, almost a proggy feel.
In this way, “Higher Place” references the group’s previous successes, but ultimately uses them as a foundation for something new. Of course, the ghosts of Journey’s past remained, as Arrival — which also saw Deen Castronovo replace Steve Smith at the drums — became the band’s first album to fail to go gold since 1977′s pre-Perry Next. By the follow up, Journey had also left Columbia, its label home since ’75. That’s a shame. “Higher Place” shows the places this band could still go, even without Perry.
“WHERE DID I LOSE YOUR LOVE,” REVELATION 2008): This is the closest Journey has come to completely renimating its platinum-era sound, creating an approachable power ballad very much in the style of their Escape/Frontiers era. Castronovo and Cain, who co-wrote this track with Schon, even close things out with an instantly familiar entanglement that must have brought older fans right back to “Separate Ways.”
Voiced by new singer Arnel Pineda, “Where Did I Lose Your Love” might have been a huge hit in another time, but even so reached the Top 20 on the adult-contemporary charts — quite a feat at this late date. More importantly, it signalled a reversal of their chart fortunes in general, as Revelation (which also included the No. 9 AC hit “After All These Years”) eventually became Journey’s first million-selling project since the 1996 Perry reunion project Trial by Fire. The album also included among its 10 new tracks a very credible re-recording of “Faith in the Heartland,” found elsewhere on our list.
“FAITH IN THE HEARTLAND, (GENERATIONS, 2005): The urge to return to an every-day-working-stiff theme has been almost unavoidable for a group that, in no small way, is remembered for “Don’t Stop Believin.’” Only this time, Schon, Augeri and Jonathan Cain — whose arrival on keyboards at the turn of the 1980s sparked Journey’s launch into the Billboard stratosphere — get things utterly right.
Not that it was an easy sell. After all, every one plays their utterly familiar roles, beginning with the young lovers who once again battle against all odds. Castronovo’s rock-steady cadence provides a platform for the now-expectedly molten turn by Schon. And yet, the track never edges into tribute — or, worse still, parody. Credit goes most of all to Augeri, who strikes a visceral pose, singing every line as if his whole heart is it. Unfortunately, Generations would stall out at No. 170, and Augeri — citing throat problems — would be gone after just two albums with Journey.
“WE WILL MEET AGAIN,” (ARRIVAL, 2001): Castronovo’s inventively layered rhythm gives “We Will Meet Again” a unique character among Journey’s typically anthemic catalog, setting the stage for a moment of controlled fury from Augeri — who, as with every post-Perry Journey singer, is often asked to elevate more than enunciate. Along the way, he turns a lonesome lyric into one of impressive determination.
Even better is this: “We Will Meet Again,” co-written by Schon, Augeri and Alabama-based songwriter Kim Tribble, builds toward a sweeping vista reminescent of Journey’s Roy Thomas Baker-helmed sides like “Winds of March” and “Opened the Door,” a welcome development indeed. (Tribble has written a number of huge country hits, including Mindy McCready’s “Guys Do It All the Time” and Collin Raye’s “I Can Still Feel You,” both charttoppers.) And like those two 1978-era tracks, “We Will Meet Again” serves as an emotionally resonant side-closing moment.
“EDGE OF THE MOMENT,” (ECLIPSE, 2011): I loved the way Eclipse defiantly explored this band’s seemingly disparate worlds. Songs like “Edge of the Moment” were musically dense in the style of their initial studio recordings, but at the same time didsn’t completely abandon the visceral mainstream pop sensibilities that defined the Journey’s subsequent hitmaking period in the 1980s. They were rewarded with a No. 13 debut on the Billboard album list, the group’s second-straight Top 20 hit with Pineda.
Amidst wave after crashing wave of guitars, Castronovo and legacy bassist Ross Valory create a foundation-rattling rhythm. Meanwhile, the big-voiced Pineda ably conveys the fiery sense of sensuality required of the song’s narrative. But the song will always belong to Schon, who is by turns scorching, melodic, spacy, gurgling, nasty — and nothing like we’ve heard from him since the days of the spaceman fro. Long after their hit single-making days, and a couple of albums into Pineda’s tenure, Journey emerged with a sense of furious third-act abandon.