Unfortunately, Steve Augeri never had a chance replacing Journey’s Steve Perry

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Poor Steve Augeri. It really didn’t matter, in the end, what he did with Journey. Take “Higher Place,” a stand-out moment from his first album as Journey’s replacement for the similarly named, similar voiced, even similarly maned Steve Perry.

After an intriguingly episodic opening statement, Steve Augeri enters with a vocal that bridges the two eras — it certainly sounds enough like Perry to carry Journey to the well-constructed verse — before this Neal Schon/Jack Blades composition finds its own voice within 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. The ghosts of Journey’s past remained, however, as Arrival (released this week back in 2001) nevertheless became the band’s first album to fail to go gold since the pre-Perry Next.

It seems, 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 been gone far longer than he ever was actually in Journey, a stint that began in 1977. Of course, the two decades that followed Perry’s 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.

Does it matter that “We Will Meet Again” from elsewhere on Arrival meets, and maybe exceeds, much of their classic-era output? Listen as an inventively layered rhythm by Deen Castronovo (who had replaced Steve Smith at the drums) gives this track a unique character among Journey’s typically anthemic catalog. That sets 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 Journey stalwart Neal Schon, Augeri and Alabama-based songwriter Kim Tribble, builds toward a sweeping vista reminiscent of Journey’s Roy Thomas Baker-helmed sides like “Winds of March” and “Opened the Door,” a welcome development indeed. And like those two 1978-era tracks, “We Will Meet Again” serves as an emotionally resonant side-closing moment.

Ultimately, it didn’t matter. Journey left Columbia, its label home since ’75, after the follow up to Arrival. Steve Augeri, it seemed, could never shake his predecessor — despite the fact that Perry, despite some more recent stirrings, remains prematurely retired from music.

By 2006, Steve Augeri was gone too, succeeded by Jeff Scott Soto (2006-07) and then current singer Arnel Pineda, a partnership that seems to have finally got the group back on track with fans — and, most certainly, with the Billboard charts.

Along the way, Steve Augeri and the early successes of Arrival have been all but forgotten. Yet this album, in particular on songs like “Higher Place” and “We Will Meet Again,” showed the places Journey could still go, even without Perry.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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