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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  • Peter M

    Thank you Nick. Personally I love the Steve Augeri Journey. It is when I first became a fan. I had been into California Rock and other rock acts (Toto, Foreigner, Boston) and didn’t really bother with Journey until I scored front row tickets to their concert with Augeri. I became an instant fan. The Arrival DVD is awesome and Higher Place is a great moment on that album, which for me is almost a perfect album. “All the Way” is my favorite.

  • josh

    I disagree with Nick Deriso all the way steve augeri will never be forgotten. Everything you say in this article is very jaded and wrong in my opinion. The main reason why I say that is because just based on the title of this discussion about Steve augeri never having a chance at repalcingg steve Perry. Well buddy that’s wrong in its own manner because if you know your history Steve augeri from the very beginning never had any intention on REPLACING Perry steve augeri said himself and I quote ‘ steve Perry will always remain in the fans hearts as someone very special to them and someone that sang very special songs to them my approach is to see if we can go FORWARD’. Steve augeri is one of the greatest singers I ever seen with Journey,Tyketto,Tall Stories,and now the steve augeri band and nobody will ever take that away. Also if u actually do your homework you will know that the majority of people that have listened to augeri compared to arnel like steve augeri way better.

    • L. Belden

      Indeed! I grew up with Journey and yeah there was a “Journey” before Steve Perry. However, I would argue if they had never gone the way of recruiting him as their frontman, would there have been or be even now, a Journey. They were on the verge of dying out style wise, though NS and GR are legends in their own– but SP took Journey to a level that I believe they wouldn’t have seen otherwise. There was such a dynamic chemistry between those five guys (and later JC) that just will not be matched again in this lifetime.
      That said… I believe SA was a good choice to front Journey in the new era they were stepping into, just sad that he wasn’t given a legitimate chance to succeed on his own merit. He extended much grace to the fans by not trying to replace SP but I don’t feel the favor was returned. SA is an amazing vocalist and deserves to be known for HIS talent…. he had a tough challenge facing him that he should’ve never had to face, but it is what it is.
      As for the new frontman, he’s like a fish out of water….talented but just not a good fit for the Journey “look”… he is so much younger than the others…he just doesn’t fit. And he definitely is no comparison to SP. I would’ve definitely paid to see SA with Journey, not so with Arnel, have absolutely no desire. The good old Journey days are gone forever along with the sound they pumped out…RIP Journey 77-86!

  • James

    I have to admit, I like Steve Augeri way better than Arnel, because Steve sang those songs like they were supposed to be sung, which Arnel continues to try to out-do Perry from the past. That is my opinion. Steve Perry will always be the intricate part of Journey, similar to Michael Schenker being the same for UFO. Die hard fans of both bands understand that, but they are fans of the band and continue to follow them without the key piece. Personally, I like the recording Arrival and thinks the songs on that piece are deep, personal, and special. If Perry sang those same songs, the album would have done better commercially than it did. We can all hope one day that Perry will return and the band would do a few shows. That is what most of us want.

    • Wish Flower

      I just don’t look at Journey since Perry left. Anyone who has tried to “Be him” in that band has failed. He’s a diamond…period. Augeri blew out his voice trying to sing Perry’s stuff in his ranges and it never came back. He still sings Perry hits with his “Steve Augeri Band”. Riding his coat tails IMO.

      • Keith Shannon

        Not necessarily IMO, Augeri has a family and hopefully the ability to retire someday. Radioland never extended the courtesy of giving the Augeri led Journey ANY type of airplay, which may have permitted current and potential fans of Journey to receive those songs on a sentimental. It’s not that SA Journey songs are inferior, it’s that they weren’t heard enough to make the county fair/fund raiser/casino and House of Blues request like. Fact is Augeri still sings those Journey songs nicely and his voice is far less damaged than Perry’s. I admire SA for stepping into a Tsunami of fan adoration for his predecessor and make a very nice mark of his own while being a consummate gentleman and having the integrity required to be an artist who was true to himself when it counted.
        Ariel has gargantuan vocal talent and is paid well to accurately and inspiringly ressurect Perry era Journey. Augeri was asked to do something far far more challenging and he certainly succeeded. I consider all his work with the band “next era Journey”, different but not inferior to any era Journey.

        • Wish Flower

          I have seen Steve Perry in recent Eels performances and the man still has an emotional and resonating voice. Augeri sounds like he swallowed a bowl of razor blades. You kid yourself. And he is still trying to live off Perry hits rather than his own music. No respect.

          • Keith Shannon

            You’re an idiot. At no point in my post did even attempt to elevate anyone above or even close to Steve Perry. He defined a sound and an emotional response that will never be duplicated.
            What is so odd about your defensive attitude and resentment is that these guys are all friends and nobody is ripping anybody off. Augeri doesn’t get royalties from Perry’s songs, Perry does does. Responding to sure isn’t worth the wear and tear on my texting hand. Journey attempted to extend their careers and hired a guy who could do a decent job singing Perry songs as well as write new songs. If Augeris voice hadn’t given out. We would never heard Arnel, who also makes Steve Perry some extra cash by singing his songs.
            I love Perry music, and also enjoy what Steve Augeri produced when he was in Journey.

          • Cookie Russo

            Seriously you should check your facts first. Steve does do his own music.

  • Keith Shannon

    I’ll step out and say that Higher Place is one of the top 5 or 6 Journey songs ever. Excellent writing, excellent instrumentation, GREAT lead vocals and stunning harmonies. Just a gas to listen to.

  • DMeloche

    I agree that without Steve Perry,Journey would not have made it.Steve sings with such emotion that you can feel the music.He will always be my #1 vocalist.You can’t change the sound of a band and still call it the same name.

  • Modres

    When I first heard Journey with Augeri I wondered how long his voice would last because it seemed “thin” compared to Perry’s. Augeri has/had a good range but I’m not sure why his voice always sounded thin, whether on records or live. The truth is that Perry voice was more powerful – yes – but even he augmented things with more reverb to add presence to his voice. Nothing wrong with that at all.

    I like Arnel too. Now that Smith has rejoined Journey for the next two years, we’ll be going to see them again.

    As for Perry, I understand he’s going to be releasing a completely new album this year and I’m very interested in it. I’ve also heard him live with the Eels and while he can still sing, it is clear that much of his high end is gone. The Journey songs he sang were played in a lower key than the original ones.

    Not knocking Perry at all. The truth is that nothing remains the same.

  • Mickey

    Steve Perry was the voice of Journey at their commercial height, but was only their lead singer for a few of their 43 years. He wasn’t their first singer, or even the second. He was a replacement they hired along the way.

    Nothing against the guy. He was great. But in the greater scheme of things he was just another “lead singer of Journey.”

    We all love the ones we REMEMBER, which has a lot to do with when we happened to be teenagers.

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