Every journey has a beginning, a middle and an end. Except the band, Journey, whose destination does, indeed, seem to be infinity. What has given Journey’s music enough sturdiness to survive a nuclear war? What has allowed them to deflect barrages of critics’ slings and arrows? What has given this band such vast appeal that, even as you read this, countless radio stations are playing Journey, scores of Karaoke patrons are singing in joyous discord with Journey, and Journey’s songs are probably recognized by Aboriginal tribes otherwise untouched by civilization, and possibly a few Galapagos turtles, too? Passion. Journey writes and plays with a passion that freeze-frames life’s defining moments, creating a musical memory book. For at least one significant event in your life, there’s probably a Journey song intertwined with it. Or there’s at least one Journey song that elicits strong emotions, or a sense of place or time.
On the reissues of Infinity (1978), Evolution (1979), Departure (1980), Escape (1981) and Greatest Hits (1988), it’s evident that the single step that became a giant leap for Journey can be summarized in two words: Steve Perry. Before the addition of vocalist Perry, Journey was a lesser, progressive rock band formed by ex-Santana guitarist Neal Schon and keyboardist Gregg Rolie. When their original singer was scrapped for Steve Perry in 1978, the combination of Journey and Perry had the chemistry of nuclear fusion.
Infinity exploded onto the charts. Perry’s songwriting, one-of-a-kind voice and emotive, achingly poignant style coupled seamlessly with the depth of his bandmates’ progressive rock and jazz backgrounds. Infinity is guitar-driven and blues-influenced, adorned by “Lights,” with Perry’s soaring, belted-out bridge and Schon’s equally breathtaking solo, and the churning rhythms of “Wheel in the Sky.”
Next came Evolution, with the gorgeous “City of the Angels,” the hit “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’,” and solidification of Journey’s reign over the airways and record stores. Hot on the heels of Evolution came Departure, which was literally Journey’s departure into the 80s. Although it spawned the mega-anthem “Any Way You Want It,” it hearkened the departure of Rolie and the swapping of his classic rock influence for the more mainstream songwriting of Babys’ keyboardist Jonathan Cain. With Cain aboard, Journey released Escape, which careened to Number One and brimmed with hit after hit: “Open Arms,” “Don’t Stop Believin’,” “Stone in Love,” “Who’s Cryin’ Now” and “Still They Ride.”
Although Journey has been pigeonholed as pop, they’re equally fluent in a diversity of styles not adequately represented on Greatest Hits. The deeper cuts and bonus tracks on the other CDs, such as the majestic, classically influenced “Winds of March” (Infinity) with its jazzy, whirlwind B3 workout, the straight-ahead, hard rocking “Can Do” (Infinity) and the Latin-flavored “La Raza del Sol” (a bonus track from Escape) are likewise characteristic of a band whose scope spans many stylistic terrains. Perhaps Journey should just release a compilation of songs and call it Eternity. Their music will certainly be around for at least that long.
~ Merryl Lentz
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