FOR THOSE MANY local fans who bemoan the fact that powerhouse 1980s band Journey still tours without the distinguished Steve Perry -- take heart. Four albums that are arguably the best of the Perry era have just been reissued and, in some cases, expanded.

The San Francisco band always made sure that Honolulu was part of its tours, especially during the years when Perry was front and center as lead singer. The commanding vocalist transformed what started off as a progressive rock band -- founded by former Santana members Neal Schon and Gregg Rolie -- into an international pop-rock juggernaut of the early 1980s.

Journey hit its stride in the 1981 release "Escape," with keyboardist and co-songwriter Jonathan Cain replacing the departed Rolie. The album is a primer on the best mainstream rock had to offer back in the day, well-crafted and strengthened by its three main singles, "Who's Crying Now," "Don't Stop Believin' " and "Open Arms."

"Escape" has sold more than 9 million copies in the United States. That album, plus three previous studio efforts -- "Infinity," "Evolution" and "Departure" -- are part of this reissue campaign from Columbia/ Legacy.

Perry's strength as a singer was to make the emotional core of any song he did thrillingly believable to the audience. And he knew how to modulate his vocal power with the assuredness of a veteran Broadway performer.

Because of that, he could sell, with his soaring voice, a baroque love song titled "Winds of March" from "Infinity." Also here are the three singles that signaled the transformation that was to come, namely "Wheel in the Sky," "Anytime" and, a personal favorite of mine, "Lights," the band's ode to their beloved city by the bay.

Rolie was still sharing vocal duties with Perry at the time, so it's Rolie that we hear on "Just the Same Way," the first single from "Evolution." But it's the album's breakout single, "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'," with its "nah, nah" sing-along verse that we fondly remember. "Evolution" also includes other fine tracks, particularly "When You're Alone (It Ain't Easy)," "Sweet and Simple" (a Perry vocal highlight), "Lovin' You is Easy" and "Daydream," a languid song that changes pace with a fiery Schon guitar solo.

The reissue of 1980's "Departure" includes two interesting bonus tracks, "Natural Thing," originally the B-side of the "Don't Stop Believin' " single, and the dramatic and expansive "Little Girl." The album features the hit single "Any Way You Want It" and album tracks "People and Places," "Where Were You" (a particularly good group workout), "Line of Fire" and "Good Morning Girl/Stay Awhile."

As aforementioned, "Escape" is the crown of Journey's studio output, with the band at its re-energized peak and not a duff song to be found. Bonus tracks on the reissue are the B-side to the single "Still They Ride" "La Raza Del Sol," and three tracks from an '81 Houston concert that put them over the top with the burgeoning MTV audience.

Of all the Journey albums in this recent batch, "Escape" is the must-have. But, of course, if you love Steve Perry, you'll get them all. Plus I would be remiss if I didn't mention that the 1988 greatest hits album is also part of this recent reissue package. It includes all of the hits that spanned the Perry era, including the Grammy Award-nominated "When You Love a Woman" from their short-lived '96 reunion.

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Journey Back
In Time...

Four albums from the '80s band's Steve Perry era are wisely reissued

By Gary C.W. Chun
Honolulu Star-Bulletin
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