When Deaf Barton first told me that Mega Metal Kerrang! was going AOR I laughed so hard I doubled up in pain.
"You better stop that guffawing, Xavier, cos we want you to do something for it!"
"But Deafrey," I replied, "I gave up on AOR the day Journey died. But that's given me an idea - how about a history of Journey through their records?"
"Blinder, Zavie, but don't tell Derek Oliver, he'll have a heart attack!"
"Right on, gaffer!"
Our story begins in 1971 - yeah, when Glam was Glam . . . remember Sweet?
Well at the same time some 8,000 miles away in San Francisco geetarist Neal Schon entered the pikture. He'd been made an offer he kouldn't understand by keyboard (hold Derek down, someone!) player Gregg Rolie to join Santana.
Now bear-in-mind that Schon was a mere 15-years-old when he joined Carlos' band, and had already been approached by Eric Clapton to join his band.
So things were just dandy for a while, until Carlos disbanded the original Santana band. Enter manager Herbie 'Go, 49-ers!' Herbert. He approached Schon with the idea of putting together an all-new band, with bassist Ross Valory, rhythm guitarist George Tickner, Gregg Rolie on keyboards and, kompleting the original line-up, one of my all-time fav drummers, Prairie Prince.
Journey was born, and their first live show was on New Year's Eve 1973. Prince then left after two shows to join The Tubes and he was replaced by Aynsley Dunbar.
And here we are with album number one . . .
(Columbia PC 33388)
You may be asking, why such an average 'three-K' rating? After all, this is Journey we're talking about here? Well, have you acktually heard the bleeder? This isn't the Journey that we all know and love today, this was the mid-'70s Journey. And believe me, readers, they were much more 'progressive' back then.
Most of this album is taken up with neat little interchanges between Neal Schon's geetar and Gregg Rolie's keyboards. It's amusing for five minutes, but the joke soon wears thin.
However, having said that, 'Journey does sparkle now and then, like on 'To Play Some Music', a delightful up-lifting number that hinted of the Journey that was to kome, even if it does sound extremely dated now.
Other high points inklude 'Of A Lifetime', a sorta Santana hangover, loadsa keyboards (and very Hammondy they are too!), and the wonderful 'Topaz' which Neal Schon makes his own with some delightful fretwork.
As for the rest, a bit iffy I'm afraid.
'Look into the Future'
(Columbia PC 33904)
'Into the Future' just had to be better than its predecessor. It was, but sadly there were a lot of other powerful releases in 1976, like Ted Nugent's 'Free For All', Kiss' 'Destroyer', Blue Oyster Cult's 'Agents of Fortune', Aerosmith's 'Rocks', Foghat's 'Fool For the City' and so on.
So sadly 'Into the Future' sorta fell by the wayside, but all was not lost, as Journey were slowly but surely building up a sizeable following through konstant touring, something that rivvum geetarist George Tickner grew sick of.
He left the band shortly before 'Into the Future' was released, but still helped co-write a kouple of kuts namely 'I'm Gonna Leave You' (which he did, of kourse) and the masterful 'You're On Your Own', which still ranks as one of Journey's greatest toons, a peach of a song that just builds and builds. I still to this day kan't for the life of me fathom out why this song was dropped from their 'live' set. . . maybe it was the running time of five minutes-plus that put them off!
And that wasn't the only gem. There was also the Elton John-flavoured 'On A Saturday Night', which was well poppy, and let's not forget the 'eavy 'She Makes Me (Feel Alright)', which was later to bekome a crowd fave.
Yes, looking back, 1976 was definitely a 'vintage year' - a lot of positive things happened in rock that year.
(Columbia PC 34311)
Oh dear, what went wrong? After the brilliance of 'Look Into The Future' we arrive at the exceedingly dull 'Next'.
It has to be said that this album is a stinker. All the songs sound like 'fillers'; it's as if Journey were just biding their time waiting for something to happen. It was obvious a change of musikal direktion was required, and that was to happen with their next (sorry, kouldn't resist that one) album 'Infinity'.
The only saving graces on 'Next' were the title kut (riffreama to the max) and the fact that Herbie Herbert (Journey's manager) had changed his kompany name from 'Spreadeagle' (no Joan Collins jokes, please) to 'Nightmare Productions, Inc'.
(Columbia PC 34912)
Hail The Duck! Yup, Steve 'NaaNaaNaaNaaNaa' Perry, vocalist supreme, joins the band and totally changes their direction from progressive rock to AOR (which stands for Adult Oriented Rock or Ageing Old Rock, depending on how you look at it!).
His arrival certainly took a lot of weight off Gregg Rolie's shoulders, who up until now had been handling most of the vocal work. Indeed Gregg's lead vokals were down to just one kut on this LP, 'Anytime', and that's partly down to the fakt that he co-wrote the toon.
So a 'five-K' review at last, and deservedly so. From the opening khords of the romantic 'Lights', a toon about Journey's hometown San Francisco, to the klosing 'Opened The Door', this album never lets up once.
They'll never top this I thought, when I first heard it in '78, but they did with a later album (namely 'Escape'), but more on that one later.
Back to 'Infinity', it's Perry's sooooothing vocals that grab you every time, just listen to him go on kuts like the aforementioned 'Lights', "Wheel In The Sky', 'Feeling That Way', and the more up tempo 'La Do Da'. Unlike most frontmen, Perry ackshully has this power to make you, the listener, totally believe in what he is singing about. Every time I hear the song 'Lights' for example, I just wanna jump on the first plane heading for San Francisco.
What about the album musically? Well the arrival of Roy Thomas Baker as producer certainly gave the band a more polished sound.
If there was a complaint (and it's only a small one) it's that Neal Schon held himself back and really played 'down' rather than 'up' on the album.
(Columbia PC 35797)
'Infinity' had been Journey's biggest-selling album to date, so 'Evolution' had to go one better.
And it did.
Journey skored their first Top 20 hit with the extremely katchy 'Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'', and they were now onto a winning formula. And on 'Evolution' we welkome a new face to the band - drummer Steve Smith, replacing Anysley Dunbar, who moved onto Jefferson Starship.
Like 'Infinity', 'Evolution' was chokk full of goodies. Roy Thomas Baker was once again at the dials and thankfully he gave the band a much harder edge this time round. Just listen to Neal Schon's biting geetar on kuts like 'Majestic' and "When You're Alone (It Ain't Easy)'.
Steve Perry once again komes into his own on the wimpier ballads like 'Too Late' and 'City of the Angels' another toon about a town, this time Smog Angeles.
Journey do have an obsession with California, you only have to read their sleeve notes for evidence of this: 'To the people of the Bay Area, wherever we go, home is in our hearts. Thank you for believing in us'.
I wonder what Metallika made of 'em?
'Evolution', if I'm not mistaken was the first Journey album to go platinum.
(Columbia PC 36339)
It's when you hear records like this that you realise just how dull and prediktable AOR has bekome. Derek Oliver may tell you otherwise, but that's another story.
'Departure' was even better than it's predecessor, and that's because Herbie Herbert and Journey sat down and thought, how kan we top 'Evolution'?
Answer, let's make it sound LIVE.
To achieve this aim, Journey used their 'live sound engineer Kevin Elson - and it was a gamble that more than handsomely paid off. Elson, after all, had been with Journey a long time and knew the sound they were after. The end result is stunning to say the least.
Uptempo opener 'Any Way You Want It' sets the pace for the album, 'Walks Like a Lady' follows and is one of my all-time Journey faves. Here's a song that's both cheeky and wimpy at the same time. Rolie's delightful keyboards and Valory's thumping bass set the mood, and then Perry just takes over and takes the piss out of women. If ever a song was sexist, this is the one.
'Some Day Soon' is very katchy, late night musik, and 'People and Places' will have you reaching for your snot-rags. The echo effekt and Schon's guitar are very moving.
And at the heavier end of the skale there's 'Where Were You'. Just listen to Schon's biting riffs. Elson's produktion kan't be faulted.
'Any Way You Want It' (12" single)
(CBS 12 8558)
Quite a worthwhile purchase this, mainly bekause of the B-side which contains 'live' versions of 'Do You Recall' and 'Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'', rekorded at Little Rock, Arkansas, USA.
And fine renditions they are too, but if you're a bit short of cash save yer pennies for the double live album 'Captured'.
When I bought this single it was only 1.15, and you got a free Journey bakkstage pass. I tried to use it on the 'Escape' tour, and got shown the door!
(CBS Sony 27AP 1950)
Released Japan only 1980
This rubbish really is for diehard Journey fans only. Quite how Steve Perry and Co got involved in this film soundtrack tripe will always remain a mystery.
Maybe it was the lure of the Yen and a free trip to Japan that did the trick!
Just listening to the music you kan tell Journey weren't really into the projekt - and the film itself, set in the desert, is said to be an absolute stinker!
Only three kuts have lyrics. These are 'Destiny', 'Sand Castles' and the album's stand out kut 'Little Girl', which is the nearest this outing gets to sounding like Journey we all know and love.
But elsewhere the orchestral arrangements really had me cringing - klassikal these guys ain't!
Neal Schon tries his hardest on 'When The Love Has Gone' but that's about it!
(Columbia KC2 37016)
With the amount of touring that Journey got through each year, a 'Live' album had to pop up sooner or later, and here it is.
'Captured' is beautifully packaged - it's got a double gatefold sleeve with loadsa piks of the band, then there's a FREE pull-out poster of the band members, kleverly lined with serrated edges, so you kould ditch the ugly ones!
The inner sleeve bags had all the tour dates - starting in San Fran on March 26 1980 and running all the way thru to October 13 in Tokyo, Japan.
I was lukky enough to katch the tour twice, once at the Day on the Green, Oakland, California on July 27, and then when the band played London, on September 22. So having seen those two shows it makes it a lot easier to review the album.
Basikally Kevin Elson did a good job, but he did need to get the assistance of Rodney (.38 Special) Mills to remix the album at his renowned Studio One in Doraville, Georgia. So even a polished akt like Journey kan still get a bit ruff round the edges.
But let's now look at what's on offer - the instrumental 'Majestic' opens the show, then it's those oh-so familiar riffs to 'Where Were You', and the rest of Side One simply whizzes by - 'Just The Same Way', 'Line of Fire', 'Lights' and 'Stay Awhile' are all received enthusiastikally.
Pikk of the pops on Side Two? Well, it's gotta be 'Dixie Highway' - the whole band have a field day with this song.
Other high points inklude 'Walks Like A Lady' and 'Wheel In The Sky'.
The album kloses on a studio note with an all-new track - 'The Party's Over', a Steve Perry composition. This was to be Gregg Rolie's last song with the band before he left to pursue a solo career.
(Columbia TC 37408)
Here it is folks, the greatest AOR album of all time. Although rekorded way bakk in 1981, 'Escape' still sounds as fresh and new today as when I first played it.
Only two other AOR albums have kome klose to the magnificence of 'Escape' and they are Le Roux's 'Up' (R.I.P.) and Sir Michael Bolton's 'Everybody's Crazy' - are you with me on this one, Derek?
So what sets 'Escape' apart from its predecessors? Well, since you're asking, it has to be the timely arrival of former Babys' man Jonathan Cain.
Jonathan's boyish enthusiasm, koupled with the fakt that he had the unkanny knack of koming up one katchy song after another, seemed to breathe new life into the Journey repertoire. He soon stamped his mark on the band and had a hand in co-writing every song on 'Escape'.
Cain seems partikkularly strong when he was co-writing with the Duck, aka Steve Perry. 'Who's Crying Now' and 'Open Arms' were both worldwide hits.
But it was the heavier numbers on the album that had me punching the air with joy, in partikular the ultra-heavy title trakk. You just gotta hear the riff to this 'un. The album doesn't let up for a sekond. 'Lay It Down' is equally heavy, and 'Dead Or Alive' is, dare I say it, bordering on Thrash!
'Stone in Love', meanwhile, is great highway cruisin' musik- you'll need a sun-roof for squash rakket aktion on this 'un! And then when you've just been ditched by the lady in your life, just sit back and have a good sob to the aforementioned 'Who's Crying Now' - a wimphem klassik if ever there was one.
If you're new to this thang kalled AOR and haven't heard 'Escape', I suggest you buy it pronto, and you'll soon realise what krap is around at the moment!
'Who's Crying Now' (12")
(CBS A 13 1467)
Again, ONLY for the diehard fans this 'un. So what's so special about a 'Who's Crying Now' 12 incher?
Well again, it's the B-side we're interested in here, what we have here is 'The Journey Story', or as CBS would like us to kall it 'A Unique Audio Segue Biog'! The waffle rekord kompanies, you'd think they're from another planet!
Anyway they've got a cheek calling it 'unique'. 'Drivel' woulda been a much more appropriate word.
Some chap kalled Dave Owen narrated and edited 'The Journey Story', and sadly he doesn't tell us anything exciting or new, and his voice gets annoyingly in the way of the musik!
However, having said that, his 'Unique Audio Segue Biog' does have a certain kitsch feel to it!
NEAL SCHON & JAN HAMMER
(Columbia FC 376000)
Harking back to the first three Journey albums, it was plain to see that Neal Schon had this weird obsession of having to do battle with keyboards, and since the arrival of Jonathan Cain - a different style of keyboard player to Gregg Rolie - our Neal no longer had anyone to play with (sob).
Enter Jan Hammer - the man who later went on to make a fortune skoring the theme toon for 'Miami Vice'.
Now Jan had always admired Neal's fret work so it seemed obvious that the two would finally end up making a record together, but the album ends up being more a vehicle for Jan Hammer, as his keyboards for the most part dominate throughout, especially on tracks like 'I'm Talking To You' and the title kut 'Untold Passion'.
However, having said that, Schon finally does 'do battle' with Jan on the poppy 'The Ride', a delightfully boppy synth-geetar medley.
The main fault with the album is Neal Schon's singing - it's a bit ruff to say the least, but his geetar work kan't be faulted, especially on the instrumental 'On The Beach'.
SCHON & HAMMER
'Here To Stay'
(Columbia FC 38428)
Hot on the heels of 'Untold Passion' komes 'Here To Stay', and the one main difference between the two albums is Schon's voice - a lot better this time out especially on the opening kut 'No More Lies', a great rokker that was also inkluded in the Journey repertoire.
'Self Defence', meanwhile, kould be klassed as a Journey song, as the whole band appear on it as guest musicians - only it doesn't really sound like Journey, more of jam really, and Perry is reduced to bakking vokals!
'Still They Ride' (12")
(Columbia AS 1487)
I do believe this single eventually surfaced as a seven inch, but it's this 12 incher you should be hunting. But you'll probably only kome akross it in specialist shops, and that's bekause it was only really pressed up for radio stations.
(A little word of advice here: if ever you see an album or single for sale with these magik words on it: 'Special Radio Edition, Demonstration, Not For Sale' then pikk it up pronto, coz these items are valuable, and more often than not kontain previously unreleased material.)
And, yes, there is a previously unreleased track on this 12 incher, namely 'La Raza Del Sol', a Steve Perry/Jonathan Cain toon. And don't let the pretentious title put you off either, cos 'LRDS' is a might fine slice of smoochy AOR - in fakt it's a krying shame the song never made it on to 'Escape'.
(Columbia QC 38504)
With most of 1982 taken up by touring and promoting Journey's most successful album to date, 'Escape', we had to wait until 1983 for the release of their next studio album.
But it was worth it. Journey took more risks musikally, and there was publik outrage when journalists and radio stations alike started moaning about Steve Perry's new vokal style - he'd dropped an oktave or two, and was now singing in a much deeper style.
I must say it did take quite a bit of getting used to, but the musik was pure Journey.
(Well, most of it - there was the exceedingly odd 'Back Talk' where Perry just virtually talks his way through the lyriks. I noticed drummer Steve Smith had a hand in writing this song, so maybe it was influence that made the toon so weird?)
Once again the wimply songs, namely 'Send Her My Love' and 'Faithfully', were penned by Messrs Perry and Cain.
But for me Journey's music works best when Neal Schon is allowed to express himself, like on 'Edge Of The Blade', 'Chain Reaction', 'Frontiers' and 'Rubicon'. His simple yet effective riffing never lets you down!
And this material sounded even better live. I was fortunate enough to see two sell-outs at the Los Angeles Forum. . . but good as 'Frontiers' was, it wasn't a patch on 'Escape'!
PS Diehard Journey fans must have found the back sleeve to this album very amusing - it was a total rip-off/piss-take of the very first Journey album kover!
'A Candid Conversation'
(Columbia AS 1606)
Another kollektors' item, and probably quite rare now.
'A Candid Conversation' was released to radio stations and lukky journalists to help promote the 'Frontiers' album. It was far more entertaining that the aforementioned 'Journey Story'. What we have here are pleasantries from each band member in between songs from the album - a good gimmikk that ackshually worked, thanks to the painstaking 'direction' of John Villanueva and Sandy Einstein.
Did you know, for example, the funniest thing that ever happened to bassist Ross Valory on tour was the fakt that he forgot to plug in when he kame out for an encore! (Odd humour.)
(Columbia FC 38955)
Steve Smith kame from a Jazz drumming bakkground, so it was hardly surprising to see him return to it!
The sleeve notes describe 'Vital Information' as 'electric jazz at it's finest' - well I tend to differ there.
Being a bit of a 'Geetar Jazz' fan on the quiet, I would have to say Larry Carlton's 'Captain Fingers' and John Tropea's 'Short Trip to Space' are 'electric jazz at it's finest', but then again I wasn't paid to write sleeve notes.
You really do have to be a fan of Jazz to appreciate this rekord - if not, I'd strongly advise you to stay well away. This is a very 'laid back' album. Take the opener 'Looks Bad, Feels Good', for example.
Steve Smith's effortless yet effektive drumming drives the track along at a nice soothing pace, and on top of that there's the jazzy axe of Mike Stern, but it's the tenor sax playing of Dave Wilczewski that holds 'Vital Information' together. Steve Smith ackshully gets to play the ol' joanna (piano) on '13th Month'.
HAGAR, SCHON, AARONSON, SHRIEVE
'Through The Fire'
(Geffen Records GHS 4023)
With the other members of Journey all off doing their own thang, Neal Schon wanted to put a heavy rock projekt together and got in touch with fellow Bay Area musician Sammy 'Red' Hagar - and, Hagar being Hagar, jumped at the idea.
Now all they needed was a drummer - how about Mike Shrieve? Perrrfekt! And on bass, what about one-time Rick Derringer man, Kenny Aaronson?
Now the whole idea behind this projekt was to go out on a small tour, rekord the shows and put it out as a live album.
Well, almost 'live' - there were some additional 'overdubs' added later, but basikally the album works.
It got mixed reviews when it first kame out in '84, it was one of those albums you either loved or loathed.
I went for the former. I've always admired Sammy Hagar (the Bernard Manning of Amerika!) as a frontman and he really does excel himself here - ultimately 'Through The Fire' ends up sounding more like a Sammy Hagar solo album!
High points inklude 'Top Of The Rock' - very Hagar like - and the utterly brilliant 'Animation', which has a kind of Led Zep tinge to it. Hagar's singing and Schon's playing have to be heard to be believed.
However, I koulda done without that ol' chestnut 'Whiter Shade Of Pale' - yawn city or what?
(Columbia FC 39334)
The first really successful solo album by a member of Journey. Indeed, so successful was 'Street Talk' that Perry sorta bekame the leader, if you like, of Journey. He started calling all the shots, and there were many changes within the Nightmare Corporation.
Some say he bekame a bit of a big head, that's as maybe, and I must admit he's the only member of Journey that I didn't get on with, but there's no denying that 'Street Talk' is a wimphem klassik - AOR at its absolute best. I love every sekond of this album.
The smash single 'Oh Sherrie' opens the akkount, and what a wimper! It's a toon about one of Perry's former girlfriends if I'm not mistaken - she even appeared in the video - but the less said about it the better.
'I Believe' is more up-beat, and shows the R'n B' side to Perry's singing voice. I can see where Eric Martin gets a lot of his ideas from!
'Go Away', on the other hand, is more in the Journey mould, while 'Foolish Heart' is pure wimp-lovey-dovey style. Side One kloses with 'It's Only Love', where Perry goes into 'Duck Mode', letting loose with 'LOOOOOLOOOOOLOOOOOVE' and suchlike.
Side Two is even stronger, opening with 'She's Mine' (more vintage Duckhem). Then it's the album's stand out kut, namely 'You Should Be Happy' - just listen to the riffing geetar of Michael Landau, and Perry singing his lungs out.
Lyric of the album award goes to 'I feel like Bogart in a crazy movie/Bogie 'n me, we never beg/ But this time maybe I've got voices in my head', which kan be found on 'Strung Out'.
STEVE SMITH - VITAL INFORMATION
(Columbia FC 39375)
More of the same Jazz really, only with a new guitarist - Eef Albers replacing Mike Stern. With a title like 'Orion', you'd expekt the album to sound spacey. And it does, especially so on the opening kut 'Future Primative'. But it's 'Thank You Mr. Edison' that had me grinning from cheek to cheek. Tim Landers' bass playin' is well in order, and the kut really does have a komikal feel to it.
Steve Smith komes into his own on 'Shadows Past' with his delightful exkursions round his beloved Sonor drums. Again, this album is for diehards only!
Former Journey keyboards man Gregg Rolie's first solo outing and although it's quite a mixed bag, this album gets better as it progresses. The first three kuts - namely 'Young Love', 'Close My Eyes' and 'I Wanna Go Back' - are all penned by outsiders and rather blandly produced by Bill Schnee.
The rest of the album, bar one kut, is thankfully penned by Rolie, with Kevin Beamish akting as producer. So 'Let Me Out' is the first kut worth talking about with fine geetar playin' from former Eric Martin man Mark Ross. 'Over And Over' is typical Rolie and well smoochy.
Best kut on the album, though, has got to be 'Marianne'. Why this song wasn't a smash single in the US will, I'm afraid, always remain one of life's great unsolved mysteries, cos what we have here is a peach of a song - and how kan you go wrong with Marino fav Carlos Santana guesting on lead geetar?
This is vintage AOR! Neal Schon turns up on 'It's Only Make Believe' with a typical Schon-like performance.
Gregg Rolie has also recorded another solo album entitled 'Gringo'.
Surprisingly enough, Journey's sekond best album after 'Escape'!
As I said earlier, Steve Perry was now very much in charge, he not only produced this album, but he also instigated a line-up change - Ross Valory and Steve Smith, it would seem, were now 'too old' for the band and new blood had to be bought in. So say hello to Randy Jackson (bass) and Larry Londin (drums). However, having said that, Steve Smith does play on three kuts namely 'Positive Touch', 'Why Can't This Night Go On Forever' and 'Eyes Of A Woman'.
Musically speaking, 'Raised on Radio" is a more mature and thoughtful Journey, the three year gap between '. . . Radio' and 'Frontiers' paid off.
'Girl Can't Help It sets the album in motion, and the first thing you kan't help but notice is Perry's voice, which is a lot more relaxed than on previous outings. His delivery is almost, dare I say it, Mel Tormé-ish at times! Jay (Jon) Cain's delightful keys make it perfekt AOR!
'Suzanne' shows us that Perry still has this fascination with cinema as he drools 'I see your face at the movies/ I hear your voice on the radio/ You're makin' love on the silver screen'.
Best kut on the album award goes to the title kut, 'Raised On Radio'.
I first remember hearing this song in a taxi in Atlanta, Georgia, when I was going to do an interview with .38 Special. I got the driver to pull over as I kouldn't believe what I was hearing - a harmonica intro, followed by one of Neal Schon's heaviest riffs to date.
I won't dwell too long on this album, bekause I'm very anti-'Best Of' and 'Greatest Hits' collections. But there's always a katch to make you buy them, they either 're-master' the tracks or put on a kouple of old soundtrack numbers and previously unreleased material.
So what extra goodies do we have here? Well there's 'Only The Young' from the 'Vision Quest' soundtrack, which itself is worth purchasing, mainly bekause there's also tracks by Sammy Hagar, Dio, Don Henley, Red Rider, John Waite and Foreigner on there.
And then there's also 'Ask The Lonely' from the 'Two Of A Kind' soundtrack. As for the rest I won't bore you with details, I'll just give you the titles, here goes. . .
'Don't Stop Believin', 'Wheel In The Sky', 'Faithfully', 'I'll Be Alright Without You', 'Any Way You Want It', 'Who's Crying Now', 'Separate Ways', 'Lights', 'Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'', 'Open Arms', 'Girl Can't Help It', 'Send Her My Love', and, last but by no means least, 'Be Good To Yourself'.
(Journey also featured on 'Tron', the Disney movie soundtrack released in 1982; and on 'In The Beginning', a re-issue compilation put out in 1980.)
Although there still hasn't been an official statement made about Journey splitting up, we have to assume that they have. Very sad.
© Spotlight Publications, 1989 (Transcribed by Kate)