ALMOST DIRECTLY after the finish of a concert of theirs in Boulder, Colorado, USA, Journey took off for Holland and Pop Festival.

First, they caught a flight from Boulder to Denver. Once in Denver, they zoomed over Chicago. At Chicago, they boarded a 747 bound for London. Arriving at Heathrow, they were escorted on to a plane heading for Holland. Finally in Amsterdam, limos drove them way down to the south of the Netherlands to a hotel in the town of Maastricht, close to the festival site.

Band drummer, Aynsley Dunbar has just related the above journey (no pun intended) to me. I shake my head incredulously - I mean, I get tired enough using the Piccadilly Line every day, travelling from Hounslow West to Covent Garden and then back again. What must this man feel like, after six cities and four flights, clogged up to the ears with airline food and with a metabolism surely working with about as much efficiency as a gas cooker plugged into an electricity socket?

Dunbar just shrugs his shoulders and says, "You get used to it."

So was it worth it, this mammoth trek from the States to play an hour long set in front of 50,000 kids at an all day, open air festival? Well no, quite frankly I don't think it was. Journey's performance turned out to be so uninspired that I doubt they motivated a single one of the sizeable amount of punters present to go out and buy their new album Infinity...which was surely the point of the visit, after all: to sell product.

Which is a pity, because the ironic thing is that Journey's current 'product' happens to be very, very good indeed.

Past Journey albums - Journey, Look Into The Future and Next - floundered as far as I'm concerned due to musical ambition extending far beyond actual playing ability...but still, they were respectably, if unspectacularly received. Journey were once called a 'heavy space' band and although that sounds frightfully pretentious it is - or was - a very apt description.

Originally a Latin sounding offshoot of Santana (keyboard player Gregg Rolie and guitarist Neal Schon left Carlos' outfit after the Caravanserai LP) Journey's make up bristles with a mind boggling mixture of styles, interests and influences.

Dunbar is the chief culprit: a professional for 17 years, his career has taken in bands like the Mojos, Retaliations and Blue Whale, and he's played with John Mayall, Frank Zappa, Jeff Back, David Bowie, even Lulu (on her single The Man Who Sold The World). Bassist Ross Valory's past association with the Steve Miller Band and new vocalist Steve Perry's stint as part of a Tim Bogart group pale into insignificance by comparison

Whatever. Suffice to say that because of this variety in the backgrounds of the various members, it's taken some time for the band to find a positive identity.

DUNBAR DRESCRIBES Journey as the only band he knows of that "started off progressive and then went Commercial", rather than other way around. Meaning that after three albums of mightily complex stuff (Rolling Stone once said that the group 'update the psychedelic openness of the late Sixties Beatles, Dead and Airplane with their own brand of space rock') Journey have set the Top 40 in their sights and gone commercial.

"It really all started when I went to a Fleetwood Mac concert," relates Dunbar, "and saw how simply yet effectively Mick Fleetwood was playing. "It got me thinking about my position as a drummer, how it's all very well having a phenomenal technique, but it's a waste of time if only yourself and a couple of other people can understand it. "There was Journey, plugging away with progressive music and doing OK but not staggeringly well or anything; and there on the other hand was Fleetwood Mac, packing people in by playing basic music, but music with feeling. "It was time, I thought, for a drastic change."

And Infinity is just that: chock full of smash single hits (watch Wheel In The Sky crash into the US single charts in the next few weeks), every one sung purely, superbly (mostly) by Steve Perry and lovingly rendered in stunning stereo by Roy Thomas Baker.

And although it definitely ain't heavy metal, it's nonetheless my most played album of the year so far. For a start it flows, with many songs running into each other, seldom is there a gap between tracks; then there's the immaculate balance maintained between ballads (like Winds Of March) and kick ass rock and roll numbers (such as La Do Da); also the harmony work which fills your ears with blissful, soaring sound .

Simply, Infinity is just about the most lovingly constructed and thought out album I think I've ever heard. And even if the lyrics are the usual wince-inducing US sub-romantic fodder...
 
"I covered you with roses
Like the stars at night
I covered you with love
Like a blanket on a cold winter's night"

- Perry sings them all so convincingly, with a kind of choirboy perfection, it doesn't seem to matter one iota.

So it was with a great deal of eager anticipation that I awaited Journey's appearance at the Pink Pop Festival - only to be let down by an, as I say, uninspired performance.

Obviously, the band had problems. The travelling had taken its toll, the stage equipment was unfamiliar and the PA sound left much to be desired - but, even accepting these facts, the performance was pretty shallow, all in all.

It was far too low key for my taste; the mellower Infinity numbers, minus the benefit of Roy Thomas Baker's full production, came across with excessive wimpiness, the aforementioned magnificent harmonies (like when Feeling That Way segues into Anytime) were executed almost half-heartedly and Steve Perry's lead vocal contributions were often barely audible. For all the clarity and purity of Perry's chords, he doesn't possess a strong rock and roll voice and this surely should have been taken into account at the mixing desk.

OPENING WITH La Do Da, Journey posed around a lot to little real effect and although they caught fire briefly during a stirring rendition of Can Do, the overall impression was the familiar one of flash with little substance. Up to his solo spot however, Aynsley Dunbar had impressed on drums, flailing wildly and battering his skins in direct contrast to the activities of the rest of the band and the general mood of restraint. But his solo was clumsy and so boring  it made the bumbling efforts of the roadies trying to hand a flashing 'Thin Lizzy' logo from the scaffolding on an adjacent stage seem like compulsive entertainment at the time.

So, anyway, live Journey did not live up to the promise on display on the Infinity album. Perhaps I should give them the benefit of the doubt and look forward to them play in a more congenial situation some time  or maybe the band should recognise that, although their new lightweight tunes work well on album, maybe they should start doing some older numbers once again to provide some hard hitting music, something an audience can get its teeth into.

"No " counters Dunbar, "I feel very strongly that this stuff is the best music Journey have ever played. Sometimes people do miss the old material, but then again lots of kids who come to our concerts these days haven't heard any of it. When we first started to tour in the States this year our set consisted of half new and half old songs  but the more recent numbers started going down the best, so eventually we built a whole show around them.

"As far as I'm concerned, simplicity is the name of the game. If Mick Fleetwood can do it, then so can I."

© Sounds, June 3, 1978
MoR is LESS

Journey make a smooth transition from progressive to commercial rock on vinyl.

GOEFF BARTON finds the live ride a little bumpy.

Sounds,
June 3 1978
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