Behold, the second half of the Big Journey Rollout. The first time around, Sony dropped the band’s breakthrough albums from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. This time, we get…well, the rest. Still, there’s goods to be had, along with the inevitable diminishing returns. Tread wisely, brave reader…
Frontiers Label: Sony
If there’s a problem with Frontiers, it’s that the band accepted their new role as rock balladeers with a little too much grace. Those mid-tempo numbers are perfectly pleasant, mind you – though “Faithfully” is such a blatant knockoff of “Open Arms” that the band should sue itself for plagiarism – but until their 1981 smash Escape, no one asked for or expected that from the band. Still, you’d be a fool to overlook a song like “Send Her My Love” simply because it doesn’t rock hard enough, and it’s not as though the band completely forgot where they came from. “Chain Reaction” is one of the band’s best rockers, and the inclusion of “Only the Young” and “Ask the Lonely,” which appeared respectively on the soundtracks to “Vision Quest” and “Two of a Kind,” elevates the album from really good to excellent. If only the parties involved had put similar effort into the Journey video game…
Street Talk Label: Sony
Street Talk was recorded and released during the hiatus that Journey took in 1984-85, and ultimately netted Perry four Top-40 singles, and ended up certified Platinum by the RIAA. The first single, “Oh Sherrie,” reached #3. The success of Street Talk had a lot to do with spillover from Journey, but the band’s success at that time had a lot to do with Steve Perry, too. The re-released Street Talk contains all ten original cuts, rarities from the vaults (the B-side to “Oh Sherrie,” and Perry’s solo contribution to the 1985 USA for Africa project, “If Only for the Moment, Girl”). Three other cuts are from his days with Alien Project, disbanded in 1977. These tracks (“My My My,” “Harmony,” and “Makes No Difference”) sound nearly identical to the sound Journey adopted on 1978’s “Infinity,” and show just how much Perry contributed to their sound once he joined. Steve Perry’s songs aren’t complicated. He says he writes simple love songs, and he writes them well. He took a lot of flak from critics during his limited solo career and with Journey, but the fans always loved him. Sometimes giving the fans exactly what they want is more than enough.
Raised on Radio Label: Sony
You’d be forgiven for thinking this was Steve Perry’s swan song as frontman for Journey…if only because, frankly, it really should’ve been. (Then again, I’m not the one reviewing the band’s 1996’s reunion album, Trial By Fire, so you might take my opinion with a grain of salt.) By ’86, Journey had gotten so streamlined by this point that they were presenting themselves as a three-piece: Perry on vocals, Neal Schon on guitar, and Jonathan Cain on keyboards. Perry had just come off the tremendous commercial success of his solo debut, Street Talk, and many wrote Raised on Radio off as an extension of his solo career…and you can see why. Perry produced the album, and just about every song sounds like a potential single…not necessarily a great single, mind you, but certainly a radio-friendly one. It’s too slick for its own good, ultimately, and surely ran off any remaining fans from the band’s early days; it also led to animosity between Perry and Schon during recording. Still, songs like “Girl Can’t Help It,” “I’ll Be Alright Without You,” and “Be Good to Yourself” were rightfully embraced as hit singles. The real lost gem, however, is “Suzanne,” which is arguably the best pop song the band ever released; bizarrely, though, while making it into the top 20, the single never seems to pop up on any compilations of the band’s best work. Seriously, if you don’t own this album, at the very least, you must go download “Suzanne” immediately.
AFor the Love of Strange Medicine Label: Sony
Steve Perry’s previous solo album, Street Talk, was a resounding success. It was also released during the time that Journey’s run to superstardom was slowing down. For the Love of Strange Medicine came out in 1994, ten years after Street Talk and eight years after the last Journey album that mattered to most of the band’s fans (Raised on Radio), and was welcomed by said fans. It wasn’t quite as successful as Street Talk, but Strange Medicine definitely quenched the thirst of fans needing a dose of that raspy, distinguishable voice of Perry’s. Unfortunately, the album is, for the most part, very average. The opener, “You Better Wait” and the ballsy rocker “Listen to Your Heart” are adequate tracks reminiscent of ‘80s Journey. And “Missing You” is one of Perry’s best mushy ballads ever. But songs like “I Am” and the incredibly boring title track bring the ratings down a notch. The same goes for “Donna Please,” on which Perry stretches his golden vocal cords, but not his songwriting muscles.
Trial by Fire Label: Sony
Ten years after the band’s supposed farewell album, Raised on Radio, the powers that were of Journey (Steve Perry, Neal Schon, Jonathan Cain, Ross Vallory, and Steve Smith) decided to try and resurrect the magic that catapulted them to mega-stardom in the 80s. The resulting effort, Trial by Fire, was not loved by critics and though it spawned the sappy yet powerful single, “When You Love a Woman” that was reminiscent of “Faithfully” or “Open Arms,” the album was and is considered a flop by industry standards and many hardcore Journey fans alike. Some of that had to do with the fact that the band never toured to support the release, due to a hip condition that prevented lead vocalist Steve Perry from leaving home. But let’s give Trial by Fire its due, because when taken in the context of Journey’s illustrious career, there are some pretty good tracks on here. Yes, the songs are at times formulaic, but the ballsy “Castles Burning” and “One More,” or the pretty ballad “Still She Cries” can stand up to anything Journey ever released. There are indeed a few clunkers (especially the droning title track), but any Journey fan who says this album sucked is probably lying to himself.
Greatest Hits Label: Sony
The collection features 17 tracks from Perry’s two solo records, some tracks from an unreleased album, and a demo track which got him the gig as Journey’s lead singer. The bonus track on this that wasn’t included on the 1998 release is the silky smooth duet with Kenny Loggins on “Don’t Fight It.” His best work was with Journey, but this is a decent collection which focuses heavily on ballads. Tracks like "Oh Sherrie" and "Foolish Heart" have more pep than most of the other songs and the production has that overdone ‘80s sound to it. You might get bored after 10 tracks or so and start yearning for Neal Schon’s guitar. This is good, but not great.