There simply isn’t another voice or singer more widely known that Steve Perry, frontman for the iconic band Journey. His gritty melodic vocals helped define what was ushered in as 80s rock, still played today. Will his new release “Traces” live up to the past or set a new tone for the future? Before we go there, let’s back up.
Starting off as a “jazz-fusion” band in 1973; Perry was not an original member of the band. He did not come along until 1977 with Infinity, produced by Roy Thomas Baker. Wheel in the Sky was “relaunched” under this line up and history was most certainly on its way. In many ways for Journey, the 80s was the best of times, and possibly the worst as well. In 1987 Schon and Cain went on a hiatus working with artists such as Jimmy Barnes and Michael Bolton. Later they would form Bad English with John Waite.
During this time the bands “style” morphed. The straight ahead rock and roll sounds of Don’t Stop Believing, Precious Time, Wheel in the Sky faded. Other songs on the harder style were slowly being replaced after the power ballad Open Arms set the tone for any ballad to come after it ever since.
The style slowed down as well and songs such as Girl Can’t Help It, I’ll Be Alright Without You and others showed a shift. To many of the fans watching this at the time, defining good or bad was difficult at best. Opinions among fans flared reflecting the changes in the band. Raised On Radio was certainly no Escape and no release after that came close to their past.
In 84 Perry released his first solo album “Street Talk” with the hit Oh Sherrie, written for his girlfriend Sherrie Swafford. Littered with songs such as Foolish Heart and She’s Mine, the style shift was in full swing. It took 10 years before For The Love of Strange Medicine came out. Even that release struggled to find the past success illustrated by a struggle to name a single song off of it.
The 90s brought a brief reunion of Journey but it simply wasn’t the same. In 1997, a hip injury sidelined Perry and his own loss for the love of music took him out of the game. Let the exile for one of rock and rolls most loved voices and talents begin.
In 2014 Perry resurfaced with Eels at a concert in St Paul, Minnesota. Can you imagine the surprise of the fans to be the first in well over a decade to hear the legend sing once more?
Now, in late 2018 Perry releases Traces. Where will this land on memory filled resume? Would he pick up the rock and roll he left behind? Would he stay with the sound from For the Love of Strange Medicine?
No Erasin’ is the first release from Traces and it’s a “bit” upbeat, reminiscent of later day Journey where the shift began. After that, depression sets in. Each song sounds like the last and none of it inspired by energy. I’ve listened twice and can’t find a single reason to go back for a 3rd attempt.
While it’s an incredible thing to have Perry back among the vocal, the music simply isn’t carrying the weight of past success. It’s not rock and roll by any means but a slow pummeling of uninspiring music likely to depress anyone who can still recall every single word of Any Way You Want It.
For those who miss old school Journey, put on Captured and remember the way it used to be. For those who found their own groove in his last 2 solo albums, then you may view Traces differently. It certainly follows that toned down vein far more than his rock and roll roots of old.0