Wednesday, April 17, 2013

For Journey, Evolution is no theory

Just imagine this.....a winding backroad, the early evening sun
warm on your face, the wind blowing in through the open T-tops of your Trans Am, a summertime girl riding shotgun (Cheryl Tiegs, Farah Fawcett), an ice cold Point Special between your legs ( that one's for you Aaron Camaro.), and your Journey Evolution tape in the tape deck. 8 track or cassette. Your choice. What happened to those summers? Last summer I took my 14 year old son to see Journey at The Kentucky State Fair. I think he recorded the entire show on his phone. But that night, that audience was full of fans with memories very similar to what I just described. A car, a girl, that warm sun. And Journey. Then evolution happened. They evolved. And Journey with them. With us.

Journey's Evolution album, though their fifth studio album,  is the second in a trilogy of pre-"Escape" era studio albums. The band had survived many changes thus far and as we all know, many more would come. Evolution is the first Journey album to feature former Montrose drummer Steve Smith and they would also receive their first Top 20 hit with "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'". After its release on April 1979, the band embarked on a summer tour through parts of Europe, Japan, and The United States with a five night run in Chicago and a three night stand in Detroit. It has sold over 3 million copies.

This album, like Infinity and Departure, are absolutely solid rock albums. However, I do take one small issue and that is with the the first two tracks. "Majestic", the opener, I have never liked. It's a brief instrumental that sort of builds briefly then stops. "Too Late", a soft rocker, more or less opens the album. Don't get me wrong. I like the song, just not where it is in the track sequence. Next comes "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'". Over 30 years later and still in regular rotation on Classic Rock Radio. "City Of Angels" is a mid tempo song with the chorus being heavily layered with background vocals, which is a signature of producer Roy Thomas Baker, who also produced records for Queen and The Cars. "When Your Alone" has a great acoustic/electric guitar riff. A slow tempo, soulful vocals by Steve Perry, and a classic "Neal" solo and lead out are featured on "Sweet And Simple". "Loving You Is Easy" is a shuffling rocker and like "City Of Angels", I tend to skip more often than not. Another radio staple; "Just The Same Way" features keyboardist at the time and co-founding member Gregg Rollie sharing lead vocals with Steve Perry. The next track took years to grow on me but finally did. "Do You Recall" just seemed overly melodic. Almost forced. Then I simply gave in to the hooky chorus. What can you do, right? The bands early prog rock roots peak out a little bit on "Daydream" and the album closes with my favorite track "Lady Luck". To me, this is the best song on Evolution. It's totally driven by the organ and guitar, just great 70's style hard rock.

It was around this same time that band manager Herbie Herbert along with band members would form a company called Nocturne that would go on to develop or "evolve" stage and concert production. Neal Schon sold his share in 2008. Simultaneously, material from the bands early Perry albums were used by a company launching what we now call elevator music. Basically, their music was pumped into restaurants and shopping malls up and down the west coast driving album sales and royalties.

From 1979, Journey would go on a triumphant run for the next half dozen years releasing 4 more studio albums and one live album. Jonathan Cain would replace keyboardist Gregg Rollie in 1980. Ross Valory and Steve Smith would be dismissed in 1985. Steve Perry would jump ship the following year. In all, Journey has logged some 20 total members since its inception.

In my opinion, Journey is synonymous with evolution. They have gone through a process that has changed them, made them more complex, made them better. Classic Perry-era Journey is synonymous with summer. The summer of a simpler, easier time. Its undeniable. Songs of young life and young love. Melodic anthems you will sing forever even as we change and evolve.

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