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Monday, July 21, 2008

Journey secures a future, while betraying their past

Journey is one of those bands that holds a special place in the heart of millions of people because their music represents the memories of youth. I remember sitting in the back of an IROC-Z and leaning in to the speakers with the "Raised On Radio" album blasting (can you get more 80's than that?) It was the most incredible sound I had ever heard. Steve Perry's vocals soared over the band's anthemic sounds in a way that no other vocalist of the time was doing. I've followed Journey from the "Escape" until Steve Perry left the band, and again recently.

Following the tour for "Raised on Radio", Steve Perry left Journey but returned in 1995, only long enough to record a new album titled "Trial By Fire". That album was a welcome reunion which most fans would agree was long overdue. Unfortunately, it was short-lived and Perry left Journey permanently after being pressured to have hip surgery so he could tour. Perry denied having the operation, which forced them to move on with a new singer. The band went through two "Perry-clones" in Steve Augeri and Jeff Scott Soto before finding Arnel Pineda, a Filipino singer who was performing Journey covers on YouTube. Pineda was hired by Journey to record a double album, consisting of new material and Journey classics re-recorded with Pineda's vocals.

I have no problem with a band that wants to keep making music despite the loss of a frontman. When David Lee Roth left Van Halen (or was fired depending on whose story to believe), Sammy Hagar stepped in and took the band to new levels of success until he left (or was fired depending on whose story to believe). INXS hired JD Fortune to take the mic after the tragic death of Michael Hutchence and I really think JD is doing a great job.

The attempted replacement of Steve Perry is not what I have a problem with in the case of Journey. What I do have a problem with is Journey's betrayal of the legacy that Steve Perry created with them by re-recording old tracks with their new singer. I listened to the tracks and I have to admit that he does sound very close to Steve Perry but it's still not him. No clone they can dig up will ever match the vocals that we all know and love from Steve and they need to respect that legacy. Eddie Van Halen tried to pull a similar stunt by putting son Wolfgang's face in place of removed bassist Michael Anthony on the album artwork on their website. Due to a huge protest by fans, it was changed back. Had Journey released only the first disc of new material with Pineda, I would have been impressed and wished them the best. Can you imagine what the Roth fans would have done if Van Halen released a CD of his classics sung by Sammy Hagar? They can hardly stand to hear him sing the classics live, and Sammy never liked singing Roth's stuff either (until the 2004 reunion tour). The point is that we all know and love the classic hits from Journey's incredible catalog and the way to impress Journey fans with Pineda's great vocals and scary similarity to Steve Perry was to just let him show us live or on new material.

Journey has been eligible to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame since 2000 and Steve Perry will be eligible in 2009 to be inducted as a solo artist. We can only hope that, for the fans, Steve will take the stage one more time with Journey when they are inducted. Until then, you can put on the new album, Revelation, and close your eyes when the classics come on and hear the closest thing to Steve Perry that we'll ever hear.

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