Raised on Radio
Trial By Fire
By David Chiu
By David Chiu
Following the first batch of Journey reissues are the remaining installments, now with bonus tracks. Arena rock fans dig in!
Frontiers was still a representation of Journey—by then singer Steve Perry, guitarist Neal Schon, keyboardist Jonathan Cain, bassist Ross Valory and drummer Steve Smith—at its arena rock glory. The emotionally-charged Separate Ways, the single from that album, rocked that summer of ‘83—before pop metal, that might have been the hardest rocking song on the Top Ten charts. Other standout cuts from the record include “Send Her My Love”; the slightly maudlin, semi-autobiographical ballad “Faithfully.” Fortunately hard-charging rock like “Chain Reaction” and “Rubicon,” fronted by Schon’s metallish-guitar, offset some of the record’s pop/mellow side.
Raised on Radio (1986) was marked by personnel changes: gone were longtime bassist Ross Valory and drummer Steve Smith appeared only on a few tracks. Radio sounded like an extension of Perry’s solo work that he began two years earlier (he also produced the album), as a straightforward pop/rock album with some good, if conventional, catchy songs: “Be Good To Yourself,” “Suzanne,” “I’ll Be Alright Without You,” and “Girl Can’t Help It.” (Trivia fans take note: American Idol judge Randy Jackson played bass on the album). And then Journey went their separate ways.
Exactly a decade letter, the classic line-up of Perry, Schon, Cain, Valory and Smith reunited for Trial by Fire. In comparison to Raised on Radio, this was album was sort of a return to form: the progressive rock of yesterday (“Castles Burning,” “One More”), arena-styled numbers (“Message of Love,” which is essentially a rewrite of “Separate Ways”), and the symphonic-laced power ballads (“Don’t Be Down On My Baby,” “When You Love a Woman”). The hiatus didn’t affect the musical chemistry at all—each of the members was still in fighting trim. It was a promising sign of the direction this reunited band could have taken the music to. It proved to be a one-shot: both Perry and Smith left the band and Journey continues on with a new singer and drummer.
If you can’t get enough of the voice—Steve Perry’s that is—there’s always Greatest Hits, which draws on the leather-lunged singer’s two solo albums as well as tracks from an aborted project. Perry doesn’t stray too far away from the Journey sound (how could he with his voice) but his music seems tilted towards more ballads than the sometimes progressive hard rock of the parent group. The best songs here are the catchy “Oh Sherrie,” the lovely ballad “Foolish Heart,” and “You Better Wait”; the other songs, “Go Away” (which reminds one of an Isleys’ soul number), “If You Need Me, Call Me,” “I Stand Alone” provide a few of the compilation’s interesting moments
Other albums that are part of the reissues: Journey: Captured, Steve Perry: Street Talk and For the Love the Strange Medicine, also on Columbia/Legacy.