Back in the Spring of 1980, I saw Journey with their special guest The Babys in concert. At the time, I liked Journey, especially their hits like “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin'”, “Lights” and “Just the Same Way”. But, at that time, I like The Babys even more. The Babys were running on the momentum of two Top 10 hits, “Every Time I Think of You” and “Isn’t It Time”, along with some album cuts like “Head First”, “Back on My Feet Again” and “Midnight Rendezvous”.
However, upon the completion of the concert, I was a Journey fan. The band was solid, with spectacular guitar pyrotechnics. But, the true star of Journey’s performance was lead singer Steve Perry. His vocals were so pure and strong, with very little enhancements used. The former turkey farmer was Journey’s secret weapon.
Perry joined the band on their fourth album. Before Perry, Journey was something of a jazz-rock fusion band that had a touch of blues. But, when the San Francisco band added Perry to the line-up, the band’s sound turned toward an album oriented hard rock sound that was popular in the late-70s and early-80s. As a matter of fact, Journey is the best example of this sound. Because of that, they have rightfully been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame just this past spring.
So, I bring to everyone, including the ladies to join me as I rank all fourteen Journey albums from weakest to best.
14. Trial by Fire (1996). This short-lived reunion between the band and Perry. Unfortunately, the songs were weak and sounded as if everyone was just going through the motions. This is a total sleep-fest.
13. Journey (1975). Did you know that guitarist Neil Schon and original keyboardist Greg Rolie were members of Santana when they left to create Journey with bassist Ross Valory, guitarist George Tickner (who left quickly) and drummer Prairie Prince (who left to join the Tubes and replaced by Aynsley Dunbar). And the name Journey? They got it from a radio contest. The album was just a tentative jazz-fusion mess.
12. Look into the Future (1976). This was the sophomore release of a nondescript jazz-fusion band.
11. Generations (2005). This was the second album for Steve Perry-soundalike Steve Augeri, who could do yeoman’s work in concert covering Perry’s songs, but lacked Perry’s soulfulness. And, this albums sounds like the Augeri experiment was ending.
10. Arrival (2001). This was Augeri’s first album as the lead singer, and the album displayed his promise. But, his shortcoming were soon to be exposed on tour.
9. Eclipse (2011). This is guitarist Neil Schon’s album. His guitar is fiery and lively. It also exposed Perry’s second replacement, Arnel Pineda’s second album. Unfortunately, the album exposed Pineda’s lack of soul in his voice that made Perry such a unique singer.
8. Next (1977). This was the best album of the original vision of Journey. But, since it was not a big seller, the label was able to push the band to hire a lead singer, which lead to their greatest decision – Steve Perry.
7. Revelation (2008). Neil Schon discovered Arnel Pineda singing Journey songs on YouTube. That video influenced Schon to travel to the Philippines to offer Pineda the lead singing job. What Pineda gave Journey was another karaoke singer who could replicate Perry voice in concert. Unfortunately, the band made him record all of Perry’s hits, which was a bad move because it exposed Pineda’s vocal weaknesses.
6. Raised on Radio (1986). By 1986, Journey was one of the most successful bands in the world. They had many hit songs, albums, tours and pinball machines. Unfortunately, drummer Steve Smith and bassist Ross Valory left the band due to the stress of the charging train. So, Journey, knocked down to a trio, records a soft rock album that lacked the hard rock beauty of Journey’s finest albums and really sounded like a follow-up to Steve Perry’s first solo album. Outside of the hits, this album was the last gasp of a once great band.
5. Frontiers (1983). This may have been the band’s finest commercial moment, but the cracks were being to sound, especially on the second side of the album. The hit songs were great, but they were surrounded by some real clunkers.
4. Infinity (1978). Here is the debut of Steve Perry and a total change in the futures of Journey. This represents the last appearance of drummer Aynsley Dunbar. But, the formula for success was in place.
3. Departure (1980). This album is Journey’s most underrated album. They are just beginning to hit their stride as a band. This album includes “Anyway You Want It” and a great blues song that was a minor hit called “Walks like a Lady”.
2. Evolution (1979). The album is known for “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin'”, but it showcases how a band can become more solid by replacing a virtuoso drummer in Dunbar with a solid, workman-like drummer in Steve Smith. This album is the last appearance of Greg Rolie, who will be replaced by the keyboard player from The Babys who opened for Journey on the Departure tour. Jonathan Cain. Once Cain joins, the band will be able to smooth the rough edges to become pop-rock gods.
1. Escape (1981). This is the breakthrough album, and the band’s first number one album. Jonathan Cain joined the band and helped shaped the songs with a pop savvy. Now, Journey’s version of soul-based hard rock will take over the world. This was the perfect line-up to complete the vision that Neil Schon had when he left Santana nearly a decade earlier. And, this album has more than the ubiquitous “Don’t Stop Believin'”. The hits also included “Who’s Cryin’ Now”, “Stone in Love” and the number one hit “Open Arms”. This album made Journey a household name. This is a classic AOR album.
I am certain that this list surprised no one. But, I do wanted to honor this band and their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
With that said, have a great weekend!