A PERSONAL JOURNEY:
FOLLOWING THE RISE AND DECLINE OF THE SCARAB, 1973-2006
CONTINUING TALES OF THE SCARAB, 2007-2009
Updated and expanded edition, serialized for The Journey Zone
By Ross Muir
In December 2006, Ross Muir burst onto the Journey scene with a blistering and hard-hitting commentary on Journey's lip-syncing fiasco, including a lengthy exposition on the history of the band and later developments. Since then, Muir has followed up on his initial entry with a regular series of addendae, charting the Journey with lead singers Jeff Scott Soto and Arnel Pineda, with insights that continue to rock the Journey community. Now, through special agreement with the author, the Journey Zone is proud to present the latest edit of his complete work "A Personal Journey" in serialized form, two chapters a month.
|INTRODUCTION: THE AUTHOR'S PERSONAL JOURNEY
Even during their dominant decade the rock band Journey were, to some, just another of the big hair & wide flares brigade who ruled the American AOR charts circa late seventies and eighties. To others they are not even that – instantly dismissible, ‘corporate’ rock with no substance. To many, however, they were a true phenomenon, and there are hundreds of articles, web sites, anthologies and histories (past and present) dedicated to their musical output and just why, for so many (critics and fans alike), they were so much more than ‘just another band.’ The chemistry (and friction) within the group, particularly during their phenomenally successful decade run that began in 1978, was such that, when coupled with the sincerity in their music, produced a back catalogue that is still discussed in awed tones, played by fans constantly, and performed by subsequent versions of the band as well as a handful of solid ‘Tribute’ acts.
But that’s not what this ‘Personal Journey’ is really about.
It started that way, but in truth I only touch on names and songs, and in many instances albums are cited without any mention of tracks within – you can find that information elsewhere. No, what started as a potted personal history actually evolved into a review of the band's later musical and performance activities, which is remarkable for two reasons:
Firstly, I am no fan of the late nineties-onwards Journey as regards musical output, whether live or in the studio (why will become clear upon reading this presentation), so anything from 1998 (when the band reinvented themselves) you would assume holds no interest for me – certainly with regard to actually taking the time and effort of putting the following words together.
Secondly, and perversely, it’s turned out to be quite the opposite.
This is a band I had championed to the hilt and defended from the Nay Sayers since 1979 when I truly discovered them (and subsequently became a genuine fan of their earlier non-commercial ‘fusion’ period). They had an integrity in their music and a genuine respect for their fans - which was never taken for granted. A respect that went both ways, in truth. In recent years however there was a complete turnaround, and by 2006 a series of events based on one particular ‘discovery’ led me and many other once-fans to have zero respect for this band, as well as become saddened and shocked by their lack of integrity during that infamous period.
I recall, extremely vividly, the 1979 Evolution U.K. Tour and the Glasgow Apollo show which was more a less a double header with The Pat Travers Band (another personal favourite, and I’m still very much a fan of Patrick Henry Travers and his music). It was hardly a sell-out, but that didn’t deter either band from delivering on the night. Most of us had heard of Journey, but with very little impact in the UK we were happy to accept the usual tag of ‘poor mans Boston/Foreigner/Styx/Kansas’ (delete where appropriate). By concert end however, after a crystal-clear performance featuring quite superb six-string work from Neal Schon and vocal histrionics from one Steve Perry that I personally found unparalleled, it was obvious the tag was a little misleading. Wholly inaccurate, in fact. Within a month the entire back catalogue was in the collection, while collecting live appearances was more of a challenge. After the 1980 London show (which wasn’t completely full either, let me tell you, contrary to recent 'historical’ hype) the band would not return to Europe for twenty-six years. However back then I was along for the Journey…until a fork in the road appeared.
Where did those roads lead? Time to get the Journey underway…
|CHAPTER ONE: THE JOURNEY BEGINS, 1973-1977
During the late sixties, one of the hottest bands around San Francisco and the Bay Area were the Santana Blues Band. Led by the talented guitarist who would become a rock superstar and legend of the six-string, Carlos Santana had surrounded himself with a highly capable group of musicians producing latinesque and percussive rock of the highest standard. Carlos Santana and guitar may have been the focal point, but Gregg Rolie was the voice of the band, aided by his piano and organ playing skills. The band (soon known by the simpler name of Santana) produced an excellent debut and even better second album – the classic Abraxas. However Carlos Santana was always one to be innovative and re-imagine his band at regular intervals and by the time the third album rolled up in 1971, a second guitarist hade been added… Neal Schon was an incredible talent on guitar and in November 1970 at age 16, after an invitation from one of his heroes Eric Clapton, he guested live with Derek and the Dominos before being asked by Clapton to head to London and work with him there. Although tempted, he didn’t see a big future for DATD, and chose to stay closer to home when the opportunity to join Santana came at almost the same time. He was soon recording with the band (Santana III) and featuring in the live sets, and by the fourth album (Caravanserai, released in 1972), he was putting down some serious lead work. However, changes were also a constant in the ever-evolving Santana band, and soon both Rolie and Schon departed the band to pursue other projects – Schon was keen to put together another band, while Rolie quit music (albeit temporarily) and headed to family business in Seattle. Herbie Herbert however - who had been equipment roadie then road manager for Santana - knew the potential Gregg Rolie had to offer and convinced him (with help from Schon) to give it another go. And so in 1973 began, with Herbert at the helm, a very interesting Journey…
Ross Valory, a bass player from the Bay Area music scene and latterly of the Steve Miller Band, was known to Herbert and asked to consider being part of the band. To augment the sound a second guitarist was sought, and George Tickner – a musician who certainly knew his chords - was brought in to play solid rhythm behind the featured talents of Neal Schon. Finding a drummer was more of a problem, but talented sticksman Prairie Prince joined in a semi-permanent position, jumping from drum stool to drum stool as it were with his other more permanent band The Tubes, who were making waves in the San Francisco area and would eventually do all right for themselves... Prairie was a good fit however, as the music that both this new band and The Tubes would perform (initially) was fairly technical and not exactly overly commercial. Unfortunately the drummer didn’t hang about long when it looked like The Tubes were going places, and jumped ship permanently, but not before contributing to the bands first recording sessions in 1973. As luck would have it though, the renowned and talented Aynsley Dunbar had arrived in the area looking for some interesting and attractive work, and liked what he heard being prepared and performed by the fledgling band. Not short on the percussive skills to tackle the technical pieces with complicated time signatures, Dunbar was a great fit, and the final piece of the initial Journey jigsaw was in place - although the journey had not really officially started… Known initially as The Golden Gate Rhythm Section, the band made their early hard-earned cash backing more famous artists who came in to the Bay Area to perform, while still writing and performing their own material. The Journey really began when fans were asked to suggest a name via a local radio station request, although it seems John Villanueva (who had been with Herbie Herbert since the Santana days) actually suggested ‘Journey’ to Herbert, which was deemed the most suitable. As Journey, the band started to generate interest with their own brand of instrumental fusion rock, and a hard core of fans started paying attention...
In late 1974 the five musicians headed to the studio to rehearse and record for their debut album, and the next year saw the release of the self-titled Journey, a blend of fusion instrumental tracks and shorter vocal-led pieces. Each of the individuals contributed but on listening to the album there was no doubt – this band showcased Neal Schon’s talents, and his lead work was pretty astonishing for such a young man, just slipping in to his twenties. The opener "Of a Lifetime" set the tone, and a highlight was the instrumental "Kohoutek," but the album didn’t exactly set the charts alight although it put the band on the bay area map, and further afield.
Sadly George Tickner, a technically proficient player in his own right, was in the awkward position of playing almost second fiddle – make that guitar – to Neal Schon, and their musical chemistry just wasn’t quite right. Herbie Herbert decided to drop Tickner (who went on to attend Medical School), and the band continued as a four-piece. George Tickner had also contributed to the song writing and arrangements however, and his name would still appear in writing credits on a handful of numbers over the next two albums.
The second release, Look Into the Future from 1976, may be the ‘original’ Journey’s finest 40 minutes, with the band now in sync and blending a little more commerciality into the still very clever and complicated fusion-esque material. The title track was, and is, a Journey classic, and there was even a take on George Harrison’s "It’s all Too Much." But the biggest talking point was "I’m Gonna Leave You," as its lead key riff would feature on a label-mates song the year after, with devastating commercial effect, elevating the other band to a wider audience. Carry on, Kansas, no longer wayward sons…
For Journey however, there was to be no such chance of chart topping radio airplay, but the band persevered in the face of record label pressure, refusing to conform and producing a third album of similar material. By 1977 the band had had gigged solidly and now had a fairly strong underground reputation, and even got the gig supporting E.L.P. on part of their American Tour. Unfortunately, the band was now in danger of growing stale by not progressing musically, and it was proven beyond doubt when Next was released. Although it certainly had its moments, it’s probably the weakest of Journey’s initial trio of releases, and Side One (in old vinyl terms) has little musical variation (but improved if you insert Valory’s "Cookie Duster," omitted originally due to vinyl time restraints but made available some 15 years later). Side Two picks up the pace however, particularly that sides opening number "Hustler," a fast and frantic fusion rollicking Rolie song, and the title track which is one of the best songs from the bands three album fusion period.
But changes had to come, hinted at by Herbert and certainly forced somewhat by the label. It seems (looking back, and reading into comments made by the band at various times over the years from those early days into the current Millennium) that there was a split in the ranks over the very issue of ‘selling out’ commercially or ‘progressing’ (dependant on your point of view). Rolie, initially sceptical, accepted the inevitability of it and adapted as did Valory, according to his interviews/ comments regarding that time. Schon however, was dead against it…
In more recent years Neal Schon has stated he felt the band would eventually break if they had been allowed to pursue their own sound back in the progressive fusion days. Sorry Neal, but I disagree with that statement, and you have to remember his comment was made some 25 years after the event, when Schon in particular was extremely vitriolic about a certain previous band member and the anger, angst and troubled times that sometimes came from that union. Dunbar too was apparently no fan of the proposed new direction and that, coupled with other circumstances, would cost him his place in the band within a year. Before taking that ‘Next’ step however, Journey were already facing a mini-crisis…
The first two albums had sold poorly, making little significant impact on the Billboard 200, and although they had a hardcore of fans and a distinctive (uncommercial) sound, it wasn’t enough for the record label. Interestingly, they did grab the attention of producer guru Roy Thomas Baker who was seriously impressed with the band live-- both musically and instrumentally. However it wasn’t enough for RTB to work with, who had just come off a stint of moving Queen up from good band to superstars with his work on the Night at the Opera and Day at the Races albums. Like Queen, RTB decided if he had a dynamic voice to work with he would take up the challenge…
Changes had to be made and even during the recording of Next the band were considering a focal point for the unit – a distinctive voice to act as lead vocal and take them further. The countertenor front man they went with was the one, the only… Robert Fleischman. Yep. Not generally known outside of the Journey faithful, there was a lead vocalist (other than Gregg Rolie) before old whatsisname. Unfortunately, although very similar in style and looks to his more famous replacement who would appear a few months later, he just didn’t fit the bill. Fleischman appeared with the band on some low-key gigs, coming on during the set and working in new material (he co-wrote "Winds of March" and "Wheel in the Sky," which would become Journey classics), but he received a very mixed reception. He also featured in their ‘Crater Festival’ appearance in Hawaii, and (never officially released) audio and film of that 4th July 1977 show does exist.
Meanwhile, a demo tape had landed in the hands of Herbie Herbert, featuring a band called Alien Project who had recently disbanded due to the death in a road accident of their bass player (the tragedy occurring the same day Journey played that Crater Festival date). The singer though, had a distinctive and dare I say unique voice and range, discernable even in the demo, and steps were made to get him an audition and a chance to hang with the group (at one point both vocalists were around the band, with Fleischman never aware of the competitor).
In a relatively short time however Robert Fleischman was gone and by October 1977 the new guy was officially a member of, and touring with, Journey (during the E.L.P. support stint), and as he became familiar with his new band mates he would be introduced to do lead vocal spots, although again – initially – to a very mixed reception and reaction. This time even within the band.
He got the gig however, and he didn’t just bring an incredible set of pipes to the table – he brought a whole new dynamic to the band and presented a semi-completed song to the group about the ‘lights in L.A.’ (which would evolve into the San Francisco/ Journey anthem "Lights") and co-wrote "Patiently" with Neal Schon in a few short hours – two more songs destined to become Journey classics.
His name was Steve Perry.
|CHAPTER TWO: TO INFINITY, AND BEYOND, 1978-1987
For all that the band & management were generally delighted with the voice and dimension Perry brought to the table (Schon was still not convinced), it was even more of a delight for Roy Thomas Baker who immediately set about using Perry to his full potential, and based his multi layered production job around ‘The Voice’, while making sure Schon’s stellar guitar sonics were also up front to compliment the new Journey sound. Infinity in 1978 did what the previous three albums could never come close to achieving – Gold status, and continual airplay thanks to Herbert’s tireless p.r. work. It didn’t hurt that graphic art team Kelley & Mouse produced a pretty cool cover for the record and would continue to do so for a number of years and albums, eventually creating a ‘Scarab’ type creature which became an ever evolving Journey trademark, and still used to market and represent Journey product. Such an impact did Infinity make that the band featured in a televised promotional Chicago club show that same year which featured an airing for many of the Infinity numbers, a couple of pre-Perry songs, and a blues segment with special guests including the likes of Albert King. Video and audio of the whole broadcast is available (unofficially) but ultra rare – Holy Grail material for Journey fans collections. Journey were on their way – but so too was Aynsley Dunbar.
Dunbar was critical of the new direction – and although the standard ‘musical differences’ were cited as the problem at the time it seems, according to Herbert’s recollections, ‘unprofessional conduct’ was more accurate, and he was just not a team player any more. The drummer was fired, but his replacement was on board almost immediately...
Journey had toured with Ronnie Montrose in 1978, and Perry & Herbert in particular were struck by the talent of the drummer who could rock commercially, while still knocking out the jazz and fusion licks as and when necessary. Hardly surprising – Steve Smith is one of the few drummers who can genuinely cross over the sometimes jarring and alien styles of jazz to rock, and cut his teeth with Jean-Luc Ponty and Focus (to this day Steve Smith is the only sticksman who consistently makes Top 5 lists for drummers in rock and jazz). By October 1978 he was in the studio with Journey who were the invited artists of the King Biscuit radio show crew to perform with guests for a session that became known as ‘Superjam 2’. This may be a reference to the fact that the Chicago show mentioned earlier was sometimes referred to as ‘(Journey) Superjam’, as parts of that show including the Blues jam section had probably been broadcast on radio (although the original programme itself was a ‘Soundstage’ production). The King Biscuit sessions featured Journey, Tom Johnston (of Doobie Brothers fame), local vocalists Annie Sampson and Jo Baker, and the Tower of Power Horns. The almost R&B session showed Journey could turn their hand to many styles, but sadly the show was never broadcast and the masters lost – more bootleg gold dust for the Journey collectors, and to this day only Good Times has been found and officially released from the master tapes.
Journey and Roy Thomas Baker returned to the studio in 1979 for the follow up to Infinity, Evolution, and to a degree it was just that – the further musical evolution of the band with Rolie, Schon and Perry now in sync musically, and songwriting-wise. The only let-down was it’s similarity in sound and arrangement to Infinity, courtesy of the ‘RTB job’ done at the production desk. Highlights for me are Perry’s own Sweet and Simple, and the closer which was a throwback to earlier Hammond up front times – the high pitched but bluesy and ballsy Lady Luck – crank that baby ‘up to 11’, boys.
In 1980 Journey’s sixth album was released – Departure - and again the title told a tale…
In order to get away from the big production sound of the last two albums, they purposely went with a live sound and kept overdubs to a minimum - a departure from the last two studio outings. The Departure World Tour (which would produce an almost obligatory-for-the-times double live album, entitled Captured) ended in Japan, with the band staying in the country to record Dream after Dream. This was a soundtrack album for a very poor, minimal promotion, set in the Middle East movie made with (very little) Japanese money. However the band again got to stretch, writing orchestrated passages (including a small piece from their debut album re-written by Valory and featuring him on piano), incidental music, three ‘vocal’ songs plus two ‘Journey’ instrumentals. Two of the songs deserve special mention: Little Girl had been written primarily during Departure, and Rolie in particular was sorry it didn’t make that album. The other, Destiny, is one of their finest creations and one of Steve Smith’s favourite Journey songs, and the drummer has since commented on how he enjoyed the non-conformity of the Dream after Dream sessions.
However another ‘departure’ was looming, as Gregg Rolie had decided at the end of that year to get out of the business, now crispy at the edges from nearly 15 years of playing and touring with Santana and Journey. To this day Herbie Herbert is convinced part of Rolie’s decision to leave was Perry starting to dominate, and although never substantiated it’s interesting to note that the singer (who was quickly and unarguably becoming the front man on and off-stage) believed the band had taken the Journey sound & style as far as they could without new blood, and new direction. They shouldn’t have worried – Rolie helped choose his own replacement after watching a keyboard player he felt was a perfect fit (although Herbert initially had serious reservations). The soon-to-be Journeyman had toured alongside the band during the Departure Tour in 1980 while with The Babys – the band from whom Jonathan Cain was about to escape…
The one area that any self-respecting rock/ AOR fan knows about Journey is the Escape period, so it will not be featured here in any great detail. Suffice to say the introduction of Jonathan Cain and his song writing abilities took Journey to their highest plateau – No. 1 on the Billboard charts in 1981, and worldwide recognition. The change of style – to an almost manufactured, purpose built American coastal rock sound - did what it set out to do, but from a personal point of view, for that very reason, it isn’t close to being my favourite Perry-led Journey album. A very uncommon view among Journey fans. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very good album (showing how highly I rate the others) and there are many stellar & classic Journey moments, but it was just a little too formulated in places for me and the ‘standard’ rockers (Dead or Alive, Keep on Runnin’) are interchangeable and just that – standard. Even the massively successful Who’s Cryin’ Now is a perfectly manufactured ‘power ballad’ (as these types of songs became known in 80’s AOR terms) and for me is a little soul-less. If tracks like Dead or Alive & ‘Runnin’ had been removed and the far superior (in my opinion) tracks La Raza del Sol and Self Defence added, it could have been so much more again. As could be said of the follow up…
Journey charted new frontiers in 1983 by again purposely shifting the musical lay of the land. They got sharper, more edgy, Perry tuned it down half an octave and a key or two (having been heavily criticized by the musical media for his Escape high pitched histrionics – well, the higher they climb…) and Frontiers rolled out, and turned in to one of their finest releases as far as I am concerned. But like Escape, it could have been even better. Two absolute stonewall radio airplay certainties - Only the Young and Ask the Lonely - were pulled at the 11th hour to be held back for future use. Both turned out to be as successful as expected, particularly Only the Young when it was released as a single two years later. Frontiers and tour were highly successful, but were so intense that the band took the next year off. Individually however, some were busier than others…
While Smith dabbled with Vital Information, his jazz project that had seen a debut release in 1983, Schon worked on a project with Sammy Hagar. All Perry did was produce a monster success with Street Talk, the solo album that became a monster for the members of Journey to deal with. Steve Perry was quite clearly by this time the dominant 'voice' in Journey and his 1984 solo album outsold any & all previous ‘outside’ Journey projects put together. It was so successful it presented the singer with a bit of a dilemma. It may seem surprising, but having always been emotionally close to his mother Perry actually asked her advice on whether he should pursue a solo career or do another project with Journey. His mother (in poor health by this time) thought Journey was where he should be, and in 1985 the band started recording for what would be a passionate and angst driven emotional work. Ross Valory wasn’t even in at the first page, his playing restricted by not being able to get involved “from the ground up” (song writing direction). Any work he completed was never used or over-written. Steve Smith too, after doing work on the sessions left to dedicate more time to Vital Information projects, who were gaining critical acclaim in the fusion/ jazz circles. More recently Steve Perry’s own statements, along with other comments, clearly indicate that the singer made the decision to fire Smith and Valory, who were not deemed suitable style-wise for the musical direction which would be more rhythm & soul rock - and not a million miles away from the feel of Perry’s solo album. It has also been suggested that they fully intended - allegedly at Perry’s behest - to continue as a customised Journey three-piece, plugging in rhythm section personnel for album and live work as necessary. The trio’s album was a lengthy, painful process to complete however, with Perry having his own personal demons (a dying mother), Schon slowly but surely losing interest, and Cain under stress as the glue holding the project together whilst going through a divorce. Raised on Radio emerged in 1986 (preceded by the Frontiers ‘non album’ track Only the Young as a single in 1985 just to whet the appetite), and the sound of the album (along with certain songs in the set list for the subsequent tour) clearly indicated who was running the show…
Steve Perry was producer on Raised on Radio, and by tour time two of his solo album tracks were usually featured in the set, along with two or three covers including Jailhouse Rock. Non-Journey songs in the set was not a first admittedly, as the band had performed No More Lies on the 1983 Frontiers tour (a track from Neal Schon’s second collaborative album with Jan Hammer), and early Frontiers shows in Japan featured Don’t Fight It as an encore number (a song recorded by Kenny Loggins & Perry).
It was a telling tale nonetheless.
The rhythm section was Randy Jackson, who was a good fit having been a featured bassist on the Raised On Radio album, and quite surprisingly the safe but solid session man Mike Baird on the sticks, after the band had auditioned a number of ‘name’ drummers. There are a number of people who are not great fans of Raised On Radio and don’t regard it as a true Journey album, and/ or those that believe that later incarnations of the band have more in common with ‘classic’ Journey than the Raised on Radio period (in sound and style). I don’t accept that, primarily because ‘Radio’ was part of the band’s continuing musical (and to some degree personal) development and progression - admittedly directed by Perry – for better or for worse. The strain had taken its toll however, and a number of people realised that the Radio raising this Journey music would soon be powering down. It was a highly successful tour with the band still a major live attraction, but even during the tour Perry knew he was going to end his Journey after the final show of the scheduled dates. With the anticipated second leg of dates never materialising February 1st 1987 turned out to be that final show (in Anchorage Alaska), and in the Spring of that year Journey split up.
Cain, Perry and Schon did get together briefly in November 1991 for part of the tribute to the late Bill Graham (famous Bay Area music guru and promoter) and performed de-tuned semi acoustic versions of Lights and Faithfully at the Golden Gate Park Tribute Day in San Francisco, but that would be it for Journey for another five years…
|CHAPTER THREE: TIME APART AND TRIAL SEPARATIONS, 1988-1997
Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain had always meshed well both musically and creatively, and shortly after the Raised on Radio tour ended they helped springboard AOR balladeer Michael Bolton up the rock ladder with easily his finest moment The Hunger (aided by Randy Jackson and Mike Baird), then did another ‘Journey Job’ (again with Jackson) on Australian gravel-voiced rocker Jimmy Barnes’ album Freight Train Heart (both excellent AOR-ish rock albums). Schon and Cain also released a couple of solo albums each (although the former's excellent Beyond the Thunder was more of a collaboration between the two friends) and the guitarist was involved in Hardline, but their most successful non-Journey project was Bad English, the band that reunited Cain with vocalist John Waite and bass player Ricky Phillips (all three having previously worked together in The Babys). Drummer Deen Castronovo completed the line-up. Formed in 1988, Bad English released two albums in their short career (the debut in particular receiving a fair amount of critical and commercial success) and had a Number One single in the States with "When I See You Smile." Around the time Bad English were forming Steve Perry was putting the finishing touches to another solo album, but this one could not have been less successful - it was never released (see later). Steve Smith continued to be sought after in sessions as well as really getting into a groove with Vital Information, while Ross Valory, after being part of the short-lived band The Vu (including old sparring partner Prairie Prince) performed on the unique 'recorded live with band in front of audience’ sessions for Todd Rundgren’s 1991 studio album Second Wind. Both Valory and Smith however, would soon be back in the musical mainstream with an old friend…
Gregg Rolie made a comeback of sorts in the mid-eighties by guesting on Santana albums and releasing a couple of solo records, but was more prominent when he featured in Journey sound-a-likes The Storm in 1991 along with Valory, Smith (who appeared on the debut album), guitarist Josh Ramos and vocalist Kevin Chalfant. The Storm themselves were born out of the ashes of The Vu. Like Bad English they had a short but fairly successful two-album career, and helped fuel the ‘Journey reform without Perry’ rumours that surfaced in 1994…
Chalfant recalls being the vocalist for a one-off show in San Francisco in October 1993 which featured The Storm journeymen alongside Schon and Cain, and a Journey set was performed.
The idea of restarting the journey with this line-up was seriously discussed and Chalfant, Rolie, Cain and Schon did do some writing together. Perry meanwhile was unavailable to contribute or comment, as he was over on the east coast mixing and putting the finishing touches to his second solo album...
For the Love of Strange Medicine, released in 1994, was Perry’s second successful solo foray into the charts and a fairly successful U.S. tour followed. Medicine should have been his third solo release, but bizarrely and incredibly Sony Music (which had bought Columbia records) had shelved the completed Against the Wall album (recorded primarily through 1988), the decision apparently based on the uncertainty of its musical direction. Over the ensuing years most of the material surfaced on CD singles and a Greatest Hits package, but it would be some eighteen years after the event before the last couple of tracks saw the light of day. I can understand the basis of the reasoning, as it’s easily Perry’s most eclectic work, but at the same time still very much a polished American rock album that would have been without doubt a Top 10 Billboard album on ‘name’ alone. As I say, bizarre. The Medicine shows were about half the size of the Journey Juggernaut in it’s heyday but this was still more than the other band members had produced in many of their post-Journey projects, although the initial concept of it being a full World Tour did not materialise (the schedule was also shortened due to Perry picking up a bronchial condition during the latter half of the tour). However with the musical buzz back in his belly and any burnt bridges seemingly mended, Perry was soon talking to Cain and Schon about another Journey album (that would include the return of Ross Valory and Steve Smith), which automatically cancelled any plans that they had considered regarding a Chalfant Journey project. The reunion of the bands' most successful line-up was on, but the subsequent fall-out would become traumatic Journey history - and split dedicated, passionate Journey fans into two very distinct camps…
Trial by Fire, Journey’s comeback album after a hiatus of nearly 10 years, was released in October 1996, and did phenomenally well considering this particular five-piece had not produced or performed as a unit for 13 years. It quite possibly produced the lightest and darkest shades of Journey ever to be heard on one album – they are not exactly hanging about on the opening salvo of "Message of Love" and "One More," which then gave way to their biggest ever selling single "When You Love a Woman," an orchestrated Journey classic that carried more genuine musical emotion within it than the Escape power ballads, in my humble opinion. That trio of tunes set the tone. For me Trial is one of their best albums, and confirming the connection to their ‘classic’ past is the fact that the band revisited the bridge (minus the synth line overlay) before final chorus from "Separate Ways" on "Message of Love." And for all the history of the band I personally feel their finest 5 minutes – in song writing craft, if not in true classic Journey style – appeared on Trial in the shape of "Easy to Fall." A haunting, building (almost ‘country’ in style) ballad that describes the very fine line between staying on your chosen path, and falling. Truly beautiful and poignant, and from a personal point of view it’s no coincidence that the song I now identify as their finest moment could also be interpreted as straying from a particular journey…
Trial by Fire was so well received (Platinum sales within two months of its release) that a tour was almost a given, but when going out on the road again was seriously discussed Steve Perry continually cried off as a non-starter - for over a year (a length of time that did however include a number of musical activities being pursued by other Journeymen). Now legendary in Journey musical history, it reads like a bad musical soap opera…
Depending on whom you believe, Perry couldn’t schedule because of a genuinely degenerative hip that required eventual replacement (the ailment itself discovered after hiking in Hawaii in physical preparation for the tour)… or started getting cold feet and stage fright… or as reportedly predicted by ex-manager Herbie Herbert created excuses as he never intended touring in the first place. Interestingly, Herbert had been fired from his duties as Journey’s manager in the early nineties (at Perry’s request, during the bands hiatus) and it could well be bitterness that makes him believe there was never any truth to the degenerative hip disorder. Herbert’s detailed Castles Burning interview in 2001 was incredibly vivid and insightful, but there were also instances of contradiction when compared with other statements and sources, as well as being extremely vitriolic in places. It’s fair to say he doesn’t write any Christmas cards addressed to Perry, and is not exactly a fan of Jonathan Cain (while still respecting the talents of both). On the other hand he has nothing but plaudits for Gregg Rolie, and holds his ‘adopted’ son Neal Schon in high regard (certainly during the time he was directly associated with him) – the two musicians he hand-built the band around. The upshot was that the confusion, anger and misunderstanding that came from the Trial non-tour was the catalyst for all the bad blood that emerged in the months (and years) that followed, via various interviews and statements relating to the problems Perry had posed for the band almost from the get go, and the Love-Hate relationship Neal Schon and the singer had carried from their earliest days together. Long story short, in May 1998 after an ultimatum from Cain and Schon to Perry (which it’s fair to say he didn’t respond well to) the band decided to part company with their seminal vocalist, at which point Steve Smith jumped back full time to Vital Information and other related projects when it was obvious that “it wasn’t about the five of us any more.”
Personally, and for many people, the Journey was over.
But for others, a new Journey was just beginning…
|CHAPTER FOUR: NEW ARRIVALS and the GENERATION GAP, 1998-2006
Schon, Cain and Valory, who were keen to get back on the boards and strike while the Fire iron was still relatively hot, recruited singer and sound-a-like Steve Augeri (ex. of Tyketto and Tall Stories), who had been ‘retired’ and out of the business for two years. Deen Castronovo, whose previous bands included Bad English alongside Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain then Hardline with Schon, took over the drum stool, and only a month after the ultimatum to Perry the new Journey was underway, performing in front of an audience at a live rehearsal show in San Rafael. Augeri had the looks and upper register to suit, but behind the extremely ‘vocal’ wars was the change to the very beat of the band, as well as the fact that there was now an identity crisis…
Steve Smith was, and is, a supreme sticksman - one of the best jazz & rock drummers in the world. He can be followed, certainly…but replaced? For me, nigh on impossible (ditto with Steve Perry). In Castronovo’s defence he has a ‘part’ to play on stage, and not only is he excellent at copying the drum licks on the classics that Steve Smith did originally, he has a great high-end voice that can certainly hold a Perry tune (both tricky Journeymen to mimic or emulate – to any degree). Two original members of Journey, yes… but three Bad English originals (who themselves featured three men who used to be Babys)… two Hardliners… there were also three ex-Journeymen in the original line up of The Storm… you get the idea.
The new line-up was soon heard on the Armageddon soundtrack with the song "Remember Me" before work began on material for a new album. Then the fun really started…
Lawyers letters, injunctions, use of songs, copyrights…at this point everyone had something to say about everyone else, particularly Schon and Herbie Herbert (who was not as ‘restricted’ in what he could say, having been fired a few years previously and therefore outside the legal tape tying together those that still had a stake in the Journey name). It would be years before things were even close to being polite, and to this day it’s obvious from recorded opinion and interviews that Perry and the current band are still Worlds Apart, and have almost certainly gone their Separate Ways…
Once the band got established Schon asked Herbie Herbert to consider returning to the Manager’s seat, but he declined - having sweated blood for the band first time around he wasn’t about to start again. He had already been there, done that, and bought the T-shirt (probably designed it too).
Arrival, released in 2001, was not the hit the ‘new’ band needed it to be and Sony soon dropped the group, who continued with their own website and other distribution assistance, producing the 2002 four-track EP disc Red 13. In January 2005 the Journey ‘family’ got together briefly for the Hollywood Walk of Fame music award in L.A., when just about every ex-member (other than Gregg Rolie) and the current band got together to celebrate – including Steve Perry (now, by ‘celebrity’ standards, almost reclusive and living a non-music life). However the concert that night featuring guest ex-members (George Tickner, Aynsley Dunbar, Robert Fleischman, and Steve Smith) may have been a reunion – thus cementing this band with the old for the ‘generations’ - but it was not definitive. Two major players in what made Journey declined to take part - Rolie, who feels no real need to revisit this part of his musical life (and was unavailable that day) and Perry (for more difficult and emotional reasons I would surmise).
Later in 2005 Journey released Generations and embarked on the ‘30th Anniversary’ Generations Tour, but from a personal point of view the album might as well have been entitled ‘Generation Gap’, as the gulf between this band and the one that honed it’s own Evolution of rock from Fusion to the Rhythm & Soul of Raised on Radio to the comeback by Fire, is too vast to connect with any bridge – burnt or otherwise. The Augeri Journey did pretty well on the live circuit but primarily on large ‘Casino’ concert hall tours and County Fair shows, and in Cain’s own words ”for every fan that says ‘see you on the tour’, another will ask what we’re doing these days and on finding out replies ‘right...see ya’ “. An honest and fair statement from the man who embodies the spirit of Journey. Unfortunately, the voice and the beat were lost in a Trial by Fire. Jonathan Cain was also responsible for a telling comment when the Raised on Radio tour ended: “Neal and I felt we had a custom Harley in the garage…but we both knew who was holding the keys…”
The Augeri years? Arrival wasn’t a bad album, but personally I got very little from it. It had some good songs and a couple of great ones, but in terms of what had come before and the standards set in musical creativity, expression and vocality, it was an album by ‘just another’ AOR rock band for me. And yes, I’m aware that I just described them as one of the instantly dismissible bands of this genre that I used to defend Journey from being a part of, as stated in the Introduction.
Ironic. Red 13 only contained four songs, although there was a fifth (title) track which formed an instrumental intro to the genuinely interesting and excellent "State of Grace" with it's meshing of eastern influences and progressive rock. The closer could have been straight off a Bad English session. Generations was an inconsistent album and overall a little directionless and poor in comparison to Arrival, but it did contain a handful of great rock songs and "Faith in the Heartland" in my opinion is by far the best song the Augeri era Journey produced, and many describe it as ‘classic’ Journey.
By the Summer of 2006 the name Journey had returned to the lips of many of my friends, colleagues, countrywide fans and music journalists – initially due to the band’s return to Europe after quarter of a century, but also soon after in relation to a highly controversial topic… In June the band were back in the U.K. after a 26-year absence, and included a date within my own borders, Edinburgh in Scotland. Yet I had no interest in going to the show, much to the shock and disbelief of some who knew I had been a major fan in the past. By way of explanation, a quick digression…
I’m a seriously big Todd Rundgren fan, as well as other non-commercial artists such as Pat Metheny. Yet if I need a buzz or a musical pick me up, it is always the ’78 to ’96 Journey, whilst having a great deal of respect and time for the original pre-Perry fusion albums (and a select choice of off-shoot and solo projects). Again, just another American AOR band to some, but for me they transcended that and were a genuine phenomenon - sincere about their music, and what it meant to so many. I should at this point state I am not a Knight Defender of the Perry Faith - for me it's simply that Journey can no more function without Steve Perry as they could without Neal Schon. Heart and soul, baby, heart and soul. The Yin and Yang. The fire and the friction. From conflict came (musical) harmony. Big time. I also appreciated and admired the fact that during their career Journey weren't scared to experiment with textures, and explored a more rhythm and soul sound on Raised on Radio. The Foreigners and Speedwagons of the day never ran the gauntlet of styles Journey did. After a prolonged period of commercial success including the classic IV album Toto stretched a little, and Styx went from rock to pomp gods to radio friendly to theatrical concepts (I’ll touch on that band again later), but for me none within that bracket or 'genre' ever musically progressed like Journey. Not so much ‘classic’ AOR as ‘progressive’ AOR and now, for me, it’s simply that in comparison to what had gone before its ‘standard’ AOR (with the occasional highlight). That’s my take on the emotive power of their music up to and including Trial by Fire.
The band's limited but well-received appearances in the U.K. in 2006 proved they certainly still had a fan base, but also proved I made the right decision personally. I was intrigued and genuinely pleased to see that on their Generations shows Stateside they had included early (pre-Perry) Journey songs at the start of the set, but by the time they hit the U.K. had re-structured the set-list dramatically, dropping all the earlier numbers and some of the Generations material (which had received a very mixed reception on the U.S. dates and clearly did not connect with the ‘Greatest Hits’ brigade). I found that a bit of a shame, and even a little disappointing. Indeed, it could have been dubbed the ‘Greatest Hits + 2’ Euro Tour because nine of the ten Escape songs were featured, and every other song (other than two) came from the 1978 to 1986 period. The original fusion albums & Trial didn’t get a look in, and only two songs from this line-ups discography were featured, both from Generations.
If the band were so convinced that this line-up and its own musical output worked, then surely it needed more than two songs to be played - at least half a dozen numbers (including songs from Arrival) should have been in the set to push product and promote their current material. No, seeing a band of this calibre resting on its laurels and using its history to put on a show is not for me, and while the post-Perry/ Smith line-ups don’t interest or excite me musically I fully acknowledge that they can, and do, interest or excite others.
But bottom line, from a personal point of view? Steve Perry and Steve Smith are two of the greatest ever in their chosen professions and it’s simply that in vocality and musicality the post-Trial Journey have never progressed, recaptured that creativity, or rekindled the ‘musical emotion’ that came from the chemistry of the classic or seminal line-ups and the live shows circa '78 to '87. But I was aware that since around 2003 there had been a number of fans, critics and reviewers not blinkered by the 'as long as it’s Schon it’s Journey' stance stating that Augeri had not exactly been stellar in vocal depth, delivery or even stage presence (more on which shortly). I never accepted it was simply ‘for fun’ that on Generations shows (and the Generations album) they all took lead vocals, and although Ross Valory has stated it’s simply four other guys finally finding their voice and complementing the sound, I didn’t buy it – I always felt there was a little more to it…
Firstly, I believed the shared lead vocals were to help out the front man (Castronovo has consistently taken lead on three or four songs during sets, and interestingly his is the voice that is truly Perry-like) as Augeri had quite evidently been feeling the strain over the years with constant touring and throat problems (which has been confirmed upon occasion by Neal Schon) leading to some very poor performances, especially in 2003 and 2004, as can clearly be heard on bootlegs from that time. Secondly, and related to the above, shortly after the U.K./ European dates a story broke that first seemed to be a classic case of ‘Internet Conspiracy Theory’ but became a serious and controversial news item over the whole issue of Journey’s ‘live’ lead vocalist…more on which later.
Can Augeri sing? Of course he can. But can he replace Perry and/ or do the classic back catalogue true justice? No. Not for me. And certainly not consistently in the live environment. But what about Steve Augeri’s predecessor?
Steve Perry would have lost some of his vocal register and confidence (having not sung in anger for ten years other than occasional soundtrack and guest vocalist work), but his very presence and voice would change the dynamics dramatically. I still believe for every European/ U.K. fan that was desperate to see them, one other (and probably a lot more) were on the 'see ya' side of the fence – much as it is Stateside. The presence of Perry and Schon live and the ego bubbles that surrounded them (certainly from the Escape tour onwards) were so big that it’s a miracle Cain, Valory and Smith could fit on stage. Any friction between them on stage or in the studio (which was actually a positive as they constantly raised each other's game) created that very fire that cannot be reproduced - without both being part of the entity. And let’s not forget the contribution Perry made on the albums outside of the vocal legacy…
Not only is Steve Perry unarguably one of the rock voices of our generation, it’s obvious by checking the song writing credits from Journey’s commercially successful period from Infinity through to Trial By Fire just how much of an influence he was in not just the lyrics, but in bringing demos, arrangements and completed tunes to the table (although the Journey creative process certainly peaked when it was the triumvirate of Perry, Cain and Schon). Most of the songs brought in or written for Arrival included ‘outside’ co-writing credits with the likes of Jack Blades contributing, and there is no question in my mind that the spark of creativity needed to elevate a band of this style from also-rans to genuine Super Bowl contenders was missing on the material recorded with Steve Augeri.
However at the end of the day, for us all, it’s down to personal choice, taste, and opinion, and these guys are professional musicians – who the hell am I to say they shouldn’t be out there performing and recording under whatever name they so choose. And, after all, it is Neal’s baby. Absolutely. I would only present as way of reply the fact that if this line-up has so much chemistry and love playing together, why did they not create a new band to allow Augeri to blossom in his own material, and not be continually compared to what had gone before? Then, as well as pushing that new material, tour with a number of ‘classics’ in the set from the individuals’ musical discography including songs by Journey and Bad English. But that was never going to happen, because the name ‘Journey’ will generate the most interest, even if it’s less interest than it used to command. Although it seems going back on the road as Journey is a double-edged sword in this instance…
Amongst his recent emotional tirades Herbie Herbert was spot on with a number of issues. Firstly, this band has to perform live as it makes best financial sense, and going out as Journey will without question sell most tickets. It’s no secret that certain members really only made Journey their breadwinner and, as confirmed by Herbert, didn't invest wisely before the journey came to an end the first time around. Make no mistake, Journey isn’t Neal Schon’s passion, it’s his cash cow, and although the guitarist in particular loves to perform, these Journeys across the nation are because he and others need to, over want to. As Herbert said “It’s a shame these guys still have to tour to make a living.”
Steve Perry on the other hand was a lot more careful with his Journey dollars, and it seems he still is…
Herbert has also made mention of Perry making this band work for him, and it seems that part of the singer’s deal when allowing the band to perform so many of the Journey 'hits' (he could have put an injunction out stopping the band from performing them) was to take what can only be described as high percentage performance royalties as if he were out there with the band.
The singer getting his pound of flesh after all the vitriol? A little unfair? Totally unjustified? Take your pick, but if Herbert’s disclosure is accurate (and I believe it is) then Steve Perry was almost a ‘silent partner’ in the New Millennium Journey and the band were actually a six piece during the Augeri years.
Herbert also claims the Live in Las Vegas 2001 DVD (recorded December 2000) was only possible because of Perry’s acquiescence and the proviso that he got full editorial control over the VH1 Behind The Music documentary, a very tame no-substance bandography that is almost a one-sided affair and provides little scope for other ‘views’. The countless hours of footage on the cutting room floor are apparently far more interesting and relative than anything that made the programme.
In related money making subjects, further solo works by Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain (and they have done some stellar sonics in the past and during the Journey hiatus) included those aimed at specific popular markets. In 2001 Schon released Voice, a 'classic covers' album and his first truly ‘mainstream’ solo work (it included such hits as "Everything I Do (I do it for you)") while Cain released the album Animated Movie Love Songs in 2002 (the former actually contained some of Schon’s most emotive guitar work in years, while the latter was influenced by Cain’s young children and their tastes). Doing an album of covers is hardly a crime but it was interesting to note, especially in light of their more creative and original works of the past.
|CHAPTER FIVE: MUSICAL INTERLUDE: WHAT'S IN A NAME?
The music industry is not just an entertainment industry, it’s a business. More times than not, it’s also the artists’ livelihood. But when any group gets to the (concert) stage of just having the name left as a shadow or ‘label’ of what was (whether for contractual or financial reasons) I become disinterested. It’s just pushing a band name or, more accurately, a brand name – which interestingly is exactly how Pete Townshend describes The Who in the 21st Century, whilst making it clear it’s a brand he is proud to be associated with (and rightly so).
Todd Rundgren matched Townshend’s matter-of-factness when he defined his role in The New Cars in 2006 as an opportunity to work with friends and pay the bills more efficiently (the band only featured two of the original Cars with main driver Ric Ocasek declining to take part). At least they modified the name while acknowledging which band they were a tribute to.
Styx, after a mid to late eighties hiatus followed by a couple of reunions (and the death of original drummer John Panozzo), decided to continue into the Millennium with only one original member (ill health had seen original bass player Chuck Panozzo become a part-time player) and another from the ‘classic’ years after dropping the major creative source and, for many, definitive voice of the band, Dennis DeYoung, after he developed an illness that kept him from performing for a time.
One of the best examples of the ‘brand’ in action? Take a bow, Thin Lizzy.
There are many other acts that can be stamped with the same musical branding iron, and it has become quite a common occurrence since the turn of the Century – almost a musical fashion in itself - you can probably rattle off half a dozen names without having to stop to think about it. However many of these artists want (or need) to play the songs to a live audience, and that’s how a number of these acts make a living - on the circuit. Those audiences are primarily a new, younger generation of fans who, along with the dedicated hardcore, want to see the ‘classic’ acts playing the ‘classic’ songs and are drawn by the name, no matter what the line-up. For others it’s as much about the individuals who are/were part of the very identity of the band, without whom there would have been no signature sound, classic act or classic songs in the first place, and without whom later versions struggle to recapture past glories or create new ones. Many such acts that continue (or reform with whoever has the rights to the name) become almost a ‘tribute’ to themselves, and to such a degree that many of the official Tribute Bands are their equal. And arguably better, in some cases.
One of the best examples of the ‘tribute’ in action? Take a bow, Limehouse Lizzy.
However I fully appreciate and understand the argument for both sides of the coin, and as a friend of mine once said most artists are not as romantic about their bands as the fans. Fair comment, but some bands have a heart and soul, it’s as simple as that…. Can anyone conceive of The Beatles being the phenomenon they were if there had been a Lennon, but no McCartney…or vice versa? Similarly, Led Zeppelin without either Page, or Plant…the Rolling Stones with no Jagger, or Richards…even The Eagles without Henley, or missing Frey? To be fair Journey (even at their most successful) are not in the same league as the above with regard to fan-base, credibility, musical impact, influence, sales, and household name (although you could argue they were once not far behind), and can probably be better compared to the following examples that fall on the other side of that previously mentioned coin…
Uriah Heep have had a conveyor belt of personnel changes (including a number of singers) through most of their lengthy career, and ‘back in the day’ took the decision to replace their charismatic (but latterly problematic) front man David Byron (original vocalist and significant contributor to their classic era line-up and signature sound). But a number of those changes were necessary or inevitable and led to many reinventions that actually allowed the band to continue (with varying degrees of success). However with so many changes over the years and a live set usually based on the classics it can also be argued they are simply a ‘tribute’ to what was, as ex-member and original creative source of the band Ken Hensley has described them…
Black Sabbath are synonymous with singer Ozzy Osbourne, yet it’s fair to say they didn’t exactly disappear when Osbourne was replaced by Ronnie James Dio…
Ditto with Van Halen, and their replacement of front man David Lee Roth with Sammy Hagar at the height of their success.
There are many other examples, and what is interesting about these ‘reinventions’ is that if a band try to copy or emulate what has gone before (particularly if replacing key members in creativity, vocality, or part of the signature sound) they simply produce just that - an imitation of what was, usually with poorer ‘copy quality’. However if and when the band decide to continue by adding a little ‘redirection’ or try to progress, whilst still being true to the style of music that made them a success in the first place, they usually retain that success by creating a new audience whilst holding on to some (but never all) of their original fan-base (the Sabbath and Van Halen examples cited earlier are good examples of this).
Before moving on, two artists that are household names and true giants of rock can be debated in the ‘band or brand’ analogy: Queen for many are Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor, John Deacon. End of story. But May and Taylor were desperate to revisit that music and get back out and perform for a live audience and did so very successfully – without Deacon (who has retired from the music business and chose not to participate), but with legendary blues rock vocalist Paul Rodgers. Brian May acknowledges that Freddie Mercury is another that cannot truly be replaced so ‘Queen’ it isn’t, but with Rodgers you have, undeniably, another seminal and distinctive vocalist at the microphone. Known collectively as Queen + Paul Rodgers it is, more accurately, a way to celebrate the music of Queen whilst acknowledging the front man’s own back catalogue and musical legacy by peppering live shows with classic Free and Bad Company numbers. And finally, it would seem inconceivable that Pink Floyd could continue without Roger Waters when he left but that’s just what they did – although if the Floyd fans and the rest of us are honest it has to be conceded the dynamics of the band changed dramatically after his departure, both in the creative process and end result (while still being, for most people, Pink Floyd).
Indeed, if Journey had taken a similar route by dropping the pivotal Perry piece of the Journey jigsaw in 1984 (as Herbert seems to have wanted) and regrouped immediately with a new singer, (or even continued after Raised on Radio with a different front man such as Kevin Chalfant) they might have continued post-Radio unabated with a few more (arguably less successful) chart albums and tours, and may still have had a reunion of the classic line up at some stage – similar to Pink Floyd at Live 8. Who knows? But to successfully come back after a 10 year hiatus (with millions of units sold in that time via sales of two ‘greatest hits’ packages and an anthology box set) with a Billboard Top 3 reunion album and a Grammy nominated single, and think that the vast majority of fans wouldn’t care when part of the core of the classic Journey sound, creativity and legacy was removed…Sorry, not for me. And many others.
However after May 1998 the Journey continued - into uncharted waters - and by June of 2006 one fan (initially) made so many waves that the band eventually lost a man overboard. Shortly after the U.K. and European dates the band headed home to prepare for their guest slot with Def Leppard on a lucrative nationwide tour, only for the vocal wars to start again.
But this time in a form that nobody saw coming…
|CHAPTER SIX: FABRICATIONS PART ONE: THE SYNCING SHIP
In June 2006, shortly after the band's successful U.K. & European shows but before their Special Guests Tour slot with Def Leppard across the States, posts appeared on melodicrock.com (one of the Internet music sites that solidly champions the AOR genre) that alleged the group were guilty of using backing tapes and lip-syncing the lead vocals, which was of course met with a host of rebuttals and derogatory comments by many fans. The very suggestion would appear to be ludicrous. However it was clearly a case of no smoke without fire, because (as hinted at earlier) Steve Augeri had been producing strange delivery mechanics on stage for some time, and there was the lead vocal sharing from other members of the band (particularly Castronovo). The fan who started the Internet debate went by the name of ‘Rockndeano’ (and was well known as a genuine Journey fan to those in the Internet community and on Journey’s official forum pages) and he had set up his own ‘blog’ page to promote the allegation, subsequently suffering some incredible abuse – he gave as good as he got though, and his supporting evidence was convincing.
He uploaded a number of song files from previous Journey concerts (bootleg recordings) as well as some from the recently performed Manchester show in the U.K., and not only compared the lead vocals to the official live DVD release Live in Las Vegas 2001, but merged a number of the files which clearly seemed to indicate the same lead vocal line was being used. Add to the fact that a number of fans responded by agreeing and commenting on the limited ad-libbing, more vocal sharing, and strange process of delivery by Steve Augeri at recent shows, and a seemingly provable (yet almost inconceivable) controversy was off and running…
Interestingly, Journey management and official sources would not be drawn, and were responsible for almost immediately blocking and deleting the uploaded audio files (which they had every right to do as they were unofficial bootlegged material). But in effect it was too late - there had been no official response, and coincidentally Journey’s official website was down over the weekend the story broke, apparently for required ‘server maintenance’. Once back on-line it was obvious that no part of this subject would be raised, mentioned, discussed or responded to - in effect acting as if they had no knowledge of the accusation (plausible deniability).
‘Rockndeano’ (in reality Journey fan Dean Ohlrich from California) did reactivate the links to the song file downloads for a short while, and by this time also had a fair number of reliable witnesses prepared to testify outside of his blog pages… Fans of the band that operate ShipwreckIslandStudios.com (a site for musical review and band promotion) responded to it, admitting they thought it had happened/ was happening, and presented a good case for the prosecution. Far more interesting though was a post from Svante Pettersson, a gentleman who worked in radio production and had been at the Swedish Monsters of Rock festival. His detailed insight into the mechanics of Journey’s performance, along with his first hand back stage observations (including an account of the machinery and vocal feeds being used), left him in absolutely no doubt that parts of the show were lip-synced. Needless to say the radio station was not allowed to record straight to their own decks, and when Kevin Elson was approached (Journey’s in studio producer and live sound engineer) he commented “we probably have to take this home and fix the vocals" (Elson’s ‘fix’ would be meant as overseeing the final mix and not an admission of guilt of course, but as a cover story it’s a solid one). From there the lip-syncing grapevine accelerated and the story soon made it to musical news items on both sides of the pond, primarily on the Internet but also running as a 'rumour' story in a number of music magazines as well as in amongst adverts and promotions for the forthcoming tour.
Make no mistake, Journey may have avoided the issue and made no comment, but they knew ‘Rockndeano’ had made his point and got his message across – it may have started as an Internet rumour, but a lot of eyes and ears were now watching and listening. When the tour with Def Leppard kicked off Journey were most definitely ‘live’ as could be heard by some bootleg recordings of the first show. Augeri was quite evidently having problems with the vocals, his voice was cracking at random moments and his delivery was certainly not the pitch perfect performance it had been only a few short weeks before in Europe. So much so that only a few shows into the scheduled three month tour Steve Augeri had to leave the stage a number of times (during the Raleigh N.Y. show on July 4th), with Castronovo coming out front to take lead vocals while his drum tech took the seat on the kit.
The following day Journey officially reported that Steve Augeri had been sent home with serious vocal problems due to a “chronic throat infection” that he had apparently been carrying for a while, yet no mention or hint of his condition had been made during the European foray only a month before. His ‘temporary’ replacement was announced as Schon’s old sparring partner from their recently abandoned SoulCirkUS project, Jeff Scott Soto. Soto, who has a strong set of pipes and a solid background in rock circles having done many a project, was slotted in remarkably quickly.
I fully understand the official statement regarding Augeri's departure and Soto stepping in, but having taken the time to review ‘Syncgate’ and the audio proof of such, I certainly don’t accept it.
Indeed, there is another curious stage mechanic that to my knowledge was never mentioned or debated during the controversy, yet is a telling tale in itself…
On the 2001 DVD and on shows before and after that time, Augeri used a style (common to most rock vocalists) whereby the microphone is well away from the mouth or, at other times, against the bottom lip or chin - all techniques to vary the clarity and volume of delivery.
Steve Perry used such mechanics, as do most others in the profession. And as technology progresses we see better radio mics, smaller pick up heads, clip on mics…a number of ways to improve the sound without resorting to having a large clumsy microphone head. Yet that’s just what Steve Augeri had been using during the shows under the microscope and had changed his mechanics quite dramatically - to the degree that he now had the (wide head style) microphone against his bottom lip or chin permanently, and sometimes two hands on the mic. On occasion he kept the mic on its stand while he moved around the stage, thus further obscuring clear views of his vocal delivery, and always had the mic-to-mouth just before starting lines. This style is clearly seen on official video releases such as ‘Faith in the Heartland’ from Generations and on available footage from Generations Tour shows (as well as Manchester mentioned previously). This does not prove lip-syncing, but if it was going to be done then those actions and ‘props’ are unarguably part of the mechanics required, and it’s certainly a curious and restrictive technique for any performer to consider. It was a quite dramatic, and unexplained, change of microphone use.
And for those that saw him on shows alleged to have been ‘treated’ and swear he was singing…well actually, he was. In fact it’s probably fair comment to say that Steve Augeri was singing at every single show…As confirmed by Svante Pettersson, we’re not talking about miming - the crux of the matter is what he was delivering into his microphone was not always what was heard by the audience. This can only be half proved with the bootlegged audio files made available – you have the audio, but can’t see what was going on – and sceptics who have heard these tracks may still say it could be any shows, the same shows, ‘tampered’ with tracks, etc. (by those wanting to promote a hoax). That’s possible of course, but it’s far more likely that the people with bootlegged concert material in the first place are the ‘dedicated’ fans (although many artists do not see it that way) who collect all the music they can on their favourite bands, and are far more likely to hear if something is ‘wrong’ quicker than most (and there are dozens of bootlegs available covering the Augeri era). However, it is now possible to hear and see excerpts from your favourite shows - all you need is the Internet.
YouTube.com is a massively popular site for people to post/upload any videos deemed suitable for the site - just about anything goes, and of course thousands of music videos are available for viewing. There are many unofficial and professionally shot Journey files on this site from all eras of the band's career, and it makes interesting historical viewing and listening for the fans. Watching early Augeri performance proves he could certainly do a job. One professionally shot concert - the Virginia Beach show in 1998 - has a few tracks available and he nails Separate Ways, but interestingly is stretching just a little on the chorus of Ask the Lonely - indicating that even at this early stage he was straining while trying to take on some of the numbers performed in standard tuning and as originally recorded. What should be the most interesting were some excerpts from the Manchester 2006 show filmed unofficially by a fan and posted for others to view, but were inconclusive at best - these videos are (ironically) genuinely way out of synchronisation - by some 2 to 3 seconds between visuals & audio. However as detailed earlier Augeri’s microphone mechanics were strange, particularly when compared against how he used to perform with the band – and the stagecraft for Faith in the Heartland is certainly unusual when, during a featured Augeri moment at front & centre of stage (his closest point to the audience), he delivered his vocals in shadow rather than being lit and highlighted.
Manchester has been cited by the sync critics as a problematic night for the band and there is no doubt the sync track feed was an issue - toward the end of the show Faithfully became vocally problematic when the hard drive shorted, and the audio bootleg available includes this glitch (similarly Wheel in the Sky at the Oberhausen show in Germany). The official Faith in the Heartland promo video (featuring the Generations studio version audio over live footage) is also provider of evidence if you have the time, patience and audio ability to run it either together or ‘line by line’ with the ‘live’ version from the Manchester concert. There is also evidence of a different vocal source when listening to specific incidental vocal parts from ‘…Heartland’ on the audio bootleg of that same Manchester show, where it exhibits a sharp clean lead vocal throughout until the ‘city specific’ ad-libs when a rougher “Faith…in Manchester…” is heard. It’s a curious feeling because your ears and brain are trying to accept that this must be the same vocal, but doesn’t quite sound like the same vocal. Same singer, different source…surely not?
The clincher though is a Manchester track from the audio bootleg when compared to another version that can be found on YouTube (and was presented by ‘Rockndeano’ as an example of evidence)… Be Good To Yourself, from the now infamous Las Vegas DVD, can be played simultaneously with the audio of the Manchester version, or ‘line by line’, or with a slight delay between each - whatever is easier for comparison. Other than the deleted ad-libs and incidental Augeri vocals from Vegas it’s exactly the same track. Not sounds the same – is the same. There are very specific vocal lines, phrasings, nuances and deliveries on BGTY that could not conceivably be repeated each night, and certainly not five and a half years later. Viewing various YouTube clips of U.S. Generations shows from 2005 also leads to the same obvious undeniable conclusion when comparing songs from different cities/ dates, both vocally, and mechanically (the strange microphone-to-mouth technique adopted). I would surmise the odds against producing precisely the same vocal delivery would be astronomical. If it’s not a synchronised line, we’re dealing with an extraordinary talent who can deliver exactly the same pitch perfect vocal including nuances and inflections night after night. If that was the case I’m guessing Steve Augeri's job before getting the Journey gig wouldn’t have been Maintenance Manager for the Gap (clothing chain) stores in Manhattan.
Yes, it does seem improbable and hard to accept, but look at it this way - the old 'the bigger the lie' (the harder to accept the truth) rule could be at play here: Winston Churchill allowing German bombing runs during WWII so they did not know British Intel had broken codes…rock bands with a solid history using tapes/ lip-syncing during live shows. I use the example prior to the more recent Journey deception because it is now known to be fact and, let's be honest, puts the latter in a fair bit of perspective. But it does make my point - it is hard to accept, simply because it would seem inconceivable such an act could be considered (particularly someone with the pedigree of Neal Schon). More incredibly, if Dean Ohlrich is to be believed, then according to his own detective work this had been going on at a minimum of 80 U.S. shows, and from July 2005. At least.
So why? How the hell does a band get into such a predicament?
|CHAPTER SEVEN: FABRICATIONS PART TWO: EXPLANATIONS AND CONFIRMATIONS
There are a number of singers who (whether due to range, vocal ability, distinct or beautiful tonality, front man capability, song interpretation, etc) are clearly amongst ‘the greats’ of their profession. Perry is one, no question…Robert Plant you recognise within seconds…Jon Anderson couldn't be more different but still had an incredible set of pipes as he passed his sixtieth year. And in a number of instances a singer doesn't get the credit for just what an extensive range, tonal quality or possibly even unique ability they have, or had, until someone else steps in…
At the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert from Wembley Stadium in 1992, two notables who struggled while trying to emulate were the aforementioned Robert Plant and Roger Daltrey. Trevor Horn had the unenviable task of trying to make the fans forget Jon Anderson on the 1980 Yes tour…let’s just say he didn’t succeed, and leave it there. Steve Perry is another who arguably can never truly be replaced, yet Steve Augeri had the job of doing just that. Augeri has his own voice and sound without question, but he was purposefully trying to sing the classic back catalogue as close as he could to Perry in range and ‘money-shot’ notes, and that could well be the source of the problem. Steve Augeri previously had throat problems, fact - and it all comes about, for me, due to his Journey job description.
The band, throughout the Augeri era, toured and performed extensively and continuously - it had to be taking a toll even before the nearly three-hour-long Generations shows of 2005…although interestingly this was when the shared vocals came into play, as well as the strange decision to let other band members handle any ‘new’ back catalogue numbers brought into the set (examples being "Walks Like a Lady" featuring Ross Valory and "Just the same Way" with Jonathan Cain on lead vocal). The vocal sharing described above and mentioned previously didn’t prove the lip-syncing, but it did assist the original claim that the dozen or so tracks covered by Augeri were sequenced from the audio of the Las Vegas 2001 DVD, recorded in December 2000 (with the Augeri vocal for any non-Vegas tracks lifted from other pre-recorded performances, plus incorporation of the studio lead vocal from the Generations songs performed). It’s also interesting to note that those very fan-favourite hits covered by Steve Augeri were referred to on occasion as ‘the dirty dozen’ by some members of the band, including Neal Schon. Initially it certainly related to the fact that he could get a little jaded of repeatedly playing the ‘fans demand & expect them’ songs, but in the cold light of Syncgate day it may be there was a different, hidden meaning behind the comment (my conjecture).
There are many instances of situations in many lines of business (entertainment or otherwise) where things get so critical, blinkered or 'too far down the line' that cracks are covered up by introducing activities that vary from a little dodgy to downright unethical. And with the business of putting this cash cow out there to the masses, it probably meant that the lip-syncing was implemented rather than go down the financially suicidal route of cancelling and having to take valuable timeout to regroup, which they quite probably could not afford to do. That may have been the very reasoning behind retaining Augeri and augmenting the sound when necessary, and those augmentations were required only a few shows in to the already fully scheduled and promoted Generations/30th Anniversary Tour. It seems Neal Schon did consider dropping the ailing singer earlier though, and the considered replacement was…Jeff Scott Soto.
Make no mistake Augeri was a crowd puller, particularly with the fairer sex, and for many Journey fans was probably (along with Schon) a major reason for going to shows. He certainly sold tickets.
The main reason for Steve Augeri's vocal struggles (from well before 2006) was that he was quite simply singing out of his vocal depth for too long which led to poor, restricted, and eventually synced performances. That may come over like a defence, but let me state I don't condone it – it’s unprofessional, deceitful, and insulting not only to other musicians who make their living on the live circuit but to the fans and audiences who went to see, and want to see, a live rock show. And tickets are not overly cheap.
For me it's an unforgivable act, especially when you consider the legacy and pedigree of this band.
The evidence just presented, along with the evidence freely (albeit unofficially) available on audio & video presentation is more than enough, but I can’t jump from the syncing ship and on to the next chapter before giving a nod to someone who not only confirmed all this to be the case, but was around it for a while…
Charles Ted Oliphant worked with the band (in a freelance capacity) during the Augeri years up to 2005. A fan since before the first album and still good friends with Prairie Prince & George Tickner, he was in more recent times hired to shoot concert footage, archive old material with Ross Valory and Herbie Herbert, and do analogue to digital transfers. He has absolutely no axe to grind. I keep in touch with CTO and we shoot the breeze on many a subject, and he corroborated what I and others before me have written regarding the synced shows. In actual fact, as others had previously alluded to, it seems it wasn’t just 2005/2006 that were problematic times for the Journey live show, as Mr Oliphant confirmed:
“No one has heard Steve Augeri sing for 3 years. I did a video of them in 1999 at Concord Pavillion and poor Stevie (a very nice guy) was having trouble even then. People told me it was the best Video of Journey they had ever seen, all except Neal Schon who watched my video and cringed as Augeri regularly went off key and his voice cracked. But the following year Stevie A. was in trouble, by the time they did the Live DVD Video from Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nocturne (The video production company formerly owned by Schon & Herbert) had to isolate all of Stevie A.’s vocal tracks and ‘fix’ them in Pro-Tools, correcting pitch etc. A deviated septum surgery didn’t help matters at all”.
Charles went on to confirm his own video shoots were subject to a Director’s Cut before being uploaded as official film footage, or more precisely a ‘Guitarist’s Cut’: "When you watch my videos 'Concord & Beyond' & 'Fillmore Boogie', you’ll notice I had to take Stevie A. out of both videos or they never would’ve seen the light of day”
CTO’s comments on his own band-approved video footage leads to another ‘issue’ that was, by the end of 2006, still conspicuous by its absence…Journey had not released any official live product since the Live in Las Vegas DVD in 2001. Even the Virginia Beach concert performed two years prior to the Las Vegas show (mentioned earlier and with tracks available for viewing on YouTube.com) has never – as far as I am aware - been officially transmitted. It may be that after band review it was simply never deemed fully suitable or good enough – or not without Pro-Tools & Mr Schon’s blessing at any rate (again, my conjecture).
Live DVD’s are almost obligatory mementos for the fans these days, and it would initially seem like an opportunity missed for the band not to have released a DVD or live album to commemorate their 30th Anniversary/Generations Tour. The Generations show in Dallas was filmed for potential DVD issue but the recording was shelved, and as curious was the cancellation of the Festival slot in Chile where fans from South America were desperate to see the band. It has since been alluded to that Steve Augeri was suffering from pneumonia and therefore unfit to travel for the Festival slot, but what’s interesting about that particular show is the fact that it was (allegedly) scheduled to be televised live… Illness (genuine or otherwise) notwithstanding, it’s now all too clear why they never issued any official 2005/ 2006 live material to celebrate that landmark & tour.
Everyone involved in Syncgate shares equal guilt, but what about the focal point (or should that be vocal point) of this whole topic…
The official statement on Steve Augeri’s retirement from the tour also made mention of the fact that his physician would be monitoring the condition of the vocalist’s throat infection to “determine when he may be able to rejoin the tour”. This certainly hinted at a limited absence, but some four months after that statement (and the tour with Def Leppard extended to provide dates through November 2006) there had still been no word from the physician or Journey camp on any update or return. But just before Christmas 2006 all that changed…
At the very worst you would have assumed – based on Jeff Scott Soto being a ‘temporary’ replacement - that Steve Augeri would definitely be pencilled in as back on the microphone for the 2007 concert dates that were starting to be scheduled towards the end of 2006.
Therefore it must have been quite a shock for most of the faithful when on December 19th 2006 melodicrock.com posted Journey’s official announcement that Jeff Scott Soto was now a permanent fixture, while thanking Steve Augeri for his eight years of service.
Thousands of Augeri fans would have no doubt been saddened and genuinely surprised at the statement while a select few, myself included, clearly knew it was coming. Merry Christmas Steve, final cheque is in the post.
To be fair, let’s not forget Steve Augeri did have vocal health problems as previously explained, but it would appear to have been so bad that not only did Mr Augeri lose the ability to sing live, he also lost the ability to speak, as prior to the December statement (where he made a small ‘thank you’ comment within the announcement) he had not made himself available for interview or quote since the initial band statement back in July.
One fan on a post, during Augeri’s hiatus, humorously remarked that even if Steve Augeri’s voice wasn’t working he could still use his fingers, surely? (referring to the fact that he never posted on Journey’s own site just to update the concerned fans, thank the well wishers, and comment on his progress). Unless of course any comment would have incriminated him as it could only be an extension of the cover up, or an admission of truth. He is no doubt contractually obliged to make no statement on the subject anyway. Time will tell. The silence, between the July and December statements, was deafening. But spoke volumes.
Interestingly, Charles Ted Oliphant is convinced if Journey had waited for Steve Perry and not taken the Augeri route in the first place, it would be Perry with them today and not another replacement. Indeed, Charles is one of the many who commented they should tour with him even if he had to sing from a wheelchair (while recovering from the hip operation). He was only half joking. Herbie Herbert on the other hand was, and is, convinced the vocalist was only ever interested in taking the plaudits for Trial By Fire, taking his share of any profits, then walking away. My own opinion you will find in the next chapter.
It’s a talking point certainly, but the man who replaced Perry was more interested in talking about a solo album and other musical projects for 2007 (based on his comments within the December 2006 statement) rather than his time in Journey – or, more specifically, his latter years in the band.
It seems the cash cow must be protected at all costs, and making the same observation are others who used to be close to Journey and made the following comments to Charles Ted Oliphant:
“George Tickner told me 'It’s pathetic, now they’re only in it for the money'” and: “Former Production Manager Allen Craft said to me 'You can’t stop the Gravy Train'”.
No, you can’t – as will be documented in the closing chapters (and subsequent Addendums) of this Personal Journey…
|CHAPTER EIGHT: THE TRIAL TO THE VERDICT
With the whole sorry syncing scenario out of the bag, I have to admit feeling fully vindicated regarding my thoughts on this band over recent years, and particularly my no-show stance when the opportunity arose to see the band again when they came to Edinburgh in June of 2006. One friend who went said it certainly looked like Steve Augeri was singing live, but then this was before Syncgate became a story - so you would hardly believe or suspect otherwise. Edinburgh was the first date of the U.K./ European run and the front man did have a short time to relax and rest the throat, so it’s not impossible he was genuinely ‘live’ at that gig - but it’s clear the synced tracks were soon back in the (sound) mix. I wasn’t there of course, but I would think it’s more likely they continued to run the synchronised feed as implemented on the Stateside shows, or at least on the songs where Augeri couldn't hide behind a wall of sound - 'Faithfully' would be a prime suspect.
I don’t believe he was 'live' that night or at any of the 2006 U.K./ European dates... synchronised ‘Vegas’ lead vocals at Manchester, Sweden by all accounts, and other unofficial but available material that I’ve heard (Milton Keynes is just one example) all confirm the same synced source. He simply could not get through the 'dirty dozen' he usually took lead on without on-stage subterfuge. What a nice bonus for the fans that waited 26 years for their return.
So, personally, and for anyone with the same stance as me: Even if they had immediately restructured the live shows with Soto to include a mix of early fusion & post-Perry material with only a smattering of the hits, I still wouldn't have been part of the audience - and that's before bringing any Perry discussions to the table. Why? Because I have zero respect for the band, those in the inner sanctum, and the sound crew that swallowed their pride to make a buck.
To be fair of course, I have to reiterate that for me the musical Journey really ended after 'Trial by Fire', and although the majority of fans from back in the day agree with me as proved by later album sales and general interest, some are of the opinion that newer product such as 'Arrival' is stronger than the 1996 reunion album – including Neal Schon. Schon’s fairly well known statement regarding Trial (”too many f*cking ballads”) tells you that even after a near-decade break there was still musical disagreement between certain Journeymen on direction and song craft. Those hoping for a long-term relationship from the famous five were in actual fact asking for wishes that could never be granted. It’s almost inevitable - in my opinion - that even had a tour been undertaken the Second Honeymoon period would never have lasted, and they were almost certainly heading for another Separation. As for the guitarist’s comment? He’s absolutely right.
There were too many ballads, and by dropping two of the lighter tracks and/ or adding the fast paced rocker 'I Can See it in Your Eyes' (only issued initially on the Japanese release) plus a little track resequencing it could have been a better balanced album. But another Schon comment from that period I find more interesting…Fairly innocuous at the time, the quip was directed at Perry during the Trial by Fire sessions while the singer worked on creating string sections for a medley of Journey hits (which never materialised). Charles Ted Oliphant was around the band at this time too and was at Skywalker Ranch where the orchestrated pieces for the album were being recorded, and recalls Neal Schon’s throwaway comment to Perry regarding the aforementioned concept: “What is this, the Moody Blues?”
The throwaway ‘Moodies’ line is amusing, and at the time certainly held a degree of truth…Trial, as stated earlier, did contain its fair share of ballads or lighter numbers and there is no question some of the songs and orchestrations did carry a feel of ‘Moodies music’ in arrangement and syrup-laced balladeering. These are not necessarily derogatory comments, but 'When I Think of You' in particular (with a Perry lyric that was a memory to his mother) is a prime example of a song that could be construed as a little ‘twee’.
However ten years on from the 1996 Trial at the 2006 verdict, it couldn’t be more inaccurate… In the new Millennium the Moody Blues were still going strong after decades of success, featuring a particular brand of rock where their ballads are just as powerful, successful and favoured by many of their fans over the rockier numbers. They still put on ‘greatest hits’ shows with a smattering of newer or promote-the-new-product tunes inserted, and a core of the ‘classic’ line up remains (original member Graeme Edge is still very much part of the band as drummer, lyricist and poet).
You could argue that sounds like post-Perry Journey, but the similarity ends when you realise that the core of the Moody Blues feature our old friends Messrs Heart and Soul, who made the Moodies what they were, are, and would certainly not be the same beast without - Justin Hayward and John Lodge. Neither of those esteemed gentlemen is a founding member of the band. And, unlike Journey, they have retained a respect for their audience that is never taken for granted, and their integrity is intact – elements I touched on in the Introduction. But we’ve come a long way since the Introduction, and it’s time to reach the verdict and conclusion…
With the band having decided to continue rather than take time out, and the official ‘chronic throat infection story’ in place, the deceit (probably) fades away virtually unnoticed and unpunished. By doing what they did, and being 'caught' (to a certain degree), they have actually put themselves in a stronger position as a genuine live act, and the audience numbers that saw them on the Def Leppard tour certainly helped to promote them on their post-Augeri Journey. Incredibly lucky? Unjust? Deservedly?
Although I stated ‘genuine live act’ in the previous paragraph, I should clarify that the final (synced) word on the Syncgate saga goes, quite appropriately, to Steve Augeri...When Augeri was officially released by the band he may have gone in body, but during the last part of 2006 he was still with the touring band in, highly ironically, pre-recorded voice. I’d like to say the 2006 Soto shows were 100% live, but actually it was closer to 90%. I mentioned right at the start of the lip-syncing saga that the accusations also included backing tracks, and that is also fact. This however is hardly seen as a crime - many bands and artists augment their sound with backing vocals, keyboard loops and the like - a sign of the technological times to enhance the sound and make live life a little easier. Journey use pre-recorded backing tracks, but on the initial shows with Soto were using their stock set of tracks - with Augeri still in the mix. A genuine oversight? No time to re-record the backing tracks? Or just don’t care? They would later re-record the backing vocal tracks to better represent the five piece performing on stage, but here’s a thought…just do all the vocals live like it used to be back in the day when live shows were just that - live shows. Nah, probably never catch on.
So in conclusion to the syncgate expose, the tragedy or lucky break from all this (dependant on your personal point of view) is the vast majority of Journey fans and concert goers will never know there ever was such a dramatic chain of events behind the scenes (how many people genuinely have any idea, or even care?). Initial reviews with Soto indicated that a lot of fans loved it, many did not, some were left wondering what the hell was going on, while the hardcore Journey fans (particularly Stateside) will continue to champion the band no matter what (refusing to accept there was even the slightest grain of truth in the ‘unfounded rumours’) and welcomed Jeff Scott Soto with…’open arms’ (sorry). Or another Journeyman, should the offer or opportunity ever arise?
Considering Steve Perry again would be gargantuan p.r. but I don’t believe that it would turn out to be the second coming…Perry had lost some of his range by the time of his solo shows in 1994 (but the man could still deliver and captivate an audience), and a further near-decade of retirement would not have helped the voice. Would any real fan want to see the 'classic' line up (which would have to include Steve Smith) one more time if there was any chance of the band not being able to recreate the magic? Well yes, I would love to see it one more time, but based on recent activities and relationships would Perry even want to be part of it anymore?
No, it looks like the once syncing ship has been salvaged, and set sail on the touring waters with another singer at the helm. Although I’m not interested personally Jeff Scott Soto is a singer who has proven he can, and does, deliver - borne out by his past works, various projects, YouTube clips and audio bootleg material - although he’s clearly at the edge of his vocal range with the Journey catalogue, and Deen Castronovo sings the power ballads. I may have called them ‘Bad Journey’ in the past (relating to the crossover of band personnel and personal view), but with Schon’s SoulCirkus partner on board (and Castronovo spent time with that project) it was a case of the ‘JourneyCirkus’ coming to a town near you in 2006 and 2007…
And not just Stateside, because as previously confirmed in March 2007 the band were heading back to the U.K. for a fuller tour due to the sell out shows and critical acclaim they received last time around. The syncing stagecraft and related stories seem to be things of the past - for better or for worse.
No matter how well Steve Augeri handled the songs in his initial outings it could never replace or equal the original performances. Nor with Soto, who definitely brings his own voice and a new dynamic to the band, while still covering the classics fairly, dare I say, ‘faithfully’ (sorry again). I simply find the ‘Greatest Hits’ as performed by Soto to be not so much SoulCirkus in sound as… Soul-less. Not what most fans who go to see this band think of course, but another issue is the vast majority of current fans have never seen the ‘classic’ band in full flight…
Journey’s current ‘generations’ are (in general) a slightly younger fan base, and most of the ‘see ya’ contingent are like myself – mid to late forties and older, with the current faithful being more times than not the ‘just missed out’ rock fans who are picking up on the legacy via back catalogue, limited live DVD issue (such as Houston 1981) and acknowledging the quality of this bands ‘previous’. Of course there are still fans from back in the day, and some that believe the post-Perry bands are the equal of the Schon-Perry line-ups, or even better. I can appreciate and understand that, and we’re all entitled to our musical and ‘personnel’ opinions.
However, I am willing to bet my mortgage on the fact that at least 80% of the fans that go and see, and champion, the post-Perry Journey never saw or had the opportunity to see the 1978-1987 versions. But with footage of shows now available (including some unofficial, but excellent, material) on video/ DVD from earlier incarnations of the band, it is possible to make some sort of comparison. For me however, there is none.
The personal verdict? This was a perfect time for me to write ‘A Personal Journey’ as it has also become a personal closure, detailing as it does the decade from the 1996 Trial by Fire to the 2006 Trial by fans. My personal verdict is you’ve done very little musically since the 1996 Trial to honour the name, and in the live environment during Augeri’s final years? Quite the opposite.
The official verdict? The Show Must Go On…Leaving behind a legacy badly tarnished but hopefully still intact based on those past glories.
|THE ADDENDUMS: CONTINUING THE TALES OF THE SCARAB
Herbie Herbert has said on more than one occasion that he hates ‘Spinal Tap’ - while just about everybody else loves it - because he lived it for so many years. Having looked back at the Journey I can see why – and his own Personal Journey ended well before you could say ‘pre-recorded vocal’. But even with all the arguments, tantrums, friction and obligatory ‘sex drugs & rock n roll’ that comes with the territory (and some pretty good times musically and financially let’s not forget, Mr H), it all seems a little tame compared to the fall-outs, antics, lawyers letters, royalty agreements and deceit of the post-Herbert period. And that’s still not the end of the story…
For me it should be, having stated in the main body of this work that my own Journey ended in 1998. Musically it certainly did, but I have found that following the path to see where the Journey now leads is as intriguing for the stories as the original Journey was for the aforementioned music - hence the reason for going ‘back to the future’ of the following Addendum chapters to set them up (this introductory page was originally created for A Personal Journey nearly two years after I wrote the first Addendum). It truly is, in so many ways, Spinal Tap, and I cannot honestly think of another rock band with as many stellar highs or embarrassing lows. So much so that after I finished the original eBook I found there was still a lot of mileage left in the Journey musical (soap) opera.
A lot can happen in two years, and it certainly did for Journey from the Summers of 2006 to 2008. There are countless sources of information on the band out there that will give you the (continuing) story, and the following Addendums certainly summarise the continuing saga, but they more accurately describe the stories behind those stories, and in some cases – topic dependant – gives you the true story, which the band are either reluctant to tell or makes smart business sense not to.
Revisiting A Personal Journey two years later also allowed me to amend any discrepancies that had been highlighted in that time, correct grammatical errors, qualify personal or subjective views, remove superfluous or now redundant material, and add further sections.
Musically however, not much changed in those two years – New Millennium musical fashions continued to be manufactured rather than be innovative, a newer and younger generation of rock fans continued to pick up on the legacies of the ‘classic’ acts, and many of those acts continued to reform or ‘regroup’ as they realised ways to be viable in the twenty-first century musical market place.
But back to our Journey, and back to the future of this article and its continuing updates...One Addendum followed. Then another. Then in mid-2008 there was a commercially successful ‘re-imagining’ of the band (the story behind which could never have been predicted or expected), and at time of revisiting this page for the Journey Zone serialisation it’s clear the Addendums may eventually carry as much text as the original eBook did, as they continue to chart the Journey roller coaster ride and continue to give the facts behind the fabrications. The Addendums may only stop when the band does.
My own Journey, it seems, continues…
|ADDENDUM #1: THE ILL WINDS OF MARCH 2007
In the ‘Fabrications’ Chapter dedicated to the lip-syncing allegations, I made mention of the fact that neither the band or their website would be drawn on the matter, in effect acting as if they knew of no such accusation (plausible deniability). So it was with genuine surprise and interest that I found myself reading in February 2007 that Neal Schon and Ross Valory had agreed to be interviewed by Classic Rock, one of the U.K.’s leading rock music magazines, and the subsequent comments would be published in the issue due around the same time the band would hit British shores for their scheduled March ’07 tour dates. This indeed was the case, and although fairly short and sweet, both Schon and Valory commented on the touchy subject, as well as talking about current & future plans and Jeff Scott Soto’s arrival.
It was of course no revelation when both denied any subterfuge, but it was interesting to note some minor contradictions and discrepancies in the comments (the two individuals were phone-interviewed separately). Neal Schon stated they were only ever “just rumours” and “It’s just bullshit” but also made the strange comment “if stuff went on I’d have had no clue” (referring to the way he was set up on stage and not needing to hear the vocals). He also made mention of Deen Castronovo helping Steve Augeri “tremendously for the last four years, Steve had some rough times” and that the drummer had been told “to sing along to every song (with Augeri) and if they had to make a switch out front (P.A.) then that’s what was done.” He went on to state that Steve Augeri “had pretty much blown himself out” on return from Europe, and when confronted with the question of why it took so long to issue any denial responded that “people would have accused us of lying.” A couple of those comments are curious statements at the very least.
Ross Valory however was far more direct, stating “it was all one big lie,” and on the subject of why it took so long to respond and blocking all such subject matter on their website, replied that it “was so disrespectful” (as to not merit a reply, I would surmise is the inference). It didn’t help that in the introduction to the interviews the lip-syncing was defined as ‘mimed,’ but to be fair the magazine would probably have been asking for trouble if it had gone into more detail, cited further evidence or defended the allegations, and the telephone Q & A sessions were no doubt limited in time, as well as magazine space. However, with the statements of denial regarding this whole sorry saga now printed, it will be seen as the official word and the end of the matter. The Gospel according to Journey. Puts all those who were convinced there was something going on in their place. Sorted.
Mind you it’s a pity the issues of Svante Pettersson’s comments regarding the vocal feeds at the Swedish Monsters of Rock festival, Steve Augeri’s radically different approach to his microphone technique in his latter years with the band, the singers silence in the ensuing period, and the fact that there was no official live product released in their 30th Anniversary Year of 2005 were not addressed during the interviews. I assume they are just incidental asides not worthy of the band’s comment.
Which shows how wrong most of my Fabrications Chapters must be, but just for peace of mind and to dot all the i's and cross those t’s I have a couple of minor questions and points from the March interviews that I will address. Call it a right to reply…
With Ross Valory confirming 'it was all one big lie' regarding lip-synchronisations and the alleged use of pre-recorded lead vocal tracks on a number of shows, it proves what a truly stunning and unique ability Steve Augeri had developed after all, to be able to produce - in amongst all the vocal health issues - exactly the same solid vocal performance in pitch, phrasing, timing and delivery night after night. Or at least on occasions during his last three years with the band and then consistently during the Generations 2005 & 2006 Tour dates. Must get boring, though.
Neal Schon confirmed Steve Augeri had "blown himself out" after coming back from Europe and “his voice didn't seem to be coming back.” That must be the case, because after pitch perfect deliveries on the U.K. & European dates, and even with a couple of weeks' rest before the US schedule, Augeri’s voice was cracking and struggled to hold notes on the first show with Def Leppard. The fact that this period coincided with the lip-syncing allegations being made "public" was obviously just that--coincidence. Indeed, we can now pinpoint exactly where the blowout happened: During the Manchester 2006 show, "Faithfully" is proving to be yet another solid performance from Steve Augeri on the first few lines until around a minute into the song when he is suddenly weaker in delivery, lets the crowd sing a lot of the number, has trouble hitting notes and Deen Castronovo takes the high "forever yours" finale vocals. This will be exactly the point where he blew his voice out I would surmise, and not the technical glitch of the hard drive feed cutting out as some (clearly unreputable) sources had me believe.
The silence between July and December 2006 was so deafening it would lead you to believe that there was something to hide, but as stated by Schon he felt if any denial had been made immediately they would have been accused of lying. Call me naive or unintelligent, but that would seem to be the complete opposite of the best way to nip any nonsense in the bud. I raise this because he took a completely different approach when facing a similar scenario back in Steve Augeri's early days with Journey when he reacted quickly to fans criticising the band for using Steve Perry soundbites to promote tour dates in the States. The soundbites were actually Steve Augeri, and Schon set the record straight before you could say "he's Steve Perry's new, younger 'hip' replacement." No, this time he sensibly waited eight months, until asked by a U.K. music magazine. Just before coming over to the U.K., for a run of lucrative U.K. Tour dates.
The guitarist also mentioned "if stuff went on" he would have "no clue," and “I don’t need to hear vocals”. So I'm not sure how he could know it was definitely "bullshit" unless (clearly reputable) sources such as Live Sound Engineer Kevin Elson put his mind at ease. He must also be the only group musician I know that doesn’t carry "lead vocal" in his monitor mix. And as regards telling Castronovo to sing along to every song in case they had to make a switch out front, this just shows how stupid I am as I honestly didn't think or know the drummer sang along to every Augeri lead vocal, and laughingly assumed any "switch" made was to a different source or vocal coming from an entirely different location or feed. I've been a fool--I thought the comments were ridiculous, and now realise it's the accusations that were ridiculous.
Valory certainly set the record straight, as not only did he state it was a lie, he also confirmed it was people being disrespectful. Which must make some of the people who have confirmed this nothing more than disrespectful liars. They have nothing to hide, no axe to grind, and no lucrative product to protect, but liars they be. Shame on them. Just as well though, can you imagine if they were actually right and it was the band that had been hiding behind deceit, half-truths, a cover up…eventually having to lie to avoid an admission of guilt? That would be so disrespectful to their fans and fellow performing musicians as to be unthinkable.
What a story that would have been, though. I wonder if anyone would write about it?
|ADDENDUM #2: THE "WHO'S SINGING NOW" SUMMER OF 2007
What a difference a year can make.
Not so fast on charting your future with the good ship Journey, Mr Soto. Man overboard. Again. Catching most fans and music journalists out was the official statement on June 12th 2007 that Journey had “parted ways” with Jeff Scott Soto – eleven months after his first show with the band. Considering the positive statements made by Neal Schon shortly after Soto’s hiring and previous musical chemistry between singer and guitarist, it was quite a surprise and genuinely unforeseen. The statement was worded in complimentary fashion and made the whole episode feel as though it was an amicable and mutual decision, although Jonathan Cain also commented that “We just felt it was time to go in a different direction.”
Dean Ohlrich, the fan who made ‘syncgate’ big internet news, was the first to produce an alternative perspective on Soto’s departure and the way in which it was handled, and soon others including Talisman bassist Marcel Jacob weighed in with their own thoughts and corroborating comments. It’s now clear that both Schon and Cain had issues with the direction Soto was taking the band, yet for many Journey/ JSS fans and those more open to change it was a positive direction…
Soto was a true front man, brought something different to the table, became an active part of the whole, gave them a genuine opportunity to leave behind the stigma of the syncgate affair, and gave the band a new lease on life. The problem for Schon and Cain was that the above also took some of the guitarist's thunder and Journey’s ‘trademark’ sound away (as well as a contingent of the hardcore fans), so less than a year after stepping in to bail them out he received his redundancy papers - effective while in Europe performing Talisman ‘Farewell’ shows so he could concentrate fully on Journey. Nice.
Soto’s own later statement was cordial but he doesn’t seem desperate to talk publicly about his time with Journey, and the whole episode became another very ‘vocal’ discussion that detracted from what was, quite frankly, the only positive during Journey’s ‘Who’s Singing Now’ Summer of ’07…
Don’t Stop Believin’ is a Journey classic, and an American Radio anthem. So iconic is the song that it has been used in countless ‘background’ roles as well as featuring on television shows such as ‘Scrubs’ in 2003 and the animated series ‘Family Guy’ in 2005. It also became the adopted anthem of the Chicago White Sox baseball team during their Championship winning season of 2005 (the Sox also ‘adopting’ Steve Perry by inviting him to games and team celebrations) and is now the most downloaded song (not released in the 21st century) of all time in the iTunes Music Store. Its finest hour – well, four minutes – in recent years was without doubt when it was used as the ‘jukebox’ piece of music in the final scene from the last ever episode of the hugely successful and critically acclaimed American t.v. series ‘The Sopranos’. However the episode originally aired two days before the Soto departure was officially announced, so with the band singer-less, the Internet debates raging (again), and Journey's official site choosing that very time to close (again) for a re-design (only posting announcements such as Soto’s departure & the Sopranos’ episode), a huge p.r. opportunity and chance to capitalise on the song’s fame was lost. It typified Journey’s decisions and personnel choices of the last few years – and next few months…
With Steve Augeri and Jeff Scott Soto both having left under confusing circumstances that upset many a fan and dumbfounded the thousands not in the know, you would think Journey would make damn sure a ‘name’ replacement was already lined up, or at worst had a solid strategy to find the next singer prepared to take up the poisoned chalice that is the Journey centre stage microphone. Nope, sorry.
The band had been planning their ‘different direction’ while Soto was in Europe and still a member of the band, and it seems Kevin Chalfant was approached in May but then dropped from consideration. Ross Valory had of course worked with the singer in The Storm and genuine fan Chalfant had just recorded a solo album of Journey covers, but it wasn’t to be (for the second time). The conjecture that he may, like Soto, have commanded too much stage presence or control for Schon and Cain’s liking could be well founded, especially when we see where Journey’s ‘different direction’ led them to…
At the time of Soto’s departure Jonathan Cain had made mention that he wanted Journey to return to their “legacy sound”, and that started the rumours that Steve Perry was returning. Perry soon nipped that nonsense in the bud with an official statement on the Fan Asylum web site, but the ‘legacy sound’ line was certainly a tribute and tip of the mic to The Voice that…hold on, did someone say tribute?
Although never confirmed by the band at the time (Schon would later confirm in an interview however), Jeremey Hunsicker, vocalist with tribute band Frontiers, auditioned in June. They couldn’t keep it off the grapevine though, and Hunsicker himself later confirmed on the Frontiers web site and his Blog page that not only did he spend a week with the band and record some demos, he was also offered the job. However after some serious soul searching he declined the opportunity when it was clear the offer would be retracted due to a “dealbreaker” (as Hunsicker described it) within the contract, probably relating to his commitments towards, and time required with, a young family. So on went the search for the lost (vocal) chords, and the search took Mr Schon to YouTube…
Arnel Pineda from the Philippines was fronting The Zoo, another tribute band (whose live repertoire included a number of Journey songs), and the guitarist contacted the singer after hearing him on YouTube clips. With the hardcore hearing the rumour, and the rumour becoming a substantiated fact, yet another debate started on the melodicrock.com chat rooms but this time a number of the comments had, sadly, a xenophobic and semi-racist edge to them due to some American fans berating the choice of a relatively inexperienced ‘cheap labour’ outsider with a strange accent.
However, on December 5th, 2007, the official announcement was made that Arnel Pineda was the new lead vocalist for Journey, which came as no surprise to many a fan and music journalist who already knew the who, if not the when, while some heated ‘fans’ still continued to condemn the choice. Pineda has a strong delivery but his highs aren’t as clean as Hunsicker's, and his lack of experience at big-band long-tours level make him a curious choice over the likes of Kevin Chalfant. And sadly, the ‘cheap labour’ gag should not be dismissed - with his initially limited stature in the business Schon and Cain probably got who they wanted not only vocally, but contractually. At any ‘rate’ Cain got his wish, stating “With Arnel’s soaring tenor, Journey returns to our heritage sound” and Schon weighed in with “…he is that good, he’s the real deal…”
The band were so happy with him that they accelerated plans and immediately recorded new material with producer Kevin Shirley for an album due in early 2008. Shirley got in on the act too, commenting that not only is Pineda “Just phenomenal,” but the recorded songs are “…sensational.” Statements you would fully expect of course when trying to convince fans and critics alike after a third vocal firing and hiring and third singer in eighteen months, but behind those comments the band understands where the long-term (or for as long as this journey lasts) success really lies…
It’s ironic Karma that having tried to shake off Perry’s shadow for so long, recent comments and events lead to the conclusion that the band know returning to that ‘legacy sound’ on Greatest Hits tours with post-Perry vocalist No.3 singing Journey classics of the past is their future.They also however pepper their sets with newer or 'latest album' material for good measure, but it's clear what the majority of ticket buying fans come to hear, and as long as those fans keep coming to sing along, Still They’ll Ride.
|ADDENDUM #3: HUMBLE PIE, HYPE, AND HYPOCRISY
What a difference six months can make, let alone a year as summarized over the last two Addendums. Since Arnel Pineda’s hiring as lead vocalist there has been a resurgence of interest in the band that led to a Billboard Top 5 album Stateside and the start of a world tour that was scheduled to include territories given little or no consideration pre-Pineda (and may become their biggest markets). No-one, least of all me, initially saw how Pineda’s hiring would become the catalyst to give Journey the potential to enjoy their most commercially and critically successful period since Trial by Fire and I doubt the band did either, but once the ‘Arnel story’ got out it was a whole new ball game and a big slice of Humble Pie for this writer as earlier comments on their decline such as "…proved by later album sales and general interest" helps confirm.
Before his Journey began, Arnel Pineda was a relative unknown outside of the Philippines and Hong Kong, but the Filipino community embraced him so quickly and passionately that he has become not just a hero but a musical icon for those fans, and once his story started to unfold it wasn’t just his fellow Filipinos that started championing the cause. He certainly had a traumatic and difficult childhood--his mother dying as he reached his teens, having to leave school to make money by collecting scrap metal on the streets, sleeping rough before getting his first singing opportunity at only fifteen. He is now living a dream, and who would deny him that?
As the new album was being recorded, manager Irving Azoff was concentrating on doing his job outside of the recording studio. Mr. Azoff is a smart cookie (he certainly hasn’t done The Eagles any harm) and struck a deal to have the album sold exclusively through Wal-Mart--one stop shopping for all your needs and the latest Journey album--and although the album certainly got some attention and airplay in its pre-release period, far more significant were the radio discussions, music news items, interviews, and Internet buzz working the Pineda story and his vocal ability.
By the time the Revelation album was released in June 2008 (complete with a CD of re-recorded classics and DVD of the Las Vegas show recorded in March 2008) the hype from the promotion and publicity (particularly their featured slot on CBS Sunday Morning News on June 1st) was such that it sold approximately 104,000 units in its first week in the U.S. making #5 in the Billboard charts.
Vocal comparisons aside, ask yourself objectively and honestly would it have done so (or would Journey have been as newsworthy) if Jeremey Hunsicker or Kevin Chalfant were fronting the band?
Arrival sold under 200,000 units Stateside and within a few months Revelation had outsold all the Augeri era product put together, and on the strength of the market potential outside the States it was almost a given that the album would see seven figure sales worldwide. Immediately after the album’s release Journey embarked on a world tour that started in Europe, covered the States (with Heart and Cheap Trick), and hit the Philippines and Australasia in 2009.
Arnel Pineda is a very good singer, with a powerful voice in his small frame and has a tonality similar to Perry circa the Frontiers/1983 era. He has great fullness of voice in his low- to mid-range but has “dirt” in the upper register, yet his power can take him beyond “normal” range and he can nail the “Faithfully” outros with a sustain to match Perry…but by the same token will never be able to hit the clean highs of that signature sound so prevalent circa 1978-1982. But then who could? Very few. And although there is no question performing long tribute sets five or six nights a week requires discipline (and he has toured in the Philippines), touring the world with all the pressures and problems that can bring (travel, bugs, physical & mental health, vocal attrition) while singing a full Journey set is a whole different microphone, and early in the 2008 tour he was already (on some shows) stretching and struggling on the chorus money shots of some songs whilst singing ‘under’ the notes on those and others. The latter may be intentional to save the voice for the long tour ahead and to vocally pace himself, but it's only over time and multiple tours that the true vocal greats are separated from the also-rans.
Arnel Pineda’s story is a genuinely touching one and he’s living the dream of many a fan, and my hat goes off to Irving Azoff, the marketing boys and the P.R. campaign as it almost matches what Herbie Herbert did thirty years ago to get this band on the charts and take them to Infinity and then beyond.
But thirty years ago it was about the music.
This time around it’s about working the maximum profit, because this band is in its twilight years and cannot go on indefinitely, and everything this time around has been geared with that in mind…
I have heard comment that this may be a three year plan, and it’s interesting that when Bert de Leon (Pineda’s personal manager) was asked in a recent interview if it was true the singer was on a three-year contract and paid per show (the latter is interesting in itself), he refused to comment on personal details rather than deny it.
Also, contrary to what may have been heard in interview or elsewhere, re-recording the "classics" was done for very specific reasons (albeit at the behest of Wal-Mart and Management). The band now have the right to re-record, and indeed were considering doing this with Jeff Scott Soto before throwing him overboard (dependant on agreements and copyrights, any songwriter who also recorded the originals but is no longer involved can file injunctions to stop the re-recording of songs they recorded or wrote originally--5 or 7 years is the usual timeframe/limitation). These re-recordings thus cancel out the "performance royalties" previously paid to Steve Perry, and he will now be on a "mechanical royalty" on any sales of songs he co-wrote. K’aching for the alimony payments.
Also, although there are of course dedicated fans in the States, the U.K., and other parts of Europe that’s not the market anymore--the potential in Australasia, the Philippines and parts of South America is massive, and the new younger developing fan base (including thousands who have never heard of Steve Perry – or even Journey before Pineda joined) will be desperate to hear the Greatest Hits they have heard on radio, YouTube, or via their parents or elders, performed by a man they see as the new hero on the block. Wal-Mart is worldwide, people (in the U.K. the affiliation is the ASDA chain), and with the marketing potential of Arnel Pineda and the territories mentioned above you have the opportunity for Journey to make more money than they have since the Hay Daze. K’aching for the Gravy Train that is JRNY.
There is another reason relating to Revelation being packaged as a 2CD set, and how sales of some ‘multi-disc sets’ (such as this one) are calculated as regards ‘Certification’ purposes (not the same as Chart sales or Chart position). Simply put, this means for the album to be certified ‘Platinum’ in the U.S. (one million sales) it will in fact only have to sell half that amount…
And as regards the new material on Revelation? Jonathan Cain wasn’t kidding when he said they wanted to return to the "legacy sound." The new songs are clearly written with the eighties AOR era in mind, with a number of them cleverly or lazily (dependant on point of view) conceived to emulate the style and sound of their classic years (the original Asia used the same techniques with their Phoenix album released earlier in 2008). “After all these Years,” for example, is “Faithfully” for the new era and will become Arnel’s ‘song’, while “Never Walk Away” is almost a reworking of “Be Good to Yourself.” A fresh start and new lease of life? Or sold their soul for (the) rock and roll (dollar)? Both can be argued, and both are accurate statements in my view.
And, from that personal point of view, I have to state the new material just washes over me exactly as the Arrival album did. I don’t dislike it (and there are a couple of great songs in there), it’s simply that try as it might it cannot catch the spirit and fire of “What Was” and--by design--there is no progression.
But of course it’s all is down to choice and opinion, and although they no longer rock my world it would be a very begrudging rock fan that wouldn’t accept that compared to a lot of the commercially successful music that makes the charts these days, Revelation isn’t a bad interloper.
Everyone is entitled to a view, a comment, a defining statement…and as it turns out some of the Journeymen have been doing that again just lately, but they keep redefining those statements. But first of all I have to address a couple of my own that I made earlier in …
Towards the end of the original eBook I mentioned (regarding the 2006 Euro shows) that "Edinburgh was the first date of the U.K./European run…it’s not impossible he was genuinely ‘live’ at that gig…" A serious amount of live Journey material is out there if you know where to look, from YouTube video to bootlegged audio, and I’ve since heard (admittedly small) parts of Edinburgh - but as it turns out the parts I heard featured the same (lead vocal) audio that can be heard on the Manchester show. And at Milton Keynes. And Oberhausen in Germany. And the Netherlands show. You get the idea. And having now heard the 2005 Dallas show, it’s crystal clear why it never made it to DVD…
Another comment that I took a bit of flak for was seemingly suggesting in the last Addendum that Arnel Pineda was auditioned and hired only after Jeremey Hunsicker declined the opportunity (or had the offer retracted), although that came from the fans who don’t accept that Hunsicker was offered the gig in the first place. Neal Schon would later comment in an interview for All Access Magazine in May 2008 that Hunsicker "…was very good…but he was a bit scary because he was almost too much like Perry." Fair enough. I imagine the last thing they or the Greatest Hits fans would want was a “very good” singer, already familiar with performing Journey songs, who sounds like Perry…
During Arnel Pineda’s audition, he put vocals over two songs that would appear on Revelation--“Where Did I Lose Your Love” and “Never Walk Away”--with Schon stating in that same All Access interview that "The music was already there, the demo was already there, the voice was just not on it…We had to teach him the lines and the melody, but he got it so quickly. He’s a natural." Interesting then that Jeremey Hunsicker has since made available demos of two songs (sent to him by Jonathan Cain) from his own audition time with the band. Both songs would appear on Revelation--“Where Did I Lose Your Love” and “Never Walk Away” (Hunsicker has a writing credit on the latter).
Shortly after Jeff Scott Soto got the gig, Schon commented that Soto "was the real deal and not just a Pro-Tool wiz…So many people can just go in to the studio and sound like they can sing but when you get on stage you’re like, what happened?" Well, well. There’s a lot going on in that comment isn’t there? A great affirmation for Soto, though. Except that in an interview done with the U.K.’s Classic Rock magazine, shortly before the release of Revelation, Jonathan Cain stated that in his mind Soto "…was a relief pitcher." Make your bloody minds up. They both managed to excel even the above curious, confusing and conflicting comments though.
In a GQ magazine interview done in May, which primarily covered the resurgence and Arnel Pineda but also gave a potted Journey history, Schon was questioned on the issues behind not speaking about Steve Perry and came out with the remarkable "We just try not to. I mean, I didn’t say anything inflammatory. I didn’t talk about how he still gets paid like a motherf*cker even though he shouldn’t be. Its stuff like that I’m not allowed to talk about." Well, well. Pretty much confirms the truth of what I had first suggested in this eBook in 2006, along with Herbie Herbert who had alluded to the same thing a few years before that.
Jonathan Cain bettered that one though with a comment in the aforementioned Classic Rock interview when asked about the accusations of lip-syncing with Steve Augeri: "…they turned out to be less than reliable sources. I heard they were alcoholics." I assume at least two of his band mates are as equally unreliable then, as Deen Castronovo has gone on record about drink and drug problems of the past, and Neal Schon in the aforementioned GQ interview stated "I believe I was a functioning alcoholic" when referring to road life on previous tours. The CBS Sunday Morning News piece on Journey featured heavily on Arnel Pineda, and while discussing the loss and importance of his mother (she was his biggest influence and taught him to sing) he broke up, while Neal Schon sat beside him in sympathy. Yet years before, when Steve Perry discussed the struggles he went through with his own mother’s illness and her death (they were incredibly close and she encouraged his passion for singing), Schon berated him for using that excuse/sob story as everyone suffers parental loss and he should get over it. My favourite soundbite however comes from the previously mentioned CBS feature, when Jonathan Cain went on to state their new singer "…makes me a better guy." Uh-huh. I’ll drink to that.
Journey’s musical output and opinions on such aside, I find that the earlier comments, previous on stage deceit, continuing hypocrisy of this band, and their disregard for anything or anyone that doesn’t fit their agenda staggers me to the extent that I’m still writing about it. Primarily to redress the balance, but also in response to Jonathan Cain’s crass "alcoholics" comment which was both classless and unfounded. Cain was the man that I described in 2006--in this very eBook--as giving "honest and fair" statements, and "…who embodies the spirit of Journey." How times change--especially when you have a "legacy sound" to protect. Or “Something to Hide.” However it wasn’t just current Journeymen who were delivering surprising statements during the first six months of 2008…
Herbie Herbert did a rare interview for Melodicrock.com in March 2008, and although it was another very interesting insight into his time in the profession and with Journey it inevitably had a few comments driven by bitterness or subjectivity over objectivity, while also expressing his high regard for Neal Schon, continuing disdain for Steve Perry, and his views of the current band. He did much the same in his 2001 interview so this was no revelation. But other topics were. Not only did he happily discuss the lip-syncing accusations and refer directly to the deception at the Swedish Monsters of Rock show--"They dodged a real bullet there. They could easily have been reduced to Milli Vanilli quickly"--he made it clear that in retrospect he felt Steve Augeri was the wrong choice: "They needed the crutches, they needed the help. He had trouble. It was rough. I never understood why they went with him. They could have gone with Kevin Chalfant." He continued: "I’m sure they passed it off as something for medical reasons or whatever and leaving a notation or tone that maybe he could be returned or that he could return to the band but I think not." Well, well. There’s a lot going on in those comment as well, isn’t there?
Indeed. Such as corroboration, and vindication for this Author.
It really is quite a set of statements from the man who commented around the Arrival period that Steve Augeri was a good choice and ‘owned’ the songs (referring to the classics performed live), but even those earlier Augeri days were revisited by Herbert when later in the interview he confirmed that the Las Vegas show recorded in December 2000 had to have the lead vocals isolated and fixed in the studio before DVD release: "He struggled so badly that night you can’t believe it." Well, well. Just as Charles Ted Oliphant originally confirmed in “A Personal Journey.”
Herbie Herbert summed up his thoughts on the vocal frailties by remarking: "…he needed what may have been a crutch in the beginning but became something he was leaning on much more heavily than should ever have happened." Who would have thought that Herbie Herbert--of all people--would step up and speak of the above, proving without doubt that…he too must be an unreliable source and an alcoholic? Right, Jonathan? Another comment from that same interview ends with a remark that parallels something I alluded to earlier in this Addendum: "I think it was real and I think that even if you were in fine voice, as maybe this gentleman from the Philippines is right now, this is a rugged expectation." Nail on the head. This is arguably the hardest pop or rock songbook to sing live night after night, tour after tour, year after year, and it takes an incredible amount of determination and discipline. As confirmed by Herbie Herbert, Steve Augeri struggled relatively early and within five Journey years his voice was in need of help. Hence why Arnel Pineda may yet struggle or be on a three-year contract. Even Kevin Chalfant, whom I admire and feel would have been a good fit (and Herbie Herbert wishes they had run with him when the opportunities arose), now sings half a step down when performing live (certainly when doing Journey covers), and Journey have never compromised live--they had always performed in standard concert E tuning up to and including Arnel Pineda’s first Journey tour. That didn’t do Steve Augeri any favours, it didn’t help Jeff Scott Soto, and it caused problems for Arnel Pineda (covered later). To hit those notes (or at least vocally readjust to suit as the years progress) and perform those songs, sets, and shows at consistently high levels for three, four, five years--let alone ten--you would almost have to be one in a million…
Steve Perry’s musical Journey ended in 1998, and he clearly still has issues with the ‘divorce’. I personally believe it affected him to such a degree that it played a part in his reluctance to get back in the musical saddle, but Perry is a smart businessman and has been from day one with Journey, and along with his performance royalty payments it’s possible he could afford not to return to the 9-5 of music and tours. But ten years on from the split that particular royalty agreement has expired, and before looking at the current situation and potential future, it should be noted that he hasn’t been completely silent vocally since his Trial by Fire. In 1998 Perry recorded two songs for the animated movie Quest for Camelot soundtrack and although one was almost incidental in its form, the other was a true vocal highlight. “I Stand Alone” is an emotive orchestrated ballad featuring The Voice in crooning tenor mode, and I would suggest is lyrically poignant for the singer, having felt isolated and probably still very bitter at the time regarding the split. Those Quest for Camelot pieces were, to all intents and purposes, the last anyone “heard” of The Voice until 2005…
That year Perry co-wrote with singer David Pack, produced a track for Pack’s album The Secret of Movin’ On, and sang backing vocals on “A Brand New Start” from that same release. Also in 2005 “Don’t Stop Believin’” was adopted by the Chicago White Sox baseball team as their anthem with Perry an invited guest at games, and he also led the team in an impromptu version of the song in Chicago as part of the celebrations after the White Sox won the World Series. That very event led many to claim Perry had no voice left, failing to consider that anyone (from the tone deaf to vocal pro) singing in ‘party mode’ with a bunch of guys is not going to sound like Sinatra. Early in 2007 guitarist Nuno Bettencourt confirmed that he had written some songs with Perry, and later that year rocky pop-punks Guff released their album Symphony of Voices which included the Journey song “I Can See It in Your Eyes,” produced by Perry and featuring his distinct backing vocal. Having previously stated that he is "hankering to do something" again musically, and with Journey back in the news with a chart album, new singer, and new versions of the classics re-recorded, it is maybe no coincidence that in March 2008 Perry confirmed he has been writing and recording demos (shortly after that Perry statement this Author, along with friend and vocalist Jason Nalu, completed and made available the paper One in a Million--A Vocal Analysis of The Voice, covering Steve Perry’s vocal ability and history from Alien Project to the possibility of a musical reappearance).
A reaction to the hype behind new kid on the block Arnel Pineda and the Journey resurgence? A necessity to help pay for the cappuccinos now that--due to the re-recordings--the performance royalties are a thing of the past? A genuine possibility…or another false dawn? Only time and Steve Perry can tell, but after over a decade of near silence that probably would be a revelation. But he would also find himself between a rock and a hard place…
The younger Journey fans and those living in the past will expect or want Steve Perry to sound like the Steve Perry of the eighties - which is ridiculous, unfair, and impossible. Those that think he may still have a return Journey to make are either not aware of the facts or living a personal fantasy--he has previously stated he does not want to be "a parody" of himself and one of the reasons he would not go down that route again is that he would in effect now just be replacement No. 4 for a guy they used to have called Steve Perry.
If/when he comes out with anything new I would surmise he is going to be more akin to a rock mid-tenor but with that distinct tonality, and a voice suited to soul, R&B and crooner/power ballad material. Many would welcome that, myself included, but how many more would be critical, blinkered, and one dimensional by complaining that it’s ‘not the Steve Perry’ they love and remember, and will be disappointed that it’s not a chance to head down memory melody lane for a musical nostalgia trip, and a chance to sing along to all the Classics.
If that’s what you’re looking for and truly enjoy, catch Journey on tour.
|ADDENDUM #4: THE RE-EMERGENCE & RE-IMAGINING OF THE SCARAB
Seven months ago I ended the last Addendum with the line "…catch Journey on tour" for all those who genuinely enjoy the live experience that many of the classic rock acts still provide, decades after their dominant or most successful eras. It wasn’t as sarcastic or cynical a comment as many would think. Journey are very good at what they do, and are a very talented band performing some truly classic songs in their Greatest Hits shows that also include newer material in the set-lists. Indeed their re-emergence was complete (following the Arnel Pineda story and subsequent return to the charts) when the Stateside Revelation Tour was later confirmed as one of the highest grossing tours of 2008 (receipts in the region of $35 million), although being headliners on a Triple Bill with Heart and Cheap Trick clearly isn’t going to hurt ticket sales, and all three bands benefit from the exposure. There were a couple of minor hiccups on the 2008 tour, however…
One U.S. date was cancelled in September due to Pineda suffering from Acid Reflux (which was itself brought on by stress and other concerns as confirmed by the singer shortly after), but what didn’t help was Journey immediately stating it was "bronchitis" before the singer had a chance to get the anti-acids down his throat and set the record straight. The knee-jerk reaction from Camp Journey did show how fragile a state they are still in as regards singers and vocal problems however, and would also seem to prove they still have the same tour physician of the last few years on their books. And in October Rolling Stone published an interview with Pineda where he stated he was homesick and the tour was a “curse,” but the quotes were clearly out of context as confirmed by both the singer and Schon the day after the article appeared. There is usually no smoke without fire however, and it does lend credence to the conjecture of an initial three year deal which may well suit both the front man (vocally/emotionally), the band (longevity), and collectively (financially), with the option to continue or go their “Separate Ways” thereafter.
The album itself also did its part, but what should be noted and is not widely known is the fact that the re-recorded classics CD made available with the album genuinely doubled its success. It’s true to say that business dictated there would be some re-recordings based on the Wal-Mart deal and the fact they now could (as the Perry performance royalties alluded to previously had expired), but as hinted in the last Addendum there was a third reason for a second disc of re-recordings, and one that produced dividends. It was almost certainly the band and specifically management that decided to make it an album’s worth of re-records, and by doing so and releasing it as a 2-CD set (and on the back of promotion such as the CBS Sunday Morning News slot) it guaranteed not only healthy sales, but a marketing strategy that would give them a “2 for 1” unit sales rating by the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) who certify sales for Gold and Platinum status. In October 2008 Arnel Pineda confirmed Revelation had gone Platinum (sales of one million in the United States), however the RIAA have very specific calculation criteria for multi-disc sets and Revelation meets that criteria - each unit (CD) within the set counts as one unit towards certification.
All credit to them though, the sales are pretty damn good in the current climate for "classic rock" bands and it's better than a lot of the manufactured product that passes itself off as music, but the fact remains that by October 2008 the album had sold half a million copies Stateside, not one million. Although it’s their best selling album since Trial by Fire, claiming it’s their first Platinum album since that release doesn’t tell the full story—as has become the norm with Journey over the last few years. By the end of 2008 Revelation had sales of approximately a third of those attributed to Trial by Fire. One million is actually half a million…ironically fitting for the global Credit Crunch of 2008/09.
Healthy Revelation sales in the States were also helped by the inclusion of a DVD of the 2008 Las Vegas show and that, along with the fact that the Generations songs "Faith in the Heartland" and "The Place in Your Heart" were also re-recorded for the album (the latter track only appearing on the Japanese release), helped erase the Steve Augeri years from Journey’s re-imagined history.
The aforementioned tracks may well become two of what will be very few Steve Augeri-era songs to feature in future set-lists, and the way they sell it now it’s as if Arnel Pineda was the lead vocalist who followed and replaced Steve Perry (Pineda is continually compared to Perry) - albeit ten years later.
And as regards the “forgotten” front man? In June 2008 the U.K.’s Classic Rock magazine again interviewed the band (this time Schon and Pineda) when they were over to perform the British Revelation dates, and the subject of Steve Augeri and syncgate was touched upon during proceedings. Schon glossed over the issue, which is understandable and to be expected, but when asked about any "assistance" Augeri may have had during that infamous period he signed off with “No comment. You’ll have to ask him.” So much for the “thanks for the years of service” statement of December 2006, and the initial denials…
No matter the part played by Steve Augeri, the dismissive or “pass the buck” attitude taken by the guitarist is pretty classless, especially if you understand that this is Neal Schon’s band, he makes all the critical decisions, and is aware of everything that happens on stage. Augeri did not, of course, comment, but he did return to the microphone (after sporadic appearances such as at Glen Burtnik’s 2007 ‘Xmas Xtravaganza’) with the reformed Tall Stories in October 2008 when they performed a set that included new material at the “Firefest” Festival in Nottingham, U.K. The good news for Augeri and his fans was he had clearly recovered his voice and the clean highs missing from the last few years of his Journey days were intact, but there were clearly some major pitching issues as YouTube clips of the Nottingham appearance testify. I would surmise that this had more to do with lack of stage confidence and not being “game ready” than vocal problems, but only time will tell how good, bad, or indifferent his vocal and musical comeback will be.
But as regards musical comebacks Journey have a lock on the most surprising, unbelievable and lucky (if you know the whole story) because not only did they manage to avoid going down with the syncing ship they salvaged the wreck, brought it back to dry-dock, fired and hired new crew, and by 2008 were “charting” success on more than one continent. This type of re-imagining isn’t exclusive to Journey of course, or any of the other reinvented bands. But this is the Age of the Re-Imagining. Not just a buzzword, but also a fact of entertainment life…
It probably originated in Hollywood with the “Hollywood Histories” when interesting or pivotal periods of world history became easy targets for movie making—but “re-imagined” (rewritten and/or not historically accurate) to make for a better movie. Ironically they usually make for pretty bad movies in my opinion, but highly successful nonetheless as they honed in on their target audiences. Then “classic” movies & television series got makeovers (how many now? I’ve lost count), with most producers and suits failing to grasp there was a reason they were hailed as “classics” in the first place. And of course to the music industry, as the ever growing list of tribute acts, reinvented classic bands and reformed groups all started to realise there’s money in nostalgia…
The next logical (you could argue illogical) steps to follow the above have already happened—there are bands out there reliving their past without any original members, and future “stars” are being discovered and created in various countries across the globe (via their “Idol” programmes) and the U.K. (shows such as the “X Factor”) via panels of experts and the viewing publics vote. The experts are genuinely just that—but usually expert in knowing what will sell, even if that means sacrificing or ignoring the truly gifted and most talented individuals.
Market research is now more important than musical creativity.
Earlier in this Personal Journey I asked the question in a dedicated chapter "What’s in a Name?" The answer, it seems, is everything. And nothing. Tribute acts or singers are becoming interchangeable with the artists they are a tribute to, and the musical lines between them are becoming blurrier by the re-imagined month…
The best example has to be Yes and the decision taken by founder member Chris Squire and long time “classic line-up” colleagues Steve Howe and Alan White. In 2008, after a 40th Anniversary U.S. tour was scheduled, seminal lead vocalist Jon Anderson pulled out due to a very serious respiratory illness. Rather than cancel proposals and take stock, the band decided to reschedule and continue - with tribute singer Benoit David. Arnel Pineda may have a similar tonality to Steve Perry, but Benoit David is a true sound-a-like. Those who are major fans of these acts or have any sort of ear can tell the Perrys from the Pinedas, but David has as uncanny vocal resemblance on certain Yes songs and passages. Anderson seemingly felt "disrespected" by the move, although Squire countered by saying it was an opportunity to “go out and honour the music of Yes.” Interestingly, Anderson’s negative comments were later removed from his website and Squire has since stated that the tour had the singers "blessings." Sheer conjecture on my part, but you have to wonder if that’s when performance royalties were agreed (Jon Anderson relinquished any rights to the Yes name a few years ago, so will have limited “voice” or involvement in any decisions made, but it wouldn’t be a first).
“Band or brand” is no longer just a talking point for fans, but a financially viable option for some artists, even if it means reinventing the wheel. And they’re usually retreads. Some people will queue/go online for hours to grab tickets for the latest shows by their favourite “name” bands and pay almost any price, while others who would have once done exactly the same wouldn’t walk to the bottom of their street or pay a penny/cent to see that same performance. Both views should be respected.
In many ways it’s true that AOR along with “classic rock” music and the associated acts have had their day, and in this new musical era of iPods, iTune downloads, latest fashions (where “look” is more important than “sound”), X Factored stars and worldwide Idol production lines, the nostalgia/“Greatest Hits”/“Anniversary” tours are the way to survive for the aforementioned genre, with Double Headliner Classic Rock tours a lucrative market and Triple Bill shows now also big business. Under the big top world is where most of these re-imagined acts now live because new material and chart success are not viable, or highly unlikely, respectively. But there are exceptions to every rule…
Queen + Paul Rodgers (also mentioned in the "What’s in a Name" Chapter) made an impact on the U.K. charts when their studio album The Cosmos Rocks made #5 in September 2008 but their name/s, pedigree, highly successful live shows and earlier live product almost guaranteed it. And of course Journey’s Revelation, and its chart success. But their new songs were intentionally written in the style of the classic material, the band are attempting to recreate that "legacy sound," and they haven’t sounded this close to their classic era since…their classic era. Yet they are a different beast in so many ways from Journey (and the many similar bands) of the 70’s and 80’s, and in this era of buzzwords and acronyms many people, myself included, usually refer to the current version as JRNY to differentiate between the classic and the reinvented. And the reinvented version is a success primarily because of the computerised times we now live in…
Who would be singing now and how much of a story would the band be if there had been no lip-syncing expose on the Internet in the first place, or no YouTube to hunt down potential singers? And where would they be now if Arnel Pineda never became the story because the hard drive had? Syncgate actually put the subsequent journey in motion—so where the hell is my percentage cut, Neal?
Journey is dead…long live JRNY.
And the rest of ‘em.
|ADDENDUM #5: JRNY09Eb
No-one can deny the impact and resurgence Journey had in 2008, and although they clearly took a big step forward that year, it was a step back in 2009. Or, more accurately, a half step back...
As some will know but many will not have realised or “heard,” Journey performed in Eb tuning throughout 2009, which is half a step down from Standard Concert E tuning. For the uninitiated or those not familiar with the ‘musicality’ of performance, this means performing a semitone (half a note) down from normal tuning which in turn assists vocalists as their top notes are reduced. It may not sound like much, but for some vocalists who sing in the higher registers, are older, or are constantly performing, it can be a vocal life saver - and in most cases it’s not even an issue as the vast majority of concert goers and fans will never notice, or could care less. However the downside is it can leave the songs sounding a little “flat,” and for those with an ear or involved in music it can be quite noticeable. I personally find Journey’s songs, both musically and vocally, have less energy in the different tuning and performance.
The signs were clearly on display at their first appearance of 2009 at the Superbowl tailgate show in February and although the usual "awesome" comments were seen on posts and reviews by the hear-no-evil fans it was clear that vocally at least, that simply wasn’t the case. Arnel Pineda also struggled in parts during the 2008 tour (more towards the end of the schedule as vocal attrition kicked in), but overall was solid with some great deliveries. However at the Superbowl he was off his game as he later confirmed himself via on-line comments, and kudos to him for not ducking the issue nor using the cold he was carrying as an excuse.
But that in itself is a telling sign – his immune system had never encountered western infections or viruses before his Journey began, and he will be prone to picking up bugs as well as struggling to come to terms with singing such a vocally challenging songbook on the road.
It was also interesting to note that it's now only on that Journey road he's allowed to sing the Journey songs, as shortly after a trip back home between the '08 and '09 schedules (where he appeared on various programmes for interviews and performed some Journey numbers) he was "prohibited" from singing the group’s original songs in his solo promotional appearances.
The official line from the singer himself was that the band "only want to keep the sacredness" of the songs, but it was also alleged it had more to do with poor performances.
I personally think it's more to do with protecting their vocal franchise, although that’s pretty ironic when you consider what Arnel Pineda was doing when Neal Schon found him, and the songs he was singing that got the guitarist’s attention.
What next? Injunctions on all the Journey Tribute bands to prohibit them from performing sacred numbers?
Meanwhile back on the JRNY09Eb tour, another telling sign was their performance for the CBS Early Show on 28th August where it was evident that Arnel Pineda was clearly suffering from vocal fatigue and his lower register was carrying some “dirt.” An early in the day performance can cause the latter however (and outdoor shows such as this and the Superbowl can produce pitching issues due to poor monitor mix and changing weather conditions), but the difference vocally from 2008 to 2009 is quite noticeable to those with an ear. Hence the half-step drop.
The tour itself was well received as expected, and the highlight for the older fan or classic-era purist was undoubtedly Gregg Rolie's appearance at the Austin, Texas, show in September where he performed “Just the Same Way,” with Deen Castronovo taking the “Perry” vocals.
As regards the de-tuning, I wrote back in 2008 that Journey "…had always performed in standard concert E tuning up to and including Arnel Pineda’s first Journey tour…and it may well cause problems for Arnel Pineda." You have to wonder if Steve Augeri would still be with Journey if they had cut him some slack and performed half a step down on the tours and times he was struggling—it may have saved them some money on a hard drive, Pro-tooled CD, and a cable or two at least.
The one exception to the 2009 Tour Eb rule was the Manila show in March, but this was Arnel Pineda’s homecoming gig and was filmed for DVD so it’s an absolute no brainer that you would want Pineda on his game, feeding off the home crowd, and in standard tuning, especially with the show being recorded for official release - it makes perfect sense as regards fanbase and promotional potential.
And as regards that promotional potential you have to hand it to Irving Azoff and the p.r. boys with what was arguably their biggest broadcast gig to date when they appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show on October 5th in a show recorded some two weeks earlier, and pulled the release of the Manila DVD forward to coincide with that show - guaranteeing increased sales for that product via the exposure the appearance on Oprah provided. It might even make Platinum sales on its own merit based on this promotion, and the retelling of the "Don't Stop Believing" Arnel Pineda story will do them no harm whatsoever—if ever there was a place to tell a rags-to-riches story, it's on Oprah. Unsurprisingly, their spot on the show was more about Arnel Pineda than Journey, although they did perform two numbers (which, also unsurprisingly, were “Don’t Stop Believin’” and “Faithfully”).
As the Revelation 2009 Tour neared its end Neal Schon was talking about a break from the Journey (for at least six months it would appear), an album in 2010 but no tour to promote it, and then jumping back on the tour bus in 2011. This break from touring can clearly be attributed to necessary down time for Arnel Pineda as well as vacation time for the band and entourage (now that they can afford to come off the road following year after year on it), because otherwise it would seem strange to disregard what is a “35th Anniversary Year” (since the release of the debut album) and the Tour potential of such an event.
But they seem to have realised they can’t treat this singer like a commodity, and adjusted accordingly.
Whether they revert to Standard Tuning in 2011 or whenever they next tour remains to be seen, but once you hit Eb that's usually it - certainly live, but it happens to the best of 'em...
Personally, and as I've said for many years, Kevin Chalfant is the only singer I can truly listen to post-Perry doing Classic Journey, and had they gone that way in '93 or post-Trial in '98 it would have been a natural evolution what with Kevin's affinity to the band, genuine love for the songs, and his own tonality and ability.
However he too is now an Eb singer (certainly when doing Journey) but that does not detract from his vocal performance because—like Steve Perry—he is a musically intelligent singer who knows when to duck or carry the note, has nice phrasing, great lyrical interpretation, and emotive ability. One might call him “Perry Lite.”
And Perry himself of course was an Eb boy on the For the Love of Strange Medicine Tour of 1994/95, but then he had been “retired” from concert touring for over seven and a half years and was 45 when that tour started, passing his 46th year towards the tour’s end. All in all, not too shabby a comeback.
Arnel Pineda had already turned forty when he started his Journey so it will only get harder, not easier—but he does have a great set of pipes, has some great moments, can deliver great versions of some of the classics...but he is not one of the greats, sorry. Not in my (e)book.
Interestingly, the proposed 2011 JRNY tour may well be dependant on all parties agreeing to such...
Arnel Pineda was interviewed by the PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) in November to talk about his life, recent success, and the Arnel Pineda Foundation he established to help support the street children of his homeland (the Foundation also helped the victims of typhoon Ondoy). Far less serious, but of interest to Journey fans and in connection with his musical future, Pineda squashed the rumour that he is considering a solo career and leaving Journey.
“As long as the band likes me, as long as the people wants me to be a part of Journey, I won’t leave the group. I love the group.”
Another Journey comment was more curious when Pineda seemed to indicate that he had no Contract with Journey: “A gentleman’s handshake only.”
The "three year plan" speculation referred to in an earlier Addendum could certainly be a three year “handshake” agreement, although I personally believe there will be a piece of paper somewhere with Irving Azoff and Pineda manager Bert de Leon's X’s on it.
However the fact that it is an agreement only and not a contract (or at least not an equal-share contract) would seem to be borne out by the letter Journey wrote to Congress back in February in support of the proposed Live Nation & Ticketmaster merger. Many artists managed by Irving Azoff (the CEO of Ticketmaster, surprise surprise), signed letters on behalf of the merger proposal (surprise surprise), and the Journey letter had four signatures: Neal Schon, Ross Valory, Jonathan Cain and Deen Castronovo.
That probably confirms Arnel's position “write” there—he’s a team player, but he's not a team member.
However, with the problems previous lead singers have caused this band, and vice versa, it was almost inevitable the Journey would eventually lead to Handshake Avenue. A conclusion, of sorts, to their own Personal Journey.
Talking of which...
|A PERSONAL CONCLUSION: THE MOVIE NEVER ENDS
I believe Arnel Pineda’s original deal was for three years, which allows them to take stock in 2010 and see what the future is for 2011 and beyond. And as regards that future—assuming they are all good to go—I would hope the band and management respect the fact that they only achieved a legitimate commercially successful future (for as long as it may last) because of Pineda, and acknowledge it by offering something far more secure and substantial than a “Play-for-Pay” agreement or a hired hand(shake) deal...
Steve Perry has been off the rock 'n' roll radar for so long it's almost impossible to conceive of a musical reappearance, and if it wasn’t for sporadic sightings he would have been posted musically “Missing In Action” during the first decade of the new Millennium.
However, all the signs point to some sort of musical re-emergence as the second decade begins...
Only a few short years before Arnel Pineda’s hiring, Journey’s on stage deceits brought them perilously close to becoming a ridiculed band more likely to be mentioned on The Daily Show than to be guests on the Oprah Winfrey Show. But with those earlier bullets dodged, and the subsequent YouTube and Arnel Pineda stories fully documented in the entertainment media, Oprah it is.
The re-imagining is truly complete.
It's been a strange and in many ways truly unbelievable journey, and even when the journey finally stops it will never really end. Because everyone loves a great story, and the good ones always get retold. Or re-imagined. "The movie never ends…”
But more importantly, everyone remembers great music.
It was with us in the past, is with us in the present, it will be with us in the future. It is part of our lives. It grows old with us, yet remains timeless. It will always be with us.
"It goes on and on and on and on..."
|About the Author
Ross Muir has written many articles in a professional capacity including Design Statements for Housing in National Regeneration Areas, as well as articles for pleasure on passions such as: ‘On the Bench – 65 Years of the Bat’ (a history of the Batman character and his place in popular culture, written in 2005), and ‘One in a Million – A Vocal Analysis of The Voice’ covering Steve Perry’s vocal ability and career from 1977 (with contribution from friend and vocalist Jason Nalu). Written in 2008, the latter has become in effect a companion piece to ‘A Personal Journey’ and has met with some success as a free download, read and commented on by fans, the curious, and musicians alike.
Passionate about music from a young age and a seventies rock boy at heart, his musical claims to fame include singing Todd Rundgren songs backstage with Pat Travers and the memory of skipping school to help record demos for Mike (The Waterboys) Scott.
Mike always wanted to be involved in music, and is.
Ross always wanted to be involved in music, and is in Architecture.
Having given up ‘proper singing’ over twenty five years ago, he doesn’t broadcast his efforts. Much.
And thankfully for the musical world, he writes a lot more than he sings.
©2006-2009 Ross Muir; serialized edition ©2009 The Journey Zone. All rights reserved. No portion may be reprinted without express permission of the copyright holder.