Few who attended a wedding or a prom in the eighties or early nineties didn’t hear at least one song from the mega-group Journey. Journey was first formed in San Francisco, California in 1973. However, the band didn’t find real success until they hired Steve Perry as their lead singer in 1977.
Recently, Columbia released several of Journey’s best-selling albums. Among them are: 1978’s Infinity, 1979’s Evolution, and 1981’s Escape — all remastered, expanded, and featuring expanded booklets.
By the time Infinity was released in May 1978, Journey had already produced three underwhelming albums and were looking for a change in direction. Perry’s soaring voice and songwriting talents proved to be just what the group needed. Together, Steve Perry and guitarist Neal Schon created a new ‘rock-ballad’ sound that would become radio staples for years to come. Infinity would give the group its first taste of real success with successful singles such as,” Lights,” “Wheel in the Sky,” and “Patiently” (the first song Perry and Schon ever wrote together). Journey performed over 170 concerts in support of Infinity and the album eventually moved past platinum status. Journey’s success was just beginning.
Like many countless other bands, the success of Infinity left Journey wanting more. In their quest for perfection, original drummer Aynsley Dunbar was out and Steve Smith was in. Evolution was definitely Journey’s best album to date. They had successfully shed the progressive rock sound of their first three unsuccessful albums and transformed themselves into an FM radio and arena friendly machine.
Evolution features the bands first top twenty hit, “Lovin,’ Touchin,’ ‘Squeezin’” and my personal favorite, “Just the Same Way.” Evolution sold 800,000 copies in less than three months and the band went out on a huge concert tour that broke several attendance records. It is clear that by the time Evolution was recorded the members of Journey were very comfortable in their positions as burgeoning rock gods. The guitar work of founder Neal Schon is overtly more fanciful and dramatic. He clearly relished his role as a bit of a guitar god.
Escape made Journey into unquestionable mega-stars. The album boasts three singles that vaulted into the top ten. “Don’t Stop Believing” reached number nine, “Who’s Crying Now” reached number four and “Open Arms” got to number two and stayed there for six weeks. While Escape generally has a harder rock feel, Steve Perry’s soft vocal delivery is effectively highlighted and combined with Neal Schon’s guitar on “Who’s Crying Now” and “Open Arms.”
While Journey clearly was aiming to get as much airplay as they could at the time of the albums release, they also succeeded in created timeless music. I can’t count the number of weddings I’ve been to and the first dance has been to “Open Arms” or the number of radio dedications I’ve heard for “Don’t Stop Believing.” Growing up, it was sometimes cool to say, “nah, I don’t like Journey, their too soft."
Strangely, almost everyone I knew had at least one of their records. Many years later, I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a Journey fan. They have a way of taking you back to a more innocent time; perhaps a first act of rebellion or that first romance. Listening to Infinity, Evolution, or Escape allows you to take a trip back in time.
If you weren’t around when these albums were first released, this is the perfect time to discover Journey and hear the musicianship and clever songwriting that made the band a success.