Trial By Fire Brings Journey Back Together
St. Louis Dispatch
After years of being apart, they've joined together again, and their new album is #3 on the Billboard chart. Critics roundly despised them, haughtily dubbing them "corporate rock."
But audiences loved them, filling stadiums where they played and buying millions of their records.
They're the purveyors of prom songs and first dances at weddings, experts at heartstring tugging. They're Journey, and they're back with "Trial By Fire," their first studio album in 10 years.
The album debuted at #3 on Billboard's album charts and the single, "When You Love A Woman," is in the top 20 on Billboard's Hot 100.
Journey remains one of Columbia Records' best-selling bands; their greatest hits collection still sells over 1/2 million copies a year. In their '80's heyday, the band had 17 top 40 hits and 6 top 10 albums, including the #1 album, "Escape."
After splitting in 1987 because of internal strife, bad habits, and singer Steve Perry's needing to "get a life again," the guys puttered around with various pursuits. Perry did two solo albums; keyboardist Jonathan Cain and guitarist Neal Schon were in Bad English together and did several separate and joint projects; bassist Ross Valory played in a blues band, and drummer Steve Smith continued with his longtime jazz project.
Cain explains the hiatus: "I was completely, 'What do I do now?'" he says. "I had to reinvent myself to some degree and it was terrifying-to just live life without sole purpose of being Journey or in a band.
"Suddenly you weren't doing interviews, you weren't talking to anybody-you were just living. And then you're haunted by your past all the time. You think, 'Well, is this it? Is it over?'"
He tells of the last show Journey played in Anchorage, Alaska in '87. "I remember signing autographs...I knew that was the last autograph I'd sign in a while, so I stayed up 'til 3 a.m. signing everybody's everything just because I knew it was the end of the road," he said. "I was depressed for weeks after that."
Cain had an inkling a reunion was possible after hearing the song "Anyway" from Perry's most recent solo album, which tried to explain where Perry was coming from.
"When I heard that song, it touched me," Cain said. "I thought, 'Maybe there's still hope.'"
While on tour supporting his second album, "For The Love Of Strange Medicine," Perry realized how much he missed the band. He and Cain had kept in touch over the years, so Cain was the first member Perry called with the idea of reuniting.
"You start to recognize that some of the things you didn't even know you had as a group in the music are still there and you've been looking for them for a long time," Perry said. "All you had to do was put your guns down and get back together again."
He seems to be the most realistic about the reunion. "Individually, none of us made the magic as magically as we collectively make it together, "Perry said. And he says it the cohesiveness of the music that keeps the five pretty disparate guys together.
"There are times when music is about the most powerful thing that we come together for,"Perry said. "If it wasn't for the music, and the type of music that we make together, I don't know if we'd be together."
Cain thinks everyone's just grown up. "I think there's a lot of maturity that comes with living life day to day and not getting the rock star royalty treatment," he said.
All felt they had to have an album of new material; they had no interest in doing an unplugged project or touring in support of old material. "We're a coliseum band-we sound big in a coliseum and our music sounds glorious there and that's where we belong,"Cain said. "Unplugging our music was not a good idea."
All agreed that being able to write together was the key to whether they could work together again. And the material came fast and furious when Journey's core writers-Perry, Schon, and Cain-got together.
"It just kept coming,"Schon said. "We had to stop and basically home in on some tracks because we could have kept on writing forever."
Said Cain: "If you sit down and think about all the years that you played in those coliseums and been part of people's lives, the backdrop to their lives, there's a responsibility and a joy that comes with that. I think the joy really shined this time."
While Cain and Schon are Journey's head cheerleaders, Perry seems to be the grounding force; he said the creative process was still "a tug-of-war."
"In a lot of ways it was the same,"Perry said. "That was the good news. In a lot of ways, it hadn't changed much either and that was the bad news.
It would not be realistic to tell you that this was like a cakewalk honeymoon number two-we have our conflicts.
"The good news was that we got together anyway and were able to move out of it and move forward with it." he said.
The record shows both sides of the band; the harder rocking side that comes courtesy of Schon in songs like "Castles Burning" and the trademark romantic ballad side in songs such as "When You Love A Woman" and "Message Of Love."
"That combination of guitar and singing and songwriting is what Journey is all about, and I think that's why we're back," Schon said.
Schon predicts Journey will be playing arena and stadiums as it did years ago; the tour will start early this year, 10 years after their last show.
"Once we get out here and the fire gets rolling, I think it'll just snowball." he said. "We get flack so much in the press-'This is a has-been thing, these guys are dinosaurs'-but the music does not lie and the performance does not lie."