When I first learned that our magazine was going to be doing retro record reviews, images of album covers started to flow through my head. As a kid growing up in the late 70s and early 80s, I always had a turntable in my room along with a bunch of cassettes, and even a few 8-track tapes. Choosing one album was going to be an arduous task. That’s when it hit me. I didn’t have to choose just one album as I would be able to eventually review as many as I wanted. I only needed to select one to start with and that narrowed my options significantly. I decided to go with an album that not only had a profound effect on my love of music, but also my addiction to live music. As a freshman in high school, I attended my first concert, Journey‘s Escape Tour and the rest is history.
As Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Inductees, Journey has cemented their status as one of the greatest rock bands of all time. Their music is timeless and people from all generations have heard their songs at one time or another. So, whether you’re a huge Journey fan or only a casual listener, I’m sure this album is for you. With that being said, let’s spin some vinyl!
Journey (Escape Roster):
Neal Schon: Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals
Jonathan Cain: Keyboards, Piano, Rhythm Guitar, Backing Vocals
Steve Perry: Lead Vocals
Ross Valory: Bass, Backing Vocals
Steve Smith: Drums
1.”Don’t Stop Believin'”
Ok, is there anyone on the planet that hasn’t heard this song? This Journey anthem has appeared in many movies and tv shows including Glee and The Sopranos. Sometimes you have to dig hard to find the meaning behind a song, but Journey did us a favor by making it the title. The is a feel-good song that you can’t help but sing along to and Jonathan Cain’s opening on the piano has got to be one of the most recognizable intros in recent times. When Neal Schon’s searing guitar joins with Cain’s piano at :57 seconds in, it’s like a match made in heaven. The band couldn’t have chosen a better track to start the album off with.
2.”Stone In Love”
While Neal Schon came up with the riffs for the song, it was Steve Perry that drew on memories of an unattainable girl in his youth that created the “blue jean girl” we all sing about today. The song itself is not very complex but it’s relatable. Neal Schon continues to show his mastery on guitar and is even joined by Jonathan Cain on rhythm guitar. Ross Valory’s work on bass is phenomenal and the combined vocal choruses are as smooth as silk.
3.”Who’s Crying Now”
Written by Steve Perry and Jonathan Cain, this was the 1st single that was released from the Escape album and it rocketed all the way up to the 4th spot on the Billboard Hot 100. Once again, it’s Jonathan Cain on piano starting the song off and he’s quickly joined by Ross Valory on bass. The slow yet melodious rhythm of the song is alluring and begs the question “who’s crying now?” It was common for rock bands to include a ballad on their records, but Journey took it a step further and included multiple on this album. What could have been seen as a gamble definitely paid off.
4.”Keep On Runnin'”
The band kicks things up a notch with the 4th track, “Keep On Runnin’.” This time it’s drummer Steve Smith banging it out along with the tandem of Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain on guitars. Ross Valory’s booming bass complements Neal Schon’s guitar work perfectly on what is one of the most rockin’ songs on the album.
5.”Still They Ride”
One of my favorite tracks on the album is “Still They Ride,” another ballad that is inspired heavily from Steve Perry’s youth. I haven’t touched that much on Perry’s vocals, but it goes without saying that every track on the record, as with most of their songs, is easily recognizable as a Journey song. A big reason for this is Steve Perry’s voice. I know there have been a lot of debates and discussions, but I firmly believe that Steve Perry is one of the top 5 rock vocalists of all time. His voice is so pure and soulful, plus he is able to deliver top-notch vocals almost effortlessly. I’ve heard people say that they won’t listen to Journey anymore because Steve Perry is no longer in the band. That’s a whole other argument, but the funny thing is that Steve Perry wasn’t Journey’s original singer. I mentioned this to someone at a recent Journey concert and they looked at me as if I had 2 heads. Apparently, they had never heard of Greg Rolie. I was lucky to have seen Rolie perform when he was with the Storm, but now I am really venturing off topic. The point is that I know about the devotion some fans have for Steve Perry and it’s completely understandable. His talent and persona encapsulate the Journey they fell in love with.
The 6th song is also the title track of the album. Neal Schon’s grinding and repetitive riffs start you off in one direction but then almost halfway into the song Steve Smith’s drums signal a change in direction. Jonathan Cain’s piano adds the perfect accent to a song that is deserving of its title track status. Neal Schon’s solo toward the end of the song is the crisp, pulsating style that fans have come to love and expect.
7.”Lay It Down”
The cohesiveness of Journey really shows on this track. Everyone gets the opportunity to really shine and Perry nails some of his highest notes on the record. Neal Schon is, well Neal Schon, and of course he has some blistering licks on this one. A solid track for sure.
8.”Dead Or Alive”
This might be the most overlooked track on the record but I’m not sure why. “Dead Or Alive” comes out of the gate both hard and fast. The perfect blend of piano, drums and guitars create the ideal platform for Perry to unleash his lyrical display. I love the role that Jonathan Cain’s piano playing has in this song as it is reminiscent of the older rock hits of yesteryear. This is the shortest track on the album.
At a whopping 5:29 “Mother, Father” is not only the longest song on the record, but the 3rd of 4 ballads on the Escape album. The beautiful piano intro sets the tempo and if there were any doubts on the somber nature of this song they are quickly removed as soon as Steve Perry starts to sing:
“She sits alone, an empty stare
A mother’s face she wears
Where did she go wrong, the fight is gone
Lord help this broken home”
This is a powerful ballad and arguably one of Perry’s best vocal performances on the album. Although it’s the vocals that immediately jump out and grab you, it’s the harmonious sound created by the band as a whole that makes this song pop.
I know that it’s often fashionable to pick an obscure song or an underdog to select as your favorite, as opposed to going with the mega-hit that everyone knows. Be that as it may, I’m going to side with the masses on this one. “Open Arms” is one of the greatest power ballads ever written, period. The fact that this almost wasn’t a Journey song is crazy. Jonathan Cain had penned the melody for the song while with the Babys but it was not well received. After joining Journey, Cain and Perry collaborated to complete one of the most notable love songs ever. The passion flowing from Cain’s keys on the intro is undeniable and poignant. Ballad or not, everyone contributes to make this work. Steve Smith’s drums, Neal Schon’s guitar and Ross Valory’s bass and backing vocals are instrumental in the creation of the sound that this song achieves. Then along comes Steve Perry who brings it all home with his pure vocal talent and a lot of heart and soul. This song is quintessential Journey.
1.Don’t Stop Believin’
2.Stone In Love
3.Who’s Crying Now
4.Keep On Runnin’
5.Still They Ride
2.Lay It Down
3.Dead Or Alive
So, is this Journey’s best album? Maybe, maybe not. Sometimes timing is everything and that’s why I chose this album to review. It was not only my 1st introduction to a live concert, thanks to my sister and her friends, but it also came out during a very influential time in my life. Trying to find my identity in high school, meeting new friends, girlfriends and everything else going on in a 15-year old’s life was difficult and these were the songs I related to. Aside from that, the musical talent and creative genius that went into creating this album was nothing short of greatness.
In 1983 my friends and I stood in the rain for close to 8 hours to see Journey on their Frontiers Tour and several years later I would catch Steve Perry on his Street Talk Tour. Fast forward to this year and I was able to see Journey on their Freedom Tour but this time I was actually photographing and reviewing the concert. Surreal doesn’t even begin to explain it. If you’ve never listened to the Escape album do yourself a favor and give it a listen. If you’re like me and loved this record when it came out, treat yourself to a visit with some old friends and good memories. Give it a spin.
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