Still believin' Journey's music, hopeful message endures
By Donna Isbell Walker
Eighties rock and Journey - it's hard to imagine one without the other.
Songs like "Who's Crying Now" and "Open Arms" dominated the radio airwaves and high school proms for the better part of the decade. With 41 million albums sold, the band was a musical force, helping define the arena-rock sound of the era.
The albums still sell, and the World Series champs Chicago White Sox even adopted "Don't Stop Believin'" as their anthem this year.
Keyboard player Jonathan Cain thinks the band has endured because of the musical craftsmanship and the message.
"It was the respect for melody and groove," Cain said recently, over the phone from his home in California. "We were one of the more soulful of the '80s bands. There's a sweetness to the music that keeps it young. It was about hope and faith and good stuff; we were never on the dark side."
Journey started out in the early 1970s as a jazz-influenced prog-rock band, although the sound evolved to a more mainstream rock vibe when vocalist Steve Perry came aboard in 1977. His soaring tenor soon became the band's signature. Cain joined the band in 1981, just in time to help write songs for the album "Escape," the album that catapulted the band into the stratosphere.
The band broke up in 1986 when Perry left because of health problems. When the members wanted to regroup in 1998, Perry wasn't interested in coming back, so the remaining musicians recruited sound-alike singer Steve Augeri.
There have been rumors of bad blood between Perry and his ex-bandmates over the years, but Cain dismisses most of it. Had Perry been so inclined, he could have sued the other members over using the name, but "he was classy enough" not to do that, Cain said.
Cain has nothing but praise for the music the '80s-era Journey produced and performed.
"I'm very proud of everything we did together, and I'm very mindful of our partnership. There's no one like him, and I was so fortunate to have a voice like that to write for. ... I know that if we got together tomorrow, we'd write something cool."
People are often surprised to learn that the current lineup with Augeri on vocals, together since 1998, is the longest-standing Journey incarnation, Cain said. "They still call Steve (Augeri) the new guy. And if you think about it, Steve Perry hasn't sung with the band in almost 20 years," Cain said.
Journey's new album, "Generations," is both a return to form and a departure for the band. The return to form comes with the help of producer Kevin Elson, who worked on such classic Journey albums as "Escape" and "Frontiers."
The difference is that this time, every member of Journey gets a turn at lead vocals. In the old days, when Perry was on the microphone, there was room for only one front man on stage, and the music became a little more pop than some members wanted, Cain said.
Now, "it's less of a one-man deal. It's more of a rock band; we have more of an edge. ... I think we're edgier than we ever were," he said. Fans will get a chance to check out that edge for themselves next week. The Bi-Lo Center concert will feature a mix of old and new Journey, greatest hits as well as a few less-familiar nuggets from the early albums, Cain said.
And Cain said he's looking forward to visiting Greenville again. He recalled eating dinner at a downtown restaurant and touring the BMW plant the last time Journey played here, two years ago on a bill with Styx and REO Speedwagon. "There's a good heart in Greenville," Cain said. "The people are authentic. A lot of places you go, you feel this disjointed karma, but not there."