Friday, February 6, 2015

Journey 2: Infinity

Here’s where Journey became the Journey some love and others hate. In Steve Perry, the band had a photogenic frontman with a wide vocal range that would be ably supported by Gregg Rolie, still on the keys. Perry wasn’t a blues-based rooster, but came from the pop school, and tended to emulate Sam Cooke’s phrasing whenever possible.
Infinity presents the new blueprint for the band, arena-ready songs loaded with hooks and melodies, some of which came from a guy they tapped to be their singer before Perry came along. (Not to worry, though; the less attractively monikered Robert Fleischman got songwriting credits for what he did, and would one day front the Vinnie Vincent Invasion before being elbowed aside for Mark Slaughter.) Roy Thomas Baker, who’d produced a bunch of Queen albums and was about to work with The Cars, helped streamline the sound.
Right away it’s clear that they’re no longer a fusion band. “Lights” is a safe beginner, cueing cigarette lighters held aloft all over San Francisco. “Feeling That Way” begins with Gregg singing to his piano, then turns into a duet alternating with Perry, soothing the fears of anyone who’d enjoyed the first three albums. A tight edit brings “Anytime” in immediately, just as it would on FM stations everywhere. Not able to come up with lyrics for the chorus, “Lă Do Dā” sports accents in the title as extraneous as Neal Schon’s jackhammer intro. “Patiently” is another play for the audience hidden inside a love song.
The metaphor of “Wheel In The Sky” can be blamed on Robert Fleischman or Ross Valory’s wife, both of whom are credited with the lyrics, but Perry takes to them and we have another crowd-pleasing anthem. A hidden highlight of the album is “Somethin’ To Hide”, heavy on the triplets and culminating in an impossible falsetto. It’s another quick cut to “Winds Of March”, which hides melodic similarities to “Rainy Night House” by Joni Mitchell, of all things. “Can Do” toughens things up a bit with a crunch worthy of Jimmy Page, then “Opened The Door” takes its sweet time to thank the unnamed girl for doing just that. Neal’s solo gets the last word.
Compact and catchy, Infinity succeeds where the previous albums couldn’t. The band still displayed the chops to counter any accusations of selling out, but since selling out was exactly what they wanted to do, everybody was fine with that. And in an era dominated by such one-named bands as Foreigner, Kansas, Boston and the like, all Journey had to do was tour, promote, record and repeat.

Journey Infinity (1978)—

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