Let’s do the math—“Don’t Stop Believin’” and “Stone In Love” put your fists in the air. “Who’s Crying Now” and “Open Arms” have you sobbing into your wine cooler. And then there’s the social commentary of “Mother, Father” and the ultimate secret weapon, the still underappreciated “Still They Ride”.
And those are just the singles. Inspired by newcomer Jonathan Cain on the keyboards, Steve Perry and Neal Schon found a guy who could help them craft powerful pop, while still giving room for Neal to shred to his heart’s content. Cain was a competent harmonizer too, but from here on out it’s Perry’s voice that dominates, so no more duets a la Gregg Rolie.
Side one has four of the above singles, but also contains “Keep On Runnin’”, heavy on the riffing and walls of vocals. Side two blows open with the title track, loaded with unconventional chord voicings and tricky time jumps. “Lay It Down” is more style than substance, Perry yodeling a bit too much against the riff. “Dead Or Alive” is just too busy, and something of a rewrite of the much better (and funnier) “Line Of Fire”. And while “Mother, Father” can be a tad melodramatic, the middle solo section is a striking counterpart, and the final minute or so of the track, with its subdominant chords and impossibly high notes, brings chills.
The album always ended with “Open Arms”, which will inspire memories of high school slow dances and the final scene of the most realistic teen sex comedy ever made, The Last American Virgin. Today the expanded CD has four more tracks: the B-side “La Raza Del Sol”, a rock-salsa hybrid that’s not very convincing, and live versions of the album’s three biggest hits recorded on that tour.
If you didn’t get Escape then, you won’t get it now. Lest you wanted something with more balls, back then there was also Loverboy and REO Styxkansas, with dreamy singers and fast-fingered guitarists, who combined with Journey to be the unwitting pioneers of a genre called melodic rock. As it’s not too far from hair metal, you can have it. We’ll take this album. At top volume.
Journey Escape (1981)—3½
2006 CD reissue: same as 1981, plus 4 extra tracks