Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Steve Perry 1: Street Talk

When a band has an “iconic” lead singer, the average consumer tends to associate the two interchangeably. So what happens when said singer does a solo album, independent of the band? If you’re Roger Daltrey, you record songs nothing like those the main guy in the band wrote for you, giving yourself an outlet. If you’re Phil Collins, you make a sound nothing like what people expect of the band, but will eventually come to define the band, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. If you’re Steve Perry, you release Street Talk, heralded by a single that’s not too far off from what people in 1984 associated with the Journey brand.
We say “heralded” in a pointed reference to the self-deflating video for “Oh Sherrie”, which attempted to display Our Hero as just another guy caught in the fabrications of the modern music video treadmill. And it’s a catchy tune, with Waddy Wachtel playing the lead with more of a Southern California tone than Neal Schon’s high-speed Frisco shred. Like most of the rest of the album, it was co-written with a couple of MOR hacks, and proceeds in decidedly unadventurous manner. There’s the Four Tops-inspired rhythms of “I Believe”, the incomprehensible high harmonies on “Go Away”, the Ambrosia rewrite “Foolish Heart”, the by-numbers pop of “It’s Only Love”, Waddy credited again for “rhythm guitar solo”. Thankfully, the excitement over a DX-7 patch sounding like steel drums would soon pass.
The yacht rock continues on “She’s Mine”, but it has enough of the angst left over from the last two Journey albums to sound familiar. Apparently he used it all up, because the rest of side two limps on through empty emoting (“You Should Be Happy”), inexplicable sound effects of children laughing (“Running Alone”) and a barely clever tribute to fallen rock stars and other leaders (“Captured By The Moment”) to “Strung Out”, which is about as catchy as where we came in, and another one where it could be mistaken for his regular band. (While we’re at it, Neal Schon did do a side project around this with the not-yet-Halened Sammy Hagar, spawning two full albums that nobody mistook for Journey.)
Of course, an album doesn’t have to be good to be a hit, and this one did spawn four hit singles, and even helped earn him a solo spot on “We Are The World”. Steve went on to contribute a limp track to the full USA For Africa album, and “If Only For The Moment, Girl” was duly added to a 21st-century repress of Street Talk, alongside the overblown B-side “Don’t Tell Me Why You’re Leaving”, left off the album for good reason, and three demos left over from the band he was in before Journey, and much more palatable even today.

Steve Perry Street Talk (1984)—2
2006 CD reissue: same as 1984, plus 5 extra tracks

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