Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Journey 8: Raised On Radio

Steve Perry’s solo album was an early sign that Journey wouldn’t last without him, but they still managed to pull together an album that, for the first time in the Perry era, sported a title with more than one word. Raised On Radio found the singer defiantly in charge, credited as sole producer and bringing in players from his solo project to replace Ross Valory and Steve Smith. One report has them leaving “due to creative differences”, others say they were fired. Whatever the truth, their absence is felt big time.
With different sections in seemingly different keys, “Girl Can’t Help It” has enough of the established Journey vibe to pass, and it’s smart to start out that way. But “Positive Touch” would have been a great hit for the Pointer Sisters; here it’s just cheesy. And that saxophone? Good Lord. “Suzanne” is a vast improvement, providing a lovelorn lyric with yearning, keening chorus; one of their more underrated, ignored classics. “Be Good To Yourself” is the requisite pep talk, but might have been more effective as a side-opener or closer. Then we get funky with “Once You Love Somebody”, with a decent melody but a generic backing, and “Happy To Give” is about as far removed from rock as they’ve ever been.
The title track didn’t come with printed lyrics, although Perry and Cain are credited for them. Once you decipher the mushmouthed slurring, it’s merely a string of oldies song titles strung together over a rockin’ riff. Yet it makes the otherwise lightweight “I’ll Be Alright Without You” stand out, with its Greek-chorus asides and extended guitar solo. Something must have happened to Perry’s voice; already husky on the album, he doesn’t sound like himself until the first chorus of “It Could Have Been You”. “The Eyes Of A Woman” is another one that would have sold buckets of a solo album, but there’s no denying the lighters-in-the-arena potential of “Why Can’t This Night Go On Forever”, which might as well be “Faithfully” played backwards, with lyrics equally applicable to a lover as they are to you: the true fans.
Raised On Radio was great if you loved Street Talk. But longtime fans who were already uncomfortable with the encroaching adult contemporary influence on a band that developed from the fancy fretwork of Santana would resent Neal Schon for going along with something so by the numbers. Then again, nobody had conceived of Bad English or Hardline yet, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Naturally, Journey toured to promote the album, with newcomers Randy Jackson resembling a portly Clarence Clemons on bass and the decidedly non-photogenic Mike Baird on drums. The setlists included two songs from the Perry solo album and a few covers as encores. (The expanded CD includes live versions of “Girl Can’t Help It” and “I’ll Be Alright Without You”, as previously heard on the videos for said songs.) And that would be it for a long time.

Journey Raised On Radio (1986)—
2006 CD reissue: same as 1986, plus 2 extra tracks

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