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Journey still ‘Believin” a quarter century later

Observer Scene | Thursday, August 24, 2006

Journey immortalized “Don’t Stop Believin'” over two decades ago. And while many have adopted this mantra – including the 2005 World Series Champion Chicago White Sox – perhaps no one has kept believing as much as Journey itself.

Founded in 1973 by former members of Santana, Journey became immensely popular in the 1980s with hit singles such as “Open Arms” and “Wheel in the Sky.”

The band’s album “Escape” hit number one on the charts in August of 1981 and reached platinum nine times. One of their Escape shows, on Nov. 6, 1981 in Houston, was recorded and aired on MTV and has been recently released in DVD/CD format.

This DVD is a must for any Journey fan, as it showcases Journey in its Steve Perry prime. Lead vocalist Perry contributes his unique voice along with an infectious energy that clearly roused the Texas crowd on that November night. Perry is joined by Neal Schon on guitar, Ross Valory on bass, Steve Smith on the drums and Jonathan Cain playing the keyboards.

Cain’s role in the show is paramount because his piano notes have the ability to perfectly mimic Perry’s vocal range, most notably on the eponymous first song. When he starts the show, Perry exudes boyish energy and sets the tone for a nonstop barrage of high vocals and guitar riffs.

Many of the songs on the DVD are more unknown and even some unreleased Journey tunes like “Lights” and “Dead or Alive,” but there are plenty of favorites such as “Open Arms,” “Don’t Stop Believin’,” “Wheel in the Sky” and “Any Way You Want It.”

There are some lesser known hits later in the disc including “Who’s Crying Now” and a Jonathan Cain piano solo. The concert ends with songs that are more familiar and loved by most audiences.

This disc functions in any CD player, but the real value of the collection is in the accompanying DVD. Seeing the members of the band with long hairdos and outrageous-looking, ill-fitting clothes gives a sense of how 1980s power rock bands functioned.

Perry’s extraordinary energy gives him unnatural speed as he runs around the stage during songs and plays to the crowd. Unfortunately, the concert is without the typical 80s lasers, dry ice smoke and erupting fireballs to round out the show. Nevertheless, watching this MTV program from 1981 and comparing it to today’s MTV slate a quarter of a century later shows how much the network has changed over the years.

Also included on the DVD are interviews with various band members during the “Escape” tour, a slide show of the tour and the original television promo for the tour. Although these extras might be enjoyable for the stalwart Journey aficionado, they will likely disappoint the casual fan.

But any Journey fan can eagerly embrace this DVD/CD for its previously unreleased Journey material along with exciting footage of the band and lead singer Steve Perry. Less enthusiastic Journey supporters might find the price for the DVD/CD too steep and opt to purchase a regular CD of Journey hits instead.

The popularity of Journey songs today on the radio and internet has led to a 2006 U.S. tour and a planned 2007 tour as well. It’s clear that both the rock and roll community and the band itself won’t stop believing in the power of Journey’s music over a quarter of a century later.