October 11, 2018

The Return of 80's Music Icon: Steve Perry

On Friday, October 5, 2018, a brand new album titled "Traces" was released. What made that album so unusual was that it was from an artist who, in spite of having earned 3 Grammy's over his career, plus having received another nomination as part of the band he fronted from 1977 to 1987, and again from 1995 to 1998, along with a successful solo career between the mid-1980's and mid-1990's, is that its coming from someone who hasn't released any music in almost a quarter century (way back in 1994). "Traces" is the 2018 album release from former "Journey" frontman Steve Perry.

As noted, Mr. Perry released his last solo album in the early 1990's, and he then briefly reunited with his former band "Journey" a few years later for an album but no tour, but he has otherwise been completely absent from the public eye since then -- and it was all by his personal choice. Back in the 1980's, "Journey" didn't just rule the charts or the road, evidently they also had their own video game (by that time, I was kind of over video games), but I'll trust those who said it was true (see HERE).

CBS Sunday Morning recently asked him (without the mullet!) about what he was hoping for when he originally joined "Journey", and his response was as follows: "I just wanted to write music with the guys that mattered," the 69-year-old said, "that people would love and embrace and take into their hearts. There's nothing else that meant more to me than to be part of that." Incidentally, the CBS Sunday television interview was previously located at https://www.cbsnews.com/news/steve-perry-how-the-former-journey-singer-started-believin-again/ or on YouTube at https://youtu.be/iig-XR35qXw, and although the video portion is now gone, the article remains.

Steve Perry's unique story after being at the height of music industry success in the 1980's with sold-out national concerts, being at the top of the Billboard music charts is unique. In 1987, he left "Journey" at the height of the band's fame and had a somewhat difficult personal period that followed shortly after, during which he couldn't even listen to music, much less sing it.

He said needed to leave music in order to find himself. Of course, by abandoning the trappings of a celebrity lifestyle, his previous success enabled him to live comfortably without working, something many others don't have the luxury of. More typically, we hear stories of successful musicians being destroyed by a lifestyle of spending combined with alcohol, drugs and casual sex addictions.

None of that happened to Steve Perry.

He dropped out and avoided the cycle of self-destruction that ruins so many others in the music business. Steve Perry comes from California's San Joaquin Valley in Central California (specifically, the town of Hanford), which is miles away from the big urban areas on the coast, such as the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, or San Diego. Its home to the state's massive agricultural industry, but is anything but Hollywood. The main towns of California's San Joaquin Valley are pretty ordinary locales such as Fresno and Stockton, which are decent-sized, but lack much to make them big tourist draws to the Golden State.

But along Steve Perry's way, he also found a type of contentment that being a rock celebrity did not bring him: he had a life-changing relationship with a woman named Kellie Nash whom he later married, and Perry says she made him feel loved for the first time, so he found a much deeper meaning as husband before his wife unfortunately passed away in 2012 from cancer.

He told NPR that his wife said to him: "Honey, I need to ask you a favor." Perry said "What's that?" She asked if he would make her a promise. "She said if something was to ever happen to her, she asked him to promise that he would not go back into isolation." She said "I just got a feeling it would make this [relationship] all for naught."

As a result of the promise he made to his wife before she died in 2012, the music that was finally written and ultimately recorded in his new album — about four, five years ago when Steve Perry first started writing it – and about three years ago, when he started recording it — and it was rooted in keeping the promise he had made to his wife.

In September 2018, he told NPR (see "Steve Perry Makes His Return" HERE or listen below):
  "She gave me so much. ... How would a guy like me really know if someone loves them? How would I really know? When you're sitting in front of a beautiful woman who's got better things to do than waste her time and looks at you and says she loves you, you have to feel that because it's pretty evident that she has better things to do than to waste her and my time. I have to feel it. I have to believe it. I must say that was the first time ever that I felt loved.

In October 2018, he was promoting his new album, and he returned to NPR for another interview. He told NPR that one of the songs on the album, "Most Of All," was written for his now-deceased wife Kellie Nash before he even met her.

"A heart isn't really complete until it's completely broken and mine was completely broken after I lost her," Perry said. "But that became the good news because from that came joy and songs and ideas." Listen to that full interview (see "Steve Perry's New Life: 'I've Rediscovered The Passion For Music'" at https://www.npr.org/2018/10/03/654034814/steve-perrys-new-life-i-ve-rediscovered-the-passion-for-music or below.
  As to the sound of Steve Perry's new songs, and his voice, Rolling Stone magazine had some thoughts on that. It said (see https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-album-reviews/review-steve-perry-is-still-a-believer-on-traces-732901/ for its coverage):

"[Steve] Perry’s voice is still elastic, but it’s huskier, scratchier and, at its worst, hoarser than it was in his glory years. Given his age, 69 years old, it's in good shape but it’s still surprising, mostly because we haven't heard from him in decades."

Adding: "Moreover, it tends to stay in a sad place and rarely picks up – "Sun Shines Gray" is the hardest rocking song on the standard edition, though the bonus tracks on the deluxe version offer a few more upbeat numbers.

The song from his newest album entitled "No Erasin'" (the title sounds like a tribute to his wife) that is expected to get some decent airplay from radio stations looking for something different to make them more relevant again in this era of personal iPods, Spotify and other subscription music services.

The "No Erasin'"video can be seen below, or by visiting https://youtu.be/Oawl9e-tFVM:

NPR said that the track sounds and feels like the kind of stadium rock songs "Journey" was known for. But Perry told NPR he doesn't see this as an issue. "That would be a beautiful problem, if I could sound like the old Steve Perry, at this point. Honey, 'cause I ain't no spring chicken," he said.

From my perspective, it's entertaining enough, and it's what made Steve Perry and "Journey" popular in the first place. Although the underlying songs are sad, I would concur with Rolling Stone's observation:

Many of the songs are too cloying for their own good, but in a weird way that’s what you want from Steve Perry – you want to feel and remember. By that definition, Traces lives up to its title and offers reminders of Perry’s might. When he sings, "No more cryin', 'cause I wont' love again, I won't, I won’t, I won't" on "No More Cryin'," he sings it in a way that makes you believe him.

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