STEVE PERRY – Traces

The Voice is back. Who would have thought? After a long career as the singer in Journey, one of the biggest Rock bands throughout the 80’s, Steve Perry quit and has pretty much gone AWOL since then. With six albums with Journey between 1978 – 1986 and a solo album, Street Talk, in 1984, Perry is one of the most loved and respected singers in our time. He returned to the scene in the middle of Grunge domination in 1994 with a solo album, For The Love Of Strange Medicine, that despite musical climate shipped platinum before returning to Journey in 1996 for an album called Trial By Fire but it was short-lived and Journey continued with Steve Augeri (ex- Tall Stories) as his replacement and when he left, Jeff Scott Soto (Talisman, Eyes, Axel Rudi Pell, Sons Of Apollo) was their singer for about five minutes before they finally decided on Perry sound alike Arnel Pineda. After some though years, Journey are now a big headline act once more.

But the discussion among fans about a Steve Perry come back has never stopped and to this day, despite denials from both Journey and Perry, people are screaming for a Journey reunion, especially after both parties met at the Rock And Roll Of Fame. They didn’t play together but both the band and Perry looked genuinely happy to see each other again – and Pineda said he would step down in a heartbeat if the reunion was about to happen. That was more or less the first sign of life from Perry in more than a decade so it was a big surprise when Perry announced that he had a come back in the works. According to Perry, a big reason for his come back is a promise he made to his girlfriend, who succumbed to cancer a few years ago, that he wouldn’t isolate himself and return to music. That also means that much of this new record is based on her – but not only. All that put aside, expectations on this record is enormous.

First single and the song that preceded this album, “No Erasin'”, is also the album’s opener. It’s a midpaced tune, smooth with a pretty slick Pop vibe but also very soulful with a beautiful arrangement. The tune holds a big refrain that without sounding like a standard AOR refrain is highly addictive and sticks after one listen. A very good choice for a leading single and a great tune that gives a lust to hear more. “We’re Still Here” is slower with both Pop and AOR undertones on the ballad side. It holds a soothing and gorgeous main melody and the refrain is, without being hitty, still very memorable – which is why it was chosen as the second single. I wouldn’t say it sounds like Journey but it wouldn’t sit wrong at a Journey album – very, very good. “Most Of All” comes on like lounge music of some sort, like a jazzy tinged ballad. It’s kind of cozy and feel-good and even though it’s hardly single-material, it sticks with me. Very good.

“No More Cryin'”, obviously about his late girlfriend, holds a somewhat bluesy feel and a Classic Rock vibe in a slower mode. It’s on the ballad side but over a Rock foundation where the guitars comes up louder in the mix. The song sports some familiar melodies and it sounds like Journey without sounding like Journey, if that makes any sense. The tune holds a brilliantly catchy refrain that goes into AOR territory and sticks like super-glue. A killer song that must be a future single. “In The Rain” is a slow, soft and smooth ballad albeit with a darkness and a truthful melancholy over it. It’s organic and quite simple which only brings up the song’s dynamics. The emotional atmosphere goes right in to the bones, the song is based on feel and probably a therapeutic song for Perry. “Sun Shines Gray”, co-written by John 5 (David Lee Roth, Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie), is an upbeat AOR-rocker with a touch of West Coast that holds some chunky guitars and a good, punchy beat. It’s a bit softer in the verses but the catchy refrain rocks things up. A very good tune!

With latest single “You Belong To Me” we’re back to the slow ballad-laden vibe with jazzy, lounge-music undertones and even though the tune is beautifully arranged and a heartfelt and soulful vibe all over, the tune fails to grab me. It’s ok but just not memorable enough. “Easy To Love” is slow and earthy, a soulful ballad with a nice groove to it. A beautiful main melody combined with a killer vocal effort from Perry brings this sweet and even catchy tune home – a good one. “I Need You” is a Beatles cover, written by George Harrison and can be found on the album Help!. Originally, it’s an upbeat Pop song but Perry has given it a slow and smooth arrangement and turned it into a ballad. It’s very different to the original and it has taken a whole new life. This is how you do a cover – way to go! Closing track “We Fly” is a slow, soothing and down-to-earth ballad. Still, it’s big on orchestration while keeping the earthy atmosphere, much to Perry’s heartfelt and emotional expressions.

First of all, let’s just say that the rumours of Perry’s crumbling vocal abilities is highly exaggerated. Sure, he might not have the strength and range like he did before but the guy is 67 years old and he can still sing the crap out of most singers out there – yes, Steve Perry is still a brilliant singer. The album itself is a damn good one seen only to the quality of the songs themselves. But the albums is too soft – way too soft. Don’t get me wrong here, I hadn’t expected a Heavy Metal album from Perry but only two uptempo songs in a plethora of ballads is way too few – and it’s not like those two songs are raging rockers either – and that’s where this album falters. Otherwise, it comes with a really good production, earthy but smooth, slick and easy-listening and all the musical performances are spot-on and world-class. A good album that tends to be a bit samey and too soft.

6/10

Tracklist:

1. No Erasin’
2. We’re Still Here
3. Most Of All
4. No More Cryin’
5. In The Rain
6. Sun Shines Gray
7. You Belong To Me
8. Easy To Love
9. I Need You
10. We Fly

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