Saturday, November 29, 2008

What Really Happened with Journey?

This is a mystery that’s never really been solved and is straight out of a dime store detective novel. Journey was a group at the height of their popularity that self-destructed going down in an incredible flame out but to this day many fans still wonder just what went wrong. Sure there’s been a lot of supposition but even thought the band itself has addressed this issue it always feels like something has either been left out or plain left unsaid. Using interviews, word of mouth, modern science, a slide rule, a smattering of innuendo and my extensive imagination I will try to clear up the foggy mess that has been left behind and make it clear for everyone to understand just what I think happened.

It has been documented that guitarist Neal Schon wanted Journey to rock more while vocalist Steve Perry wanted the group to continue down the path of ballads and mid tempo songs that he had been leading them on. This was an extremely successful path I might add. Every band will have arguments which normally lead to creativity and better songs and such was the case here. People tend to forget that Journey could flat out rock and they proved it with songs like Stone In Love and Any Way You Want It. In 1983 during the bands downtime Schon decided to flex his rock muscles with a side project called H.S.A.S. The acronym stood for the band members last names: vocalist Sammy Hagar, Neal Schon on guitars, bassist Kenny Aaronson and drummer Michael Shrieve. They recorded a mostly live album at the end of that year that featured the song Top of the Rock and a cover of A Whiter Shade of Pale and briefly toured in 1984. Keep in mind that this was music that did not fit with the direction Journey was going in nevertheless Schon felt he needed to get it out there.

Now Steve Perry has also stated in an interview that he felt like this was a distraction and that Schon should have been focusing on the band. So he did the natural thing of course and recorded his own solo album. It featured the ballads Oh Sherrie (which was an ode to his girlfriend who broke up with him not too much later) and Foolish Heart, both songs sounding remarkably like Journey songs. Oh Sherrie shot to # 3 and Foolish Heart went to # 18 on the charts. I believe this was Steve Perry letting Neal Schon and the rest of the band know that he didn’t need them to do Journey. He could and would do it on his own if he felt like it. The point was made and Schon lost control of the group that he had co-founded. Perry promptly sacked bassist Ross Valory and drummer Steve Smith and replaced them with session players (most notably Randy Jackson) as the band recorded the album Raised on Radio in 1986. Although the band had several hits and reached # 4 something was clearly missing. Perry’s mother was ill while the album was recorded and he was away for periods of time which made everything more difficult. After the tour the band members decided they were through and Perry ended up taking a break.

He would not release another solo album until 1994. In 1996 the popular lineup of Journey re-united and recorded the cd Trial By Fire. While preparing for a world tour Perry suffered a hip injury and decided to wait on surgery thereby postponing the tour and losing all momentum that they had built. The rest of the group grew tired of waiting and decided they would continue on without him which upset Perry tremendously. By now Schon and keyboardist Jonathan Cain were now leading the bands direction. This desire to keep it going would later affect Perry’s replacement Steve Augeri who developed vocal problems and was out of the group in 2006. He was replaced by Jeff Scott Soto who did not sound enough like Perry and the fans let the band know about it. He was gone in a blink of the eye, barely lasting a little over half a year. That brings us to Journey’s current vocalist Arnel Pineda who sounds extremely close to Perry while maintaining his own identity. The band released a stellar double cd with him in 2008, Revelation, which went platinum and headlined a sold out tour with Cheap trick and Heart.

So there you have it. My opinion on what really happened to this once and now current great band. There’s been too much of hurt feelings, pain and head-butting over control of the direction of the band. For those of you who dream of the day that Steve Perry will return to the fold and once again man the helm of Journey I say quit dreaming and forget about it. It will not happen for a long time if ever. Neal Schon has regained control of his group and will not let go of it again and Steve Perry will require complete control to once again be a part of this great group. I don’t see this happening now and perhaps never. But that’s okay. I’ll still pay to see Arnel lead the band as long as they continue to have something to offer the fans. I’ve seen them with Perry and Augeri and just missed the chance to see them this past summer with Arnel. But that’s story for another day.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Chinese Democracy review - Just say no little bobcat.

I had this post all ready to write with a witty comment about it being appropriate that Axl n Roses dropped a turkey on us a few days before Thanksgiving. Unfortunately I was unable to get on the computer yesterday so all that careful planning went to waste. Truth be told Chinese Democracy is not a turkey but hey, it made for a good punch line.
For me though, this album just does not work at all. It has nothing in it to hold my interest. Thankfully though I didn’t drop any cash on it. Instead I went over to their myspace page and listened to it and for that fan friendly gesture I thank Axl and the band. The fact that this took so long to come out and that it’s not REALLY Guns N Roses did not factor into my opinion at all. I judged the songs on their own merits. For my personal taste there is far too much guitar god shredding on the first few tracks. That’s where the guitarist attempts to put as many notes as humanly possible into a small piece of the song. I don’t like speed metal for this very reason and I surely don’t like it when someone tries it in any other kind of music. I’m all for a good blistering solo but on these songs it sounds forced, something a good song should never do.
There is also a lack of continuity from song to song as if the order was just thrown together. Or maybe Axl picked the titles out of a hat and put them in that order. Either way it doesn’t flow well. Axl has always had a distinctive voice and could screech with the best of them (and I mean that in a positive way) but there are times on Chinese Democracy where he loses control of it and goes out of tune. Inexplicably this made it onto the final product which is strange in that he has exercised such control over this project for such a long time one would think that he would have fixed problems like this.
I have no doubt that this album will do well enough but I don’t believe it will end up matching GnRs biggest hits. Some people are throwing the genius tag on Axl but he hasn’t convinced me so I have to vote no on this one. Maybe we’ll see another GnR release before our mid fifties but given Axl’s track record I doubt it. One thing I’ve always wondered about is why he didn’t just go solo instead of investing all of his time and effort in making the other band members give away their rights to the name Guns N Roses? His name was sufficiently big that a solo album released under his name would have had just as big an impact as under the band moniker of GnR. Unfortunately the long wait coupled with countless broken promises of a release date and Best Buys strange, underwhelming lack of promotion over what they call the biggest release of the year has lead to an even larger lack of anticipation over this cd finally being released. Well, time is of course the final judge and years from now we can look back and decide for ourselves if it was all worth it. For me, the answer is no.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Music Reviews - AC/DC, Tesla and Sammy Hagar

I've been meening to get this done for a few weeks and finally got around to finishing it. I have reviewed 3 recent cd releases and given my (in)expert opinion, for what it's worth. Agree or disagree as you wish but here are my reviews:

AC/DC “Black Ice”

This is a very good release from these Australian masters. AC/DC often get tagged with having every song sound the same but it’s not quite true. To be sure a lot of their music does sound similar but not all of it sounds exactly the same. Amazingly that’s what people not only do not mind but have come to expect from them. That’s why track 4 “Anything Goes” is a love it or hate it song for most fans. The boys break from tradition and try something a bit different and totally unexpected. This song isn’t as bad as it’s made out to be but does sound like something that would have been done by a much different band. Most of my favorite songs are on the front end such as “War Machine”, “Big Jack” and “Spoilin’ For A Fight.” That doesn’t mean that the 2nd half is a let down by any stretch of the imagination. There’s more of a bluesy feel to it which is fine by mean. The Bottom Line: This cd is well worth the money as the boys from down under are back and rocking.

Tesla “Forever More”

I have to say that I just recently got into Tesla thanks to a friend from work who shall remain nameless (that means you Marv). Sure I listened to their hits in the 80s and enjoyed them but for some reason never went any further with it. That atrocity has been corrected. I saw them earlier in the year and they flat out blew me away. That only made me hungry for new Tesla music. Simply put this is an extremely good cd that you need to go buy. The topics/lyrics of tracks like “So What” and “Just In Case” amaze me with their insight. Then there is “Private Ledbetter” which deals with a family and what they must be going through while their son, brother, etc is fighting for his country in Iraq. It doesn’t preach or puff up false patriotism. No, the song only tells it like it is. There are enough rockers and ballads for everyone. Basically put this is Tesla doing what they do best. Do yourself a favor, first buy this cd and then go see them if they come anywhere close to you. You won’t be disappointed unless of course you’re some mopey emo kid and then you’ll be thrilled by being mopey.

Sammy Hagar “Cosmic Universal Fashion”

I’m sure to get some hate on this but this cd is simply dreadful. I used to love Sammy before he joined Van Halen when he really was The Red Rocker. I even went to see him open for ZZ Top at my first ever real concert. Now I know he’s older but still, for awhile he was doing his “Jimmy Buffett on steroids” thing but this is something altogether different. I found the title track to be simply atrocious. Programmed drums with music filtered in and out and Sammy’s semi-spoken vocals just doesn’t sound good at all. This song is supposed to be a sequel of sorts to Van Halen’s “Right Now” content as well as in video but it ends up being a jumbled mess. On his cover of The Beastie Boys “Fight For Your Right To Party” he does punch up the song but it doesn’t really do much for me. The cd closes with a live version of “Dreams/Cabo” that just goes on too long and clearly shows that Sammy cannot hold a candle to Dave’s (Lee Roth) stage patter. At least I found someone who agrees with me (and very closely) on this lump of coal. Head over to and check out their cd reviews to see their thoughts on this and other releases.

There you have it. Feel free to leave a messsage and I'll add it as soon as possible. Coming soon: Chinese Democracy review, Stuck In The 80s and how well (or not) the 2008 concert year was for me.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

2008 Presidential Election

Election 2008

Whichever way you look at it history will be made in this year’s presidential election. For the first time ever either a black man will be elected president or a female will be elected vice-president. Unfortunately it won’t make much difference whether a democrat or a republican wins the presidential race. Let’s face it, they always trumpet their political and social differences and broadcast them for all to see however once elected all of that gets thrown out the window and it all becomes about trying to stay in office. Their promises are empty and offer only an illusion of making the slightest bit of difference or change.

That’s right; the whole thing is a grand illusion. It doesn’t matter who wins because nothing will change for those that really elect the president. We don’t do that. We can only choose between the lesser of two evils that we are offered. The best, most qualified person for the job will never get within sniffing distance of being elected because they can’t be controlled. To be elected president you have to answer to so many money people who really run things behind the scenes. Basically you have to sell out on a major scale and lie to yourself that at least you’ll be able to do a few good things while in office.

Why do you think we have a two party system? Simply put because it’s much easier to control everything that way. Once you start adding the variables of three, four or more parties that have legitimate chances of winning it gets much harder to control and influence. The powers that be have fought so very hard against allowing a third party candidate to even get invited to the debates. The last time that happened they had to resort to having him labeled as a loon in order to discredit him. Both parties will even tell you that if you vote for a third party you are throwing your vote away. So by voting your conscience for the person you feel is right for the job it’s considered throwing your vote away? Why would they say this? Because if you vote for a third party you will hurt their control, their illusion of power. Ultimately if more people would vote their conscience and take votes away from them perhaps it would force them to make some real changes and actually do some of things they promise in their campaigns.

The last thing I want to say is that if you vote for Palin because it so important to have a woman as vice president or if you vote for Obama because you feel it is equally important to have a black man as president then you need to be slapped in the face and lose your right to vote. The only reason to vote should be to give the best person this incredibly important job. But that’s not the way it works so I guess we’ll find out soon which way history will be made. Let’s see how many more controversies will come about. At least this year neither McCain nor Obama has a relative governing a state so we know that eliminates the specter of the last election rearing its ugly head (although you can never say never) but I’m sure something else will pop up.

After saying all of that does it mean I’m so discouraged that I won’t even vote? Not on your life! I’ll be there “throwing” my vote away or as I see it voting the way I see fit. See you there.