By 1986, Journey was already a household name in the popular music scene not only in their homeland of the USA but also all over the world. Multi-platinum albums, sold-out concerts, millions of fans – that was just the beginning of it. The kings of radio crafted a universally-beloved sound which was basically the secret behind their ultimate success. The appealing mixture of rock and pop, colored by mesmerizing keyboards, rhythm sections and unforgettable hooks, all topped by Steve Perry’s unbelievable, out-of-this-world voice was basically the formula that sky-rocketed their career. AOR treasures, like the 3xtimes Platinum “Departure” (1980), the 9xtimes Platinum “Escape” (1981) and the 6xtimes Platinum “Frontiers” (1983) became inseparable parts of every person’s collection; hit singles like “Don’t Stop Believin’”, “Separate Ways” or “Open Arms” defined the ‘80s and influenced generations of musicians. Whatever more I say would be obsolete. Journey was and still is one of the greatest bands out there and their songs will live forever!
The Years before “Raised on Radio”
The songwriting partnership between Steve Perry, Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain was what kept the band on the top shelves for an entire decade, basically. Things got out of hand, though. We’ve heard the story before with many other bands – fame, success and worldwide recognition can sometimes be the reason why tensions arise within the band, egos start clashing and can sometimes lead to members going their separate ways. After Journey released the smashing hit album “Frontiers” in 1983, guitarist Neal Schon and vocalist Steve Perry took some time off to focus on individual “journeys”. Neal Schon teamed up with Sammy Hagar and released “Through the Fire” in 1984 and Steve Perry recorded that “little” solo album “Street Talk” which was out the same year. Guess which endeavor was more successful?
Steve Perry said so many times that while writing and recording “Street Talk” he had the time of his life and even considered leaving Journey for good. I can understand; after all, if you are as talented as Steve Perry and you found what makes you truly happy then there’s nothing wrong to pursue it. Same goes to Neal Schon who by the way is one of the most networked musicians of all time. It was keyboardist Jonathan Cain who somehow pursued Steve Perry to come back and finish with what was started years ago. That’s the short version of how “Raised on Radio” became a reality.
I am not one of those people who would say that Steve Perry was JOURNEY but I am one of those people who ask themselves whether there could be a JOURNEY without Steve Perry. I’m not going to go into details on who did what and who was given what before Perry came back to record “Raised on Radio” but ultimately, there was a line-up change, along with a shift in musical as well as leadership direction in the band. We are here to talk about the music, though! I get that there might be some people interested in the “juicy” stuff but whatever happened happened. The results were more than satisfying so it’s time to focus on the content, rather than on its background.
“Raised on Radio”
“Raised on Radio” was out just in time for the hot summer of 1986. Steve, Neal and Jonathan were back to their usual songwriting days, except this time Steve Perry took over the production role as well. He did a marvelous job on his solo debut so giving him this opportunity was a justified decision, I think. A few tracks were written by Steve and Jonathan only; the majority of tracks were crafted by the trio.
I was always drawn by that bright blue album artwork; it’s just so appealing to me. I find it quite simple, elegant and so suitable for the songs and the overall musical atmosphere of the album. It’s like when I think of that beautiful blue color and I immediately think of groovy uplifting songs like “Girl Can’t Help It” or “Positive Touch” (it goes the other way around as well). Interestingly, what’s shown on that artwork is actually the studio and antennas of KNGS (AM Radio), formerly owned by Steve’s parents. He was also the one who renamed the album to “Raised on Radio” (the original name for that album was “Freedom”). It just seems like this whole project was very close to Steve Perry and he wanted to make it as personal as possible.
In terms of commercial success, “Raised on Radio” couldn’t really match the enormous popularity and critical acceptance of the previous two albums of Journey. Nevertheless, it was certified 2xPlatinum and it did spawn a few mind-blowing singles that took over the charts.
One more thing you gotta know about this album is that Steve, Neal and Jonathan weren’t just the main songwriters of Journey. They were actually the only official members left. That’s right, “Raised on Radio” was done by those three, along with dozens of guest musicians. You might ask what happened with Journey’s drummer and bass player and why was the band just trimmed down to a trio? Well, what can I say – sometimes things work out, sometimes they don’t. Don’t worry though, those two came back and are still rocking with Journey.
It’s a matter of opinion and fan devotion when it comes to this album. Some people strongly believe that “Raised on Radio” was just Steve Perry calling all the shots without being able to fill in that hole left by the two guys that got fired. To others, this album was Journey’s natural progression, reflected by the time period. To me, this is just a piece of beautiful pop/rock fusion album that sounded just as good as “Frontiers” and “Escape” and to some extent, even better!
The song that introduced me to the greatness of this album was “It Could Have Been You” which is also a personally-relevant song. I fell for the lyrics, along with that somehow mellow (at least to me) vibe of the song. It’s difficult to describe it but I always felt so sad while listening to this tune, despite its uplifting grooves; I mean just listen to Steve singing: “I can’t wait all my life, on a street of broken dreams, It could have been you my love, where are you now…I still wonder if you remember the night, It could have been you…” – that’s just so heartbreaking.
“Girl Can’t Help It” – the third single from the album is definitely one of the catchiest, most uplifting songs of Journey; there’s just so much life in that song. “I’ll Be Alright Without You” – the ultimate post-break up track is also another highlight on “Raised on Radio”. Excluding the fact that Steve Perry can turn any song into a memorable body/mind experience, this song is indeed quite affecting and empowering. “Suzanne” is another rhythmic, immensely atmospheric tune just waiting for you to go to the dancefloor. The rest is just as good – “Once You Love Somebody” which came out straight from a ‘80s action movie is a personal favorite and “Why Can’t This Night Go On Forever” is your typical world-spinning Journey ballad, so full of soul. The title song is absolutely stunning; Perry’s sincere tribute to his rock&roll heroes who he grew up with at his parents’ radio station is a key track on “Raised on Radio” and one of Journey’s best if you ask me. “Be Good to Yourself” is another spirited track that was actually written and recorded in a flash of inspiration on the day they were supposed to finish the record. Steve was going through some tough personal times and he was seeking for inner strength and affirmation.
The great thing about “Raised on Radio” is that there are tons of enjoyable and easy to fall for ear-candies. That’s not all, though. The album is in no shortage of genuine rock tunes, full of feelings and emotional backstories. Overall, this is a positive, eager and exceptionally well-written and produced album. I don’t necessarily think that “Raised on Radio” brought that much to the band; it didn’t really get them that higher. The general mood of the album seems a bit different from their previous work; it is energetic and enthusiastic but not on the same levels as before. Some songs are too sweet but since it’s Steve singing them, I’m totally cool with that!
Now, it’s your turn to listen and feel the great music on “Raised on Radio”…
“Girl Can Help It”
“It Could’ve Been You’
“I’ll Be Alright Without You”