Ok, guys. It’s Thursday, which means YES, it is time for Classic Albums!! I was actually torn this week between about five of them, but I decided it was time to show some love to my favorite band from the San Francisco Bay Area, Journey, and the album that took them from Arena Rock Powerhouse to Worldwide Sensation…Escape.
Released in the summer of ’81, this thing was a massive success. Think about it, who DIDN’T have this blaring from their record player, or in the tape deck of their ’77-‘80 Camaro/Trans Am/Firebird?? But never mind how BIG this record was, it also showed some of the finest songwriting these men ever unleashed upon the masses.
“Don’t Stop Believin’ “, with the greatest keyboard intro of all-time, starts the magic. It is one of the greatest rock anthems in history, and anyone who disagrees is quite frankly a soulless robot. Neal Schon’s solo is on point, and unforgettable. Whether at a sporting event, or in my car, I still sing along top of my lungs, and I probably always will. Up next is “Stone In Love”, with a guitar riff that sounds like it was born in the mountain country, and a chorus that begs to be sung over and over. They still do it live, and it still rocks!
The addition of Jonathan Cain on keyboards, guitar, and songwriting pays off in dividends on “Who’s Crying Now” featuring his piano that segues into Ross Valory’s bass riff and Steve Perry’s emotional delivery, and culminates in one of the simplest guitar solos that manages to rip your heart out when you hear it for the first time, and each time thereafter. From that we tear into “Keep On Runnin’ “, anchored by Steve Smith’s rapid beat and more from Schon’s arsenal of fierce riffs and solos. Perry’s high wails towards the end always have me reaching for the volume knob, to CRANK THAT SHIT UP!!
Everyone gets a chance to catch their breaths with side one closer “Still They Ride”, showing yet another vocal powerhouse performance from Steve Perry over an aching story song about Jesse in his car cruising down Main St and changing times. Title track “Escape”, a song about a young man looking to make his way in the world is another rocker, and a perfect opener for side two. It undergoes the slightest of changes at the two minute mark, as that young man is now out on his own, and finds it’s not as easy as he thought.
“Lay It Down” much like “Escape” and “Stone In love” is another anthem for the youth, and also has Schon’s ballsiest solo on the record, as well as some more vocal gymnastics from Perry. “Dead Or Alive” hearkens back to Craig Rollie-era Journey and is a rollicking guitar and piano-driven song that wouldn’t be out of place on the trilogy of albums from ’78-’80. “Mother, Father” showcases more of the layered harmonies originally brought about by producer Roy Thomas Baker. It’s pretty dark on the verses, but the choruses sound so uplifting you almost forget that this is about a broken family.
One of the greatest love songs ever written serves as a beautiful way to finish an amazing record. “Open Arms” is the soundtrack to many a first date, first kiss, and much more for so many people. In fact, all of Escape is. It is an album of memories, of those special moments that we all take with us wherever we go in this world. It is a reminder of a simpler time in life. It is a reminder of people we love, past and present. It is a reminder of those we lost along the way, yet carry deep within our hearts. It is backyard barbecues, baseball games, dancing on the bar with friends, and holding someone tight. It is all of these things, and so much more. It is our Journey, and no one can take that away from us.
For my dear friend, Anne…Your Dad will always be with you. ~dc