American band Journey is celebrating their 50th anniversary. The band is largely known as an AOR rock band with a huge string of hits, including a number of ballads throughout the ’80s, hits and albums that featured the vocals of Steve Perry. The band has carried on since those days with a few changes in personnel, most notably the loss of Perry years ago. The band currently revolves around founding member & guitarist Neil Schon and keyboardist Jonathan Cain – both of whom happen to be publicly feuding. What many who’ve followed the band since the ’80s, and who are content to hear the band’s hits from Escape and Frontiers is that the band had a life in the ’70s – well before Jonathan Cain and even before Steve Perry. The band’s most famous frontman joined in October of 1977, in time for the band’s fourth album, and Jonathan Cain joined in 1980, prior to the band’s massively successful Escape album. Journey originally included Neal Schon (ex Santana, Azteca w/ Larry Graham) and Gregg Rolie (keyboards, lead vocals, ex Santana), Ross Valory (bass, ex Frumious Bandersnatch, Steve Miller Band), Prairie Prince (drums, soon to be replaced by) the legendary Aynsley Dunbar from Britain (ex of The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation, John Mayall, Frank Zappa, David Bowie), and George Tickner (guitar, ex Jerry Garcia band, Frumious Bandersnatch). Tickner was rhythm guitarist in the beginning, but left after the band’s first album and Dunbar left after the band’s fourth album. Early on the band made a name for themselves as a big concert draw in the San Francisco area, prior to signing with Columbia in 1974, as well as their previous connections. Although the band didn’t have a lot of commercial success in the early years with their more progressive-fusion hard rock, they did turn out a trio of fine albums, the debut being one of my favorite Journey albums. When Steve Perry joined Journey, the band had 2 lead vocalists, tho’ Perry was the frontman and sang more, Gregg Rolie could still add a different voice on record and on stage, and his Hammond organ playing was excellent on those ’70s albums.
I’ve compiled a list of classic Journey songs from that first decade with Gregg Rolie, and many with Aynsley Dunbar who deserves a lot of credit on those early albums.
Of A Lifetime
The first song on the band’s debut album, “Of A Lifetime” was written by Schon, Rolie, and Tickner. It features a memorable riff played throughout and leaves plenty of room for the band just to jam away on this heavier progressive heavy number, clocking in at nearly 7 minutes. Not sure if this one ever got much radio play, but I’m sure it was in the band’s live show for a number of years. Probably my favorite Journey song of the decade.
Journey’s first album also included a few lengthier instrumental cuts, such as “Kohoutek”, and this one on side 2. Written by George Tickner, this is just a fantastic trip of a song, with highs and lows, love the guitar throughout, as well as the different keyboards adding to the atmosphere here. I’ve read press articles that label Journey back then as a ‘jazz rock’ and even ‘latin-rock’ band; these guys were pretty out there. Classic late-night ’70s guitar driven prog rock.
Look Into The Future
The epic title track to the band’s 2nd album. Look Into The Future (the album) was more of a straight ahead hard rock album, but it did have some really good songs on it. This song offered a bit more, I think. I presume a great live number during the era. Cool cover art. Look Into The Future also included a cover of George Harrison’s “It’s All Too Much”.
I’m Gonna Leave You
Clocking in at 7 minutes, co-written by Rolie, Schon and George Tickner (who was no longer in the band). This is probably the heaviest track on Look Into The Future. A classic ’70s heavy progressive cut, full of heavy guitars, and Hammond organ, like these guys could’ve been mistaken for a British band. A fine album closer.
Kind of an interesting song for an album opener. Co-written by Rolie and Aynsley Dunbar, this one opens featuring piano, not exactly a hard rocker, nor a ballad, but what a great track. i presume this one is about skydiving or handgliding – Don’t be so wise, I was born to fly, Not without a place in the wind, Walked off a cliff, then I closed my eyes, Oh, I’m not a spaceman, no, no Oh, I’m not a spaceman. This one was a single, a shame it wasn’t a hit. The piano and melody are a hint of what was to come.
Nickle And Dime
The lone instrumental piece from the Next album. Credited to Valory, Schon, Rolie, and George Tickner! An excellent track, a bit of jazz, progressive, and rockin’…. a definitely reminds one of Rush’s epic “Xanadu” in a few parts- which followed 6 months later. “Nickel And Dime” was the B-side to “Spaceman”. Songs from those first 3 Journey albums would make up the 2 LP compilation In The Beginning, released in 1979.
The first track to feature Robert Fleischman as a co-writer, and the only released Journey song with his lead vocals (on the Time 3 compilation). I’ve included it as it shows a more commercial approach, plus it’s a good song, and Fleischman had a good rock voice and range. The singer would re-record this song (“All For You”) for his 1979 solo album Perfect Stranger.
Wheel In The Sky
Following the band’s third album the band’s record label wanted Journey to get a frontman, and start turning out some hits. The band’s first choice was Robert Fleishman. For various reasons Fleishman only lasted a few months as the band brought in Steve Perry. But, Fleishman did co-write and demo a number of songs with the band, a few of which ended up on 1977’s Infinity– the first with Steve Perry. “Wheel In The Sky” would be the band’s first big hit, co-written with Diane Valory and Neal Schon.
Feeling That Way / Anytime
I’ve put these 2 together, because of the way they run together – one ending with a vocal and the other quickly beginning the same. They are usually played together on the radio (especially FM), and in the live show (see the Captured live set). “Feeling That Way” starts out with piano (ala Elton John) and Gregg Rolie’s vocals before Steve Perry and the band come in. Infinity featured 3 hit singles with “Anytime” (co-written by the band (w/ Fleischman) being one of them. Both songs featuring both singers, great guitar solos, the band’s harmonies… Journey never got much better than this! The last album to feature Aynsley Dunbar.
Just The Same Way
Another classic featuring Gregg Rolie singing lead, and Steve Perry singing back up. This one from 1979’s Evolution album. Co-written by Rolie, Schon and Ross Valory). A pretty short tune, but another excellent example of how good this line-up was. Evolution was the first to feature drummer Steve Smith. It also featured the hit “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin'”, which reminds me of Uriah Heep’s “Your Turn To Remember” from 1975.
Anyway You Want It
A great start to a hard rockin’ album, co-written by Steve Perry & Neal Schon (like most songs here). I hear this song and I can’t help but think of Rodney Dangerfield in Caddyshack! This album is Perry’s best with the band , IMO. He co-wrote every song; sang all but one, and Departure featured less ballads than the previous 2 records, and would be the first to include Kevin Elson as producer. Elson would continue with the band during their most successful period in the ’80s.
One of 2 tracks that Gregg Rolie co-wrote on Departure, and the last one he sang lead on. An excellent song. Too bad it wasn’t released as a single!
I was going to stop at 12, but listening to this one, I had to include it. The other co-write from Perry & Rolie on Departure. A ballad, but heavy with Schon’s guitar playing, organ, and Perry’s best lead vocal here. A few other good rockers here with “Where Were You” and “Line Of Fire” (which both featured in the live show, see Captured).
Later in 1980 Journey would record & release Dream, After Dream, a soundtrack album to a Japanese film titled Yume, Yume No Ato. This was more about instrumentals to suit the movie, with less proper rock-vocal songs. No singles, and I’m not really a fan of this one. It also featured a number of Japanese musicians guesting. In early 1981 the band released Captured – a double live album from the Departure tour. This marked the end for Gregg Rolie, and the end of an era. The keyboardist/singer went on to record a number of solo albums, most recently Sonic Ranch from 2019, as well as a pair of albums in the ’90s with The Storm. Robert Fleischman would go on to record with the bands Channel and The Vinnie Vincent Invasion in the ’80s, and later record solo albums. Aynsley Dunbar would go on to join Jefferson Starship, and record with numerous artists including Bowie, Ronnie Montrose, Pat Travers and UFO . George Tickner left the band to go to medical school, but stayed active in music, and recorded an album with VTR in 2005 (along with Ross Valory).