Wim S. : Thirty years ago (oh my god, I am getting really old) my musical world seemed to collapse. Why? Because Steve Perry decided to leave Journey. Steve Perry? Yes, Steve Perry. In the Netherlands only known to a handful of enthusiasts and connoisseurs but in America a greatness. It's no coincidence that in 1985 Perry was the only rocker standing between people like Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder and Bruce Springsteen to sing along with the hypocritical 'We Are The World'. Perry could do things with his voice that remain impossible for other singers. And of course Journey was the ultimate wet dream for anyone who loved AOR music. The band filled stadiums in a time when it was not really usual to do that. And it especially was the combination Neal Schon (guitar, ex-Santana) and Steve Perry who was responsible for that. They wrote classic AOR songs like 'Open Arms' and 'Don’t Stop Believin' to name just two.
But besides the fact that they wrote timeless songs, there was also a lot of dissatisfaction, especially with Perry. And in February 1987 he finally decided to leave the band and he stopped making music until 1994. Because in that year he released a second solo album - 'For The Love of Strange Medicine' -; an unrivaled melodic rock album. And after people like Steve Augeri and Jeff Scott Soto Journey were happy with the arrival of their new frontman Arnel Pineda, a boy who can sing wonderfully and even comes awfully close to the master himself. When Steve Perry and / or Journey were in the news, it was very often about a possible reunion, about performing together, etc. But Steve Perry turned out to be a stubborn man: he had no need for a reunion or a one-off performance with his former companions. Perry did not even do that when the band was inducted in the Rock Hall Of Fame in 2017: he spoke on behalf of the band but he did not go on stage with them.
Musically we did not hear anything from him anymore. Yes, he occasionally popped up in a sports stadium when 'Don’t Stop Believin' was played again but that was it. Until now.
Because months ago, the first reports went through that Perry was working on a new solo album. After years of hermit, he had decided to make music again. That turned out to be a promise he had made to Kellie Nash, a woman he met in 2011 during a meeting about cancer. Nash also suffered from this terrible disease, but that did not stop her from becoming the love of Steve Perry's life. And just before she died in 2012, she made him promise not to continue as a hermit and to make music again. The years that followed used Perry to process the loss of his great love, especially by writing new songs. He was assisted by old music friends like Randy Goodrum, Dan Wilson and David Campbell. He took the time, wrote down his feelings and now the album 'Traces' is released on the to me unknown Fantasy Records. And the album reached the American Billboard Top 10 in its first week. And is that justified?
Yes, it is.
Because even after a number of times listening to 'Traces' I have to say that it is a sublime melodic rock / pop album. And I don’t just say that because I had never thought of hearing a complete album with the voice of the great master ever again. No, I say that because 'Traces' is an unimaginable personal document. A document by a man who happens to be blessed with the voice. And of course you wonder how Perry's voice sounds in 2018. Is he an octave lower? Does he still have that typical hoarse Sam Cooke feel in his voice? Does he still have power when a song asks for it? Trust me, Steve Perry still has it all.
The album opens with the first single that was released in August, 'No Erasin'. The first words that you hear Perry sing are 'I know it's a long time comin' ... That is of course the nail on the head. For someone who wrote the song 'Don’t Stop Believing', Perry had 'stopped believing' years ago, but now he is back. The song is typically Steve Perry: melodic, unparalleled vocals with a catchy chorus. This also applies to the following 'We're Still Here', in which Perry's voice sounds deliciously hoarse and high. Of course we already knew that the songs of Steve Perry have a lot less to do with rock than the songs of Journey and that still is very much the case on 'Traces'. With (heavy) rock the album has nothing to do: it is relaxed pop album with a beautiful guitar solo every now and then. But otherwise it's all about the voice of Perry who can make a good song for every song. Best songs are 'Most Of All' (how great thes vocals are and what a beautiful Sam Cooke-like chorus), 'In The Rain' (technically speaking perhaps the highlight), the most personal song 'I Need You' and the concluding 'We Fly' in which we hardly hear instruments but in which Perry rises to the highest (vocal) level. God, how happy I am with this album. He is still there. And then some. Steve Perry. The Voice.