Album of the Day-April 26
In the past 20 years, Journey has achieved an almost deity-like status in music.
Whether it’s justified or not is a different discussion. That said, they are one of the few bands still touring that achieved their success through old school mettle.
The band's beginning is almost as storied as its folklore. Founding members keyboardist/vocalist Greg Rolie and teen guitar wizard Neil Schon (that’s Shon with the HUGE afro in the film Woodstock…he was 15). The two splintered from Santana in 1973. Before becoming the pop/rock watermark of the ’80s, Journey was conceived as a prog-rock band.
They stumbled along in that manner for a few years and only found the on-ramp to the rock and roll highway when they recruited vocalist Steve Perry in 1977.
Dropping producer Roy Thomas Baker who produced Departure’s precursor Infinity — an album that saw Baker employ the same recording techniques that he did with Queen. While Infinity yielded success, it came at the cost of an edgier sound the band desired.
Journey retreated to their native San Francisco and holed up in famed studio The Automat to record Departure. Recording “mostly live” Departure captures the band at the precipice of what would become their signature sound — brilliant musicianship by drummer Steve Smith, bass player Ross Valory, Rolie, Schon, and the signature soaring vocals of Steve Perry.
The album gave the band a top ten album and they landed two hit singles with “Any Way You Want It” and “Walks Like A Lady”. However, those are far from the best songs on the album and the depth of texture on this record wouldn’t be found ever again.
The seamless flow of “Someday Soon”, “People, Places, Things” and “Precious Time” is a hattrick of music convergence — it’s the best of prog-rock, pop, and straight-up rock and roll. All three genres which highlighted the best of what the members of the band had to offer.
To be honest, there isn’t a bad song on the album. Side Two explodes with “Where Were You” before settling into a groove that is akin to that moment in sky-diving when you’ve pulled the ripcord and are descending towards the ground.
Journey had huge hits after this album but they were never this good again. Coincidentally, it’s also the last studio album that they recorded with founding memmber, keyboardist Greg Rolie.
After Greg Rolie hand-picked his replacement — Jonathan Cain. It was then that Journey went on to massive success through the 1980s. Sadly, that success also saw the band employ a revolving door of band members and singers that continues to this day.
After Departure, there was the live album Captured (their last album with Rolie), then Escape and finally Raised on Radio in 1986 before retreating into the shadows until 1996.
Then began the Page Six drama that’s too well-documented already, and too dumb, to consider any further.
But it’s here, on Departure, that Journey found their commercial voice. It’s also on this album that you’ll hear the band coalesce behind the best of what each member brought to the band, which is what makes Departure the best album in their cannon.