Thursday, June 26, 2014

Remembering the organic sound of Journey - 1978 King Biscuit Flower Hour

Every Journey junkie knows this pair of tunes - Feeling That Way and Anytime - classics produced by Roy Thomas Baker on Infinity (1978). When it was released, back in those AOR days, they were played back to back. One or both are usually played on set lists today.

What some may not know is that Journey did several songs from the album, including Feeling That Way and Anytime, on a live-in-studio, audience-free jam on the 1978 King Biscuit Flower Hour -- aka Super Jam II. It was recorded at Automatt Studio in San Francisco. The band collaborated with Tower of Power, the Doobie Brothers' Tom Johnston, and two members of the group Stoneground, Annie Sampson and Jo Baker.

This is a powerhouse show that proves Journey was capable of excelling in a diverse range of genres; the R&B roots are sorely missed today, IMHO.

A great write-up of the entire program is at ConcertVault. What makes this worth a listen is the genuinely organic sound of Journey back then -- unvarnished production, pure musicianship, stellar vocals and harmonies -- no pre-recorded backing vocals -- it's all live. It was edited and readied for broadcast, but due to legal issues it never aired. But today you can find all of the performances from the program on YouTube, which you can listen to here. It's amazing.

A snippet from the ConcertVault write up:
"Despite excellent results, legal entanglements prevented these remarkable SuperJam 2 sessions from being scheduled for broadcast, and with the exception of a cover of "Let the Good Times Roll," none have seen official release. Bootleg copies of the sessions did eventually surface, and they became treasured items among Journey collectors, often accompanied with rumors that the masters had been either lost or destroyed. Now, for the first time ever, the complete "Superjam 2" KBFH sessions are presented here in superb quality. 
...Bookended by two pairs of classic Journey songs when they were just breaking big and featuring various configurations, performing choice cover songs in between, these recordings represent a peak moment in San Francisco's musical history. These recordings also prove that Journey had not only become masters of commercially successful rock music, but was a group equally adept at many styles of music, including R&B and blues, with compelling examples of both included here. 
The sessions begin with a pair of classic rock songs from Journey's breakthrough Infinity album, "Feeling That Way" and "Anytime." The former is a prime example of what Steve Perry brought to the table, featuring a penetrating lead vocal that raises the superb instrumental work of this band to another level. The latter, which features Rolie singing lead, is a solid rocker that also presents Journey in a most positive light. Both of these numbers feature soaring lead guitar work from Schon, but it is keyboardist Rolie's piano work that saves all of the recordings presented here from sounding dated. Nothing more clearly dates late 1970s/early 1980s rock music more than the sound of synthesized keyboards and Rolie wisely avoids using them on these sessions. A talented and tasteful pianist, Rolie's instrumental contributions strongly contribute to the organic feel that make these sessions compelling even decades later."

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Tribute band Journey Revisited on the road, paying homage to the classic sound

Just a fun update on my favorite tribute band, Journey Revisited (see my earlier post). They may not have the posh budget or the gear of the mega-selling band they pay homage to, but fans turned out (this time about 6,000) at its gig in Redwood City, CA at the Music on the Square event to hear the classic sounds of the Perry era.

Journey Revisited's lead singer, Jeff Salado. Photo: Jim Branch.

Journey Revisited is (L-R): Kevin Jachetta - Keyboards/Vocals, Michael Gonzales - Bass Guitar/Vocals,  Jeff Salado - Lead Singer, Val Popovic - Guitar/Vocals, Dave Hawkes - Drums.

Sunday was the Monterey Beer Festival, Monterey, CA (below). More in the slideshow.

Photo courtesy of Journey Revisited fan group JR NATION member Tami Baloy.


Photo credit: Reese Entertainment where noted on Picasa.



On Twitter: (@JRNYrevisited)

On Facebook: | Listen to cuts on Facebook



Journey Revisited on the web:

Friday, June 13, 2014

Third time's the charm: Steve Perry hits the stage again in L.A.

What can you say? A pleasure to the ears once again. My first reaction:
Stephen Hazan Arnoff: @hazanarnoff - #StevePerry sings again...What's it all mean?

Me: Melting and weak knees here is what it means.
How it looked on Twitter...

The setlist:
It's a Motherf*cker
Only Sixteen (Sam Cooke cover)
Open Arms
Lovin', Touchin', Squeezing.

As I said on Facebook when the video surfaced: "Excuse me. Momentary break for weak knees and swooning. From Wednesday night in LA..."

Only Sixteen was jaw-droppingly good this time around. Steve Perry had so much more power and command of his reinvigorated gift -- his instrument -- it was all there. You could hear a pin drop at times in the Orpheum theatre. Perry's trademark vibrato and judicious use of melisma -- the whoa-oh-whoa-whoas that send chills up and down your spine -- resonated throughout the room. I confess, I was tearing up as I heard it. Joyful tears at missing that tone, that presentation. He's back; the rusty pipes are clearing up at lightning speed and he now has the self-confidence to let us see him getting back up to speed. That in itself is a victory. So many of us don't mind watching him bloom again, we've all waited for so long.

And after some touching and amusing storytelling, he launched into Lights and Lovin' Touchin, Squeezing...downtuned a couple of keys, but who cares. Swoon again...

For fantastic photos of the event, check out Leslie Kalohi's Flickr Photostream. 

He seems ready to come out of that shell...officially. He told The Hollywood Reporter, in a piece ("Journey's Steve Perry Joins Eels Onstage at Orpheum: 'The 20-Year Hermit Thing is Overrated'"):

Dancing like a man at least 20 years younger than his 65 years, Perry rocked out on "Lights (When the Lights Go Down in the City)," nimbly leaping over the microphone cords perilously snaked around the stage, turning his back on the audience to groove with Eels drummer Knuckles (Derek Brown), then facing the audience to hit the high trills flawlessly, yet with a new rasp in his voice sounding just a bit like E himself.

"The 'cit-ee' is L.A.!" shouted E.

"Here's another," said Perry. "I was 18, working as an assistant engineer in a music studio... I'm out of breath! I guess I haven't done this enough lately to get in shape.

..."It's been so goddamn long," said Perry to the audience. "I gotta thank the Eels for inviting me out here -- the best band that any singer could want. I met E because of a friend of mine, Patty [Jenkins, director of Monster]. She burnt me a CD of Daisies of the Galaxy, and I told Patty, 'Someday I want to sing that song.'" Then Perry and Eels performed the Eels tune, "It's a Motherf---er."

..."Listen, I've done the 20-year hermit thing, and it's overrated," said Perry. "Why now? It's a long story, but it has to do with a lot of changes in my life, including losing my girlfriend a year ago, and her wish to hear me sing again." 

As I shared with my friend Jeff Salado, lead singer of the fantastic tribute band Journey Revisited, I can be tough as nails in other areas, but I'll easily cop to being weak-in-the-knees, schoolgirl crushing on this stuff (it's why my political blog readers often made light of my Journey obsession).

But I wasn't the only one crushing on The Voice. Former Journey lead singer Jeff Scott Soto hit the nail on the head in a Facebook post (and he faved my Tweet when I pointed folks to it):
Ok, I’ve sat back and watch the cheers (and jeers), the big hype, the fatuous rumors and lastly, the criticisms of what once was and/or isn’t anymore so now I’ll chime in…as I do! 
Being a member of the legendary Journey for all of 11 months, I have my own thoughts about how I feel about this monumentally influential band today…but how I still feel about the phenomenon that is Steve Perry!

Mr Perry has resurfaced recently performing with The Eels, and I will admit, regardless of all the hoopla made out there, I personally just enjoyed hearing THAT voice again…in any capacity!

The words ‘aged, husky, raspy’, even ‘too rested’ have been thrown out there but to me personally, that ‘tone’ is still there, the one and only thumb, or rather, voiceprint, still exists and I couldn’t be more excited to hear it again!

A few weeks after the 1st earshot of Steve’s voice rang out, quite possibly a reality check in that YouTube is the end all be all in one’s humble beginnings or belated comebacks, and he’s seemed to spring back even more into his ol’ form. Sure, the Journey tunes he’s doing are a key or 2 lower give or take, but JESUS CHRIST, that tone, it’s there, it’s STEVE F-ING PERRY! If you don't believe me, here's what I am talking about from LA, I believe just last night.

So as I shake off the cobwebs of my own memories with this band that ended 7 years ago, I revel in the (hopeful) return of this monolith who was one of the reasons I could see R&B & Rock be plausible, the man who influenced me in so many ways and now after a 20 year absence, continues to do so…thank you Steve Perry!

UPDATE: Martha Quinn (@marthaquinn) agrees with my weak-kneed review!

UPDATE 2: Former Journey frontman Steve Augeri beautifully weighs in (in an oh-so-NY way, lol):
Today I experienced what I or any singer or songwriter dreams of and aspires to but seldom achieves. That is to be moved to tears, tears... by a singer and his or her song. The singer, Steve Perry, and the song penned by The Eels, "It's a Mother Fucker".

I am / was apprehensive of writing and expressing myself because there will be those who will perceive this to be either a kissing of the "tuckus" or… a show of disrespect to the gentleman who so successfully and beautifully followed us both, Arnel. They are neither, but a tribute to, and an acknowledgement of, an achievement that so many thought no longer obtainable.
This should be a lesson and an inspiration to us all. It certainly is to me.

Welcome home Mr. Perry.

Steve Augeri

And there was more...after the jump.

Monday, June 9, 2014

There's nothing like an ace tribute band - check out Journey Revisited

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery - more so if it puts money in the pocket of the original band, no?

In my humble opinion, for classic melodic rock bands like Journey, these tribute bands probably boost sales of back catalog -- they draw new fans into the fold that enjoy the classic sound and experience that they provide.

After all, Journey, always a darling with fans, but not critics, can't hit every city. So tribute bands fill the gap; and most are regional. If you Google "Journey tribute bands" there's a ton out there to see, some great, some good, and, well, some also-rans. Most cover the Steve Perry era (1978-1996), as it's the most in demand. There is a lot of talent out there giving a lot of Journey fans hungry for the classics (and some of those deep cuts too!) pleasure.

You'll recall that Journey founder Neal Schon famously surfed YouTube for a new lead singer, looking at vocalists in tribute and cover bands, before settling on Arnel Pineda, who was fronting Zoo in 2007 (the band initially tapped Jeremey Hunsicker of the Journey cover band Frontiers; Hunsicker actually wrote songs that ended up on Revelation).

I happened to be on one of the fan forums that I am a member of -- "THE" JOURNEY JUNKIES- JJ's -- and moderator Viv Henry posted a link to a video by JourneyRevisited:

Journey Revisited is based in Modesto, California.
Vocalist Jeff Salado must take good care of his pipes to maintain the power, range, and tone that he has; he's the best out of the tributes out on YouTube that I've heard so far at handling the Perry upper range from the early-era tunes. And truth be told, Journey proper doesn't include some of those classics on its setlists these days, so it's good to hear "When You're Alone (It Ain't Easy)" done so well by JR - Jeff's vocals are rocking.  And the band is really tight musically with great fidelity to the Journey sound - and they don't use backing tracks, all of it so on-point, really organic and authentic.

So I popped on my headphones and over the weekend went over to watch more of JR's videos at I am thoroughly digging their sound.

Journey Revisited is (L-R): Michael Gonzales - Bass Guitar/Vocals,  Dave Hawkes - Drums, Jeff Salado - Lead Singer,  Kevin Jachetta - Keyboards/Vocals, Val Popovic - Guitar/Vocals.

"Too Late" (from Evolution) is such a beast to sing and the band nailed it beautifully as well. But I was blown away by his rendition of a non-Journey song -- "Unchained Melody" -- that classic requires so much control in delivery, and he not only did that with ease (looked effortless), Jeff's emotive delivery was also gorgeous.

Too Late

One of the things you have to remember about most tribute bands is that they are not just working musicians and vocalists; they do what they do because they are just as much die-hard fans of the particular group's sound that they re-create as the audiences they play to. I had the chance to briefly chat up Jeff (nice that he's so accessible!); and we had a great conversation about music, and about Steve Perry's recent return to the stage to perform live. We were both moved by the appearances -- as much as any starstruck fan of Mr. Perry, whose gifts have been sorely missed.

Just the Same Way

Part of that reminiscing involved discussing the authenticity of delivering a performance with feeling -- one of SP's gifts -- something those with the common bond of love for a band's sound and experience long for. And that is what good tribute bands deliver for people seeking that bonding experience with the music. It's something Journey and other bands being paid tribute to should be more in sympatico with -- more fans in love with the music will buy classics. And new music, should these bands put it out.

It's too bad I don't get to the West Coast much at all (I'm in NC, and rheumatoid arthritis makes traveling a bear); I would love to check this band out live; I'm glad there are Journey Revisited fans out there capturing vid and pics. I'd be right there doing it too and rocking out!

Check the band out on...
Related posts of mine:

Friday, June 6, 2014

#Throwback Thursday makes me hop into the DeLorean and think about life's wear and tear

For this week's #ThrowbackThursday I posted a photo on Facebook from my 1981 graduation from Stuyvesant High School in NYC. (More pics and stuff about my days there here.)
#ThrowbackThursday #TBT: NYC. Carnegie Hall, 1981. Stuyvesant HS graduation day. Contact lenses and big, blown-out hair (in the midst of reverting in the humidity). A grand time was had by all!
It was apparently a popular post, lol -- over 120 "likes" -- probably for the big hair. Of course it made me think about all those years of life that have transpired -- the wear-and-tear, the rheumatoid arthritis and various auto-immune diseases that the 1981 Pam had no clue about, of course, and the usual bits of business of aging -- bifocals, more lines, graying hair (less of it too).

So after barely surviving a horrendously hard week -- the hardest week in recent memory re: working and RA -- but it is what it is (until the plug is finally pulled). I've had to sleep in wraps on both hands all week (and elbow sleeves a few nights as well).

Today I came home and took some pics of myself -- and no tan or makeup to be found from 1981's iteration of me. I don't know why. Just because. Maybe it's to prove that while I feel like a shell of myself that I'm still here.

Maybe I'm fighting a bit harder to hang on day-to-day -- my hands and wrists were in such bad shape that I had trouble using pop-top lids without pain this week.

Then and now:

Why can't my portrait in the attic take all of the pain too? :)

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Steve Perry and the Eels - it's not "one night only" as fans see him again in DC (updated)

It happened again at the Lincoln Theatre, in Washington, DC.

He delivered:
It's a Motherf*cker
Only Sixteen (a Sam Cooke cover)
Open Arms
Lovin', Touchin', Squeezing.


He told short stories in between songs, including a heartfelt mention of 'the love of his life" whose passing made him rekindle his love for The Eels' "It's a Motherf*cker."

The storytelling/singing is exactly the kind of tour I talked about in my essay after his first appearance. Limited shows, smaller venues, no stadiums, giving him freedom to be relaxed and enjoy himself. So glad he's also not discouraging of all the viral video (the selfie vid is hilarious and wonderful!). It's a real gift to fans not present at these surprise events.
"I would be perfectly happy to see Steve Perry do a couple of "Evenings With" concerts, filmed with an audience (bucket list item - to be there!) in Storytellers style. He doesn't even have to sing any Journey tunes. He's apparently got plenty of original material written and in demo form. It would be fantastic for him to do some R&B, blues stuff - the one genre he excels at that the current iteration of Journey unfortunately steers clear of in favor of the Dirty Dozen + a couple of deeper cuts."
I was blown away by the difference between the Minneapolis appearance and this one! The difference in confidence level surely represents the public response to the first. He reached back and just cut completely loose here, and he relaxed. His vocal cords came alive. And despite the bad hip, he was busting a few classic moves, as well. :)

As Ross Muir wrote in his analysis of Mr. Perry's voice, "One in a Million," he's a freak of nature. To be out of performing circulation for 20 years and to be able to bring back a much-improved performance over just a few days (his range and vibrato were in better, exhilarating form this go-round) was pretty awesome. He can't turn the clock back to 1978 and tour -- with his 2014 voice, but this was enough to make you shed a tear and want to hear his pace, and on his terms.

This format suits him, a small, organic musical environment, not amped up with rock tour dressing, drowning him out in some reunion of "glory days." People, er, "fans," out on the Internet began screeching at one another over whether SP's re-emergence as a sign that he must Journey (been there, done that) or that he sucks completely. These are exactly the kind of people Perry needs to ignore.

I'm also glad he's also not discouraging of all the viral video (the selfie vid is hilarious and wonderful!). It's a real gift to fans not present at these surprise events. It says it all about his healthy mindset:

I think he's probably still somewhat on the same page as he was in a 2012 interview since when people say "touring" they immediately think of him going on the road w/Journey doing like the old days. Not. Going. To. Happen. I think these recent appearances suggest he's warming up US to the idea that limited scope appearances and tours are something he'd entertain. No pressures to do 100 dates, etc.

The lesson: Just enjoy life. It's too short.

UPDATE: 6/2: Mr. Perry spoke about his appearances as just "for fun" (as it should be), and gave his insight on his voice now vs. then -- a nice reality check for fans thinking he can recreate the past.

He says of his moment in the spotlight: "When E announced me I thought I’d take the piss and hang back a while. But finally I’m out there; the audience saw me, and I hadn’t experienced that kind of emotion in quite a while. It was beyond exhilarating. 
"I was so grateful that they were so loving and happy to see me. I was just as happy to see them. I had forgotten how much I’d missed it.” 
Asked if he was happy with his performance, he replies: "Well, I hadn’t sung in 20 years – I sounded more like Otis Redding than I did in Journey; and I love Otis, so that’s not a bad thing. But after twenty years, wherever you hit that golf ball is where it lands. I just wanted to go out there and hit the ball. I was pretty pleased with what I pulled off. 
"I’m not the person I was thirty years ago; that person is gone."

Review: Journey at Raleigh, NC - Walnut Creek Amphitheatre - 05.29.2014

With my virtual Bic during "Lights."
First off, I wasn't sure that I was going to make this concert of my fave band because 1) I'm never sure how my rheumatoid arthritis will act up - nights out are a rarity for me these days, particularly a weeknight, and 2) I wasn't sure that I could snare decent tickets close to the stage, since I love to take pics and video.

But I'm a long-time fan of all eras of the band, so I wasn't going to let my chronic pain stop me. I was able to take the earlier part of the day to get some rest, load up on liniments and put on my knee braces, elbow sleeves, and wraps on my hands and thumbs and headed off with Kate to the Walnut Creek Amphitheatre to see Journey, with openers Tower of Power and The Steve Miller Band (both put on fantastic, energetic sets). A snippet of TOP:

Short clip of "What is Hip" by Tower of Power (@pow... on Twitpic

Re: the tickets, since the date was on a Thursday night, I actually snared great seats at face value on Sunday. I was in Section 1 (Neal's side of the stage, 3 rows back).


The Review

Journey's set list at the Raleigh, NC stop didn't deviate from any of the other 2014 dates -- the Dirty Dozen (most hits people know), plus two tracks from 2011's Eclipse:

Be Good to Yourself
Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)
Any Way You Want It
Only the Young
The Star-Spangled Banner
(John Stafford Smith cover) (Neal Schon)
Stone in Love
Mother, Father
(Deen Castronovo on lead vocals)
She's a Mystery
Piano Solo - (Jonathan Cain)
(Medley of Patiently, When You Love A Woman, Why Can't This Night Go On Forever, several other hits)
Open Arms
La Do Da
Guitar Solo
Wheel in the Sky
Don't Stop Believin'
Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'

As I said in an earlier essay (A Journey fan's dream deep cuts setlist -- that means no DSB, peeps), I'd rather see the band do an "evening with" smaller tour where they change it up, marketed for the hardcore fans and cover ground in the vast Journey catalog of fantastic lesser-known hits and great "unknown" compositions.

But this tour is about the casual fans of the Greatest Hits, and so we have the above setlist; the house and lawn were packed, and enthusiastically singing along and cheering the band. I was particularly interested in how they would render the Eclipse songs - Ritual and She's a Mystery -- and how the crowd would respond. Those are the two songs that I recorded in full.

The good:
1) Tremendous energy this time around from all of the band members on stage (Arnel Pineda, vocals; Neal Schon on lead guitar; Jonathan Cain on keys, rhythm guitar, Ross Valory on bass, and Deen Castronovo on drums). When I saw them in 2012 in Greensboro toward the end of that leg of the U.S. tour, aside from Arnel and Deen, the others seemed quite tired and low-energy.

On Thursday they really revved up the audience.

2) Stagecraft and visuals -- multiple screens with interesting live shots of the band during songs (and fan-submitted photos during "Faithfully), alternating with other eye-catching images.

3) Arnel and Neal know how to work the crowd: Good interaction along with the energy is a huge plus that I have always enjoyed.

The could-be-better:
1) Sound: Tower of Power and the Steve Miller Band were bell-clear, and sonically right on point from where we sat. However, the moment Journey came on, people in my section were visibly in shock at the contrast -- a lot of distortion, with guitar too up-front, and even brief mic drop-off on several songs, not only Arnel, but notably Jonathan Cain during Anytime. The distortion on Separate Ways and the Star Spangled Banner in particular was almost painful. Mother Father seemed a bit better on this front. It's such a shame, really, and clearly it wasn't Walnut Creek's system at fault here. Hopefully this was an isolated issue; it remains to be seen if anyone else reports issues on the tour.

Of course, I can only speak for what it sounded like in my section; folks elsewhere or on the lawn may not have experienced what I did.

However, I managed to enjoy the show regardless, since I got great pics and vid. You can see my album here. (All photos and video captured with a point-and-shoot Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS10 with 21x zoom)


She's a Mystery (had a camera glitch and missed a couple of seconds around :37):

This is a song with a non-traditional structure, it starts out straight mid-tempo ballad with simple guitar lead; people didn't quite know what to make of it in my section as it followed the pulsing "Mother Father" by Deeno. Most people stayed to listen and take it in, though. It appeared they thought the song was over when it transitioned abruptly to its scorching, amped-up rocker tempo; that indicated they didn't know the song, which is a shame; Eclipse is a great album, and a good showcase for Arnel's original voice and contributions to the band as it exists now.


This great little rocker went over well; had the audience curious. Arnel and the band definitely looked jazzed doing something other than the Dirty Dozen.


The other "experience" at the concert

An aside about the concert experience as someone now experiencing increasing physical disability; I was completely spent and hurting after the Journey concert, but it was a rare night out that provided a couple of hours of time to get back to something that I enjoyed immensely -- taking pix and vids while enjoying my fave band. I've had to permanently give up so much to this disease, from my political blog, my weekends and evenings since the job saps what energy I have left, the ability to travel unassisted, etc. It's unrelenting.

The fantasy getaway of those few hours of fun at Walnut Creek came crashing down when that woman nearly pushed me down on the ground for "walking too slow" on the way out and that "it's not hard to just walk" (did she not see my knees braces or that I was limping/dragging my left leg?!), affected me profoundly. I just buried myself in editing the pix and vid since it was hard to sleep.

The fact is that this woman that nearly pushed me to the ground just moved on, unaware that she said or did anything hurtful or ignorant. She was simply blissfully unaware of all that could befall her one day in terms of infirmity. To some extent we all are blinded, since thinking about losing physical abilities is why we often avoid those challenged with disabilities (or, rather, render them invisible). I was just humiliated by this woman, who didn't want to or care to understand the obvious, since I was inconveniencing her. I get that elsewhere nowadays, limping on a crosswalk and stopped drivers impatient and gunning their engines to continue as if I'm purposefully robbing them of a few extra seconds of precious forward momentum. I can only imagine what the more severely challenged deal with from the general public.

Food for thought.