In Defense of Journey’s Raised on Radio

Clearly, there are millions of Journey fans out there who have supported the band through both line-up changes and musical style changes. In the late ‘70s, with the addition of Steve Perry on vocals, Journey began an incredible run of top selling albums. Many critics have panned the band for being “corporate rock” and, therefore unworthy of critical acclaim. Based on album sales, the fans do not care about the critics’ opinions. Journey has sold over 75 million albums, and many fans continue to follow the band. Now, let’s consider the Steve Perry era. He was lead vocalist on these albums: Infinity, Evolution, Departure, Escape, Frontiers, Raised on Radio, and Trial by Fire. Note the sixth album with Perry. Although it peaked at #4 on Billboard album chart in 1986 and had four Top 40 singles, Raised on Radio has long been viewed as Journey’s worst and least popular album among fans. I disagree.

All of those who take the time to read this or any article, website, or book about musical acts of the ‘70s and ‘80s have something very important in common – they love music. There has been a band, an album, a video, or a song that has had an enormous impact on their personal lives. This is why we listen to music and idolize the artists. All Journey fans have even more in common. They all love the screaming sound of Neal Schon’s guitar, the sometimes soft – sometimes aggressive sound of Jonathan Cain’s keyboards, and, of course, the vocals of one of the most famous rock voices ever, Steve Perry. All Journey fans would benefit from continued discussion and open sharing of the music that has become legendary and touches several generations of rock fans.

Despite the personnel changes and the hard feelings developing within the band, Raised on Radio is deserving of more attention and credit. I am by no means saying that Raised on Radio is Journey’s best album – it is not even my favorite, but it a worthy effort. Many Journey fans dislike this album because it seems to mark an end to the best Journey lineup. It does not matter who you believe is at fault, the fact remains that for this album the band has been trimmed down to a trio (Perry, Cain, and Schon). Bass player Ross Valory and drummer Steve Smith were cast aside, but would later rejoin the band (Valory still plays the bass with them). I cannot disagree with those who do not like the addition of Randy Jackson on bass; I, too, want the entire lineup intact. I also agree that the stories of the band’s internal strife are sad and clearly lead to the ten year hiatus and subsequent leaving of Steve Perry. All of these reasons are not enough to dismiss this album as unworthy.

The first major reason to revisit Raised on Radio is the overall talent of this band. Steve Perry sings lead vocals on all of the tracks – that alone is enough to find plenty of good moments on this album. Perry has one of the best rock voices throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s – any song with Perry’s vocal talents is already better than most songs. Consider how the music world now sits and waits for any crumb of information that hints at a Perry return to the recording studio. In addition to these excellent vocals, Jonathan Cain is still a major contributor as the keyboardist and as a songwriter. I am not sure just how many bad songs Cain has worked on, but it is not many. Raised on Radio displays both his excellent lyrics and melodic keyboard playing that serves equally well as the centerpiece to a song or a supporting sound. Finally, guitarist Neal Schon cannot, and should never, be ignored. True, Raised on Radio does not contain many of the typical Schon rockers, but his playing is as exquisite as ever. There is no reason to panic, there are several Journey rockers like Be Good To Yourself and the title track Raised on Radio. Just absorb Schon’s solo on I’ll Be Alright Without You and tell me your breath is not taken away- subtle and gorgeous.

Not only is excellent talent on display on Raised on Radio, but lyrically, this is one of Journey’s stronger efforts. Granted, Journey have always been pretty decent when it comes to lyrics, but can never be considered great. Raised on Radio contains more mature songwriting that reflects the older perspective of a band who has experienced and learned about the pitfalls we all tend to encounter. I am not going to dig into each track (even though I really want to), instead here are some highlights.

from Be Good to Yourself – “When you can’t give no more / They want it all but you gotta say no / I’m turning off the noise that makes me crazy / Looking back with no regrets / To forgive is to forget / I want a little peace of mind to turn to”

from Happy to Give – “I was born a believer, played the fool / Lonely dreamer, left to choose / I don’t know where the love is, there’s a promise undone / Someone’s crying in a room all alone / Shadows fall, after the hurt is gone / Through it all, we love and we lose”

from I’ll Be Alright Without You – “I’ve been thinking about the times you walked out on me / There were moments I believed you were there / Do I miss you, or am I lying to myself again?”

Nothing in here is going to be mistaken for Shakespeare, but the lyrics do resonate with any listener who takes the time to ‘feel’ them.

A final reason to return to Raised on Radio is that this album fits both the decade and Journey’s natural progression as a band. Unfortunately, this progression was the end of Journey for ten years and the eventual replacement of Steve Perry with Steve Augeri and, presently, Arnel Pineda. Raised on Radio displays a clear maturity of a band who has learned about and experienced the highest of highs and is, at the time of this recording, being face with the possible end of an amazing run of overwhelming success. Journey will be forever changed after this album and it is a bit heart wrenching to know that this is an ending, but it does fit their style and talent level.

I think we can all agree that Journey is an iconic band that has had an indelible impact on the landscape of American rock music. Many believe that they deserve a place in the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame (and I agree). To fully love a band, we need to consider and learn to appreciate the entire catalog, which yes, I admit to limiting to the Steve Perry era. All ‘70s and ‘80s music lovers recognize the importance and influence of Journey and the impact they had on radio, album/single sales, soundtracks, and, perhaps most importantly, the listeners. All Journey fans have one important characteristic in common: the love of solid, heartfelt American rock music.

Honestly, I have a hard time disliking any Journey songs. Line of Fire, Just the Same Way. Lights, Still They Ride, Separate Ways (Worlds Apart) – all magnificent songs that I never get tired of listening to. With all of these great songs and albums (live and studio) it is easy to ignore one that does not immediately catch you or that someone talked you out of liking. Raised on Radio is an album that demands to be revisited. If you have not listened to it for a while, then find a quiet place and clear your mind. Turn up the volume a bit and listen without prejudice or memory- and enjoy Journey’s Raised on Radio.

Live version of Raised on Radio courtesy of lhdsdrums:

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