Let’s face it, most fans would love nothing more than to see Steve Perry return to Journey. The band’s most famous lead vocalist, and a part of their most successful years, the last time anyone saw Perry share the stage with Journey was in the late ’90s. Unfortunately, he was faced with a difficult decision to cast away from his life in Journey, and a difficult decision it was, since Perry devoted all his energies to the band for over two decades. Speaking of which, two decades have passed since Perry’s departure from Journey, and in that time he has not put out any new music a part of any other band or as a solo artist. So what has Mr. Perry been up to?
Well, as mentioned, it nearly broke his heart to leave a band he helped build, so much so for years he found it difficult to listen to anything other than ambient music, without any vocals. Then suddenly, around 2015, news began to swirl that he was working on new music. Creating a buzz among dedicated followers, it has been relatively quiet since then, that was until most recently when Perry announced the long overdue release of his new solo album, Traces. His first new collection of songs since 1994’s For the Love of Strange Medicine, Traces comes with a huge amount of anticipation from fans as it prepares for release on Friday, October 5, 2018 via Fantasy Records.
Consisting of ten songs, Traces is best described as a very emotional album. Fitting for a vocalist known for his amazingly strong and passionate voice, you have to put into perspective, that this is not just a comeback for him, but a cathartic out-pour of feelings. Why? Because a long period of time has passed, and there is a lot of events which occur in one’s life in that time. For Perry, his inspiration for music returned following the tragic lose of his girlfriend to cancer in 2012.
The main lyricist for the album, Perry enlisted a strong collection of other composers to help bring the songs to life, including David Spreng, Brian West, Randy Goodrum, Dan Wilson, Thom Flowers, Barry Eastmond, and Jeff Babko. Additionally, some of the personnel who played on the album includes Rob Zombie’s axeman John 5 as well as famed, elite Rock drummers Josh Freese and Steve Ferrone, just to name a few. Why is this all important? Because the people an artist chooses to work with them behind the scenes means everything to the final product. That in mind, Perry’s roster does Traces’ vision justice.
Starting it all with the lead single “No Erasin’,” Perry immediately reminds you of the uniqueness of his voice, sounding exactly as he did 20 years earlier. A mid-tempo tune, it has a Classic Rock vibe, complete with crashing cymbals, guitar, and keyboards. From here, the tone of the songs remains very emotional, penetrating deep into your soul – from the sorrowful “Most of All” to “In The Rain,” to the bluesy “No More Cryin'” and the heavier Rock of “Sun Shines Gray,” which features John 5, as well as Josh Freese.
A highlight of the record, “Sun Shines Gray” shows Perry can still rock with the best of them, leaving a lasting impression that should find the song earning airplay on various platforms. This is while other tracks, such as “You Belong To Me” and “Easy To Love,” showcase a more mellow, smooth maturity that fans will fully indulge in. Catching you by surprise, Perry sneaks in a cover of The Beatles song “I Need You,” penned by the late George Harrison and boldly featured on 1965’s Help! Then Traces’ closer “We Fly” really takes things to the next level as it slowly builds on ambient instrumentation while Perry’s singing remains the main focus, reflecting on past love, painting a vivid, moving picture.
All in all, Traces is a near flawless return for Steve Perry. The songs are well-composed and presented with crisp production thanks to Perry and Thom Flowers working together. It is clear Perry was going for a certain feeling with the record, and from the sounds of it, it all came together wonderfully. Much of this record serves as a reflection of coping with the lose of someone you love deeply. Losing someone is a very powerful and intense experience, it changes everything. Unfortunately, the pain always stays with us, but through creative expression such as music, we can find some comfort. Hopefully Perry found his. An album that cuts close to the bone, and a welcomed return, CrypticRock gives Traces 5 out of 5 stars.