When you look at some of the best ‘greatest hits’ collections, it is hard to think about augmenting them by going back to the same well a second time. The Beatles 62-66 and 67-70 are complete enough that a second set would feel superfluous, the same is true with the Rolling Stones Hot Rocks, The Eagle’s Greatest Hits and so on.
Journey’s Greatest Hits is one of the top-selling collections of all time, posting more than 25 million albums sold through the years. Now we get Volume 2 of the greatest hits, encompassing basically the same years – which raises the basic question of whether there is enough material to make a whole new collection. Let’s take a look.
Summary: Very often when a Greatest Hits collection arrives there is much fuss raised about the inclusion or exclusion of certain songs – sometimes a new song is included to push interest in later work to the exclusion of a classic track, other times a band favorite pushes out a crowd pleaser. For me and the original Journey greatest hits, that song is … Stone in Love.
But there is much more to this collection than just filling in a single gap – there are 17 songs in the collection, and they do a great job of filling in somewhat of a ‘deeper dive’ into the music of Journey. It reminds me of the way iTunes has Essentials collections with ‘basics’, ‘next steps’, and ‘deep cuts’. This set is essentially the ‘next steps’ from iTunes in many ways. There is a two disk set called ‘The Essential Journey’, with 32 songs which is one less than the combined Volumes 1 & 2 – but the focus of that collection is different, and for me that makes all the difference.
But with Volume 2 of the greatest hits collection coming now, it allows a certain degree of perspective that might have been missing before. FOr one, it includes ALL of the years that Steve Perry fronted the band rather than just the first run of albums. It also allows a better look back at all of Journey’s albums so that the songs included here represent the ‘best of the rest’.
There is no attempt to simply balance things out so that the later albums get as many songs as the earlier ones. Because let us be clear – the stuff from 1978 – 1986 is really the height of Journey both commercially and creatively. That is a great thing, really – when I listen to the CD combined with the 1988 Greatest Hits I feel like I am getting a true representation of the best Journey had to offer.
We do get a couple of songs from the later years: we get the hit ‘Suzanne’ from 1986’s Raised on Radio and ‘When I Think Of You ‘from Trial By Fire. Suzanne is familiar – more to my wife than me – but really represents a time when the ‘Journey formula’ was wearing thin, and Steve Perry had done better with ‘Oh Sherrie’ from his solo recording. By ‘Trial By Fire’ it was still Journey, but they were clearly ‘done’.
So what do we get on the rest of the record? Let’s take a look:
- From 1978’s Infinity we get ‘Feeling That Way’, ‘Anytime’, and ‘Patiently’
- From 1979’s Evolution we get ‘Just the Same Way’
- From 1980’s Departure ‘Good Morning Girl’, ‘Stay Awhile’, and ‘Walks Like a Lady’
- From early 1981’s Captured we get ‘The Party’s Over (Hopelessly in Love)’
- From late 1981’s Escape we get ‘Stone in Love’, ‘Escape’, ‘Still They Ride’, and a 1981 live version of ‘Mother, Father’
- From 1983’s Frontiers we get ‘After the Fall’, and ‘Chain Reaction’
- And from the Time3 collection we get the non-album single ‘Little Girl’
But I love the album for one simple reason – it is full of songs I already know and love but aren’t the ‘Glee’ type mega-hits that got over-played in the early 80’s. When I put the CD into the player, my wife and I immediately started singing along with all of the songs. And when I say ALL I really mean everything from the 78-83 classic era. Remember – this is the SECOND collection from that time and there are STILL 15 songs that are easily singable after more than 30 years!
We’ve listened to my wife’s vinyl copy of Escape many times, and it is an amazing record – look at the fact that between two greatest hits collections 7 out of 10 songs are represented, even though there are 9 albums from the Steve Perry era (plus extra singles, soundtrack songs, and so on) contributing well over 100 possible selections.
Given my love of jazz and the avant garde it might seem odd that I know and like so much from Journey, but it warrants looking at the group pre-Steve Perry. Neil Schon (who has made the news for non-musical reasons lately) was a young member of Santana joined up with fellow member Greg Rollie, bassist Ross Valory and soon drummer Ansley Dunbar to form Journey and play fusion-tinged music that was cool but that was neither commercial enough for rock fans nor jazzy enough for Return to Forever groupies.
But even after adding Steve Perry the group maintained a solid dedication to musical excellence – and as my primary instrument at that time was the bass, I loved what Valory brought to the pop-rock stage. I feel that Escape was their pinnacle – Schon dropped searing leads over the tracks, and Valory laid down a solid foundation but also added to the core harmonic structure and had a tone that was completely delicious on songs like Who’s Crying Now and Stone In Love.
As I listen now while typing, the album art is staring back at me and it occurs to me how wild and outrageously artistic the Journey album art was back in the vinyl era. While album art was never my concern, it was a huge thing for many people, so it is great to see the time and effort put into making this collection really fit into the overall scope of work put into everything done by Journey.
As noted there are other collections – the Time3 box brings in earlier material that most fans of the Steve Perry era really wouldn’t want, and the Essential collection seems too focused to balancing the contribution from the various albums and less on choosing the best songs.
So my recommendation is to add Volume 2 to your collection – you DO already have the original Greatest Hits, right? – and feel confident that you have the very best of the awesome pop-rock collection Journey brought to the world during the late 70’s and early 80’s. You won’t be sorry – and remember to accept no Glee-style substitutes, but demand the real deal.
Choice Track (and why): ‘Stone in Love’ – OK, so I already made it clear it is one of my favorite Journey songs, and to me it represents the best of what the group was about. Simple hook, infectious Steve Perry lyrics, soaring Neil Schon leads, and especially the sublime Ross Valory bass part.
You Might Love This If: If you are a child of the 70’s or 80’s you simply must have this, and if you heard some Journey on Glee and thought it was cool, check out the reason those songs are classics 30 years later!
Where to Buy: iTunes Music Store – $9.99
Here is ‘Stone in Love’ live from the official Journey VEVO:
Source: Review CD provided by the publisher.