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Journey - Escape [Aka: E5C4P3] CD (album) cover




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2.82 | 137 ratings

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2 stars A few months ago I wrote a review of Journey's foul "Infinity" album from 1978 and I have no doubt that I insulted every one of their fans with my scathing assessment of it. It was vocalist Steve Perry's first LP with the band and I found it to be such a despicably blatant attempt at being commercial that I gave it .01 stars. It was as if Journey was massively codependent and desperately wanted everyone to like them. "Escape" came out in the summer of 1981 and by then Mr. Perry had fully acclimated himself into the group's Top 40 motif so the record is much more cohesive than those that had preceded it. Plus, they were one of the most popular acts in the biz so they knew exactly what their audience expected from them. The addition of Jonathan Cain on keyboards (replacing the burned-out Greg Rolie) gave them a bit of a creative boost, as well. All that being said, however, they were still about as progressive as George Strait. But I will concede that there are a couple of tracks on "Escape" that I can not only tolerate but actually enjoy so this critique won't be quite as disemboweling.

Wisely they open with what may go down in history as the most recognizable and memorable of their songs ever, "Don't Stop Believin'." While this is 100% pop rock from beginning to end it's still hard to say anything untoward about a tune as well-crafted and true to its intended purpose as this one is. I remember when I first heard it blaring from my car radio I was thinking how great it was to hear a number that featured a dominant bass guitar line up front in the mix for a change. The catchy chorus notwithstanding, I believe Russ Valory's contribution is the real key to the song's success and longevity. Like it or hate it, the tune is a gem of production and performance. "Stone in Love" is next and it's a reversion back to the brand of unsavory, faux "rawk" that I've come to identify this band with over the years. It has all the tired ingredients: vapid lyrics, calculated-to- dazzle-the-easily-dazzled dynamics and Neal Schon's wholly predictable guitarisms that appeal only to the lowest common denominator. "Who's Crying Now" follows and, despite it being a half-decent, inoffensive AOR tune overall, I find it impossible to be objective about it because it brings to mind my first wife. She went out and bought the LP with cash pilfered from our paltry music fund because she wanted to learn Neal's guitar solo on her rusty flute left over from high school. Since our marriage eventually ended badly even the mention of this particular ditty conjures up nauseating memories I'd rather not entertain. "Keep on Runnin'" is typical of the soulless drivel the dawning of the empty 80s decade brought to the rock & roll table, helping to foster a lot of the inane hair band crap that was so soon to flourish and drive decent prog fare off the music industry's map. "Still They Ride" is a slick, bluesy ballad that might've been acceptable to my ears had someone with grit like Rod Stewart sung it but everything slow-paced that Steve Perry warbles almost always comes off as a syrupy cocktail lounge number that only induces sleep.

The title track, "Escape," is an example of formula rock at its most pedestrian. At least the ensemble tries something a tad more adventurous during the middle instrumental segment but when it ends up being sandwiched between two thick slices of plain white bread as it does here it is relegated to the realm of the inconsequential. "Lay it Down" is next wherein their tried, true and trivial composing methodology is painfully exposed once again. Schon starts with his heavily stacked guitars playing a simple riff and then Steve Smith's boring drums jump in just before they embellish the track with Perry's high-pitched chirping and a big hook. I'm sure their devotees were happy as fish to hear it. "Dead or Alive" follows, a driving rocker coupled with what sounds like New Wave-ish vocal lines emanating from Steve. Compared to some of the other filler on the album it's not bad but that's not to endorse it as anything gratifying by a long shot. "Mother, Father" is one of the band's gallant attempts at manufacturing an epic anthem. Unfortunately there's just not enough substance lyrically or musically to hold this overblown piece together and it fails miserably to enthrall. They close out with "Open Arms." This staple of classic rock and adult contemporary radio stations is adorned with a beautiful melody that Perry delivers with class while the rest of the group manages to not clutter up the atmosphere unnecessarily. I've always admired a polished, unpretentious love ballad when I encounter one and this one deserves respect.

"Escape" was the first Journey album to rise to the very top of the charts and it further solidified their status as an arena-packing, multi-platinum act that made the shareholders of Columbia Records a lotta moolah (and still does). Yet by 1981 whatever progressive roots they once proudly sported had shriveled up and deteriorated completely so their presence on this site may surprise the prog neophyte who comes across them while scanning through the roster. Their prog-related tag is a stretch. If sales impress you and fill you with "Glee," then the fact that this album has sold over 12 million copies worldwide to date will be staggering to comprehend. But here in Progland the number of units shipped means next to nothing so I have to be honest and give it the rating I think it has earned. 1.8 stars.

Chicapah | 2/5 |


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