STEVE PERRY - Traces
SCORE - 92%
The return of Steve Perry is one thing, but the avalanche of publicity for the immediate release of a single and a full album due October 5, has been something else.
Such is the rarity of new Perry work, I have been writing for 22 years and only covered one new studio album – Journey’s Trial By Fire.
But here we are – Traces is the new album – a 10 track chronicle of Steve’s recent life experiences and a 15-track deluxe edition available via direct online or USA Target stores. This is a review of the standard/international edition. It will be updated with word on the additional 5 tracks ASAP.
To many – me included – Steve Perry is the voice of AOR, the definitive authority on just how good vocals can be. You have to get past the pure excitement factor of just getting to hear his voice again before you can objectively critique new material. I have given most of my personal favourite artists a serve at one point or another over the years, however, I’m pleased to say there’s not much to be critical of here – provided fans understand the reality of Steve Perry 2018.
The voice is rougher, raspier and it isn’t as strong as it once was. But that’s almost stating the bleeding obvious. Who would be at nearly 70 years of age?
What I care about is performance and songs and ‘Traces’ gets a tick in each column.
I can’t imagine anyone is surprised to hear this is a ballad filled, slow to mid-tempo record. And while some may struggle with the pace, I doubt any long time Perry fan is going to be disappointed.
Steve Perry at 70 is still Steve Perry. Just like hearing Neil Diamond at any stage in his career, so too is the joy of hearing Steve Perry. It’s that distinctive voice and those trademark inflections, that tone and that unmistakable delivery of mood and emotion that no one does better.
The characteristics and familiar style of Steve Perry’s past is all over this record. You can hear parts of ‘Street Talk’, ‘Strange Medicine’ and of course ‘Trial By Fire’ and other Journey-isms.
Taking a look at the songs themselves:
‘No Erasin’’ is the upbeat easy to like, catchy as hell lead track (and single). I’ve enjoyed it from the start and I’m still enjoying it. Immediately memorable and the layered Motown harmonies are trademark Steve.
‘We’re Still Here’ is the second track and a ballad as expected. It’s very smooth, very moody and features a more direct and unfiltered lead vocal. Textured with modern production effects and soulful harmonies, the chorus isn’t big, but it’s cool. Compared to the rest of the album’s ballads, it almost feels ‘up’, especially with the chorus.
‘Most Of All’ is a co-write with the great Randy Goodrum. It features a wonderful heartfelt vocal; slower and very sparse and smooth, this time lead primarily by Steve’s voice and a grand piano. The chorus lifts tempo slightly as does Steve’s voice. I picked it as a favourite from the first listen and that’s stayed true. Not unlike Strange Medicine’s slower moments, plus a nice guitar solo and plenty of soul.
‘No More Cryin’ is yet another ballad, but each track has its own vibe, making the album far more enjoyable overall. This track has a touch of the Memphis blues about it and immediately reminds me of old school Steve. The chorus lifts the tempo and has some cool modern guitar riffing.
‘In The Rain’ is something very special. This is a very personal, very emotional piano ballad, formed with just a warm, soulful vocal, the piano and some lush orchestration. The vocal is amazing – very raw and haunting and Steve’s most ambitious high notes on the album. I can’t praise that enough and the vocal-melody makes the song.
‘Sun Shines Grey’ is co-written with John 5 and producer Thom Flowers. We’ve found the album’s other rocker, and it reminds me of modern day Rick Springfield mixed with Journey’s Can’t Tame The Lion. I could imagine Neal Schon playing on this, but John 5 is the man behind the riffs and also delivers a cool solo.
‘You Belong To Me’ is another soft piano ballad with accompanying string orchestration and an ultra-smooth and soulful vocal. There’s some rasp in that voice its aged, but it’s still driven by those classic Perry nuances.
‘Easy To Love’ is another stand out ballad. This one is characterised by some percussion and organ accompanying a slow, steady Motown style vocal. The chorus jumps in tempo with some classic Perry soul harmonies. This is definitely another ballad with a familiar vibe.
‘I Need You’ is a cover of the Beatles tune, a mere 2.59 in length, this ballad features the most familiar Perry vocal sound yet! Soft, slow, soulful…it’s the theme of the record.
Closing out the standard edition of this album ‘We Fly’ is another unique ballad. The first minute features just Steve’s vocal. Talk about putting yourself out there! It’s an intense song that builds as it goes with atmospheric keyboards in the background.
And there you go. A very quick 40 minutes flies by as you immerse yourself in the music and lyrics of the maestro. It’s a very fine record, there’s no doubt. Immaculately produced and constructed, with equally impressive musical performances by the band assembled and also the orchestral parts. The soulful harmonies are classic Perry and lush in texture.
What I do like about this album is each ballad has its own style, its own emotion and its own unique energy. Overall, this is a very contemporary album. The two rockers are both very commercial and the ballads could be lifted from any era. It’s a mood album…but perfect for when you’re in that mood.
It’s Steve ‘MF’ Perry. It’s also very very good.
Target Special Edition Bonus Tracks:
‘October In New York’ is a slow crooner of a song – a very authentic jazz/40s pop crooner complete with a stripped back jazz-ballad arrangement with orchestration and a simple piano to accompany. Not huge on this one – but the musical style is not my bag generally speaking.
‘Angel Eyes’ lifts the tempo a little – mid-range for this track, which quite honestly could have come straight off Street Talk. Gracious, this one should have been on all editions! A wonderful breezy tune with lots of Motown influences and the same feel as ‘I Believe’ and ‘Go Away’. The vocal is quite marvellous.
‘Call On Me’ takes on the third different style in 3 songs. Almost as if Steve has left the more adventurous tracks for the special edition. This one has another familiar feel to it, using a mid-tempo reggae beat in the same way as Steve has done before, with his soulful vocals just dripping over the instrumentation. Another fine vocal it must be said and another likeable song. I would have used this on the regular edition.
‘Could We Be Somethin’ Again’ is yet another left turn – a slow to mid-tempo pop/soul track with a tidy little beat and another warm vocal. Good song, but definitely a bonus track kinda tune.
The 3 minute ‘Blue Jays Fly’ is the 5th song with the 5th different style. Not sure how to describe this one. A softly sung vocal over sparse instrumentation – it’s almost in a meditative or lullaby state that doesn’t feature a lot of vocals. It closes out things nicely, but not one I’d choose for the main set of songs.
More songs are always welcomed – there’s a couple of great tunes here that could easily have been part of the main release. The other 3 make for likable bonus tracks and take Steve’s overdue comeback album to a better length.
My original review and rating remain intact.