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"Girl Can't Help It" (Perry, Cain)

Very 80s pop feel to it. To be honest, not a song that grabs me. More something I find myself singing along to when I'm not thinking about it. Some of Perry/Cain's lyrics feel like they've been written with a can of cheezewhiz instead of a pen and while this isn't the worst example by a long shot, I try not listen too hard.
Schon's guitar feels sadly absent to me in this - while the guitar is definitely there, it doesn't seem to have that signature sound that says 'This Is Neal Schon Kicking You Up The Audio'.

"Positive Touch" (Perry, Cain)

Again, definitely an 80s track, but unlike 'Girl Can't Help It' this is one that gets me in the mood to jump up and dance (gives me memories of 'kickbop dancing' a la Molly Ringwald in The Breakfast Club') or at least bobbing my head in time to the music. The keyboard opening reminds me of the theme music for 'Hill Street Blues' for some reason, but Schon's guitar kicks in and blows that out the window quickly enough. One of those songs where you can hear Perry smiling in certain sections. Carries on the Lynnott-inspired vocal-guitar-vocal-guitar pattern that Schon and Perry perfected in the late 70s/early 80s, but it gets railroaded by the insistence of the keyboard a little too often to really feel like Schon is shining here. The sax solo is so mid-eighties it's not funny, but that's exactly what this song is - a boppy mid-eighties track without any pretentions to being something it's not. Lyrically fairly sound (although 'eyes of blue' are back again, I note!) without getting too deep, which works fine for this song.

"Suzanne" (Perry, Cain)

Again, the increased presence of Cain's electric keyboards seem to be at Schon's guitar cost and the bass line stands out more than the lead guitar, which is tragic. There's some good deep growling going on during the choruses, but once more, that signature Schon sound seems to be missing, and the solo doesn't kick arse the way I want it to. The song does perfectly suit Perry's lower vocal range, however, and he gives the few high notes the feeling that he's once more soaring up into the stratosphere, when in fact they aren't that high.
This song really could do with some Smith drum magic, however. Might as well be a drum machine (and may be, for all I know)
I do actually like this song a lot, but it's missing so many things that scream 'Journey' to me - the bass is pure twang-funk, with none of Valory's hard, heavy groundedness; Schon's guitar work feels off-base; the drumming is pure back beat and no shine.

"Be Good To Yourself" (Perry, Cain)

Another track that would date a lot less if Cain had dumped the synth-sound, but in this case, it actually works well, and gets redeemed in the places where the synth sound is lost for piano (though I suspect it's still electric rather than string). Schon's 'feel' comes back in on this track; definitely has that sound that he and Perry were enjoying this song. His solo kicks, and pulls out all the passion and fun of the whole song - REALLY want to see this played live one day! Not surprised it's many people's favourite track off the album.
This is an upbeat, 'let's-get-motivated' song, and I'm surprised it didn't get used in a dozen sports based movies for the scene where the hero gets motivated to go out there and win-win-win!

"Once You Love Somebody" (Perry, Cain)

Randy Jackson gets to funk his bass in this; it's *definitely* not a Valory track. I've got mixed feeling about this - as a track I like it, as a *Journey* track, it feels hollow. Good to hear Perry's voice with female backing vocals for a change; works surprisingly well. This is another one where I feel like Schon is kind of phoning-in his performance - technically brilliant, but missing that passion that makes him so perfectly matched with Perry's voice (and why the two of them will always be stronger together than apart, musically speaking).

"Happy To Give" (Perry, Cain)

This is the outstanding song for me from the ROR album; the one that grabbed my attention from absolutely the first listen. Bitter-sweet opening, with some incredible melodic structuring. Brilliant mixture of 'bellnote' keyboards and 'light-strings' guitar in this track. Goes from a minor to a major key in the chorus, which initially jarred but quickly settled into the groove. Lyrics aren't too bad - in striving for depth, they've hit the right note musically, matching it with the melodic feel well, without getting cheesy (Perry's occasional failing) or pretentious (Cain's).
There are a few jarring notes for me - the harmonising vocals on the line 'happy to give' are just too out of place - this is a bittersweet song, and the harmonising is straight out of do-it-by-the-books 80s 'uplifting' songs. Likewise, the synth horns at the end don't do it for me. I don't want this song to end on an uplifting 'everything will be fine in the end' fanfare - I want it to stay dark and bittersweet. Like dark chocolate, the song doesn't need sweetening, it works better without it.
However, after repeated listening, the synth horn has sort of grown on me to the point where I can kind-of like it - the saccharine vocal harmonies have not; they take the 'light at the end of the tunnel may not be a train' feel of the chorus and still smack them into 'it'll all be alright if you smile' territory, which the song just doesn't need.

"Raised On Radio" (Perry, Cain)

This is a jump up and down, shake it all about song. It has a certain timeless quality to it - if it weren't for Cain's irritating 80s synth pop chords all the way through it, it would be hard to date which decade it was from post rock'n'roll. There is a great marriage of Schon's guitar skills and Perry's vocals - both rocking out in a tribute to the music they grew up with. As close as I can get to a perfect pop song EXCEPT for the damn synthesizer! If Cain had stuck to straight piano, or even better done a Rolie and gone the organ route, this would be a damn sight better, and fit more appropriately with the feel of where it's coming from.
If no other song could do it, this is the song to make me curse that I've never seen Schon play live, and is a motivating factor in making determined to see him perform at least once before I die!
Given that the lyrics are stripped from other songs, it's been done surprisingly well, and there's definitely affection in Perry's vocalisation. The vocal harmonising is top notch too - doesn't pull this as an 80s song particularly, and suits the feel all told.

"It'll Be Alright Without You" (Perry, Cain)

This one is straight back into mid-eighties pop, and of all Schon's performances on this album, probably the one I like the least. It's not that it's not *good* it's just missing *it*. Technically impressive, but lacking in testosterone. I also loathe the backing vocals on this one - just doesn't sound like Journey! This is the one that makes me want to scream 'bring back Rolie!' - at least for vocal harmonisations. The enunciation, the tone, the feel; they all make me grit my teeth.
Which is bloody frustrating, because it's also a song I feel has great potential: kick Schon in the butt, or get him a blow job and a bit of enthusiasm so he steps up to the mark and rocks out rather than impressively twiddling; pull in some drums with balls; dump the backing vocalists and get in Rolie or at least a sound alike; give Cain some aversion therapy until he drops the chord thumping and starts fucking *playing*; get some bass with less pseudo-funk and more soul; and somebody give Perry something to chirp up a bit or go the other way and rip his heart apart; get it all together and it has the potential of a brilliant song. Instead, it feels a bit like a Christmas ornament with the shine buffed off, or a lounge song that took a wrong turn at the sign marked 'rock'.

"It Could Have Been You" (Perry, Cain)

This is possibly the toughest one for me, because one day I love it, one day I hate it, and the third I'm just indifferent. About the only thing I can definitely say is the production is a little too 'American' for my taste, and I'm not sure I can explain what that means, except that it kept the disco feel in American pop for 15 years too long.

"The Eyes Of A Woman" (Perry, Cain)

Song for seduction. Play this and look like you mean it, and I'm there. Which really buggers up my ability to look at this critically.
Again, Schon feels absent for much of the song, but this time it actually works for me, because when he does come in, the high, clear guitar work basically says 'right, get yer top off'. Or something. Like I said, this song is a bugger for me to look at analytically.
I think this one goes in the 'too hard to do right now' basket. Sorry.

"Why Can't This Night Go On Forever?" (Perry)

A definite love song, and firmly in the MegaBallad vein, except it's apparently a love song for the fans. Another one where Schon seems to dig it, and his playing meshes with Perry's voice perfectly. And another track I'd kill to see live.
This song kind of highlights why I have issues with some of the other tracks on this album. The synthesizer disappears and instead we get Cain on piano, actually playing rather than just chord thunking. Schon's guitar isn't rocking hard, but it *is* pumping some serious testosterone; soul with muscle and a flick knife. The funk-whap of the bass tones down to the point where it anchors the music, rather than jumping up and down in the background trying to get its picture taken. The drum is mellow, and for once I don't miss Smith's feel on it. And Perry leaves me in no doubt - he's singing in love and doesn't care even if it's going to kill him.

To sum up -

One of the major criticisms of this album is that it sounds too much like Perry's solo effort 'Street Talk' and too little like a Journey album, and most of the blame gets laid at Perry's feet.
I can't say who did what, but my feeling is that it isn't so much that Perry did too much to make it his album, but that Cain and Schon didn't do enough to make it a Journey album. Stylistically, 'Street Talk' this definitely isn't!
Whatever the reasons for why stuff did or didn't happen, the fact is that Perry is Perry is Perry, whatever he sings. Journey has always been much more than the sum of its parts, but in this case, half the parts were missing. What made Perry so much of the Journey sound is based on what Schon especially brought to the party; how that voice meshed with the guitar work, and how the other instruments pulled the feel of that net. The tracks where Perry and Schon are both loading the music with their own form of wearing your heart on your sleeve work, and work well. When Cain gets into the vibe too (Happy To Give and to a lesser extent Why Can't This Night Go On Forever) it's pure magic and has that Journey feel - a different move than before, sure, but they've always kept moving and not in a straight line. The ones that don't work so well are still good songs, but they lack the magic of *Journey* even when they keep the 'Perry-magic'. Which explains to me the accusation that ROR is basically a Perry solo effort in disguise.

My final feelings (for today at least) - an album I want to love more than I do.

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deepgroovin
deepgroovin

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