Review: Steve Perry’s Traces
Steve Perry is the greatest male vocalist I’ve ever heard. I remember buying Journey’s Greatest Hits album many years ago and listening to the songs and discovering that I already knew most of them but didn’t realize the band behind these timeless tracks was Journey. While the guitar, piano, drumming, and bass were all exceptional, what captivated me most was that voice. How it soared to heights unimaginable for most humans and how it lovingly and soulfully intoned every word that was sung. With my headphones on, a Discman in my hands, and my eyes turned skyward, I gazed at the stars as the balmy beach breeze and Steve Perry’s vocals washed over me. It was a defining musical moment for me and one I fondly look back on when I think of this special band and this epic voice.
Over the years, I’ve interviewed and befriended Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain of Journey, and I’ve seen the band perform live numerous times. I also attended Journey’s induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame because I thought it might be my only chance to see Steve Perry live. While I was disappointed that he didn’t sing with the band that night, when he walked out onto the stage my cousin and I jumped up and started screaming from the cheap seats like the diehard Steve Perry and Journey fans we are. It was a special moment that made our trip to Brooklyn absolutely worth it.
For several years, Steve Perry has talked about releasing new music. Years have come and gone with no new songs, so I was thrilled when his new album, Traces, was announced. I immediately pre-ordered an autographed copy of the deluxe album and eagerly awaited its arrival. Having listened to it several times, I can say that I’m completely satisfied with the music. Steve Perry’s voice is the same mature and raspy one I loved on Journey’s reunion album, Trial By Fire, and his unmistakable tone and phrasing have returned in all their glory. There are only two rockers on this album, with the rest of the songs being slower-tempo numbers but I’m perfectly fine with that. Steve Perry was never the rocker in the band, Neal Schon was, and this album is a representation of Steve Perry in 2018, not 1981. If you want a Journey album, there are many to choose from. If you want an expertly executed musical tapestry from the definitive male singer of our time, look no further. Steve Perry’s back and I couldn’t be happier.
“No Erasin” – This is the perfect lead single and track for this album. With the opening line “I know it’s been a long time comin’ since I saw your face,” it’s a great nod to Steve Perry’s hiatus and a celebration of his return.
“We’re Still Here” – This is currently my favorite song on the album. The chorus is gorgeous, the lyrics are evocative, and the vocals sublime. It doesn’t get any better than this.
“Most Of All” – Similar to “We’re Still Here,” this song has a hauntingly beautiful quality to it with a catchy chorus. That makes for three winners in a row.
“No More Cryin” – A gospel and R&B-infused song with a chorus that will get stuck in your head after a single listen. The subject matter is sad but the delivery will make you smile.
“In The Rain” – This somber piano-driven ballad reminds me of a stripped-down version of “It’s Just The Rain” from Trial By Fire, probably because of the piano and vocal. It’s excellent.
“Sun Shines Gray” – Written with John 5, this is the second rocker on Traces and it has a harder edge than “No Erasin.” Its placement provides a breath of fresh air in this exquisite album.
“You Belong To Me” – I love this song, especially the recurring “Was it you or was it I?” line. It’s a soulful piano ballad with great harmonies and even better phrasing. Perryisms abound.
“Easy To Love” – The name of this song reminds me of “Lovin’ You Is Easy” from Evolution. Its mid-tempo reggae style suits Steve Perry’s voice perfectly and is an enjoyable listen from start to finish.
“I Need You” – I almost never listen to The Beatles for pleasure but their influence is vast. While I’ve never heard this song before, this cover is a short and sweet number that fits in nicely with the rest of the album.
“We Fly” – A moody ballad that starts off with only Steve Perry’s voice and incorporates atmospheric keyboards as the song progresses. The line “You were the reason love was our season” conjures up images of “Summer of Luv” from his Greatest Hits + Five Unreleased album.
“October In New York” – An incredibly slow-paced song that seems to embody the heartache Steve Perry feels about losing his girlfriend who passed away from cancer. The orchestration is beautiful, the vocal impassioned, and the lyrics poignant.
“Angel Eyes” – This upbeat R&B song is a spiritual successor to “I Believe” from Street Talk and it’s one of my favorites on this album. It’s worth buying the deluxe version of Traces for this song alone.
“Call On Me” – Another mid-tempo reggae number, this song is reminiscent of “Baby I’m A Leavin’ You” from Trial By Fire. It’s the second best bonus track on the deluxe version of Traces.
“Could We Be Somethin’ Again” – A fun, catchy song wrapped in a soulful vocal. It won’t blow you away but it’s enjoyable nevertheless.
“Blue Jays Fly” – Like “October In New York,” this song is moody. In the beginning, it’s sung in a whisper. Just Steve Perry, a keyboard, and a ton of emotions. It’s a reflective song about longing for someone who’s gone, which encapsulates the entire theme of the album. That said, it’s a gloomy way to close out Traces.
Traces is an excellent album and it’s exactly what I expected from Steve Perry in 2018. If you’re well versed in his solo music, you’ll feel the same way. I sincerely hope that Steve Perry will tour again. Since Steve Perry has already taken the huge step of releasing a new album, which has rekindled his passion for music, why not bring his music to the people in a live setting? One can only hope.