Alone Again, Naturally

Steve Perry returns to the solo life with his new album Traces

Full artwork for Traces by Steve Perry

There’s no hard and set rule that dictates the fate of a singer who sets out on his or her own following a successful tenure with a band that had a proven prowess. Some have fared well — Rod Stewart and Janis Joplin readily come to mind. Others, well, hello, David Lee Roth. Granted being the voice of the band provides a head start when looking down the road towards solo stardom, but it can just as easily confirm the fact that it was the entire ensemble, and not just the individual at center stage, that accrued those accomplishments.

Still, given the number of high profile front men who did carry on successfully after parting ways with their colleagues — we’re counting such superstars as Paul McCartney, Robert Plant, Peter Gabriel (And yes, Phil Collins), Sting, George Michael, Michael Jackson, Ozzy Osbourne, Neil Young, Morrissey and Lou Reed in that  number — it would seem, at least on the surface, that the odds of striking gold on one’s own are pretty promising. Then again, it’s not always a guarantee. Even those that were odds-on favorites to score success — and we’re talking some certified superstars here — had to scurry back to their day jobs after faltering on their own.

Ask Mick Jagger, Jon Anderson or the late Freddie Mercury about how a solo sojourn can simply lead to a dead end.

Which brings us to Steve Perry, who not only found himself having to measure up to the heights he attained with Journey, but now also faces the prospect of attempting a comeback after an absence of 24 years. That’s a mighty long time in the fickle world of showbiz, but when one is a recording artist, it’s practically impossible to recapture attention from even the most ardent fans and admirers. (It ought to be noted that Perry has a history of being a procrastinator — a full decade elapsed between his freshman and sophomore sets.) There were vague hints at times that a reconciliation with his band mates might be in the offing; aside from a one-off reunion in 1996, he also showed up when the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and on the occasion of receiving their star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Nevertheless, a real reconciliation never went beyond idle conjecture.

The ill feelings that led to Perry’s departure initially — which started when an injury he sustained while hiking in Hawaii waylaid him and he refused to get a hip replacement that could have put him back in action — may still remain. At any rate, it remains to be seen if diminishing returns will doom his renewed efforts entirely.

For the record (pardon the pun), Traces is a decent album, and those who still hold a fondness for the music he made while with the band will likely find enough striking similarities to buy it in ample quantities. (It ought to be noted here too that Journey themselves haven’t hit their former heights since Perry’s departure.) Several of Traces’ songs offer obvious reminders of Journey’s outstretched, anthemic sound, and while there’s a prevalence of ballads obviously intended to court chart contention, Perry’s voice is still arguably strong enough to serve those purposes well.

The Clash once asked “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” In this case it’s a moot point. Perry chose to do the latter, and at this point, we can only wish him well.


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Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman is a writer and columnist based in beautiful Maryville Tennessee. Over the past 20 years, his work has appeared in dozens of leading music publications. He is also the author of Americana Music: Voice, Visionaries, and Pioneers of an Honest Sound, which will be published by Texas A&M University Press early next year.

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