Although it has not always been cool to say so, I have long been a fan of Journey, and the last album in their run of success through the late 1970’s and 1980’s is “Raised On Radio.” When looked in the context of albums as a whole, the album did well. It had a peak position on the Billboard 200 of #4 and has sold more than two million copies to date. These are not bad numbers for an album by any means. The album, though, was not viewed as a success given that the previous set of albums from the group had all done much better. And the process of recording the album was a bit of a drag too. Although Steve Perry did production (more on that later), bringing it in house, he had needed to be convinced to do the project earlier as he had enjoyed being a solo artist, and it was working on songs with Jonathan Cain that led him to come back rather than continue on as a solo artist. And other people had issues as well. Bassist Ross Vallery and Drummer Steve Smith were not enthused with the material they were seeing nor the thought of touring in support of it, and so they left the band, being replaced by studio musicians who included later American Idol judge Randy Jackson (more on him later as well). All of this drama over a successful album full of decent material seems somewhat strange. Was it all worth it?
If you look at the songs from this album that have endured, it was definitely worth it. First single “Be Good To Yourself” was a driving rock song that served as an effective leadoff single for the band, hitting #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #2 on the Mainstream Rock charts. And if follow-up “Suzanne,” was not as successful, it still ended up hitting #17 on the Hot 100 and #11 on Mainstream Rock. Third single “Girl Can’t Help It” also hit #17 on the Hot 100 and went to #9 on Mainstream Rock. “Raised On Radio” was a moderate hit on mainstream rock, peaking at #27, before ballad “I’ll Be Alright Without You” hit #14 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #7 on the Adult Contemporary Chart while late-album single “Why Can’t This Night Go On Forever” ended up being a top 30 hit on Adult Contemporary as well as being a minor hit on the Billboard Hot 100 at #60 . This is by no means a bad chart performance by any means.
One of the warning signs that things would not be going as well this time around was the fact that none of the singles from the album ended up making the YE list, likely because of a lack of longevity. Still, at least three of these songs have endured in the memory of Journey fans, likely because they were picked for the Greatest Hits album, which was my introduction to the larger body of work for the group personally. “Be Good To Yourself,” “Girl Can’t Help It,” and “I’ll Be Alright Without You” all fit in well with the band’s work as a whole and create a seamless picture of success for a decade of music. Later compilation “The Essential Journey,” a two-disc set, adds “The Eyes Of A Woman” as another song it considered worth remembering along with underrated tracks like “Stone In Love” and “Still They Ride” from earlier Journey albums and “Message Of Love” from 1996 comeback “Trial By Fire,” another excellent album. And Steve Perry’s work on production is stellar. A clear example of this is in the hooky “Girl Can’t Help It,” which has a scorching Neal Schon solo and multiple vocal hooks courtesy of Cain and Perry, along with a gorgeous a capella ending with “Oooh, nothing stands between love and you,” which provides the right kind of chill to make this song a favorite of the band despite its modest success on the charts.
And ultimately, that is what an album is going to be remembered for. The highs of Raised On Radio were well worth the band’s effort, and it is a great shame that the stress of the album in what it did to the band made it so difficult for them to come back again. It would be nearly a decade between the end of the touring for Raised On Radio and the band’s comeback effort with “Trial By Fire.” Steve Perry was already dealing with some health difficulties which would plague his later recordings. And it is not as if things were better after this album for the group as a whole. Steve Perry had an album “Against The Wall” scrapped and only managed a second solo album in 1994 with “For The Love Of Strange Medicine,” whose success (the album went gold) presaged the successful comeback effort of Trial By Fire which went Platinum. And it would be nice to say that this comeback success ended the drama of Journey among its members, but that is sadly not the case. At present, as I write this, Journey is dealing with drama as Vallory and Smith were let go of the band again, and replaced with studio musicians (including, humorously enough, Randy Jackson again) in a fight over who gets to claim the identity of being a part of the group. Making great music together does not mean that one can work together as well as one would want, and sadly Journey is an example of that.