The Cassette Chronicles – Journey’s ‘Evolution’

By JAY ROBERTS

The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.

JOURNEY – EVOLUTION (1979)

This week’s random draw out of “The Big Box of Cassettes” was a bit of a surprise for me. I actually already owned a copy of Evolution on cassette but this copy came to me courtesy of my friend Jeff from Georgia.

The funny thing about this copy for me was that it had never been opened. The plastic wrapping was intact and still had the $4.99 bargain bin price tag on it from a Woolworth’s store. Of course, there was a $2.99 price tag on the front of the album so you know this came cheap.

But hey, a brand new copy to listen to for this article is always a good thing in my book. And it is pretty hard to go wrong with a Journey album once they started writing some hit songs. And let’s face it, Steve Perry has one of the signature vocal sounds of all time. When you hear him sing, you KNOW it is him!

I know that this album’s release year of 1979 falls just outside of my usual range of material to cover but it does show what was to come when the band really took flight in the 1980’s. While I started my musical love for the band’s music with the Frontiers album, I went back and bought as much of their earlier albums as I could find at the time. But the further back you go, the less interesting the music was to me. The earliest Journey albums are ones that I don’t think I’ve listened to after initially buying them. They just weren’t my cup of tea.

But when Steve Perry joined up for the Infinity album, the band’s sound became much more accessible and the hits started coming. That lead into Evolution and a bit of a re-discovery for me.

Whenever I hear a Journey song on the radio, it is a welcome few minutes. But because I hear them on the radio all the time, I kind of forget what songs come from what albums. While I’m really familiar with Evolution songs like “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin'” and “Just The Same Way” given their standing as all-time great Journey tracks, it was finding out (again) that so many of the songs on the album were songs that I just loved. Oh, and I’d forgotten that Gregg Rolie sang the majority of the lead vocals on “Just The Same Way”.

The album opens with the one song I didn’t care for, the instrumental track “Majestic”. I found myself thinking, “Come on…get on with it willya?”

But after that speedbump, boy did the fun kick off! I think I’d forgotten about the song “Too Late” but I loved hearing it and being reminded of just how much I enjoyed the song. And I think that I’d classify “City of Angels” as one of the more underappreciated songs in the band’s catalog.

But what I really liked about the first side of the album was the last two tracks. “When You’re Alone (It Ain’t Easy)” is a pretty up-tempo track that got me pumped up and though I know I’ve heard it before, “Sweet and Simple” felt like a brand new song to me and I really got into that track a lot.

The band’s more in-your-face rocking style on the opening track of side two gave “Lovin’ You Is Easy” an extra bit of heft for me. I thought the guitar work on this song as well as “Just The Same Way” was pretty striking.

While both “Daydream” and “Lady Luck” are solid tracks that I enjoyed a lot, the song “Do You Recall” was a song that I quite frankly didn’t recall much at all. But the fast pacing and just pure song craft got me to invest in the song a lot. It was like hearing the song for the first time and liking it right from the start.

There’s no denying that I am a huge fan of the band’s glory days. They gave you some of the best rock and roll has to offer. The version of the band that exists today is an utter embarrassment of public pissing contests and dueling lawsuits that have left more than a little tarnish on their legacy. However, Journey defined what was once “arena rock” and is now mostly referred to as classic rock. Evolution is a pretty good representation of all that the band had to offer and a great starting point for both new and old fans alike.

NOTES OF INTEREST: Evolution sold over three million copies and was the highest charting album for the band at that point in time. The album was the first to feature Steve Smith on drums. He was hired to replace Aynsley Dunbar who had performed on the first four Journey albums.

Roy Thomas Baker produced Evolution as well as its immediate predecessor Infinity. He’s had a legendary career working with Free, Queen, Nazareth, Foreigner, The Cars and many more acts.

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