Columbia Records, 1981

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Steve Perry and Journey may be the only band ever to have the distinction of having not one, but two different video games designed about one album - namely, 1981's Escape.

While listening to this slab of vinyl dug out of the Pierce Memorial Archives, I felt the listening experience had to be enhanced by playing these games. So, courtesy of some emulator programs, I dusted off the old arcade game Journey (using the MAME emulator - c'mon, IDSA, get off their back, and make the situation legal!) and the Atari 2600 title Journey Escape (using the Stella emulator). This all, by the way, has nothing to do with the review; they're both wonderful programs I've been wasting far too much time with of late.

But if you think about it, had my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Escape not been the album that turned Journey into superstars to the Nth degree, they wouldn't have had even one game designed after them. For some reason, this particular album took all the ground they had gained along their path to success, and kicked the whole she-bang into overdrive.

Was it justified? We'll answer that later...

Three songs off Escape were the key to success: "Don't Stop Believin'," a pleasant pop song with both a positive message and catchy riffs; "Who's Crying Now," a sample of power pop ballads that were about to become commonplace on FM radio; and "Open Arms," a second example of power pop ballad, albeit one that garnered serious airplay and attention. (I seem to remember that this song was used in the movie The Last American Virgin - not once, but twice.)

What is interesting is that, despite the oversaturation that these tracks have gotten on America's airwaves over the last 18 years, they still sound fresh - almost as if they had been written yesterday. (Their timelessness was confirmed by the moderate success of the reunion album Trial By Fire.)

But the real beauty of Escape lies on two tracks that got limited - if any - attention. "Stone In Love" and "Dead Or Alive" are songs that I swear I've heard before (besides the times I've listened to Escape, of course), but just never reached the pinnacle of success that the three common tracks did. Why this is the case, I don't know - but they sure deserved a shot to hit the top of the charts.

The problem is that the remaining half of Escape is pretty much filler - even though it's non-threatening. Tracks like "Keep On Runnin'," "Lay It Down" and the title track aren't bad in any sense of the word, but they're not on the same level as the previously mentioned hits and "shoulda-beens". At times, it does feel like the band is settling into the pop balladeer mode far too often - it was things like this that drove me into heavy metal back in the mid-'80s.

So, the question remains: Was Journey's success justified on Escape? For half of the album, the answer is yes. But the other half showed a band that was still a bit uncertain about where they wanted to take their music - ballads or rockers - and the indecision ends up hurting the overall picture.

Rating: B-

User Rating: B-


I think you review nailed it, Chris. Just had to add that I joined the hordes of folks who clicked into iTunes in the past few weeks to re-purchase "Don't Stop Beliving" from our high school record collection thanks to "The Sopranos." Pop culture, you've gotta love it sometimes (you know Perry, Schon and Cain do right about now...).

© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Columbia Records, and is used for informational purposes only.