During downtime at work, I like to read various blogs and columnists which inevitably lead me to a series of other cyberspace destinations. One of my favorite columnists is ESPN’s Sports Guy, Bill Simmons. Simmons is a Boston sports freak, so it’s quite pertinent to my daily life in Beantown. Anyway, I was poking around on his weekly links, and one of them directed me to VH-1’s Best Week Ever website and Michelle Collins' entry on Patrick Swazye’s faces in Ghost. Considering that the column was timed hours before his illness was made public, I wanted to see what other odd feats of clairvoyance Ms. Collins had. What followed changed my world forever. Ok, maybe not forever, but for the next few hours. I found this post detailing the impending super-tour of Heart, Cheap Trick, and one of my personal favorites: Journey.
Anyone who has known me for the last six months has probably heard my theory that Steve Perry, former lead singer of Journey, is the greatest lead vocalist of our time. Now, I will readily admit that Journey is probably not the greatest band, but one cannot deny they have made amazing contributions to music culture that are still being felt today. Take the underdog anthem, Don’t Stop Believin’ or their love song to their hometown and recent Deuce-Ans destination, San Francisco in Lights. And let’s not forget the timeless classic power-rock ballads, Open Arms and Faithfully (Ans doesn’t know it yet, but Faithfully will definitely be played at our wedding, if not our first dance. Even the hardest of hearts crumble with the kicker, “I’m forever yours….Faithfully.” Waterworks, I tell you). While the band has enjoyed considerable success, I posit that Journey has carved its place in history with Steve Perry’s voice. I am basing this claim on four categories: emotive ability, the ability to stand out, image, and imitation factor.
Emotive Ability: One of the things I like about Steve Perry is his ability to get a feeling across through the tone of his voice while maintaining a down-to-earth grittiness. It’s melodic and moving coupled with that Springsteen-like growl. Something about it is believable, but primitive. The accessibility builds a connection with the listener, allowing them to relate to the song, but also maintains the aural aesthetic. I’m disturbed at how much it sounds like I have a man-crush on Steve Perry, but I think I’ve made my point.
Ability to Stand Out: Bono has the Edge, Axl had Slash, Mick Jagger has Keith Richards. Quick, name someone in Journey other than Steve Perry, and Randy Jackson doesn’t count. I bet 98% of people can’t. That’s because Steve Perry WAS Journey. He was the reason people bought their records. But hold on, because the mark of a good lead vocalist is that they need the band too. Steve Perry may have thought he was hot shit and went out on his own, but without the rest of Journey, he kind of flopped (except for Oh Sherry. That was a good song). There are a lot of great male vocalists, but not many that are willing to put their pride aside and be a part of a band.
Image: Steve Perry’s fashion sense is impeccable: mullet, clothes, facial hair. Can’t lose with that.
Imitation: There have been three lead singers of Journey post-Perry. All have been chosen based on their ability to mimic Perry’s style. The highest form of flattery is imitation. And not many people can do Perry well. He has an amazing range, and as mentioned before, great quality. Check out this comparison.
Because of Perry’s excellence in these four categories, I feel he has a strong case for greatest lead vocalist of the last 30 years. The only other contender in my opinion was put forth by Official-Best-Friend-To-Be-Given-An-Internet-Name: Freddie Mercury. Actually the more I think about it, I really think it’s close. Oh and there was this wedding band guy I saw in October. He was really impressive too.
In truth, the real reason I got really excited about the new Journey tour is that the new lead singer is Filipino. Represent. And he’s good too. I’m a little jealous, though I would be more jealous if Randy busted out the bass to tour with them too.