For some fans of this band at its radio-ready zenith, there simply can be no Journey without Steve Perry – and that sensibility did no favors for replacement singer Steve Augeri. Though he was similarly named, similarly voiced, even similarly maned, none of it could save his debut project with Journey.

Never mind that “We Will Meet Again,” released as part of Arrival on April 3, 2001, meets and maybe exceeds much of their classic-era output. Co-written by Journey stalwart Neal Schon, Augeri and Alabama-based songwriter Kim Tribble, the song builds toward a sweeping vista reminiscent of Journey’s Roy Thomas Baker-helmed sides like “Winds of March” and “Opened the Door,” a welcome development indeed.

A layered rhythm by Deen Castronovo, Journey's new replacement for Steve Smith at the drums, sets the stage for a moment of controlled fury from Augeri — who, as with every post-Perry Journey singer, is often asked to elevate more than enunciate. Along the way, he turns a lonesome lyric into one of impressive determination. And like those two earlier-mentioned 1978-era tracks, “We Will Meet Again” serves as an emotionally resonant side-closing moment.

Elsewhere, "Higher Place" finds Augeri offering a vocal that bridges the two eras. After an intriguingly episodic opening statement, Augeri sounds enough like Perry to carry Journey to the well-constructed verse — before this Schon/Jack Blades composition finds its own voice within a chorus that’s pleasantly free of imitative ticks. A finely attenuated return to the verse then gives "Higher Place" a taut sense of expectation, almost a proggy feel. In this way, Journey references previous successes, but ultimately uses them as a foundation for something new.

Listen to Journey Perform 'We Will Meet Again'

Still, bedrock Journey supporters clearly remained reticent – even though the band had actually started without Perry and he'd long since prematurely retired. In fact, Perry has now been gone far longer than he ever was actually in Journey. Of course, the two decades that followed Perry’s late-'70s arrival would see the group sell roughly one gazillion records, permanently lodging his presence in most music fans’ minds eye when they think of Journey.

This new-look edition of Journey copped to those expectations with "All the Way," a ballad more in keeping with their earlier Perry-led platinum-era sound, but it only just scraped the Top 40 at No. 39. Arrival then failed to reach gold-selling status, the first time that had happened since the pre-Perry 1977 project Next.

Augeri simply couldn't shake the ghost of his predecessor, and this was long before Perry began making stirrings about a return. Journey left Columbia, its label home since 1975, after the follow up to Arrival. By 2006, Steve Augeri was gone too, succeeded by Jeff Scott Soto and then current singer Arnel Pineda, a partnership that seems to have finally got the group back on track with fans — and, belatedly, with the Billboard charts.

 

 

Journey Albums Ranked