When Steve Perry walked away from music two decades ago, citing, among other reasons, his loss of love for the medium, the general feeling of loss cannot be understated. After all, here was a man that for nearly thirty years had released commercially successfully records both as a solo artist and with the band Journey. “Don’t Stop Believin'” was the most downloaded song of the 20th century. He’d released music and toured relentlessly and seemingly had the world at his feet.
So to walk away from a career that was perched quite comfortably near the top was ludicrous to say the least, but it’s a decision Perry stoically stuck to.
Journey, having only released Trial By Fire, the last record featuring Steve Perry in 1996, pressed on with their postponed world tour with a new front man. As the years passed, Perry’s reunion with the band grew less and less likely, as the singer chose instead a life of seclusion out of the limelight, save for the odd appearance in public.
However, in 2015 Perry announced that he was working on a solo album, due to be released the following year. Delays followed, until in August of this year Perry announced that Traces, the new record was ready and due for release in October, while also dropping “No Erasin'” as its lead single.
I’ll get to the chase here by saying that “No Erasin'” is fucking incredible.
It’s everything I could ever have wanted from a Steve Perry track and much, much more. Time away from the game can have different effects on different singers, but it sounds like Perry has taken care of his voice and at 69 years of age sounds as good as ever. Lyrics detailing a long, lost love cascade into a soaring chorus that Perry rips right from his heart.
Backed up by an extensive list of session musicians such as John 5, Nathan East, Pino Palladino, Josh Freese and Steve Ferrone, Perry sounds well and truly at home in the environment that’s crafted for him.
When a musician loses their love for music, there can be doubts that if that musician ever returns it’s done in earnest and not just to simply go through the motions.
Well on “No More Cryin'” those fears are gone, gone, gone. A gentle ballad in the ilk of Journey’s “Lights”, Perry expertly steers away from crooning territory. There’s nothing but heartfelt anguish in his voice, delivered as smoothly and as soulfully as only someone like Perry can.
During interviews in the lead up to Traces release, Perry has been candid about his time away from the public eye. To having hip surgery to cancer scares, Perry talks of personal struggles and attempts to reconnect with the places and people that he had to learn to love again. But from finding himself, Perry went on to find love, falling for psychologist and breast cancer survivor Kellie Nash. Sadly, Nash passed away in 2012, with Perry by her side during her battle with cancer. he has spoke about the promise Nash made him make, that he would never go back into seclusion when she’s gone.
And Steve Perry kept to his word and armed with a newfound love for music and a heart full of songs, he poured it all out into Traces.
Speaking about the record’s peculiar artwork, Perry has said that he wanted Traces to be not just an account of his last few years but a retelling of his entire life. Each image on the cover represents a part of Perry’s life in some way, with the singer explaining that he couldn’t truly talk about his life without mentioning every little piece that got him where he is now.
“We’re Still Here” is another gentle affair, featuring the most lighter-in-the-air chorus this side of Mötley Crüe. The track also features one of the most satisfying solos, one that could make even the most cold-hearted man reminisce of happier times gone by.
The production on Traces is stellar, which is to be expected. Perry has said in interviews that the process was done in his home studio in California, with the added comfort of recording in his own private space quite clearly adding to the quality of the record. Production was overseen by Perry himself and Thom Flowers, who also plays guitar on the album.
It’s hard to analyse Traces without understanding fully just how it’s been made.
Here’s a man that at one stage had the world in his hands. Throughout the 70s, 80s, and 90s Perry’s output never waned in quality and if circumstances were different maybe he would have totally burned out for good, going out with a whimper instead of on his own terms. Walking away while you’re at the peak of your powers has to be one of the hardest decisions a musician can possibly make, but knowing when to do it is the difference between a legacy and a shit show.
Time away from music has been nothing but kind to Steve Perry and Traces is a terrific journey through the singer’s life. Personal storytelling as a artist is tough without sounding self absorbed, but Perry, now with renewed vigor, sees honesty as his best policy. It’s my absolute pleasure to report that it pays off massively.
Freelance writer still stuck in the 90’s.
Favourite albums; Young Americans, Hours, Out From The Vein, In Utero.