A new turn in the road for Journey

With new singer Arnel Pineda on board, rock band Journey is back on the road and cruising. Their first album ‘Revelation’ with Arnel debuted on Billboard at No. 5

By (NYT)

Published: Mon 4 Aug 2008, 8:28 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 2:47 PM

FOR MORE than a quarter-century, Journey has encouraged its fans to ‘Don’t Stop Believin’.’ During the past two years, however, the veteran San Francisco Bay-based rock group has had to follow its own advice.

The travails and setbacks for Journey, which reunited in 1995 after an eight-year split, started in July 2006.

That’s when singer Steve Augeri, who had replaced the popular Steve Perry in 1998, fell victim to a career-ending throat infection. His replacement, Jeff Scott Soto, lasted only 11 months.

For this 20th-century band, the answer came in a distinctively 21st-century way: In December 2007 Journey hired Filipino singer Arnel Pineda after seeing videos of him singing Journey songs on YouTube.

Gamble paid off It was a gamble, but it seems to have paid off.

‘Revelation,’ the first Journey album with Pineda as lead singer, debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard Top 200 in June, selling 196,000 first-week copies - the band’s best showing since its reunion album ‘Trial By Fire’ (1996) - despite being sold only via Wal-Mart.

So now the ‘Revelation’ track ‘Change for the Better’ seems like the band’s new theme song.

“We didn’t want to go backward,” says keyboardist Jonathan Cain, a Journey member since 1980 and one of the group’s two principal songwriters.

“It was time to make a change, I think, make some adjustments and renew a few things and, I guess, look at the next 10 years.

“We’re really lucky things have worked out this well,” he says. “We appreciate how fortunate we are.”

Certainly Journey has gotten used to dealing with changes throughout its 35-year career.

The group was formed by two Santana refugees, guitarist Neal Schon and keyboardist Gregg Rolie, who joined forces with Steve Miller Band bassist Ross Valory and Tubes drummer Prairie Prince.

Since then the group has been home to 18 members, including future ‘American Idol’ judge Randy Jackson, and endured some dramatic shifts - none more so than the 1977 addition of Perry, which vaulted Journey to hit-making, multi-platinum status and accounted for most of its more than 100 million album sales.

Perry was part of the 1995 reunion, but due to health issues and personal conflicts he opted not to tour and, ultimately, decided not to continue with the band. Cain, Schon and Valory decided to carry on and, with Augeri and drummer Deen Castronovo - who had played with Cain and Schon in the band Bad English - the group achieved some momentum. That came to an end, however, after only two albums, an EP and a contribution to the soundtrack of ‘Armageddon’ (1998).

“Losing (Augeri) was a hard one,” the 58-year-old Cain says. “He was a tremendous team player, and one of the best guys I’ve ever been on the road with. Watching him go down left a bad taste in our mouths, like, ‘Geez, now what?’”

Soto came aboard to help Journey finish its 2006 tour, but it ended there.

“His sound wasn’t for us,” Cain says, “and then later on I think his personality wasn’t for us.”

YouTube find It was Schon who found Pineda on YouTube, Cain says, then contacted the singer and brought him to the United States for a live audition. Cain had to be convinced, but a look at Pineda’s videos got him interested.

“I was blown away,” Cain recalls. “There he was, with that voice. It was just ...

phenomenal. They were crappy recordings, but you could tell that it was live and (his singing) was the real deal.”

Cain calls Arnel’s life “a Charles Dickens story.” The 40-year-old singer was raised in poverty in Manila.

At 12, after the death of his mother, he had to quit school and live either with relatives or on the street, earning money by collecting newspapers, bottles and scrap metal. He started singing when he was 15, but suffered health problems in the 1990s that nearly ended his career.

Pineda didn’t stop believing, though. He sang in several popular Filipino bands such as Amo, New Age and The Zoo, and in 1999 recorded a solo album. Kevin Shirley, who produced ‘Revelation,’ wrote in his online diary that “I think Arnel is ‘the business!’ - the guy can really sing! He handles the ballads with so much heart, and belts the rockers as hard, and melodically, as anyone I have heard.”

“(Pineda) has got an amazing tale to tell,” Cain says, “and it’s almost hard to believe that he survived.

He’s as tough as they come, and yet he manages to maintain a joy and a certain quietness. He’s very easy to be around, just a lovely guy.

“He comes from another world,” the keyboardist adds, “and it’s sort of eye-opening to us. He tells me these stories about hunger and poverty ... It sort of broadens your horizons, as a human being, to be around somebody like Arnel.”

Journey hit the ground running with its new line-up. The band played its first two shows in February in Chile, then in March played a Las Vegas gig that was taped for a DVD that’s included in the ‘Revelation’ package.

In addition to the ‘Revelation’ album, a mix of expansive, early-Journey-sounding rock songs and Perry-era ballads, the set also includes a disc containing 11 of Journey’s biggest hits, re-recorded with Pineda as the singer.

More news from